This chapter is about Judah (Jacob’s 4th son) & Tamar, who’s Judah’s daughter-in-law. This chapter gets murky, on a moral level. It’s got very adult themes. You’ve been warned! I’m going to try to keep it PG, but it might get PG13. Enjoy the read!
At this time, Judah (Jacob’s 4th son) left his brothers. He went to stay with a man of Adullam (a place) named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite nam named Shua. (There’s no mention of this woman’s name.) He married this woman & had marital relations with her. She became pregnant & gave birth to a son. She named him Er. She became pregnant a 2nd time. Giving birth to another son, she named this son: Onan. She got pregnant a 3rd time, having a 3rd son. She named the 3rd son: Shelah. She gave birth at a place called Kezib.
Then Judah got a wife for Er, Judah’s 1st born son. His wife’s name is Tamar. (This is where it starts getting mucky.) Er, however, was wicked in the eyes of God. So God put Er to death. Judah said to Onan (Judah’s 2nd born son), “You gotta go have sex with your sister-in-law, Tamar. You have to fulfill your duty to her as her brother-in-law to have kids for your brother.” (It’s was a custom back then that if your brother was married, & he died without having any heirs, the brother(s) had to have sex with their sister-in-law. If there were any children that resulted in that “union,” the children would be considered the dead brother’s/husband’s.) Onan slept with Tamar; but he knew that any kids wouldn’t be his. So when he did have adult time with Tamar, he would pull out, I guess. Here’s what the bible says: “…he spilled his semen on the ground…” Just so he wouldn’t be producing kids for his brother. This was “wicked” in God’s eyes. So God put Onan to death.
Judah then said to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, “Live as a widow in YOUR dad’s house. Wait until my son, Shelah, grows up.” Judah thought to himself that Shelah might die too. (This lady does seem to have some bad luck in the men department.) So Tamar went to live in her dad’s house.
After a long time, Judah’s wife (the daughter of Shua) died. When Judah had stopped grieving, he went to Timnah. He went to the men who were shearing his sheep. His friend Hirah, the Adullamite, went with him. Tamar was told that Judah was going to Timnah. So she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil, & sat herself down at the entrance to the city of Enaim. This was on the road to Timnah. She saw that Shelah was a grown up & that they weren’t going to get married.
When Judah saw her, he thought Tamar was a prostitute. He thought this because she wore a veil. Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to the roadside to her. He said, “Come on girl. Let me sleep with you.” Tamar asks Judah what he was going to give her to sleep together. Judah says he’ll give her a young goat. Tamar wants something of his until this goat comes. (She wants collateral.) She tells him that she wants his seal, cord, & staff. (You can see the cord in the picture above.) He gives these items to Tamar. They have sex together & she becomes pregnant by Judah. After she left, she took the veil off. Tamar then put her widow’s clothes back on.
Meanwhile, Judah sent the young goat by way of his friend, the Adullamite, in order to get his pledge back from the woman. But his friend couldn’t find her. He asked the men who lived there where “the shrine prostitute” who was there. The men replied that there wasn’t one. So Judah’s friend came back. He told Judah what had happened.
Judah told him that she could keep the things she already had or they’d be a “laughingstock.” About 3 months later, Judah was told that Tamar was pregnant & guilty of prostitution. Judah said, “Bring her out & have her burned to death!” (Harsh, right?! That’s pretty harsh for the world’s oldest “profession.”)
As she was being brought out, Tamar sent a message to Judah. The message said that she was pregnant by the man who owns these items & if he could recognize the items. Judah recognized the items. Judah says, “Tamar is more righteous than I. Since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” Judah didn’t sleep with her again.
When it came time for Tamar to give birth, she was going to have twins. As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand. So the midwife put a scarlet thread around the baby’s wrist, saying “This one came out first.” But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out. The midwife says, “So this is how you’ve broken out.” He was named Perez (meaning breaking out). Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out & he was given the name Zerah (meaning scarlet or brightness).