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Genesis 38

38
The Story of Judah and Tamar
1Around that time, Judah left his brothers at Hebron and went to Adullam # 38:1 From Hebron to Adullam was a day’s journey of about twelve miles. to stay with a man named Hirah. # 38:1 Hirah means “fading” or “to turn pale.” 2There he met and married a Canaanite girl, the daughter of Shua. He slept with her and 3she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and Judah # 38:3 Some Hebrew manuscripts, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and one ancient Targum have “she [Bath-Shua] named him.” named him Er. 4She conceived again and gave birth to another son and named him Onan. # 38:4 Onan means “strong” or “vigorous.” 5While they # 38:5 Or “he” or “she” (LXX). were staying in Chezib, # 38:5 Chezib was a village about three miles south of Adullam and is likely the “Achzib” mentioned in Josh. 15:44. Chezib means “false.” she gave birth to a third son and named him Shelah. # 38:5 Shelah means “a request” or “something asked for.”
6When their sons were grown, Judah arranged for Er, his oldest son, to marry a girl named Tamar. # 38:6 Tamar means “date palm.” The Midrash states that Tamar was the daughter of Noah’s son, Shem. See Bereshit Rabbah 85:10. This conjecture would mean that Tamar was not Canaanite (since Canaan was the cursed son of Ham), but was a descendant of Shem, just like the sons of Israel. 7But Er had become so wicked in the sight of Yahweh that Yahweh ended his life. 8Then Judah said to Er’s brother Onan, “Your duty # 38:8 This custom, called “levirate marriage,” was later adopted into Hebrew law (see Deut. 25:5–10). It was a disgrace for a dead man’s living brothers to fail to have children with the widow of the deceased. is to join yourself to her. Go perform your duty as a brother-in-law and provide an heir for your brother.”
9Onan, however, did not want to produce a child that would not be his own rightful heir, # 38:9 Since Onan’s brother Er, the firstborn, died, Onan stood in line to receive a great inheritance from his father Judah. But if he fathered a child with Er’s widow, that inheritance would be greatly diminished. so whenever he and Tamar had intercourse, he purposely spilled his semen onto the ground to keep her from getting pregnant and having a child that would belong to his dead brother. 10But what he did was wicked in Yahweh’s sight, so he took Onan’s life also.
11Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s house until my youngest son Shelah grows up.” So Tamar went home to her parents, but Judah worried that Shelah would end up dead like his brothers. # 38:11 In other words, since Judah lost two of his sons already, he had no intention of ever giving Shelah to Tamar, fearing he would lose him too.
12After some time passed, Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When his time of mourning was over, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went to Timnah # 38:12 Timnah is about four miles northeast of Adullam. to enjoy the festivities at the sheep-shearing. # 38:12 The time of shearing the sheep was a time of celebration and festivities. See 1 Sam. 25:11, 36; 2 Sam. 13:23, 28. 13-14Meanwhile, Tamar had learned that Shelah had grown up, but Judah had still not given him to her to father a child for her deceased husband. So, when Tamar found out her father-in-law was coming to Timnah for the sheep-shearing, she removed her widow’s clothes and covered herself with a veil to disguise herself. And she sat waiting at the crossroads # 38:13–14 Or “She sat at the entrance to Enaim.” Enaim means “crossroads” or “intersection.” where Judah would have to pass by.
15-16When Judah saw her, she was wearing a veil over her face, so he thought she was a prostitute. He had no clue that she was his own daughter-in-law. So he approached her and said, “Come sleep with me.”
“What will you give me if I do?” she answered.
17He responded, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.”
“What guarantee can you give me that you will really send it?” she asked.
18-19“Well, what pledge do you want?” Judah asked.
Tamar answered, “Give me your necklace with your personal signet # 38:18–19 This “signet” refers to an engraved cylinder seal. “The center was hollowed out and a cord passed through so that the seal could be worn around the neck. When the cylinder was rolled over soft clay, the resultant impression served as a means of identifying personal possessions and of sealing and legitimating clay documents. It was a highly personal object that performed the function of the signature in modern society” (JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, Nahum M. Sarna). and the staff # 38:18–19 Or “[tribal] scepter.” The leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel each had scepters (see Num. 24:17). you’re holding.” So, he gave them to her, and he went and slept with her. When she got up and went home, she removed her veil and put her widow’s garment back on. Later, she discovered she was pregnant.
20Soon afterward, Judah sent the young goat by his friend Hirah the Adullamite to recover his items from the prostitute, but she was nowhere to be found. 21So he asked the townspeople, “Where is the temple prostitute that sits by the crossroads?”
They answered, “No prostitute has been there.” 22So he returned to Judah and informed him, “I couldn’t find her, and besides that, the townspeople said that no prostitute has been there.”
23Judah replied, “Let her keep my pledge. If we try to go get it now, we’ll become a laughingstock. # 38:23 Or “we’ll appear contemptible [dishonest].” After all, I did send you with the payment I promised her, and you couldn’t find her.”
24About three months later, Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has been promiscuous, and now she is pregnant!” Indignant, Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned!” # 38:24 See Lev. 21:9. 25As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “Look, the one who owns these things got me pregnant! See, whose signet and staff are these?” 26Judah recognized them as his and said, “She is more righteous than I, for I never gave my son Shelah to marry her.” And he let her go free and never slept with her again. # 38:26 Or “he did not know her again.” “To know her” is a Hebrew figure of speech for having sex with her. In chs. 38 and 39 we have two contrasting accounts of lust and the evil it spawns. Why this abrupt interruption of the incredible story of Joseph? Why did God include this chapter in his inspired Word? One reason is that God wanted to paint a contrast between Judah’s unwise choices and immorality and Joseph’s righteous character, which is revealed in the following chapter.
27When it was time for her to give birth, there were twins in her womb! 28While she was in labor, one hand popped out, so the midwife wrapped a crimson thread around its wrist, saying, “This one came out first.” 29But immediately, he drew his hand back, and out came his brother; and she said, “Look how you have broken out of the womb!” So, he was named Perez, the one who breaks through. # 38:29 Perez means “breach” or “breaking through.” Perez was an ancestor of King David (see Ruth 4:18–22; Matt. 1:3–6). 30Afterward, his brother came out, the one with the crimson thread on his wrist. That’s why they named him Zerah # 38:30 Zerah comes from a word that sounds like “[dawn’s] crimson brightness.” Or, it could be taken from an Aramaic root for “crimson [thread].” Achan (see Josh. 7:1) was a descendant of Zerah (see Num. 26:20). (“the crimson one”).

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