Judah And Tamar

“If you are offended and in unforgiveness and refuse to repent of this sin, you have not come to the knowledge of the truth. You are deceived, and you confuse others with your hypocritical lifestyle. No matter what the revelation, your fruit tells a different story. You’ll … More


Judah, the brother who suggested they sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites (37:26-27), stayed in Adullum (about 15 miles northwest of Hebron) and married a Canaanite woman (vv, 1-5). They had three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. Intermarriage with the Canaanites had been avoided up to this time. Judah’s first son Er died because he was wicked (vv 6-11). By liverite custom the “husband’s brother” Onan, was to marry Tamar, and raise up offspring for his brother (vv. 12-23).

However, Tamar felt she would have to take matters into her own hands if she were to be granted the rights of the levirate custom. When the time seemed right, Tamar put on a mask and deceptivelylured her father-in-law Judah into an immoral relationship, posing as a temple prostitute, (vv. 15 & 21). In pledge that he would send a goat for payment, he left his seal (which hung suspended from a cord around his neck) and his staff with her. When he tried to retrieve them through his friend Hirah, the girl was nowhere to be found. Again Jacob’s family experienced deception, this time by his Canaanite daughter-in-law (vv. 24-26).

Judah lacked integrity (v. 16), and now he was seen to be a hypocrite. When Tamar was reported to be three months pregnant, he condemned her to death as a prostitute. Then she proved by the seal and staff that he was the guilty partner. Tamar had won the right to be the mother of Judah’s children, though in a deceitful way. Her action was desperate and risky (vv. 27-30).

This final part of the story provides the significance of the whole account. God gave Tamar twins, and the line of Judah continued because of her. But in the birth of the boys an unusual situation occurred, paralleling the births of Jacob and Esau. After one twin’s hand came out the other twin made a breach and was born first, so he was rightly named Perez (“breach”). Then the second twin was named Zerah (“scarlet “) because of the scarlet thread the midwife tied on his wrist. It is as if the oracle concerning Jacob’s ruling over his older brother (27:29) was being relived in the line of Judah. Despite his attempts to hinder Tamar’s marriage, God’s will worked out a confirmation that the elder would serve the younger. The line of promise would carry on through Perez (Matt. 1:3), for God’s program cannot so easily be set aside.


God’s program for my life has been and will continue to be carried out no matter what. If my children ever see me try to deceive someone they will probably do the same.

Genesis 38:1-30 (English Standard Version)

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