Pausing at the downturn of Joseph’s life, the narrative interludes the Joseph’s story arc to the life of Judah. The chapter contrasts Judah’s ungodly life as an Israelite with the Canaanite daughter-in-law’s persistence to pursue for the promised-heir. Through the lesson, we will learn more about the meaning of repentance and righteousness in God’s eyes.
Did You Know...?
- Adullamite (38:1): The town of Adullam is located in the Hebron valley (Josh 12:15, 15:35), and now is identified with the ruins ‘Aid-el-mâ—seventeen miles southwest of Jerusalem and about twelve miles northwest from Hebron (1 Sam 22:1). [ref]
- Shua (38:2): The name can literally be translated as “cry out for help” in Hebrew.
- Er (38:3), in Hebrew, can literally be translated as ”watcher” or “watchful.”
- Onan (38:4) literally can be translated in Hebrew as “vigorous” or “wealthy.”
- Shelah (38:5): The name can literally be translated as “petition” or “appeal” in Hebrew. Shelah would become the ancestor of the family of the Shelanites (Num 26:20; Neh 11:5).
- Chezib (38:5) is usually identified as Achzib (Tell el-Beidai), west of Adullam (Josh 15:44, 19:29; Judg 1:31; Mic 1:14). Chezib was the birthplace of Shelah. [ref]
- Tamar (38:6), in Hebrew, can literally be translated as “a date palm.”
- “He emitted on the ground” (38:9): The phrase can literally be translated in Hebrew as ”he destroyed (it) to the ground.”
- “Displeased the Lord” (38:10): Such an expression, in Hebrew, can be translated literally as “was evil in the eyes of the Lord.”
- A widow (38:11) can literally be translated in Hebrew as “to be solitary” or “forsaken.” Since a widow inherited her husband’s property, the levirate marriage—an ancient Hebrew custom by which a man may be obliged to marry his brother’s widow—was intended to retain the property of the deceased husband’s family. The Scriptures gave specific instructions in regards to the treatment of a widow. For example, not only was the affliction to any widow forbidden, but the administration of justice toward a widow was a must (Ex 22:22; Deut 10:18; Jer 7:6, 22:3; Ezek 22:7; Zech 7:10). Furthermore, The related community must also provide shelter, food, livelihood for the mentioned widow (Deut 14:29, 24:19-21).
- “She dwelt in her father’s house” (38:11): According to the book of Leviticus 22:13, a widow without children went back to her father’s family to eat her father’s food. But a widow with children, according to the tradition, would remain in the family of her husband and receive sustenance. [ref]
- Timnah (38:13) was a border town between Ekron and Bethshemesh in the mountains of Judah (Josh 15:10, 57; Judg 14:1).
- “Going up to shear his sheep” (38:13): In a Canaanite culture, “shearing sheep” was a traditional time of celebration and excess, with shrine prostitutes doing brisk business.
The Scriptures mentioned how the period of sheep-shearing was often accompanied by occasion of festivity and licentiousness (1 Sam 25:2ff;
2 Sam 13:23ff).
- A veil (38:14): The Scriptures mention several significances of a veil. For instance, as an unmarried woman and a bride-to-be, Rebekah “took a veil and covered herself” before meeting with Isaac (Gen 24:65). Moreover, as an instrument to cover her identity, Tamar “covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself” to prevent Judah from knowing who she was. Once she went away from Judah, Tamar “laid aside her veil” (Gen 38:14, 19). In addition, according to the book of Isaiah, a veil can be used as an attractiveness or an ornament of “finery” along with “the jingling anklets…the bracelets…the perfume boxes…the nose jewels” (Isa 3:18-23).
- Signet (38:18): A signet ring was an ancient cylinder seal and was made of engraved stone which was rolled across soft clay and on pottery handles, leaving an authoritative and authenticating imprint (Ex 28:11;
1 Kgs 21:8). [ref] The stamp seal could be a finger ring, known as “signet”ring (Jer 22:24; Hag 2:23).
- Cord (38:18): The cylinder seal could have a cord which enabled the owner to wear it around the neck. The cord was made of flexible material, such as silk, for the purpose of tying or suspending the seal (Ex 28:28), or of fastening around the neck of the seal owner. [ref]
- Staff (38:18): In Hebrew, the term “staff” is usually referred to a supporting rod, pole or stick (Ex 4:2;
1Sam 14:27). The head of the staff could be highly ornamented and marked with an inscription of the owner’s name or the related tribe (Num 17:2). The staff could have a symbolic function, indicating the master’s authority (Num 17:3) or royal authority (Ps 110:2; Ezek 19:11). [ref]
- A young goat (38:20) could be considered as a handsome payment, a tender animal, tasty for food (Gen 27:9, 16;
1 Sam 16:20; Judg 6:19, 13:15). Moreover, the book of Judges narrated how a husband used a young goat for a present to his wife (Judg 15:1).
- A harlot (38:21) in Hebrew, can literally denote “a consecrated one devoted to the worship of a god or a goddess.” The sacred-prostitution custom prevailed generally among the Semitic races, and was associated with the immoral rites of the Phoenician, Syrian, and Babylonian worship (Deut 23:17; Num 25:1; Hos 4:14). [ref]
- “Lest we be shamed” (38:23): Such a phrase can literally be translated as “lest we become an object of contempt” or “lest we become ridiculed” in Hebrew.
- “Let her be burned” (38:24): According to the book of Leviticus, the punishment for adultery was death by stoning (Lev. 20:10; Deut 22:20-24). There were two instances where the Scriptures mentioned a punishment by burning: A wickedness performed by one who married a woman and her mother (Lev 20:14) and a harlotry performed by a daughter of any priest (Lev 21:9). Since Tamar did not belong in any of the two categories mentioned, her punishment of death by burning would have been excessive.
- “She has been more righteous than I” (38:26): The expression, in Hebrew, can literally be translated as ”she was in the right more than I” or “she had a just cause more than I.”
- “How did you break through” (38:29): This phrase can be translated literally in Greek-Septuagint as “Barrier, how did he cut in two on account of you.”
- Zerah (38:30): While the name “Zerah” can literally be translated as “rising of the sun” or “beam of light” in Hebrew, the word “Zerah” can also be connected with Edom, a word meaning “scarlet” (Gen 36:13, 17, 33).
1. How did Gen 38 play an important part of the overall story arc of Joseph?Hide Answer
The book of Genesis 38 plays an important part of the overall story arc of Joseph in several ways. First, Gen 38 acts as an interlude to Joseph’s story arc. The ending of chapter 37 and the beginning of chapter 38 focus on the branching out of two life stories: the beginning of Joseph’s journey in Egypt and the life of Joseph’s brother, Judah, the one who initiated to sell Joseph.
Second, Gen 38 depicts the life transformation of Judah from the one who separated himself from the house of Israel to the one who willingly admitted his wrongdoings. This chapter serves as an origin to Judah’s life of repentance, which is shown clearly in Judah’s admission of his past sins (Gen 44:16) and Judah’s intercession for Benjamin (Gen 44:33-34).
Third, Gen 38 colors a contrast backdrop against Joseph’s integrity. The chapter portrays the ungodly and promiscuous behavior of Judah, establishing a great contrast to Joseph’s life of chastity, faithfulness and obedience to God’s commands in the latter chapter of Genesis.
Contrast Judah’s departure “from his brothers” in Gen 38:1 with Joseph’s departure in Gen 37:14. What was the reason behind each of the men’s departure?Hide Answer
There was a great contrast between Judah’s departure and Joseph’s departure. While Joseph’s departure in Gen 37:14 was to obey his father’s command to look for the brothers, Judah’s departure was by his own will to be separated “from his brothers” (Gen 38:1). Furthermore, Joseph’s departure to look for his brothers was followed by him being sold to the “Midianite traders” by his brothers and forcefully separated from his home (Gen 40:15) into Egypt and thus, fulfilling the plan which God had prepared for Joseph “to preserve” and “to save” the lives of Jacob—the father, the brothers and their descendants (Gen 45:7). On the other hand, Judah’s departure was driven by his own will to be separated from the household of Israel and by his own stubbornness to marry a Canaanite woman in Adullam (Gen 38:1-2)—in spite of the prohibition to “take a wife” from “the daughters of the Canaanites” in the time of Isaac, his grandfather (Gen 24:2-4) and in the time of Jacob, his father (Gen 28:1-2).
How was the departure of Judah affected by his choice of marriage and his method in raising children?Hide Answer
After the departure of Judah from his brothers, Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite and he married his daughter (Gen 38:2). But instead of raising godly children, his eldest and his second son were wicked and displeasing in the eyes of the Lord (Gen 38:7, 10).
From Judah’s example, what can we learn about the purpose of marriage and the purpose of having children? See also
2 Cor 6:14; Eph 5:28-29.Hide Answer
From Judah’s family example, we can learn a lesson about marriage and raising children. Unlike Judah who chose his spouse based on what he “saw” of “a daughter of a certain Canaanite” (Gen 38:2), we ought to choose our partner in marriage based on the teachings of the Scriptures. According to the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, marriage is a fellowship of righteousness. Thus, apostle Paul sternly warns that one should not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14). The apostle Paul continues in his letter to the Ephesians, that in marriage husband and wife ought to love each other just as the Lord loves the church, His body (Eph 5:28-29). Therefore, the purpose of marriage is for one to have fellowship in God’s righteousness and to learn how to love one’s spouse with godly love.
Moreover, the Scriptures give us a specific purpose of having children. According to the prophet Malachi, the Lord requires godly offspring from our marriage union (Mal 2:15). Thus, it is the responsibility of the parents to teach the teachings of the Lord to our children until they can apply them into their own lives. Just as the writer of the book of Proverbs admonishes his people to train a child in the way he should go (Prov 22:6), we ought to discipline our children in the way of righteousness and we ought to make sure that they will not depart from it.
List the deeds which the Lord deem to be wicked or evil in His sight.Hide Answer
According to the Scriptures, there are several deeds deemed to be wicked in the sight of the Lord. For example, the evil intent of the thoughts of the heart (Gen 6:5), the grumbling and the complaining committed against the will of God (Num 32:13), the transgression against the covenant of the Lord (Deut 17:2), the disobedient toward the priest or the minister of God (Deut 17:12), the immoral acts performed (Gen 13:13; Deut 22:22), the disobedience against the voice of the Lord (1 Sam 15:19), the evil and the deceitful tongue (Ps 34:13), the decision to forget the Lord and to serve other gods (Judg 3:7).
What was the significance of the phrase “wicked in the sight of the Lord” in Gen 38:7? See also Deut 10:12;
2 Sam 11:27 and 12:10-12.Hide Answer
The phrase “wicked in the sight of the Lord” carried several meanings. First, the phrase meant that Er, the firstborn of Judah, did not fear the Lord. The book of Deuteronomy explained how the people of God feared Him when they walked in His ways and served Him with all their heart and all their soul (Deut 10:12). Instead of walking in God’s way, Er was walking in the way of evil. The intent of his heart, his thoughts and his deeds were rebellious, wicked in the sight of the Lord.
Second, the phrase “wicked in the sight of the Lord” meant that his wickedness was based on God’s standard. The Scriptures mentioned an example of King David who had done a certain deed left unnoticed by men. However, the book of
2 Samuel 11:27 clearly emphasized that the thing which king David had done displeased the Lord. In other words, one may perform a wicked deed in secret or left unnoticed by men, but the Lord knows and it will not be hidden from the sight of the Lord. Likewise, the wickedness of Er was not based on men’s standard but was based on the judgment of God.
Third, the phrase meant that the judgment of God would follow. The book of Genesis revealed that after God saw the wickedness of Er, the Lord killed him (Gen 38:7). As a result of Er’s wickedness, God put Er to death in order to show His judgment and righteousness. Similarly, when King David had done evil in the sight of the Lord, the prophet Nathan warned him of the judgment to come that the sword would never depart from David’s house and adversity would be raised up against David (2 Sam 12:10-11).
How did the deed of Onan displease the Lord? Toward his brother, Er (See Deut 25:5):Hide Answer
According to the book of Deuteronomy, after Er died, then it was the duty of Onan to marry Tamar, his brother’s wife, and to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her (Deut 25:5). Onan was next in line after Er, yet he refused to raise an heir for his brother (Gen 38:9). Onan did not only disobey the command of his father, Judah, but he also dishonored his deceased brother, Er.
Toward his sister-in-law, Tamar (See Deut 25:6):Hide Answer
The purpose of the levirate marriage was to perform the duty of a husband to the deceased brother’s wife and to retain the inheritance of the deceased brother (Deut 25:5-6). Though Onan took Tamar as his wife, Onan failed to perform both responsibilities to her. Onan failed his duty to be a husband to Tamar. By emitting his seed to the ground when he went into Tamar (Gen 38:9), Onan had denied Tamar her right to conceive a child and her right to raise the child. Moreover, Onan failed his duty to raise an heir for his brother’s name. By taking Tamar as his wife, Onan knew that the heir would not be his (Gen 38:9). Thus, Onan would rather emit his seed to the ground, than maintaining an heir and a name for his deceased brother. Onan had denied Tamar her right to succeed the name of her deceased husband, Er, and her right to preserve the name of Er in Israel (Deut 25:6).
Toward the Lord (See Gen 2:18, 22, 1:12, 28):Hide Answer
The Lord had already established marriage institution from the beginning (Gen 2:18, 22). When God blessed the marriage between man and woman, He commanded them to be fruitful and to multiply (Gen 1:28). Onan’s refusal to let Tamar conceive was an offence against the sanctity and prosperity of the blessed marriage itself. Onan had directly disobeyed the commandment of the Lord to procreate and to be fruitful. Furthermore, Onan’s decision to emit his seed to the ground was an act of rebellion against God. Just as the seed of the plants is for the purpose of yielding new plants with fruits (Gen 1:12), the seed of the man is to yield fruitful descendants in a marriage union. When Onan destroyed the seed, he purposely denied the function of the seed and rebelled against the Lord’s will.
What kind of person was Onan, reflecting from his wicked deed?Hide Answer
Reflecting from the wicked deed of Onan toward his deceased brother, Er, toward his sister-in-law, Tamar, and toward the Lord, Onan was a selfish, manipulative and ungodly person. Onan was a selfish person. Instead of performing his duty to raise an heir for his deceased brother, Onan wanted the heir to be for himself (Gen 38:9). Onan did not want to reduce his share of the family inheritance and he wanted to acquire the family status for himself.
In addition, Onan was a manipulative person. The book of Deuteronomy stated that one could refuse to build up his deceased brother’s house and his name would be called in Israel “The house of him who had his sandal removed.” (Deut 25:9-10). Onan did not want to be shamed, thus he took Tamar as his wife. But he manipulated his marriage to maintain his dignity. Though he became the husband of Tamar, he refused to let her conceive an heir. Additionally, though he agreed to retain the name of his deceased brother through levirate marriage, Onan had no intention of building a name for his deceased brother.
Finally, Onan was an ungodly person. Onan purposely emitted the seed on the ground because he did not want Tamar to conceive (Gen 38:9). Therefore, Onan had deliberately disobeyed the command of God to procreate in marriage and to be fruitful in raising descendants. And by destroying the seed, Onan rebelliously challenged God’s intention of the fruitfulness in his family through the seed.
How was the command for Tamar’s widowhood reflected in: The selfishness of Judah;Hide Answer
After Onan was killed by the Lord, Judah commanded Tamar to remain a widow in her father’s house (Gen 38:11). Though he told Tamar to wait until Shelah, Judah’s third son, was grown, Judah never intended to give Tamar to Shelah as a wife. Judah was afraid lest Shelah died like the rest of his brothers. Although both of Judah’s sons, Er and Onan, were wicked in the sight of the Lord, at the end, Judah preferred to sacrifice Tamar, his daughter-in-law, to let her continue in her barrenness. In addition, Judah had the option to release Tamar. According to the book of Deuteronomy, the remaining brother had the option to refuse to take the sister-in-law in levirate marriage at the cost of being shamed by the community (Deut 25:7-10). In other words, Judah had the option to prevent Shelah from marrying Tamar and release her of the levirate marriage at the cost of public humiliation to Judah’s family name. But Judah did not want to be shamed by the public, nor did he want to lose Shelah, his son. Selfishly, Judah pretended to continue the responsibility of levirate marriage. Therefore, Judah condemned Tamar to life-long barrenness.
The faithfulness of Tamar;Hide Answer
Judah misled Tamar and raised her hopes. Unaware that Judah had no intention of ever letting Shelah marry her, Tamar obeyed her father-in-law’s instruction to remain a widow in her father’s house until Shelah was grown (Gen 38:11). Tamar was willing to wait many years to marry someone much younger than her. During this long wait, Tamar was bound by Judah’s word and under the supervision of the house of Judah (Gen 38:24), and she could not seek a husband outside the family (Deut 25:5). Yet, year after year, Tamar accepted her life of chastity and patiently kept her faith of the promised heir to come. Furthermore, by her obedience to remain a widow in her father’s house through her life of chastity, Tamar would reflect a good name for the house of Judah.
How was Judah’s character in Gen 38:15-18 similar to Esau’s in terms of fulfilling their fleshly desire? See Heb 12:16.Hide Answer
The writer of the book of Hebrew explained that Esau, to fulfill his desire for a morsel of food, was willing to trade away his right of the firstborn (Heb 12:16). Thus, the book of Hebrew mentioned Esau as a fornicator and a profane person. Similarly, in Gen 38:15-18, Judah was depicted as one who fulfilled his fleshly desire. Not only did Judah unknowingly commit fornication with his daughter-in-law, Tamar, he also traded away his important things, signet, cord, and staff, for the pleasure of sexual gratification.
Through Gen 38:20-23, how was Judah a man who highly valued his reputation despite his immoral deed?Hide Answer
After his deed of fornication, Judah still highly valued and maintained his reputation through several ways. First, instead of sending the young goat himself to the harlot, Judah sent his friend, the Adullamite, to give the young goat to the harlot (Gen 38:20). Judah sent his friend to deliver the promised exchange for the harlot’s service, so that he would not be noticed or recognized by the people around that place and his immoral deed remained hidden from them. Second, instead of pursuing to retrieve his pledge when the harlot was not found, Judah decided that the harlot could keep the pledge (Gen 38:23). Judah preferred to lose his pledge rather than being shamed by the people in that place for knowing that Judah had been outwitted by a harlot.
What were the endurances which Tamar had to go through in faithfully pursuing an heir for her husband’s name in Judah’s household?Hide Answer
There were several endurances which Tamar had gone through in faithfully pursuing an heir for her husband’s name. First, Tamar had to endure living with her wicked husband, Er (Gen 38:7). Second, Tamar had to endure the ill-treatment of Onan, Er’s brother, who refused to give an heir to her (Gen 38:9). Third, Tamar had to endure the humiliation of remaining a widow, though Shelah had grown up and was not given to her as a husband (Gen 38:14). Fourth, Tamar had to endure the shame of demeaning her status temporarily from a widow to a harlot (Gen 38:14), for the purpose of approaching Judah. Fifth, Tamar had to endure the conflict of conscience when she let Judah, her own father-in-law, go into her (Gen 38:18-19), for the purpose of pursuing a promised-heir.
Compare Judah’s rage of judgment upon hearing the news of Tamar’s pregnancy with David’s rage of judgment upon hearing the report of the prophet Nathan. How did their rage reflect their self-righteousness? See
2 Sam 12:1-7.Hide Answer
In the book of
2nd Samuel, the writer narrated how David’s anger was greatly aroused upon hearing the wicked deed in the rich man’s story from the prophet Nathan (2 Sam 12:1-5). David quickly drew a conclusion and imposed a judgment on the rich man, while failing to realize that the rich man was referring to himself (2 Sam 12:7). Likewise, in the book of Genesis, Judah’s anger was reflected in his hasty conclusion and his harsh judgment of Tamar (Gen 38:24). Judah self-righteously proclaimed the fate of Tamar’s punishment, while failing to realize that it was he who had fathered the seed in Tamar’s womb.
If Judah and Tamar were to have lived in the time of Deuteronomy, how would Judah’s rage of judgment toward Tamar have been excessive? See Deut 22:21.Hide Answer
Upon hearing the news of Tamar’s pregnancy, Judah quickly commanded her to be brought out and to be burned (Gen 38:24). According to the book of Deuteronomy, if a woman had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by playing the harlot, she was to be stoned to death (Deut 22:21). But a woman should be burned by fire only upon several conditions. First, “if a man marries a woman and her mother…they shall be burned with fire” (Lev 20:14). Second, if the daughter of any priest profanes herself by playing the harlot, she shall be burned with fire (Lev 21:9). If Tamar were to have lived in the period of Deuteronomy, her offense would not have fallen under these condition. Therefore, if Judah were to have lived in the time of Deuteronomy, his command to judge Tamar with death by fire would have been considered out of the context of the law and would have been excessive.
What lesson can we learn from Judah’s self-righteousness upon Tamar? See also Rom 10:3 and Lk 18:14.Hide Answer
In the book of Genesis 38, Judah judged Tamar out of his self-righteousness. The apostle Paul once admonished us in his letter to the Romans that if one seeks to establish one’s own righteousness, such a person is ignorant of God’s righteousness and has not submitted to the righteousness of God (Rom 10:3). In other words, once we establish our self-righteousness above others, we tend to use our own standard to judge others instead of using God’s standard of righteousness. When Judah gave his judgment upon Tamar, he did it based upon his own righteousness, failing to notice that by his standard of judgment, he too, should have been punished for sleeping with a harlot (Deut 22:22-24).
Furthermore, an act of self-righteousness will cause one to look down on others. The gospel of Luke narrated a parable of a Pharisee who looked down on a tax collector for his sins. Since the Pharisee thought that he did not commit any of the wicked deeds of the tax collector, he was far better off in front of God (Lk 18:14). But at the end, God humbled the Pharisee and exalted the tax collector. When Judah learned that Tamar had conceived without a husband, he self-righteously looked down upon her and condemned her with an excessive judgment. But at the end, Judah’s shame was revealed to the public when Tamar presented him the signet, cord and staff that belonged to him. Similarly, once we compare and feel that our righteousness is above others, we will tend to look down upon those who do not live up to our standard. But the danger of being self-righteous is we will eventually overlook our weaknesses.
In terms of self-righteousness, how did Judah and Saul’s reactions differ after they had been shamed?Hide Answer
The Scriptures mentioned how both Judah and Saul were self-righteous. But their reactions differ after they had been shamed. According to the book of
1 Samuel, after the prophet Samuel had reprimanded Saul of his sin, Saul still insisted that the prophet honor him in front of the elders and before Israel (1 Sam 15:30). Saul was adamant in maintaining his kingship reputation in front of his people, despite his wrongdoing. But Judah showed a different reaction in a similar situation. When Judah was presented with incriminating evidences against him, which proved him to be the father of Tamar’s child, not only did Judah openly admitted his sin, he also defended Tamar’s righteousness and cancelled his judgment upon her. Although such actions would have both tainted Judah’s reputation and would have prevented him to claim his righteousness, he did it out of his selfless act to defend his daughter-in-law, Tamar from the death penalty.
From the example of Judah’s revealed mistake, what lesson can we learn about confession? See Prov 28:13 and
1 Jn 1:8-9.Hide Answer
Although Judah’s self-incriminating evidences tainted his reputation and his righteousness, Judah willingly admitted his sin. This example of Judah teaches us a lesson about humility and confession. The writer of the book of Proverbs reminds us that “he who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov 28:13). In other words, the Lord will not bless the one who intentionally covers his or her sins and is unwilling to admit his or her wrongdoings. Furthermore, the book of
1st John adds that if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, the Lord will forgive us our sins and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:8-9). The elder John warns us that the unwillingness to confess our sins will plunge us further into self-deception. But if we are willing to admit our wrongs, we will receive forgiveness and cleansing of our unrighteousness from the Lord. The one, who is willing to confess and to admit wrongdoings, has the opportunity to be changed and to be shaped by the Lord according to His will.
How did the phrase “she has been more righteous than I” reflect: The righteousness of Tamar;Hide Answer
The phrase “she has been more righteous than I” in the context of Gen 38 showed that the deeds of Tamar as a whole were deemed to be more righteous in comparison to Judah’s. In the book of Genesis, the people of Judah accused Tamar of playing the harlot and was pregnant with a child by harlotry (Gen 38:24). But the evidence she presented proved that Tamar did not play the harlot. The father of her child was from the house of Judah (Gen 38:25-26). Tamar had obeyed Judah’s instruction to remain in her father’s house while waiting for Shelah to grow up. Yet, when Shelah was grown, he was still not given to Tamar as her husband. Thus, if Shelah was not available, the next in line of the Judah’s family would have been Judah himself. Tamar’s actions and deeds revealed that she had more faith than Judah to pursue the heir for her deceased husband and to uphold the name of her deceased husband in Israel.
The unrighteousness of Judah;Hide Answer
The phrase “she has been more righteous than I” in Gen 38 explained that the deeds of Judah were more unrighteous compared to Tamar’s. Judah had done wrong by denying Tamar her marriage to Shelah (Gen 38:11, 14). In denying Tamar’s marriage to Shelah, Judah had two options: Judah was to refuse the marriage to happen and to risk being called by the elders “the house of him who had his sandal removed” (Deut 25:10) or Judah was to redeem Tamar to himself as a wife, if he did not want to give her to Shelah. The book of Ruth explained that the close relative who refused to redeem the wife of the deceased-relative could be replaced by another relative (Ruth 4:1-13). But Judah did neither of those two options and yet he kept pretending to give Tamar in marriage to Shelah (Gen 38:11). Therefore, not only did Judah ignore his responsibility to redeem Tamar if he had chosen not to give her to Shelah but he also had purposely withheld his daughter-in-law’s right of an heir to uphold the name of her deceased husband.
Observe the similarity between the birth of two sets of twins: Zerah-Perez and Esau-Jacob;Hide Answer
The birth of Zerah-Perez and the birth of Esau-Jacob had their similarity. In the birth of Esau-Jacob, Jacob’s hand took hold of Esau’s heel, after Esau came out (Gen 25:26). This incident, according to the prophecy of the Lord, signified how one people should be stronger than the other, and the older should serve the younger (Gen 25:23). Likewise, in the birth of Zerah-Perez, similar symbolism occurred. When Zerah drew back his hand, his brother, Perez, came out and breached unexpectedly from the womb (Gen 38:29). Thus, the breach reversed the order of the firstborn, making Perez, the younger brother to become the first son to come out from the womb and receive the right of the firstborn son. And the older brother, Zerah, became the last to come out.
The mentioning of Tamar and Judah in the Lord Jesus’ genealogy in Mt 1:3 teach us what lesson about the righteousness in God’s eyes? See also Rom 4:3 and Ezek 33:14-16. From Tamar’s perspective:Hide Answer
Tamar’s righteousness was not due to her work. According to the book of Leviticus, the incestual relationship between Judah, his father-in-law, and her, the daughter-in-law, demanded the sanction of death by stoning (Lev 18:15, 20:12). Yet, in her weakness, Tamar still held her hope on the promised-heir to maintain the name of her deceased-husband in Israel. Though Tamar was ill-treated by her levirate husband and by her father-in-law, she continued to cling to the promise. Just as Abraham was accounted righteous when he believed in God’s promise (Rom 4:3), Tamar was righteous in God’s eyes when she clung tightly to the promised-heir in the family of Judah. At the end, Tamar was mentioned as one of the ancestors of the Lord Jesus Christ in the gospel of Matthew.
From Judah’s perspective:Hide Answer
Though Judah was the son of Israel, he was not without blemish. Judah had manipulatively averted the custom of levirate marriage by denying Shelah to Tamar (Gen 38:14). And according to the book of Leviticus, Judah also could not escape from the penalty of death due to his incestual relationship with Tamar (Lev 20:12). Yet, Judah willingly and humbly admitted all his sins and he repented. The writer of the book of Ezekiel explains that if the wicked turns from his sin and does what is lawful and right, none of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him and he shall surely live (Ezek 33:14-16). Just as Tamar attained her righteousness through her faith in the promised-heir of the family of Judah, Judah attained his righteousness through his repentance and the unremembered sins which he had committed. At the end, Judah’s name was also mentioned in the gospel of Matthew as part of the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ.