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Genesis 38

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Judah and Tamar.#This chapter has subtle connections to the main Joseph story. It tells of the eponymous founder of the other great tribe of later times, Judah. Having already been introduced as one of the two good brothers in 37:26–27, he appears here as the father-in-law of the twice-widowed Tamar; he has reneged on his promise to provide his son Shelah to her in a levirate marriage. Unjustly treated, Tamar takes matters into her own hands and tricks Judah into becoming the father of her children, Perez and Zerah. Judah ultimately acknowledges that his daughter-in-law was right (“She is in the right rather than I,” v. 26). In contrast to Judah’s expectations, the family line does not continue through his son Shelah, but through the children of Tamar. Similarities relate this little story to the main narrative: the deception involving an article of clothing (the widow’s garments of Tamar, Judah’s seal, cord, and staff) point back to the bloody tunic that deceives Jacob in 37:31–33; a woman attempts the seduction of a man separated from his family, for righteous purposes in chap. 38, for unrighteous purposes in chap. 39. 1About that time Judah went down, away from his brothers, and pitched his tent near a certain Adullamite named Hirah. 2There Judah saw the daughter of a Canaanite named Shua; he married her, and had intercourse with her.#1 Chr 2:3. 3She conceived and bore a son, whom she named Er. 4Again she conceived and bore a son, whom she named Onan. 5Then she bore still another son, whom she named Shelah. She was in Chezib#Chezib: a variant form of Achzib (Jos 15:44; Mi 1:14), a town in the Judean Shephelah. when she bore him.#1 Chr 4:21.
6Judah got a wife named Tamar for his firstborn, Er. 7But Er, Judah’s firstborn, greatly offended the Lord; so the Lord took his life.#1 Chr 2:3. 8#Dt 25:5; Mt 22:24; Mk 12:19; Lk 20:28. Then Judah said to Onan, “Have intercourse with your brother’s wife, in fulfillment of your duty as brother-in-law, and thus preserve your brother’s line.”#Preserve your brother’s line: lit., “raise up seed for your brother”: an allusion to the law of levirate, or “brother-in-law,” marriage; see notes on Dt 25:5; Ru 2:20. Onan’s violation of this law brought on him God’s punishment (vv. 9–10). 9Onan, however, knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he had intercourse with his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground, to avoid giving offspring to his brother. 10What he did greatly offended the Lord, and the Lord took his life too. 11Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up”—for he feared that Shelah also might die like his brothers. So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.
12Time passed, and the daughter of Shua, Judah’s wife, died. After Judah completed the period of mourning, he went up to Timnah, to those who were shearing his sheep, in company with his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13Then Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14So she took off her widow’s garments, covered herself with a shawl, and having wrapped herself sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the way to Timnah; for she was aware that, although Shelah was now grown up, she had not been given to him in marriage.#Prv 7:10. 15When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, since she had covered her face. 16So he went over to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me have intercourse with you,” for he did not realize that she was his daughter-in-law. She replied, “What will you pay me for letting you have intercourse with me?” 17He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” “Very well,” she said, “provided you leave me a pledge until you send it.” 18Judah asked, “What pledge should I leave you?” She answered, “Your seal and cord,#Seal and cord: the cylinder seal, through which a hole was bored lengthwise so that it could be worn from the neck by a cord, was a distinctive means of identification. Apparently one’s staff could also be marked with some sign of identification (cf. Nm 17:17–18). and the staff in your hand.” So he gave them to her and had intercourse with her, and she conceived by him. 19After she got up and went away, she took off her shawl and put on her widow’s garments again.
20Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite to recover the pledge from the woman; but he did not find her. 21So he asked the men of that place, “Where is the prostitute,#Prostitute: the Hebrew term qedesha, lit., “consecrated woman,” designates a woman associated with a sanctuary whose activities could include prostitution; cf. Dt 23:18; Hos 4:14, where the same Hebrew word is used. In 38:15 and 24 the common word for prostitute, zona, is used. the one by the roadside in Enaim?” But they answered, “No prostitute has been here.” 22He went back to Judah and told him, “I did not find her; and besides, the men of the place said, ‘No prostitute has been here.’” 23“Let her keep the things,” Judah replied; “otherwise we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you did not find her.”
24About three months later, Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has acted like a harlot and now she is pregnant from her harlotry.” Judah said, “Bring her out; let her be burned.” 25But as she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “It is by the man to whom these things belong that I am pregnant.” Then she said, “See whose seal and cord and staff these are.” 26Judah recognized them and said, “She is in the right rather than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” He had no further sexual relations with her.
27When the time of her delivery came, there were twins in her womb.#1 Chr 2:4. 28While she was giving birth, one put out his hand; and the midwife took and tied a crimson thread on his hand, noting, “This one came out first.” 29#Ru 4:12; Mt 1:3; Lk 3:33. But as he withdrew his hand, his brother came out; and she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” So he was called Perez.#He was called Perez: the Hebrew word means “breach.” 30Afterward his brother, who had the crimson thread on his hand, came out; he was called Zerah.#He was called Zerah: a name connected here by popular etymology with a Hebrew word for the red light of dawn, alluding apparently to the crimson thread. #Nm 26:20; 1 Chr 2:4; Mt 1:3.
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1 About the same time, Judah, descending from his brothers, turned toward an Adullamite man, named Hirah.
2 And he saw there the daughter of a man called Shua, of Canaan. And taking her as a wife, he entered to her.
3 And she conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Er.
4 And conceiving offspring again, having given birth to a son, she called him Onan.
5 Likewise, she bore a third, whom she called Shelah, after whose birth, she ceased to bear any more.
6 Then Judah gave a wife to his first born Er, whose name was Tamar.
7 And it also happened that Er, the first born of Judah, was wicked in the sight of the Lord and was killed by him.
8 Therefore, Judah said to his son Onan: "Enter to the wife of your brother, and associate with her, so that you may raise offspring to your brother."
9 He, knowing that the sons to be born would not be his, when he entered to the wife of his brother, he spilled his seed on the ground, lest children should be born in his brother's name.
10 And for this reason, the Lord struck him down, because he did a detestable thing.
11 Because of this matter, Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, "Be a widow in your father's house, until my son Shelah grows up." For he was afraid, lest he also might die, just as his brothers did. She went away, and she lived in her father's house.
12 Then, after many days had passed, the daughter of Shua, the wife of Judah, died. And when he accepted consolation after his mourning, he went up to the shearers of his sheep at Timnah, he and Hirah, the herdsman of the Adullamite flock.
13 And it was reported to Tamar that her father-in-law had gone up to Timnah to shear the sheep.
14 And storing away the garments of her widowhood, she took up a veil. And changing her clothing, she sat at the crossroad that leads to Timnah, because Shelah had grown up, and she had not received him as a husband.
15 And when Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot. For she had covered her face, lest she be recognized.
16 And entering to her, he said, "Permit me to join with you." For he did not know her to be his daughter-in-law. And she responded, "What will you give to me, to enjoy me as a concubine?"
17 He said, "I will send you a young goat from the flock." And again, she said, "I will allow what you want, if you give me a pledge, until you may send what you promise."
18 Judah said, "What do you want to be given for a pledge?" She responded, "Your ring and bracelet, and the staff that you hold in your hand." Thereupon, the woman, from one sexual encounter, conceived.
19 And she arose and went away. And storing away the garments that she had taken up, she was clothed in the garments of her widowhood.
20 Then Judah sent a young goat by his shepherd, the Adullamite, so that he might receive the pledge that he had given to the woman. But, when he had not found her,
21 he questioned the men of that place: "Where is the woman who sat at the crossroad?" And they all responded, "There has been no harlot in this place."
22 He returned to Judah, and he said to him: "I did not find her. Moreover, the men of that place told me that a prostitute had never sat there."
23 Judah said: "Let her hold herself to blame. Certainly, she is not able to accuse us of a lie. I sent the young goat that I had promised, and you did not find her."
24 And behold, after three months, they reported to Judah, saying, "Tamar, your daughter-in-law, has committed fornication and her abdomen appears to be enlarged." And Judah said, "Produce her, so that she may be burned."
25 But when she was led out to the punishment, she sent to her father-in-law, saying: "I conceived by the man to whom these things belong. Recognize whose ring, and bracelet, and staff this is."
26 But he, acknowledging the gifts, said: "She is more just than I am. For I did not deliver her to my son Shelah." However, he knew her no more.
27 Then, at the moment of birth, there appeared twins in the womb. And so, in the very delivery of the infants, one put forth a hand, on which the midwife tied a scarlet thread, saying,
28 "This one will go out first."
29 But in truth, drawing back his hand, the other came out. And the woman said, "Why is the partition divided for you?" And for this reason, she called his name Perez.
30 After this, his brother came out, on whose hand was the scarlet thread. And she called him Zerah.