“And unto Absalom there were born three sons, and one daughter, whose name was Tamar: she was a woman of a fair countenance.”
II Samuel 14: 27
King James Version
Bequest: To leave or give to someone by will. To pass on and hand down.
“I think that virtually every human being is dramatically interesting. Not only is (she) dramatically interesting, (she) is a creature of stature whoever (she) is.”
What makes me unique?
How have I expressed my individuality in my life?
What is my “bequest” to those in my life?
“To have one’s individuality completely ignored is like being pushed quite out of life. Like being blown out as one blows out a light."
“The boughs of no two trees ever have the same arrangement. Nature always produces individuals. She never produces classes.”
Lydia Maria Child
If you were to visit Tempe, Arizona and drive up “Maple Avenue,” you would see that from the corner of University and Maple, south for nearly one entire block, there is a straight, long line of perfectly planted palm trees. They were installed with precision for they are spaced with exactly the same distance in between each tree. What’s more, because they are all nearly the same height, it can be assumed these large palms were planted at the same time – which they were! How do I know? My Grandfather planted those palm trees over sixty years ago. Sometimes, when I want to be reminded of the legacy which was bequeathed to me, my husband Jim and I drive down “Maple Avenue”, just so I can look at that neatly manicured row of palms, because when I look at those towering trees, I’m reminded of my Grandfather’s attention to detail. As an old-time family doctor, who took care of each of his patients as though they were a member of his own family, when my eyes look at the exactness he used in spacing the trees, my memory takes me back to the summer I graduated from Nursing School. I was only nineteen-years-old and was waiting to hear if I had passed the California State Board of Nursing Exam. Grandpa suggested I come to Arizona and work in his office for the summer until my “license” arrived (which thankfully it did!). During that brief stint, working by Grandpa’s side in his medical office, I learned more about neatness than anytime before or after in my life. Every exam room in Grandpa’s large office was laid out identically, with every instrument laid neatly in the same order from room to room. I once asked Grandpa why he was so particular about his rooms and he wisely said that this way he always knew where everything was. And if there were an emergency and he needed something very quickly, he could find it immediately.
Looking at the beautiful palms on Maple Avenue has been for me, in my own lifetime, a touchstone that takes me back in history to a family connection that links me to my past. For all of us, whether it is familial or geographical connections, we all bear an imprint of a legacy that has been “willed” to us. This becomes our history.
Over the last few weeks, as we have studied the history of the lives of David’s children, especially Amnon and Tamar, we have found that there were inborn traits, call it ancestral inheritance, evident in the lives of all of David’s offspring. And thus, it is worthwhile for us to dig deep to uncover what it was that Tamar bequeathed to not only her own family, but to you and me as daughters of God, for as one girl who wrote me this week shared, “I feel like I’ve been Tamar all my life. Desolate. What hope does her life give?”
As I prayed over the pain I could feel from this note, written by one of God’s precious girls, a thought flooded my mind and inspired me to get out my shovel and hoe and go to work in God’s word to dig deeply for the revelation of what Tamar’s life means to us today.
The answer began to become clear with none other than a palm tree! Now please, don’t think I’ve gone “coconuts!” I haven’t. But what I found and the insight I’ve gained by studying more about Tamar is something which has enriched my soul in such a way that I pray it will do the same for you, too.
I thought I would take another look at Tamar by going to several Concordances to find out what Biblical scholars had to say about this name and the women in the Bible who were called “Tamar.”
This is where things got very interesting! The name “Tamar” means palm tree. (Yes, you read that correctly!) Tamar was a “palm tree,” those beautiful, perfectly planted trees that stand out on streets or wave breezily on a tropical island. But before we move on, I want to share several characteristics I learned about Palm Trees during my study.
Arecaceae or Palmae, or the common name Palm Tree, is from a family of flowering plants, with roughly 202 currently known genera and around 2,600 species. “Most palms are distinguished by their large, compound, evergreen leaves arranged at the top of an unbranched stem. However, many palms are exceptions to this statement, and palms in fact exhibit enormous diversity in physical characteristics.” Sounds exactly like God’s girls – women with great diversity. However, palm trees aren’t just structurally diverse. They also inhabit nearly every type of habitat, from rainforests to deserts. God’s daughters do, too! And here’s an interesting fact about palms, whether they grow as shrubs, trees, or vines, palms have two methods of growth – solitary or clustered. And one more thing, palms are known for the wide-variety of food products derived from them. Some of the most well-known “Palms” are Date Palms, Coconut Palms, Sugar Palms, and Cabbage Palms. And finally, in historical cultures, palms were symbols for ideas like victory, peace, and fertility.
In order to understand the Palm Tree as a meaning for the word “Tamar,” I want to remind us that in the Bible, there are three women named “Tamar.” The first was a woman whose life we studied in Genesis 28. She was Judah’s daughter-in-law with whom he had sex with thinking she was a prostitute. But here’s the interesting thing about this Tamar. Abused and demeaned by one of Jacob’s sons, Judah, we find that her past was no hindrance to what God had planned for her future. In Matthew 1: 3-6, Tamar’s son, Perez, is listed as a direct ancestor of King David and hence Jesus Christ!
As I read this fact, I smiled and thought about the words penned by author George Eliot who observed, “It so often happens that others are measuring us by our past self.” But George Eliot also reflected that we frequently “look back on that self (our past) with a mixture of disgust and sorrow.” I’m certain that when people were treating Tamar like a prostitute, as Judah did, there was no thought that her bequest, her legacy would be one that followed in the lineage of Jesus. WOW! God saw something better. He saw a tall palm, head held high, with a loving daughter’s heart.
And now, we come to one of David’s daughters, a girl named Tamar, who cried out for every woman in history who has ever had to beg for mercy…who has ever had her heart slaughtered by shame…who has ever felt defiled…and who has ever lived in desolation. For all God’s girls who have suffered abuse in any form, Tamar’s legacy lives on for we find that not only did her brother, Absalom, protect her within his home, but in
II Samuel 14: 27, we are told that Absalom named his only daughter, Tamar. As one author noted, this may easily have been a loving tribute to his beautiful sister Tamar. Absalom’s own daughter, whom the Bible also notes for her extraordinary beauty, was give a name to honor the injured sister, Tamar.
As I thought about the name Tamar and its meaning, palm tree, I contemplated the ways God’s daughters come in varieties, just like palms. And we, too, may bear fruit and blossom into the gorgeous beings God intended us to be. Whether living solitary lives or in clusters, our lives can be a testament to the legacy of a life bequeathed by God’s daughter, Tamar. The life of a “Royal Palm” – a daughter of the King.
“Let’s dare to be ourselves, for we do that better than anyone else can.”
For Making Me a Woman
“For making me a woman…
…I thank You.
Because You taught me by example
that power is Your gift,
and not my possession.
For giving me a body
though it sometimes fails me
and is not all I wish it was
or rather, a good deal more
than I wish it was,
I thank You.
Because You taught me
that I am much more
than my body
and yet my body is
Your holy temple.
For calling me to be
more than I believe I can be,
than I sometimes pretend I am,
I thank You.
Because You taught me
that being is more than doing,
that who I am
and whose I am
are more important than
what I do
or what I have.
For all that You are
Great “I Am,”
I bless You
as You have so greatly blessed me.”
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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