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Genesis 38

38
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.
38
Judah and Tamar
1And it happened that at that time Judah went down from his brothers and pitched his tent near a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. 2And Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite there whose name was Shua. And he took her and went in to her. 3And she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er. 4And she conceived again and bore a son, and he called his name Onan. 5And once again she bore a son, and she called his name Shelah. And he#That is, Judah was in Chezib when she bore him. 6And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7And Er, the firstborn of Judah, was evil in the eyes of Yahweh, and Yahweh killed him. 8Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to the wife of your brother and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” 9But Onan knew that the offspring would not be for him, so whenever he went in to the wife of his brother he would waste it on the ground#Meaning he would spill his semen on the ground so as not to give offspring to his brother. 10And what he did was evil in the sight of Yahweh, so he killed him also. 11Then Judah said to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, “Stay a widow in your father’s house until Shelah my son grows up,” for he feared he would also die#Literally “he thought lest he also will die” like his brother. So Tamar went and stayed in the house of her father. 12And in the course of time#Literally “And the days increased” the daughter of Shua, the wife of Judah, died. When Judah was consoled he went up to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite, to Timnah. 13And it was told to Tamar, saying, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14So she removed the clothes of her widowhood and covered herself with the veil and disguised herself. And she sat at the entrance to Eynayim, which is on the way to Timnah, for she saw that Shelah was grown but she had not been given to him as a wife. 15And Judah saw her and reckoned her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16And he turned aside to her at the roadside and said, “Please come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. And she said, “What will you give to me that you may come in to me?” 17And he said, “I will send a kid from the goats of the flock.” And she said, “Only if you give a pledge until you send it.” 18And he said, “What is the pledge that I must give to you?” And she said, “your seal, your cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” And he gave them to her and went in to her. And she conceived by him. 19And she arose and left, and she removed her veil from herself and put on the garments of her widowhood. 20And Judah sent the kid from the goats by the hand of his friend the Adullamite to take back the pledge from the hand of the woman, but he could not find her. 21So he asked the men of her place, saying, “Where is that cult prostitute that was at Eynayim by the roadside?” And they said, “There is no cult prostitute here.” 22Then he returned to Judah and said, “I could not find her. Morever, the men of the place said, ‘There is no cult prostitute here.’ ” 23And Judah said, “Let her take them for herself, lest we be laughed at.#Literally “as contempt” Behold, I sent this kid, but you could not find her.” 24And about three months later#Literally “it happened about three months” it was told to Judah, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the whore, and now, behold, she has conceived by prostitution.” And Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned.” 25She was brought out, but she sent to her father-in-law saying, “By the man to whom these belong I have conceived.” And she said, “Now discern#Or “examine” to whom these belong: the seal and cord and the staff.” 26Then Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know#“Know” is a euphemism for “have sexual relations with” her again. 27And it happened that at the time she gave birth that, behold, twins were in her womb. 28And it happened that at her labor one child put out a hand. And the midwife took it and tied a crimson thread on his hand saying, “This one came out first.” 29Then his hand drew back and, behold, his brother came out, and she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” And she called his name Perez. 30And afterward his brother who had the crimson thread on his hand came out. And his name was called Zerah.