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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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1And it came to pass at that time, that Yehudah went down from his achim, and turned in to an ish Adulami shmo Chirah. 2And Yehudah saw there a bat ish Kena'ani shmo Shua; and he took her, and went in unto her. 3She conceived, and bore ben; and he called shmo Er. 4And she conceived again, and bore ben; and she called shmo Onan. 5And she yet again conceived, and bore ben; and called shmo Shelah; at Keziv, when she bore him. 6And Yehudah took a wife for Er his bechor, whose shem was Tamar. 7And Er, bechor Yehudah, was rah in the eyes of Hashem; and Hashem slaughtered him. 8And Yehudah said unto Onan, Go in unto eshet achicha, and enter into levirate marriage with her, and raise up zera to achicha. 9And Onan knew that the zera should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto eshet achiv, that he spilled it on the ground, lest he should give zera to achiv. 10And the thing which he did was rah in the eyes of Hashem; therefore He slaughtered him also. 11Then said Yehudah to Tamar his kallah, Remain an almanah at thy bais avi, till Shelah beni is grown; for he said, Lest he die also, as his achim did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her bais avi. 12And in process of time the bat Shua, eshet Yehudah, died; and Yehudah was consoled, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnah, he and his re'a Chirah the Adulami. 13And it was told Tamar, saying, Hinei, thy kham (father-in-law) goeth up to Timnah to shear his tzon. 14And she put off her widow's garments from her, and covered her with a tze'if (veil), and disguised herself, and sat at the crossroads which is on the derech to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him as isha. 15When Yehudah saw her, he thought her to be a zonah; because she had covered her face. 16And he turned unto her by the derech, and said, Come now, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his kallah [daughter-in-law]). And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? 17And he said, I will send thee a gedi izzim (kid of the goats). And she said, Wilt thou give me an ervon (pledge), till thou send it? 18And he said, What ervon shall I give thee? And she said, Thy chotam (signet), and thy [signet neck] cord, and thy staff that is in thine yad. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him. 19And she arose, and went away, and took off her tze'if from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood. 20And Yehudah sent the gedi izzim by the yad of his friend the Adulami, to get back his ervon from the yad haisha; but he found her not. 21Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the kedesha (cult prostitute) that was on the crossroads by the derech? And they said, There was no kedesha in this place. 22And he returned to Yehudah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said that there was no kedesha in this place. 23And Yehudah said, Let her take for herself, lest we become buz (laughingstock); hinei, I sent this gedi, and thou hast not found her. 24And it came to pass about shlosh chadashim (three months) later, that it was told Yehudah saying, Tamar thy kallah hath played the zonah; and also, hinei, she is with child by zenunim (whoredom). And Yehudah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burned. 25When she was brought forth, she sent to her kham (father-in-law), saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child; and she said, Discern, now, whose are these, the chotam (signet), and the [signet neck] cord, and the staff. 26And Yehudah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more tzadekah than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah beni. And he knew her again no more. 27And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, hinei te'omim (twin boys) were in her beten. 28And it came to pass, when she travailed in labor, that the one put out his yad; and the midwife took and bound upon his yad a scarlet thread, saying, This came out rishonah (first). 29And it came to pass, as he drew back his yad, that, hinei, his brother came out; and she said, How hast paratzta (thou broken out)? This paretz (breach, breaking) be upon thee; therefore shmo was called Peretz [Breaking out]. 30And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his yad; and shmo was called Zerach.