Genesis Chapter Thirty-Eight

 

Read Genesis 38:1-11Judah

 

v.1 “AND IT CAME TO PASS AT THAT TIME, THAT JUDAH WENT DOWN FROM HIS BRETHREN, AND TURNED IN TO A CERTAIN ADULAMITE WHOSE NAME WAS HIRAH.”

 

            After Joseph is sold into slavery we find another son of Jacob causing himself, and probably his father as well, enough grief to fill a lifetime.  First of all we find him leaving the companionship of his brothers and his family and moving into the region of a Canaanite tribe identified as the Adullamites.  The site of the city of Adullam is said to be located about 13 miles west of Bethlehem, not far from Gath and it is called one of the royal cities of the Canaanites.  There once again we see proven beyond doubt that:

 

I Corinthians 15:33 “BE NOT DECEIVED, EVIL COMPANIONSHIPS CORRUPT GOOD MORALS.”  (ASV)

 

v.2 “AND JUDAH SAW THERE A DAUGHTER OF A CERTAIN CANAANITE, WHOSE NAME WAS SHUAH; AND HE TOOK HER, AND WENT IN UNTO HER.”

 

            As is common when young men wander; Judah finds a woman that he chooses to take as his wife that was not of common ancestry.  She was a Canaanite, the daughter of a man called Shuah.

 

v.3-5 “AND SHE CONCEIVED, AND BARE A SON; AND HE CALLED HIS NAME ER.  AND SHE CONCEIVED AGAIN, AND BARE A SON; AND SHE CALLED HIS NAME ONAN.  AND SHE YET AGAIN CONCEIVED, AND BARE A SON; AND CALLED HIS NAME SHELAH: AND HE WAS AT CHEZIB, WHEN SHE BARE HIM.”

 

            Genesis 46:12 and Numbers 26:19 name five sons of Judah, these are the first three.  The scripture doesn’t tell us anything about them except what we find here and in the two references above.  Chezib or Achzib was a town in the Shephelah, the area of Judah used for the grazing and raising of flocks.

 

v.6  AND JUDAH TOOK A WIFE FOR ER HIS FIRSTBORN, WHOSE NAME WAS TAMAR.”

 

            So Judah takes a wife for his eldest son.  We do not know the origin of Tamar.  She was most likely a Canaanite, from the area where Judah was living, or she could have been a descendant of either Ishmael or Esau, therefore also a descendant of Abraham.  The scripture doesn’t tell us.  We do know that the name Tamar is the origin of the feminine names Tamara and Tammy that we use today.

 

v.7 “AND ER, JUDAH’S FIRSTBORN, WAS WICKED IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD; AND THE LORD SLEW HIM.”

 

            Since Jacobs oldest sons had already disgraced themselves the birthright of the firstborn had already passed to Judah.  Under the customs and law of the times the Er would have enjoyed the birthright of the firstborn, the blessings of God that God had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  But Er was wicked in the sight of God, we don’t know specifically what he did or was doing and the commentators don’t speculate but we do know that God’s justice was swift and permanent.

 

v.8 “AND JUDAH SAID UNTO ONAN, GO IN UNTO THY BROTHER’S WIFE, AND MARRY HER, AND RAISE UP SEED TO THY BROTHER.”

 

            It was a commandment of God that if a man died without a child, that his brother should take his widow as his wife and provide sons that would be considered heirs of the one who had died.  This was a part of the Mosaic Covenant:

 

Deuteronomy 25:5-6 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her.  And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.”

 

This is also the subject of a discussion between Jesus and the Sadducees in Matthew 22:24 concerning whose wife she should be in the resurrection.  We’re not told whether God had also given this commandment to Jacob or not but in view of what follows we can almost be assured that it was God’s commandment during the time of the patriarchs as well.

 

v.9 “AND ONAN KNEW THAT THE SEED SHOULD NOT BE HIS; AND IT CAME TO PASS, WHEN HE WENT IN UNTO HIS BROTHER’S WIFE, THAT HE SPILLED it ON THE GROUND, LEST THAT HE SHOULD GIVE SEED TO HIS BROTHER.”

 

            Onan simply refused to comply with what was required of him to provide his brother an heir.

 

v.10 “ AND THE THING WHICH HE DID DISPLEASED THE LORD: WHEREFORE HE SLEW HIM ALSO.”

 

            God’s justice is again swift and sure and again the one that refuses to obey him is removed from this earth and removed from generating one through whom God would provide the blessings promised the patriarchs.

 

v.11 “THEN SAID JUDAH TO TAMAR HIS DAUGHTER IN LAW, REMAIN A WIDOW AT THY FATHER’S HOUSE, TILL SHELAH MY SON BE GROWN: FOR HE SAID, LEST PERADVENTURE HE DIE ALSO, AS HIS BRETHREN did.  AND TAMAR WENT AND DWELT IN HER FATHER’S HOUSE.”

 

            Judah’s third son is not yet grown, not yet of a marriageable age, so he makes arrangements for Tamar until such time as Shelah could be married to her.

 

Read Genesis 38:12-26 – Judah and Tamar

 

v.12 “AND IN THE PROCESS OF TIME THE DAUGHTER OF SHUAH JUDAH’S WIFE DIED; AND JUDAH WAS COMFORTED, AND WENT UP UNTO HIS SHEEP-SHEARERS TO TIMNATH, HE AND HIS FRIEND HIRAH THE ADULLAMITE.”

 

            We find Timnath again as one of the towns in the region that God gave to the descendants of Judah.  Judah’s wife has died and it would appear that he is focusing his attention to his business of raising sheep.  Consequently he travels from the place where he dwells to the fields where the flocks are being grazed to participate in the annual shearing.

 

v.13-14  AND IT WAS TOLD TAMAR, SAYING, BEHOLD THY FATHER IN LAW GOETH UP TO TIMNATH TO SHEAR HIS SHEEP.  AND SHE PUT HER WIDOW’S GARMENTS OFF FROM HER,AND COVERED HER WITH A VAIL, AND WRAPPED HERSELF, AND SAT IN AN OPEN PLACE, WHICH is BY THE WAY TO TIMNATH; FOR SHE SAW THAT SHELAH WAS GROWN, AND SHE WAS NOT GIVEN UNTO HIM TO WIFE.”

 

            Judah’s activities come to the attention of his daughter-in-law.  The promise that he had made concerning giving her his youngest son as her husband has not been kept and Tamar decides to take matters into her own hands.  She prepares herself by removing the garments that would identify her and dressing as a harlot of that day would dress.

 

v.15-16 “WHEN JUDAH SAW HER, HE THOUGHT HER to be AN HARLOT; BECAUSE SHE HAD COVERED HER FACE.  AND HE TURNED UNTO HER BY THE WAY, AND SAID, GO TO, I PRAY THEE, LET ME COME IN UNTO THEE; (FOR HE KNEW NOT THAT SHE was HIS DAUGHTER-IN-LAW).  AND SHE SAID WHAT WILT THOU GIVE ME, THAT THOU MAYEST COME IN UNTO ME.?”

 

            Some observations about these verses:  first of all it seems to have been very easy for Tamar to accomplish her purpose.  We’re reminded of the power of lust:

 

James 1:14-15But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

 

            In the times and culture of the patriarchs, harlots or prostitutes covered their faces so that they would not be recognized.  Man’s shame obviously has eroded over the intervening centuries as such is definitely not the case today.

            Tamar is either so callus or so determined that she conducts the business transaction of a harlot freely and apparently without any hesitation or second thought.

 

v. 17-18 “AND HE SAID, I WILL SEND thee A KID FROM THE FLOCK.  AND SHE SAID, WILT THOU GIVE me A PLEDGE, TILL THOU SENT it?  AND HE SAID, WHAT PLEDGE SHALL I GIVE THEE?  AND SHE SAID, THY SIGNET, AND THY BRACELETS, AND THY STAFF THAT is IN THINE HAND.  AND HE GAVE it HER, AND CAME IN UNTO HER, AND SHE CONCEIVED BY HIM.”

 

            Judah and Tamar come to an agreement regarding the price for her services and he pledges to send her a kid from his flocks.  But Tamar is very much a business woman and demands a guarantee, just a promise won’t do.  Consequently he leaves his signet ring, bracelets and staff with her; all three items easily identified as his, especially since the signet ring was used to seal documents, contracts and other agreements the same way we use our signatures today.

 

v.19 “AND SHE AROSE, AND WENT AWAY, AND LAID BY HER VAIL FROM HER, AND PUT ON THE GARMENTS OF HER WIDOWHOOD.”

 

            Her purpose accomplished, Tamar returns to her normal place and activities.

 

v.20-22 “AND JUDAH SENT THE KID BY THE HAND OF HIS FRIEND THE ADULLAMITE, TO RECEIVE his PLEDGE FROM THE WOMAN’S HAND: BUT HE FOUND HER NOT.  THEN HE ASKED THE MEN OF THAT PLACE, SAYING, WHERE is THE HARLOT THAT was OPENLY BY THE WAY SIDE?  AND THEY SAID, THERE WAS NO HARLOT IN THIS place.  AND HE RETURNED TO JUDAH, AND SAID, I CANNOT FIND HER; AND ALSO THE MEN OF THE PLACE SAID, that THERE WAS NO HARLOT IN THIS place.”

 

            For whatever reasons, Judah doesn’t go back to Tamar himself to pay his debt and retrieve his possessions but rather sends his Adullamite friend.  But it is not to be.  The one supposed to be a harlot has not only disappeared; no one knows anything about her.  In fact the men of that place readily agree that no harlot has ever worked in that area.

 

v.23 “AND JUDAH SAID, LET HER TAKE it TO HER, LEST WE BE SHAMED; BEHOLD, I SENT THIS KID, AND THOU HAST NOT FOUND HER.”

 

            Judah’s response is something like some one might say today.  Well, I tried; the payment was sent, but the one to receive it cannot be found.  Therefore no one can accuse or shame Judah for the result.

 

v.24 “AND IT CAME TO PASS ABOUT THREE MONTHS AFTER, THAT IT WAS TOLD JUDAH, SAYING, TAMAR THY DAUGHTER IN LAW HATH PLAYED THE HARLOT; AND ALSO, BEHOLD, SHE is WITH CHILD BY WHOREDOM.  AND JUDAH SAID, BRING HER FORTH, AND LET HER BE BURNT.”

 

            Again we find common ground between the law of the patriarchs and the law given by God through Moses.  Since God does not change (Malachi 3:6) that should not be any great surprise to us.

 

Leviticus 21:9And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.”

 

So, not knowing the whole story; Judah gives the commandment that he feels is necessary in this situation.  Some commentators seem to think that this burning was a branding to mark a woman as a harlot, others think that her punishment is to be death by burning.  But Tamar is prepared and will escape being punished. 

            We see again the immutable law that says:

 

But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.” Numbers 32:23

 

In this case, not only has Tamar’s sin become obvious, but Judah’s is about to be exposed as well.

 

v.25 “WHEN SHE was BROUGHT FORTH, SHE SENT TO HER FATHER IN LAW, SAYING, BY THE MAN, WHOSE THESE are, am I WITH CHILD: AND SHE SAID, DISCERN, I PRAY THEE, WHOSE are THESE, THE SIGNET, AND BRACELETS, AND STAFF.”

 

            So when Tamar is called to face Judah and hear the punishment for her sin she brings forth the signet, bracelets and staff proving that the father of her child is the very father-in-law that is ready to pass judgment on her. 

 

v.26 “AND JUDAH ACKNOWLEDGED them, AND SAID, SHE HATH BEEN MORE RIGHTEOUS THAN I; BECAUSE THAT I GAVE HER NOT TO SHELAH MY SON.  AND HE KNEW HER AGAIN NO MORE.”

 

            Judah recognizes his possessions and immediately knows that he is the father of Tamar’s child.  He makes an admission that she is indeed more righteous than he is because he failed to do what he should have done as her father-in-law.  He did not provide for her his third son as a husband.  We’re also told that Judah did not make her his wife, nor does the scripture ever tell us that she becomes the wife of Shelah either.

 

Read Genesis 38:27-30 – The Sons of Judah by Tamar

 

v.27 “AND IT CAME TO PASS IN THE TIME OF HER TRAVAIL, THAT, BEHOLD, TWINS were IN HER WOMB.”

 

            So now we learn that Tamar is not only going to provide offspring to Judah but that she is actually going to deliver twins.

 

v.28 “AND IT CAME TO PASS, WHEN SHE TRAVAILED, THAT the one PUT OUT his HAND: AND THE MIDWIFE TOOK AND BOUND UPON HIS HAND A SCARLET THREAD, SAYING, THIS CAME OUT FIRST.”

 

            Perhaps remembering the situation with Jacob and Esau and in order to verify which twin was born first.  At the first sight of a the appendage of one of the babies, the midwife marks it with a scarlet thread.

 

v.29  “AND IT CAME TO PASS, AS HE DREW BACK HIS HAND, THAT, BEHOLD, HIS BROTHER CAME OUT; AND SHE SAID, HOW HAST THOU BROKEN FORTH?  This BREACH be UPON THEE: THEREFORE HIS NAME WAS CALLED PHAREZ.”

 

            The child identified by the scarlet thread was not born first but rather his brother, Pharez or Perez.  As a result Pharez carried the birthright due to the eldest son of Judah.  In other listings of the sons of Judah, such as Numbers 26:20 and 1 Chronicles 2:4 he is named first.  He is also the son of Judah named in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:33 and in Matthew 1:3.

 

v.30  AND AFTERWARD CAME OUT HIS BROTHER THAT HAD THE SCARLET THREAD UPON HIS HAND AND HIS NAME WAS CALLED ZARAH.”

 

            So the fifth son of Judah is Zarah or Zerah and is the father of the Zarhites.  His descendants are listed with those of Pharez in Numbers 26:20 and we find in Joshua 7:1 that Achan is one of his descendants.