Like father like sons. David’s son Amnon rapes his own half-sister Tamar. In Freud’s “Primal Horde,” the sons of the male patriarch vie with each other, and their father, for access to women—often their own sisters—and use violence to achieve their aims. Amnon has fallen in love with his half-sister—who is an unmarried virgin and therefore property of their father—and when she refuses his advances, he takes what he wants by force.
Amnon is first in line to his father’s throne, but his half-brother Absalom—Tamar’s full-brother—is even more of an alpha male. To avenge his sister’s honor—but really, to become heir to the throne himself—Absalom calls a banquet of all the king’s sons and secretly orders his servants to slay Amnon when he is “merry with wine” (2 Samuel 13:28). In the painting by 17th-century Italian Mattia Preti, the red-headed Absalom (at far right) directs his servants while his stunned sister Tamar (in the hat) watches. Later on, Absalom stages a coup, forcing David into exile.