Sunday, March 6, 2011

Genesis 38:12-19 Judah and Tamar

"After a long time Judah's wife, the daughter of Shua, died.  When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him." (Genesis38:12 NIV)

A long time has passed since Er and Onan's deaths.  However, Tamar still has not been given Shelah as a husband, as Judah had promised.  Judah's own wife has died as well.  After Judah was finished mourning her death, he sets off for Timnah with his long-time friend Hirah.  It was the time for sheep-shearing, which is generally a more festive time, a time to rejoice in the results of all their labors.

"When Tamar was told, 'Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,' she took off her widow's clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah.  For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife."  (Genesis 38:13-14 NIV)

Tamar had been dealt a difficult hand in life.  Her husband had died young, and her second husband had soon followed him in death.  With Judah refusing to give her his only remaining son, Shelah, as he had promised, Tamar was stuck in what appeared to be perpetual widowhood.  The situation did not seem like it was ever likely to change.  However, since she was promised to Shelah, she would not be available for any other suitors.

"When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.  Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, 'Come now, let me sleep with you.' 

'And what will you give me to sleep with you?' she asked.

'I'll send you a young goat from my flock,' he said.

'Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?' she asked.

He said, 'What pledge should I give you?'

'Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,' she answered.  so he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him.  After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow's clothes again."  (Genesis 38:15-19 NIV)

Tamar does not know the Lord, so we may not find her behaviour shocking.  It does say something about Judah, though, that he would resort to going to a prostitute.  I understand he may miss his wife, but he should have tried to find another wife instead of resorting to this behavior.  His testimony among the Canaanites has become quite compromised.

Sin is very destructive.  Judah may have been willing to sleep with a prostitute, but I am sure that he never would have done this if he knew that the woman was Tamar.  However, once he started on that slippery slope of compromise, it is not surprising that the resulting sin was a lot more complicated than he would ever have dreamed.    

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