Getting Steamy in Amnon’s Chamber: Philological and Metaphorical Observations on 2 Samuel 13

In: Vetus Testamentum
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  • 1 MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and SocietyOsloNorway
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2 Samuel 13:1–19 presents us with dueling perspectives on a rape scene. Despite Tamar’s protests, the narrative voice reflects Prince Amnon’s lustful viewpoint, in which he and Tamar are acting out a scene of steamy seduction. Within this framework, the unexpectedly detailed description of Tamar preparing the dumplings deserves more attention. I examine the Hebrew words לְבִבוֹת (“heart-cakes”), יצק (“to pour out”), and מַשְׂרֵת (traditionally, “baking pan”), offering a philological explanation of their associations that diverges from much modern scholarship. This new understanding of the food-preparation scene makes it clear that Tamar’s actions are a narratively realized metaphor: in preparing the food to be consumed, she is preparing herself to be consumed erotically—at least, as viewed by Amnon. In other words, using the language of Conceptual Metaphor Theory, Tamar is the cake.

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