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Genesis 38

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Judah and Tamar
1About that time Judah left his brothers in the hill country and went to live near his friend Hirah in the town of Adullam. 2While there he met the daughter of Shua, a Canaanite man. Judah married her, 3and they had three sons. He named the first one Er; 4she named the next one Onan. 5The third one was born when Judah was in Chezib, and she named him Shelah.
6Later, Judah chose Tamar as a wife for Er, his oldest son. 7But Er was very evil, and the Lord took his life. 8So Judah told Onan, “It's your duty to marry Tamar and have a child for your brother.”#38.8 It's your duty … child … brother: If a man died without having children, his brother was to marry the dead man's wife and have a child, who was to be considered the child of the dead brother (see Deuteronomy 25.5,6).
9Onan knew the child would not be his,#38.9 the child … not be his: When Judah died, Onan would get his dead brother's share of the inheritance, but if his dead brother had a son, the inheritance would go to him instead. and when he had sex with Tamar, he made sure that she would not get pregnant. 10The Lord wasn't pleased with Onan and took his life too.
11Judah did not want the same thing to happen to his son Shelah, and he told Tamar, “Go home to your father and live there as a widow until my son Shelah is grown.” So Tamar went to live with her father.
12Some years later Judah's wife died, and he mourned for her. He then went with his friend Hirah to the town of Timnah, where his sheep were being sheared. 13Tamar found out that her father-in-law Judah was going to Timnah to shear his sheep. 14She also realized that Shelah was now a grown man, but she had not been allowed to marry him. So she decided to dress in something other than her widow's clothes and to cover her face with a veil. After this, she sat outside the town of Enaim on the road to Timnah.
15When Judah came along, he did not recognize her because of the veil. He thought she was a prostitute 16and asked her to sleep with him. She asked, “What will you give me if I do?”
17“One of my young goats,” he answered.
“What will you give me to keep until you send the goat?” she asked.
18“What do you want?” he asked in return.
“The ring on that cord around your neck,” was her reply. “I also want the special walking stick#38.18 ring … walking stick: The ring was shaped like a cylinder and could be rolled over soft clay as a way of sealing special documents. The walking stick was probably a symbol of power and the sign of leadership in the tribe, though it may have been a shepherd's rod. you have with you.” He gave them to her, they slept together, and she became pregnant.
19After returning home, Tamar took off the veil and dressed in her widow's clothes again.
20Judah asked his friend Hirah take a goat to the woman, so he could get back the ring and walking stick, but she wasn't there. 21Hirah asked the people of Enaim, “Where is the prostitute who sat along the road outside your town?”
“There's never been one here,” they answered.
22Hirah went back and told Judah, “I couldn't find the woman, and the people of Enaim said no prostitute had ever been there.”
23“If you couldn't find her, we'll just let her keep the things I gave her,” Judah answered. “And we'd better forget about the goat, or else we'll look like fools.”
24About three months later someone told Judah, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has behaved like a prostitute, and now she's pregnant!”
“Drag her out of town and burn her to death!” Judah shouted.
25As Tamar was being dragged off, she sent someone to tell her father-in-law, “The man who gave me this ring, this cord, and this walking stick is the one who got me pregnant.”
26“Those are mine!” Judah admitted. “She's a better person than I am, because I broke my promise to let her marry my son Shelah.” After this, Judah never slept with her again.
27-28Tamar later gave birth to twins. But before either of them was born, one of them stuck a hand out of her womb. The woman who was helping tied a red thread around the baby's hand and explained, “This one came out first.”
29At once his hand went back in, and the other child was born first. The woman then said, “What an opening you've made for yourself!” So they named the baby Perez.#38.29 Perez: In Hebrew “Perez” sounds like “opening.” 30When the brother with the red thread was born, they named him Zerah.#38.30 Zerah: In Hebrew “Zerah” means “bright,” probably referring to the red thread.
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Chapter 38
Judah's family #38:1 Judah lived among the Canaanites. He married a Canaanite woman. But God wanted the Israelites to keep themselves separate from foreign people.
1At that time, Judah left his brothers. He went to stay with a man from the town of Adullam. His name was Hirah. 2While he was there, Judah met the daughter of Shua, a Canaanite man. Judah married her and he had sex with her. 3She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. Judah gave him the name Er. 4His wife became pregnant again, and she gave birth to another son. She gave him the name Onan. 5Later, she gave birth to another son. She gave him the name Shelah. She gave birth to Shelah in the town called Kezib.
6Judah found a wife for his oldest son, Er. Her name was Tamar. 7But the Lord saw that Er, Judah's firstborn son, was very bad. So the Lord made him die. 8Then Judah said to Onan, ‘You should marry your dead brother's wife and have sex with her. You are her dead husband's brother. You must have a son who will become your dead brother's descendant.’ #38:8 In the Old Testament, if a man died before his wife had children, his brother should marry the dead man's wife. If the wife then had a son, they called that son the child of the dead brother.
9But Onan did not want Tamar to give birth to his child. He knew that the child would not belong to him. So when he had sex with his brother's wife Tamar, he made his semen go on to the ground. Then Tamar would not give birth to a child for Onan's dead brother.
10What Onan did was bad, and the Lord was not pleased with him. So the Lord made Onan die too. 11Then Judah said to his son's widow, Tamar, ‘Go back to your father's house and live there as a widow. Stay there until my son Shelah grows older.’ Judah thought, ‘I do not want Shelah to die in the way that his brothers died.’ #38:11 Judah does not want to give Shelah to Tamar as a husband. So Tamar went to live in her father's house.
12After a long time, Judah's wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had stopped being sad because of her death, he left his home to travel. He went with his friend, Hirah the Adullamite, to a place called Timnah. He went to see the men who were cutting the wool from his sheep. 13Someone told Tamar, ‘Your husband's father is going to Timnah to get the wool from his sheep.’ #38:13 Wool grows like hair on the skin of sheep. People use it for making clothes.
14Tamar knew that Jacob's son Shelah had now grown to become a man. But Judah had not yet let him marry her. So Tamar took off her widow's clothes and she put on other clothes. She covered her head with a veil. She did not want anyone to recognize her. Then she went and she sat at the gate of Enaim town. Enaim is on the road going to Timnah.
15Judah saw her as she sat there. He thought that she was a prostitute, because she had covered her face. 16He did not know that she was his son's widow. He went to her at the side of the road. He said, ‘Let me have sex with you.’ Tamar asked him, ‘If I have sex with you, what will you give me?’ 17Judah replied, ‘I will take a young goat from my animals and I will give it to you.’ Tamar said, ‘You must give me something now to show that you will send the goat to me.’ 18Judah asked her, ‘What should I give you?’ Tamar replied, ‘Give me your special ring and the string that holds it. And give me the stick that is in your hand.’ #38:18 The special ring and the stick would have Judah's mark on them. So other people would know who they belonged to. So Judah gave them to her. He had sex with her. As a result, she became pregnant.
19After this, Tamar left there and she took off her veil. She put her widow's clothes on again.
20Judah sent his friend Hirah, the Adullamite, to take a young goat back to where the woman had been. Judah wanted to get his special things back from the woman. But Hirah could not find the woman. 21He asked some men who lived there, ‘Where is the temple prostitute who sat by the road at Enaim?’ #38:21 A temple prostitute sat at a place where people went to worship foreign gods. But the men said, ‘There has not been any prostitute here.’
22So Hirah went back to Judah, with the goat. He told him, ‘I did not find her. The men who lived there said, “There has not been any temple prostitute here.” ’ 23So Judah said, ‘Let her keep the things that I gave to her. People will laugh at me if you go back there again. I sent this young goat for her, as I promised, but you could not find her.’
24Three months later, someone told Judah, ‘Your dead son's wife, Tamar, has become a prostitute and now she is pregnant.’ Judah said, ‘Take her out of the town and burn her to death!’ 25So they took Tamar out and they were going to kill her. But she sent a message to her dead husband's father. She said, ‘The man that these things belong to had sex with me. That is why I am pregnant. Look at these things carefully. Do you know who the ring, its string, and the stick belong to?’ 26Judah saw that the things belonged to him. He said, ‘She is more in the right than I am. She has done this because I would not give her to my son, Shelah, as his wife.’ Judah did not have sex with Tamar again.
27The time came for Tamar to give birth, and there were twins! 28While she was giving birth, one baby put out his hand. The woman who was helping Tamar tied a red string to that baby's arm. She said, ‘This baby came out first.’ 29But then the baby took his hand back inside and his brother came out first. The woman said, ‘You have opened a way for yourself to come out!’ So they gave him the name Perez. #38:29 Perez means ‘pushing out’. 30Then his brother came out, with the red string on his arm. They gave him the name Zerah.