Archive for July 13th, 2011

Genesis 38

Genesis 38 is quite a chapter. It chronicles the story of Judah’s family.  Judah took a Cannanite woman and has some sons.  His firstborn, Er “was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death”. There is little doubt that God is paying attention to how we live.  Wickedness does not go unnoticed – sin is not ignored.  God doesn’t always take the kind of action he does here with Er, but there will always be consequences to sin.  And those are not isolated – they spill to others.

In this case – it flows down to the next brother.  According to custom it is the brother’s responsibility to “perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother”. When your brother died, the next in line was to step in and become the surrogate father/husband.  “But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his…..he would waste the semen on the ground…..what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also”.  Onan wasn’t buying into the responsibility – thus disobeying his place and duty – and God ends his life as well.  Er’s wickeness has now spilled onto his brother and cost him his life.

But it doesn’t end there.  Judah, the father of the two boys that have died, has one more son who is not old enough yet to fill the role.  So he tells his daughter in law Tamar to be patient until he grows up.  She isn’t buying that course of action, and finds out that the men were heading out to shear the sheep.  She dresses like a prostitute and guess who comes along and wants her – none other than Judah.  Tamar is a smart one – she wants a son – but she also knows that she was to wait for the next brother for that. So when Judah comes along and wants to lie with her, she asks “what will you give me, that you may come in to me”? Judah falls for it and offers whatever she wishes and she asks for “your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand”.  She gets her way, he gets his, “and she conceived by him”.  Daughter in law pregnant with the child of Judah – this is quite a soap opera.

After a few months it has become obvious that Tamar is pregnant – hard to hide that fact.  Judah is told “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral”.  Seems like an obvious conclusion.  But Tamar had been smart.  Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” They didn’t take those kind of offenses lightly in those days.  But Tamar shows the signet and the cord and the staff and Judah immediately knows he has been had.  He screwed up when he did not give his third son to be her husband.  He had been fearful that son Shelah would also be killed by God – after all this woman had lost both his first two sons.  So Tamar gives birth to twins – not just one son.  The birth was unusual: “one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, This one came out first….he drew back his hand”.  Sort of an amazing set of events.  They are both born healthy after a very strange way of coming into existence.

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