Judah, the son of Jacob, had 3 sons by a Canaanite wife. His three sons were Er, Onan and Shelah. When Er grew up, Judah got a wife called Tamar for him. Er was evil and God killed him. Therefore, Judah gave Tamar as wife to his second son, Onan. Onan purposely spilled his sperm when sleeping with Tamar. What Onan did was evil in God’s sight and God took away his life also.
At that time, Shelah was still too young to get married so Judah sent Tamar back to her hometown. Judah promised to give Tamar as wife to Shelah when he grows up. However, Judah failed to keep his promise. He did not give Tamar in marriage to his son Shelah when he grew up. This is because he was afraid that Shelah will die like his brothers.
After some time, Judah’s wife passed away. After Judah had got over his wife’s death, he traveled with Hirah the Adulammite to the men who shear his sheep at Timnah.
When Tamar learned about this, she removed her widow clothes and disguished herself as a prostitute. She put a veil over her face so that no one could recognize her. Then, she sat at the entrance to Enaim, the road that led to Timnah. Tamar did this because she saw that Judah did not give Shelah in marriage to her after he had grown up.
When Judah saw her, he wanted to sleep with her. In turn, Tamar asked what he would give her as a reward for sleeping with him. Judah replied he will send him a young goat from his flock. Then, Tamar asked what would he give as pledge until he send the young goat.Judah asked her what he wanted as pledge. Tamar replied she want his seal and its cord, and the staff.
Judah did so and he went to sleep with her. After that, she removed her veil and put on the widow clothes. Later. she became pregnant. When Judah sent a young goat to her to get his pledge back, she wasn’t there to be seen anymore. He asked around and the people said there was never a prostitute in the area.
After 3 months, someone informed Judah that Tamar, his daughter in law, was pregnant. They wanted to burn Tamar as a sentence for the act of adultery. Tamar, defended herself by showing the seal, cord and staff. Immediately, Judah recognize that they were his seal, cord and staff. Eventually, they did not carry out the punishment on her and she gave birth to twins.
When Tamar was giving birth, one of them reached out his hand and then drew back. They tied a scarlet thread on his hand so that they knew he came out first. Then, the otehr brother came out and he was named Perez. Next, the baby with the scarlet thread on his wrist came out and he was named Zerah. Perez means breaking out while Zerah means scarlet or brightness.
What Can We Learn from the Story of Judah and Tamar?
Judah was not a responsible person who keep his promise. He promised Tamar that she would marry his son, Shelah when he grow up but he changed his mind later. Later, he found out that he was the father of Tamar’s unborn sons and stopped the punishment on Tamar. Judah is the family line from which David comes from. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, came from the family line of David. Therefore, God wants to preserve the line of Judah.
Through this incident, God was changing Judah into a more responsible person. It is just like how God transformed Joseph, who boasted about his dreams to his brothers. Later, Joseph was sold into Egypt. He was misunderstood by Potiphar and thrown into prison until he was 30 years old. It was at this time that Pharaoh had 2 dreams that he don’t understand and Joseph interpreted them. Then, Pharaoh appointed Joseph as the governor over Egypt.
God can use difficult circumstances to challenge us so that we can be molded into a more useful vessel to do God’s work.
For every man shall bear his own burden. (Galatians 6:5 KJV)
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 4But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. (Galatians 6:3-4 KJV)
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12 KJV)
If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it. (Proverbs 9:12 KJV)
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21 KJV)