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Judah and Tamar - Genesis Chapt. 38

She "played the harlot" by wearing a vail, and he ordered her to be burnt with fire!

The preceding chapter, Ch.37, leaves off with Joseph sold as a slave into Egypt, and this chapter begins a completely different subject -- chapter 38 is entirely parenthetical, because chapter 39 returns to the subject of Joseph again.

Thirty (30) verses in this chapter.

1. "And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah."

2. "And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her".

3. "And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er."

4. "And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan."

5. "And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him".

6. "And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar."

7. "And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him."

8. "And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother."

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".

10. "And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; wherefore he slew him also."

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."

12. *"And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah's wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite."

13. "And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep."

14. "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 to him to wife."

15. "When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot; because she had covered her face."

16. "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?"

17. "And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?"

18. "And he said, What pledge shall I give unto 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."

19. "And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood."

20. "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."

21. "Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot that was openly by the wayside? And they said, There was no harlot in this place."

22. "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."

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."

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."

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."

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."

27. *And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb."

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."

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."

30. "And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah."

To err is human, to forgive is divine...

Judah was the 4th son of Leah and Jacob. His older brothers were Reuben, Simeon, and Levi.

Judah is a name that grows from one person, to a tribe, to a kingdom, to a nation. The name of Judah is what leads to Judaism and the Judean-Christian era, and is the root of the word "Jew".

Judah eventually becomes the largest tribe, and the one that 'goes first' in the marching order.

Rev5:5 calls Jesus "the lion of the tribe of Judah". The genealogy of Jesus, like David, comes through Judah and his descendants.

The name Judah means Praise: Gen29:35

Here comes the practice of the parents picking out the marriage partners. Judah chose Tamar as wife to his eldest son Er.

Tamar was Judah's daughter-in-law, not his wife. Another Tamar in the Bible is a daughter of David.

The seed of man produces children -- we may translate as sperm or even DNA, but 1Pet1:23 refers to Jesus as the "incorruptible seed".

Judah's first 3 sons were Er, Onan, and Shelah.

Scripture doesn't tell us the name of Judah's wife -- verse 12 makes it clear that she was the daughter of Shuah. Sometimes we have to keep reading, when the story isn't clear, or the language ambiguous.

The Sadducee's pick up on this story by posing the hypothetical question to Jesus about the seven brothers having the same wife. Mt22:25.
Jesus didn't refer to the account of Judah and Tamar, but told them "You do greatly err because you know not the scriptures". Mk12:24.

Tamar's vail is spelled with an 'a' in my KJV. Elsewhere in KJV it's always veil.

Fig. of Speech: Hysteresis. Noah was told about the clean/unclean animals, but scripture doesn't explain until Leviticus 10:10. Similarly, this custom of taking your brother's wife is not dealt with until Deuteronomy 25:5.

The name Tamar means Palm: banana, coconut, date, etc.

Amazing, isn't it, that Judah would give up all his identification?

"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." Deut25:5.

Why did Tamar go to such extremes?  The practical aspect here is that a widow without children to help her to old age is in dire straits. The emphasis on marrying a virgin worked against widows. Lev21:9-14.

"And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire." Lev21:9.

Was this a death sentence? At this point in time, the Book of Leviticus hadn't yet been written.

I'm told the Talmud calls for this burning by burying the harlot up to her neck; then two witnesses pull on a rope around her neck, while the executioner ladles molten metal down her throat!

TWINS, or two sons, follow a "one-two" pattern: Cain/Abel, Ishmael/Isaac, Esau/Jacob, and here we have Zarah/Pharez. The pattern leads with the first-born (of the flesh) and then the 2nd born (or born-again) of the Spirit.

"All that openeth the matrix [womb] is mine..." Ex34:19, 13:2

matrix: 1. an environment or material in which something develops; a surrounding medium or structure.
2. a mold in which something is cast or shaped. ('fruit of the womb' not same as hymen). Ps127:3

Pharez continues the generations to David, Ruth4:18, but Zerah's posterity ends with Achan, the thief, at the Battle of Jericho. Josh7:1.

In Egypt, Joseph has two sons, Manasseh & Ephraim, continuing this pattern of "the Jew first, and then the Gentile". Rom2:9,10.

Later, Judah's son Shelah apparently DID marry Tamar and named their first son Er, 1Chr4:21.

A 2nd "Shelah" is in the 13th generation to Jesus: spelled Salah in Gen10:24.

The "one-two" pattern continues on in the New Testament.
Adam was the 1st son-of-God, Lk3:38, and Jesus is the 2nd, 1Cor15:47.
First Peter, then Paul.
First Ananias/Sapphira, then Aquila/Priscilla.
Old Covenant, Jer31:31, then New Covenant, 2Cor3:6.
"Jew first, then the Gentile", Rom1:16, 2:9,10

In Hebrew (49 count ELS) this chapter 38 includes the names Boaz, Ruth, Obed, Jesse, and David -- long before they appear in later books of the Bible!

    Could the widow refuse to marry her husband's brother? What if he was already married?   How does this story fit with that of Rahab, or Jephthah's daughter?
The importance of THE NAME is seen in Deut25:6 - "And it shall be that the firstborn which [the widow] beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel".
Now it's JESUS who has that Name above every name! Phil 2:9. Our "brother" died w/o fruit (of the flesh), but He was resurrected, and now we're raising that NAME and producing the Spiritual fruit of Love, Joy, Peace, etc.

There are those who teach fiction about Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene, or the Queen of Sheba having a baby by King Solomon, but those lying fabrications aren't found in the Bible.


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Last modified 28 September 2014 by Bob Smith.