Genesis 38 – The Sons of Judah
Judah, son of Jacob and brother to the enslaved Joseph, takes Shuah, a Canaanite woman, for his wife.
Shuah and Judah have 3 sons; Er, Onan, and Shelah.
The text skips the childhood of these three and in v.6 Er is married to Tamar.
Without any story about him in v.7 Er is killed by god. I think some back story would help this situation a bit, though I doubt a god killing his ‘children’ for being wicked and still claiming they have free will could be explained away with any story.
Judah tells Onan to take Er’s widowed wife for his own and have children for his brother.
Onan didn’t want his brother to be credited with the kids he would have with Tamar so he ‘spilled his seed on the ground’. For this most grievous act god killed Onan too.
I have heard this story before and it is routinely used as a reference to the act of masturbation. Really, divine intervention is needed for masturbating? I don’t think so. This story doesn’t even say he masturbated he just pulled out before he inseminated her, that part of the story could be useful to help with the teen pregnancy problem we have today. If the penalty wasn’t death maybe we wouldn’t have so many babies born to homes that just aren’t capable of taking care of them.
Judah tells Tamar that she will remain a widow and live in his house until Shelah is grown up.
At some point in the future after Shelah has grown but still hasn’t been given to Tamar as her husband and after the death of Judah’s unnamed daughter, Judah goes to shear his sheep. Tamar changes her clothing to look like a harlot.
Judah encounters her on his way to shear the sheep and asks to ‘come in unto her’ she only asks what he will pay. Judah responds that he will give her a goat from the flock. His flocks weren’t with him as he was on the road so she asks for a pledge to make sure he will pay. He asks her what she would require and she asks for his signet, his bracelets, and his staff and he gives it all to her.
They have sex and she immediately conceives. Just a little science here for you guys if you didn’t already know; there is no way to know if you have conceived a child before at least a few weeks after the insemination.
So she returns to Judah’s house and returns to her widow’s clothing.
Judah sends the goat payment and hopes to have his pledge returned to him. The harlot cannot be found. He asks of the men around the place about her but they said they knew nothing of her.
Three months later, Judah finds out that Tamar was the harlot and is pregnant and he calls for her to be burned.
Tamar brings up the fact that it was Judah who had sex with her by bringing out his signet, his bracelets, and his staff. Somehow this changes his mind and he feels like she has been more righteous than he was because her whoredom wasn’t as bad as him not giving her to Shelah.
v.27 she had twins and it seems like they fought similar to Esau and Jacob. Zarah had his hand out first and was marked as the eldest with a scarlet thread but then Pharez actually was born first.
So, what have we learned from this chapter? Being a whore and having children by your father-in-law isn’t as bad as masturbating or unexplained ‘wicked’ness. Also, somehow it is possible to be instantly pregnant when having sex, the Fallopian tubes and uterus must’ve been smaller and or easier for the sperm to travel back then.