About Jesus Steve Sweetman
And Tamar (ch. 38:1 - 31)
Many scholars have
wondered and debated over just why this chapter is found in the middle
of Joseph's story. The
chapter is about Judah
and a certain event. I think
the chapter is place here because it was through the line of
Verse 1 tells us that
moved away from his brothers to live on his own.
Why he moved, the text does not say.
Verse 2 tells us that
From verses 3 to 5 we see
Verse 7 states that
found a wife for his first born son named Er.
The wife's name was Tamar.
Tamar turns out to be a very important character in the story of
this chapter, and in the story of the lineage of Jesus.
Verse 7 tells us that Er
was very wicked. He was so
wicked that God "put him to death".
We don't know the extent of Er's wickedness, but it must have
been very bad. We don't see
God putting individual people to death all that often, but he did here.
Again, the Bible does not conceal the wickedness of God's chosen
people. In many respects,
they are no different than any other people of the world.
We are uncertain just
what wickedness Er was involved in.
My guess, and it is a pure guess, is that it might have something
to do with Er not providing children, and especially a son from his wife
Tamar. We will see later
that his brother Onan was killed by God for this reason.
That is why I am guessing as I am.
Onan was the second
oldest son born from Shua, but since Er died, he was now the oldest son.
We need to remember that
his was long before the Law of Moses came into existence, but in Deut.
25:5 through 7 the Law of Moses addressed this issue.
If a man died without having a son born to his wife, his oldest
brother should go and sleep with the widow so she could have a son to
carry on the family name. If
she had a girl, the brother would have to keep trying until a son was
born. The son would not be
considered his son, but the son of the dead brother.
This was so that the dead brother's name would "not be
blotted out of Israel", as the Law of Moses put it.
It is my thinking that
much of the Law of Moses was already in existence before it was dictated
to Moses. This is just one
of a number of examples of something that was stipulated in the Law of
Moses but had already been in existence.
This tells us that the Law of Moses merely codified things that
were already known to Israel.
In verses 9 and 10 we see
that Onan wasn't interested in producing a wife for his brother.
He didn't seem to mind going into his brother's wife and enjoying
her sexually, but when it came time for him to ejaculate "he
spilled his seed on the ground" as the text says.
This was not a one time event.
The text says, "whenever he lay with his brother's
wife…" The word
"whenever" shows that he had sexual contact with her more than
once, and probably many times. Because
of this wickedness, God killed him, like He killed his brother.
This is a verse that has
had much debate over the years, and at the same time, it's a verse that
many people just ignore because of its content.
The question needs to be asked, "what exactly was the wicked
thing that Onan did?" Was
the spilling of the seed on the ground the wicked thing.
I don't think so. Some
have suggested that it was.
The sin that Onan was
judged for could have been deception.
Could the sin be the
breaking of God's Law? I'm
not sure this is the sin either. The
Law of Moses was not yet in effect.
Some might say that the Law of Moses was not yet codified, but
the Law still remained. Still,
I'm not convinced.
The important reason for
Tamar to have a boy baby concerns the lineage of Er.
Through his line of descendents Jesus would be born.
I think that this had something to do with Onan being killed.
I think the failure to not want to produce this important son was
what made God so angry. I
think this might have been the wickedness for which Onan was judged for,
and might also have something to do with the wickedness that Er was
judged for. If this is so,
then again, we see the struggle between humanity and divinity.
We see the struggle between God's will and man's will.
There's a constant fight between God and man.
In verse 11 we see that
Verse 12 tells us that
Judah's wife died. We still don't
know her name, but as I said earlier, she is not important to the
significance of this story, and to the lineage of Judah. She did have four sons,
but it appears that none of them had any sons, and we know the first two
died without sons.
In verses 12 through 15
we see that it took a while for
The fact is that Tamar
waited for Shelah. He never
came to her, an now she would take things into her own hands.
She took off her widows clothes and put on a veil which would
make her look like a prostitute. It's
not always the case, but veils in those cultures had some kind of
association with Ishtar, the goddess of sex and fertility, that's why
the prostitutes wore them. I wonder if the veil many women use at
weddings today finds their significance in Babylonian culture of the
Prostitution in many of
these old cultures often had a religious association.
Even in early New Testament times in the
In verse 15
In verses 15 through 19
we see the negotiations between Tamar and Judah for the service she
would render. Judah
promised her a goat, but she wanted something immediately as a
down-payment for the goat. She
asked for his seal and staff. The
implication here is that when he delivered the goat at a later date, she
would give the seal and staff back.
Concerning this goat,
some scholars say that in these cases, when a goat was offered as
payment for sex, it too was associated with Ishtar, the goddess of sex
and fertility. Concerning
the seal, this was Babylonian culture.
This was a special carved out stone that was tied around the neck
of a man that he used for identification purposes.
They would dip it in some kind of coloured liquid and place it as
an imprint, like we would sign our name on paper.
Japanese people to this day use something similar.
They have a signet that is made that they would press into an ink
pad and then imprint the seal onto paper.
They do this instead of signing their names.
Concerning the staff, it was personalized as well.
The top would be specially made for the man to whom it would
I'm sure that when Tamar
asked for payment for services, she had this seal and staff in mind as
part of her plan, which we will see later.
In verses 20 and 21
So, you can see in
Judah's mind, that the woman he slept with was a prostitute representing a
god, and it wasn't the God of Abraham and his father.
That might tell you something about Judah. Was he a real worshiper of
the true God of his father and forefathers?
It appears to me that he might well been polytheistic, that is,
believing in more than one god. If
this isn't the case, then he had one big slip-up here.
He wasn't just having sex with a ordinary prostitute, but with a
prostitute associated with polytheistic worship.
Once again, we see the
frailty of Israel. Judah
is not acting righteously here. He
is not only having sex with a woman who is not his wife, but he is
involving himself in polytheistic worship as well.
In verse 23 we see that
gave up looking for the woman. She
just said, "let her keep" what I've given her.
In verse 24 Judah
learns that Tamar had prostituted herself and that she was now pregnant.
was upset. He had her
brought to him so she could be burned to death.
In verse 26 Judah
says that Tamar is more righteous than he.
She certainly was, but look at the reason why Judah
said this. Yes, he did admit
that he was not righteous, but his not being righteous was due to the
fact that he did not give her son Shelah to Tamar as he said he would.
I'm not convinced that
The verse then states
that he didn't sleep with her ever again.
Verse 27 states that
Tamar had twins. So here we
see twins again in the Genesis story.
Liberal theologian say that this is just the same story as Isaac
and Rebekah told in a different way.
Liberal theologians don't see Genesis as an historical account,
but the mere telling of stories with a moral.
This is also how many Evangelicals today are beginning to see the
book of Genesis. The liberalization of the Bible in Evangelical circles
is very disturbing.
In verses 28 and 29 we
see the birthing process. One
baby was ready to come out, and so the midwife tied a red thread around
his wrist, but the wrist slid back into Tamar and the other baby came
out first. This baby was
In verse 31 the second
baby was born and he was named, Zerah.
Since Perez came out
first, he was the oldest. The
Now in the Law of Moses,
that was not yet instituted or codified, but in many ways in effect,
there were provision stated concerning babies born from illegitimacy.
It stated that the child born in such a way, or his descendents
could not receive any inheritance until the tenth generation.
This is interesting because the lineage in which Jesus was born
in came through Judah and then Perez.
The tenth generation from Perez was King David, and he was very
special in the lineage that produced the Messiah Jesus.
So what we see in this
chapter is that