In an odd break of the ongoing timeline and narrative we suddenly focus on Judah, who has left his brethren, and “turned in” to an Adullamite name Hirah. Not sure what “turned in” means but it seems as if Judah has gone on a sabbatical from his people and now finds himself among Canaanites, staying with Hirah.
Judah finds a daughter of a Canaanite named Shua and goes “in unto her” multiple times and she bares him three sons:
- Shela, who BTW, the author wants you to know he was at Chezib when he was born
- A quick search of Chezib shows nothing of major significance, once again telling me these words were meant for people of that time, who would know where Chezib was, after all the author intended to clarify this point.
- The woman Judah “goes into” wasn’t important enough to be given a name?
Not sure why Judah separated from his brethren, but anyone with a large enough family will know that some members do separate from their kin and often never return, starting families on their own in far off lands (or in modern terms, out of state or country).
Genesis 38:6 – And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of Jehovah; and Jehovah slew him.
Jehovah is back in the picture, and he returns by slaying Judah’s firstborn. We can’t assume that Er and/or Tamar were adults at this time. Many cultures arrange marriages well before either bride or groom are of age to procreate. Assuming Er was a young man, whatever he did or said caused Jehovah to slay him. Looking at previous chapters with all the wickedness in the actions of Jacob and his sons, what Er did must have been colossally bad. Why not mention what made him wicked?
Plus, seems Judah had no say in the matter of the fate of his first born.
In somewhat of a hint at the age of the three sons of Judah at this time, Judah tells his 2nd son, Onan, to go into Tamar so that his slain by Jehovah brother’s seed can continue.
- Once again, the concept of “seed” isn’t necessarily direct. By impregnating Tamar, Onan would really physically be creating his own seed. Though by implication the seed would be CALLED the seed of Er (remember Esau being the true seed of Isaac but Jacob would be CALLED his seed?)
- The cultural concept of “seed” for this culture is less biological and more cultural.
- Onan was now at the age where he could seed a woman. Teenager?
- So what really caused Jehovah to slay Onan? The fact he wouldn’t impregnate his sister in law per his Israelite father’s judgement? Or because he spilled his seed on the ground?
Onan, possibly because of his Canaanite mother’s roots, does not agree with Judah the Israelite’s view that he should be going into his sister in law.
38:9 – 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. And the thing which he did displeased Jehovah, wherefore he slew him also.
Jehovah has so far slain two of Judah’s sons. No response from Judah. Judah, running out of sons, instructs his daughter in law:
38:11 – Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at they 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.
How did his brethren die? At the hands of Jehovah. Judah won’t say it directly, but he tells Tamar to leave, because there is a chance that Shelah will meet the fate of his two brothers.
38:12 – And in the process of time the daughter of Shua Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite
- The “process of time” means the narrative of Genesis has taken on a side story focusing on Judah, which means at some point we will probably go back in time to the era of a teenage Joseph. Right now we are at a point where Judah left his brethren, had sons, and the sons grew in years to conceive children. 15-20 years post Joseph being sold into slavery?
- Judah had a non-Israelite friend, an Adullamite. Befriending and impregnating Canaanites does not seem to be an issue at this time for Israelites.
- In the past, a male patriarch was “comforted” after the death of his mother or wife by finding a new or first wife. Just what comforted Judah in verse 12?
The story gets better:
38:13 – And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnah to shear his sheep. And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.
Interesting look at this culture. There are such things as “widow’s garments”. Likely a custom that women would dress a certain way so that those around her knew her marital status. In this case, Tamar then wraps herself in a veil, which, even in modern times, seems to be somewhat of a common custom in Middle Eastern cultures. What happens next is shocking.
38:15 – When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. And he turned into 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?
We’ve just seen a man solicit his own daughter in law, who he though was a prostitute. She seems to have set it up where she knew he would come across her so she veiled herself. After all, time has passed and the process of marrying her to a now grown Shela has not occurred.
- Was she in a hurry to be wed, gone into, since it’s noted that her marriage to Shela had not been set up?
- Or was it her intention to blackmail Judah
- At this time, in this culture, a woman who was veiled was considered a harlot/whore? Judah thought so
The transaction is agreed upon, Judah will go in unto her and he will give her items that can identify Judah at a later date plus a kid goat. He performs the act and she is impregnated.
After the deed was done, he goes to retrieve the kid goat, but Tamar has left (she replaced her veil with her usual widows garments). Judah returns and can not find her, asks around if anyone has seen the harlot, and the locals tell him there was no harlot there. Judah, to prevent shame, asks for everyone to search for her so he can pay her with the kid goat as he promised.
- Harlotry or prostitution sounds like it was a common part of the culture
- The shame here wasn’t that he solicited a prostitute, but that he couldn’t pay her properly
Get’s even better (or worse in my opinion):
38:24 – 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.
Judah wants to burn Tamar for what has just occurred. Not only that, he wants to burn her while she is pregnant with his child. No grievances for his actions, but let her be burnt. Not to say she was exactly innocent but she seemed to have schemed this well.
38:25 – 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. 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.
We’ve just witnessed the moral of the story. Judah admitted the righteousness belonged to Tamar because, for some unexplained reason, Judah never married his grown son Shela to Tamar. Judah’s fault was not ensuring his promise to her that when Shela was grown, he would take his brothers place.
Judah didn’t perform his sworn duties to his daughter in law Tamar by marrying her to Shela and was humiliated. Er and Onan didn’t perform their duties to Tamar yet both were slain by Jehovah. No slaying for the third offense against Tamar by Judah?
In another rhyming Bible story, Tamar bore twins. The firstborn came out and the midwife attached a piece of scarlet to his wrist, signifying him the firstborn. However, his twin was able to breach first, and he became firstborn. The new firstborn was named Pharez (KJV note: that is, A breach) and the second one with the scarlet wristband came out and was named Zerah.
The first became second and the second became first. Esau and Jacob revisited.
What will the Bible hold for Pharez and Zerah, sons of Judah and his daughter in law Tamar?