Genesis: The Beginning
God, Judah, Tamar, Dishonor 2-3-16
Yesterday, we read about how Joseph and his dreams caused such hatred among his brothers they sold him into slavery. The dreams were actually given to reassure God’s people he was orchestrating things, but the brothers did not see it that way, so they took steps to silence the dreamer. While Joseph is enslaved in Egypt under the rule of Potiphar, our reading shifts our focus off from Joseph and onto Judah—the ancestor of the tribe of Judah. FYI, King David and Jesus were descendants of Judah. Tonight, we travel to Adullam (translates deceptive) where we watch the unrolling life choices of Judah, his sons, and his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Adullam was a royal city in Canaan; NW of Hebron by 15 miles. The life stories in Chapters 37-38 will reveal a moral contrast between Joseph and Judah.
Joseph is separated from his brothers by force, but Judah leaves by choice. He is determined to live his life as he chooses without reservation and without expectation. He has a hard heart and it will cost him and his descendants greatly.
Isaac and Jacob sought wives form their own people; not Judah. Judah felt comfortable marrying a Canaanite woman who worshiped foreign gods. Together they have three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Judah did not want anyone choosing his wife, but please note he chooses a wife for Er. It doesn’t really matter how good of a wife Tamar is, Er is wicked and God calls him home.
It’s time for son number two to marry Tamar, according to levitical law (purpose is to guarantee the deceased brother’s family line) and he does, but he wants to be first in line for Judah’s inheritance. So, he takes measure to insure his position in the family stays secure and his heart upsets God; God calls him home. Poor Tamar! I bet she thinks it’s her; that she is the problem because that is always what evil tries to get us to think when things go wrong. We cannot really identify with the law that says a brother must marry a deceased brother’s wife in our culture. Why do you think the law required it? When the third brother was not sent to marry Tamar, how do you feel about her actions of tricking her father-in-law?
Shelah is too young to marry, so Judah sends Tamar back to her parents with the promise he will send Shelah when he is older. But, Judah has no intention of sending Shelah anywhere especially near Tamar or he will have no descendants left. Time moves forward and Shelah becomes a man.
Judah’s wife dies and he decides to follow his workers to Timnah for shearing. The word gets to Tamar that her father-in-law is coming to town. She is not happy that the family has abandoned her; so, keeping Judah’s character in mind she comes up with a plan.
She disguises herself as a prostitute—veils herself—in hopes of entrapping Judah. Does it seem to you prostitution is acceptable in our reading during Israel’s (Jacob’s) culture? Why or why not? Prostitutes were available to people as part of the worship of false gods. It does not mean that Judah wants to worship a false god; it does mean that Judah is led by his flesh/physical desires and not by God’s spirit.
Judah does not recognize Tamar as the woman who propositions him. She is shrewd because she is trying to take care of her future. Judah agree to give her a young goat in exchange for sex. He doesn’t have the goat and will need to send it later, so in the meantime he leaves his signet (seal used in signing documents) attached to a neck cord, and his staff. Tamar had no problem having sex with her father-in-law! Yikes!
Tamar conceives and moves away; she goes without the old goat! She did take those items Judah left with her as collateral. She put her mourning clothes back on and stayed at her parents. Judah tries to send the goat, but no one knows where the prostitute went. He gives up the search because he does not want to draw attention to himself trying to pay a prostitute. Once again a goat is involved in the story of Isaac’s descendants. Do you think it is symbolic? If so, what do you think the goat symbolizes?
About three months later, it is clear that Tamar is pregnant. She is unmarried so the perception is she has been immoral. Judah demands that Tamar be burned for her sin. Judah was responsible for seeing that Joseph was sold into slavery; he really is quite despicable. Even though he has sex with a shrine prostitute, he is ready to stone Tamar when he hears she is pregnant out of wedlock. What is your take on his character and spiritual devotion? A speck vs. a log in the eye; Matthew 7:5 “Take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.”
Tamar has the last word, however, because she reveals the father of the child in her womb left his belongings with her. The are Judah’s items. He realizes she was attending to her inheritance rights, because he failed to do so. Therefore, she acted more righteous than Judah. No execution of Tamar. Widows were to be taken care of by family because they had not means of monetary support. In Acts 6:1-15 steps were taken to ensure that widows were not overlooked in the daily distribution of provisions.
Tamar has twins. The first to be born was Perez who is in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matt 1:3). His name means “breach.” The second twin was named, Zerah; name means “scarlet.” God truly brings good out of evil, because Judah and Tamar sinned but still find themselves in the messianic line.
What fills me with wonder is how God always uses imperfect people to fulfill His plans. That provides a place for each one of us to serve in God story. We all need a Savior who uses everything, even the negative stuff, for our highest and best. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28.