Monday, March 7, 2011

Genesis 38:24-26 Double Standard, Twin Redemption

"About three months later, Judah was told, 'Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result, she is now pregnant.'  Judah said, "Bring her out and have her burned to death!"  As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law.  ''I am pregnant by the man who owns these,'' she said.  And she added, ''See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.''  Judah recognized them and said, 'She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn't give her to my son Shelah.'  And he did not sleep with her again." (Genesis 38:24-26 NIV)
There was a rather familiar double standard going on here which was certainly not limited to that time:  'It was all right to see a prostitute, but not to be a prostitute' seems to sum it up.  Of course, that way of thinking was not what the followers of God endorsed, but through his association with the Canaanites, Judah had gone far astray from the worship of the God of Israel.

His first reaction -- a complete lack of mercy toward the woman -- also reveals his own spiritual shortcomings.  He had participated in the sin of prostitution himself (as far as he knew) only a few months ago.  On top of that, although Tamar is responsible for her own actions, the fact that he had not kept his own promise to give Shelah to Tamar as a husband certainly could have contributed to her falling into this sin, and he would have known that.

Why the self-righteousness, then?  I can only guess that he was concerned once again with his reputation.  In Genesis 38:23, Judah had indicated that he did not want to become a laughingstock to the Canaanites.  Now, before he realizes that Tamar had not gone off and seen some other man, he seeks to uphold his own family's reputation.  If she had been with another man, he believes she should be punished.  Also, it is a rather convenient way of getting rid of Tamar and not having to worry about his promise of giving his son Shelah to her as a husband.

However, he is in for a certain shock when he realizes that the partner in Tamar's transgression is himself!  To Tamar's credit, she does not try to embarrass him by a public declaration of the fact, but sends him a message about the matter.  To Judah's credit, he does not try to deny that the seal and staff are indeed his own.  In fact, he publicly admits that Tamar is more righteous than himself, since he had not given her the husband he had promised.

At the end, this matter is somewhat settled:  Judah admits his guilt; Tamar is not burned to death.  However, it is not ideal.  (Sin always leaves scars.)  Judah can not marry his daughter-in-law and can not give her to his son, either, since he has slept with her.  Judah does not sleep with her again, although I assume he provided for her and for their offspring.  Judah and she seem to have remained among the Israelites.  Perhaps it is at this point that Judah returns to his brothers.  I can not say for sure, but Judah is found (several chapters ahead) going to Egypt with his brothers.  Later, when the whole family leave for Egypt to live, Judah and Tamar are among the party.

So God does bring redemption out of the situation.  Actually, pretty literally.  For one of the twins who will be born to Judah and Tamar as a result of this incident will grow up and his line will lead to the Messiah.  Yeah, I know, it seems crazy.  Just hang in there and we will follow this story through many a twist and turn, (some of which are beyond our imagining and which we would never choose), to its wonderful conclusion.  You can't make this stuff up.    

No comments:

Post a Comment