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David is unwittingly involved in the set-up, by agreeing to Amnon's request to have Tamar make him some cakes. II Samuel 13:6,7.
He KNEW what happened next, and was very angry. II Samuel 13:21.
He did nothing for two full years. II Samuel 13:23.
The death of Amnon comforted him. II Samuel 13:23. (I THINK that's what this verse means, but there may be some other meaning I'm not seeing.)

Is it because Amnon was David's first-born son (II Samuel 3:2), and perhaps heir apparent?
With respect to the heir apparent, I'm not entirely at ease about that argument. So far, the Kingship has not followed bloodlines strictly:
Both Saul and David derived their crown from Samuel (I Samuel 10, I Samuel 16);
It took the intervention of Abner to put Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, on the throne of Israel.
It sure was confusing when the kingship was actually transferred (II Kings 1). Chileab, David's second-born, is never mentioned after his birth is noted (II Sam 3).
Solomon, David's designated heir, was son number 10 from wife number 8, if I am recording things accurately.

So, I SUPPOSE the idea of the kingship passing to the oldest son could have been strongly favored, based on the traditions of other kingdoms, but was it strong enough to keep King David from disciplining Amnon for raping and rejecting Tamar?

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  • I don't know. It does seem in character for David to avoid bloodshed of VIPs (he refused to kill Saul when he became an enemy). Nathan also told him "This sword will never leave your house" after the Bathsheba incident. So David is responsible for inviting the evil into his house. Oct 11 at 1:53
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Leviticus 18:9 You must not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father's daughter or your mother's daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere. ...
29“ ‘Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people.

The punishment here is the Hebrew term kareth ("cutting off" כָּרֵת‎).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kareth:

In the Talmud, kareth means not necessarily physical "cutting off" of life, but extinction of the soul and denial of a share in the world to come.
...
Kareth is the punishment for certain crimes and offences defined under Jewish law (e.g. eating the life blood of a living animal, eating suet, refusing to be circumcised, etc.), a punishment that can only be given at the hand of heaven unto persons of the Jewish faith who are bound to keep the Jewish law, rather than made punishable by any earthly court.

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This comes after the episode where David commits adultery with Bathsheba and has her lawful husband killed in order to cover up his crime.

It is possible that David felt too compromised—because of his own failings—to impose the proper punishment.

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Why was Amnon not punished by David for raping Tamar?

There are two reasons that David took no action against the offender.

1/ No formal charges of accusation made -Deuteronomy 19:15

2/ Absalom requested his sister to keep silent, he also did not speak to Amnon . 2 Samuel 13: 20,22

18 "Now she had on a [h]long-sleeved garment; for in this manner the virgin daughters of the king dressed themselves in robes. Then his attendant took her out and locked the door behind her. 19 Tamar put [i]ashes on her head and tore her [j]long-sleeved garment which was on her; and she put her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went."

20 "Then Absalom her brother said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? But now keep silent, my sister, he is your brother; do not take this matter to heart.” So Tamar remained and was desolate in her brother Absalom’s house.21 Now when King David heard of all these matters, he was very angry. 22 But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister Tamar."

David was very angry, but in view that no formal charges of accusation were made and in the absense of evidence, David could not take any action against the offender -(Read- Deut 19:15 below.)

Also you will note in verse 20 that Absalom requested his sister to keep silent, perhaps to save him and his family unpleasant publicity.

Deuteronomy 19:15 (NASB)

15 “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin [a]which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed."

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  • Ouch. That means that although it was known that Amnon raped Tamar, no one was willing to testify. Is that due to the influence of Absalom?
    – Papa Pat
    Dec 7 '19 at 20:30
  • Noted that two or three witnesses are required, but there is at least ONE case in which only the accuser is required: Deut 22:25-27, the case of an engaged girl raped in the field. She cries out, but there was no one to help her. The rapist is put to death, not the girl. Actually, I wonder if an expert in the law would say that this is the same circumstance Tamar was in; Amnon had taken pains to send all possible help (and all possible witnesses) away. NOT being a legal scholar, I can't offer a authoritative opinion.
    – Papa Pat
    Dec 7 '19 at 20:36
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    Firstly your question I considered it to be a very good question, and I was surprised to see later that it was down voted +1 . Although two or more witnesses were required for an offence to stand, however if the accused admitted to the offence then that was all that was required. It is obvious that since David new as well as Absalom, the rest of the family most likely knew as well, Tamar on the advise of her brother kept silent and did not lodge any charges. Dec 7 '19 at 21:43

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