HYMN Pass me not, O gentle Saviour
1 Pass me not, O gentle Saviour,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art smiling,
Do not pass me by.
2 Let me at a throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
Help my unbelief.
Hear my humble cry,
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.
Frances Jane van Alstyne (Fanny Crosby) (1820–1915)
READING – Genesis 38
At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. 2 There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; 3 she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. 4 She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. 5 She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.
6 Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.
8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.
11 Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.
12 After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him.
13 When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.
15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.”
“And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked.
17 “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said.
“Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked.
18 He said, “What pledge should I give you?”
“Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him. 19 After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.
20 Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her. 21 He asked the men who lived there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?”
“There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said.
22 So he went back to Judah and said, “I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’”
23 Then Judah said, “Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn’t find her.”
24 About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.”
Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”
25 As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”
26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.
27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 28 As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” 29 But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez. 30 Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.
SERMON – Judah and Tamar
1-11 The story of ch. 38 has only a loose connection with the Joseph story. The first verse notes only that these events occurred “at that time.” Without this remark we would have little basis for relating these events to the story of Joseph. In the overall strategy of the book, however, this chapter plays a crucial role.
The story begins with the mention of three sons (cf. the three sons of Adam, Noah, and Terah). Two sons died because of the evil they did. The point of this introductory information is to show that the continuation of the house of Judah lay in Judah’s hands. The narrative that follows shows that he does nothing to further his own household. It takes the “righteousness” of the woman Tamar (v. 26) to preserve the seed of Judah. The story is much like the other patriarchal narratives outside the story of Joseph, which show the promised offspring in jeopardy and the patriarch showing little concern for its preservation. Just as in ch. 20, where the seed of Abraham was protected by the “righteous” (NIV, “innocent”) Abimelech, here it is the woman Tamar, not Judah the patriarch, who is ultimately responsible for the survival of the descendants of the house of Judah.
The text is not clear from whose house Jacob originally took Tamar for his son’s wife. Since we are told that Judah’s own wife was a Canaanite, had Tamar also been a Canaanite, a similar statement presumably would have been mentioned. Since she was likely not a Canaanite (although in Matthew 1:3, she is mentioned as a Gentile?), this introduction shows another point at which the promise to Abraham was in jeopardy. By marrying the daughter of a Canaanite, Judah had realized the worst fears of Abraham (24:3) and Isaac (28:1); so the promise regarding the descendants of Abraham and Isaac was in danger of being unfulfillable. Through Tamar’s clever plan, however, the seed of Abraham was preserved by not being allowed to continue through the sons of the Canaanite, the daughter of Shua. The line was continued through Judah and Tamar. The genealogy at the close of the story makes this point.
12-26 Tamar’s plan resembles that of Jacob and Rebekah (ch. 27). Through a disguise she obtained a part in the blessing of the firstborn. In so doing, just as with Jacob and Rebekah, she obtained what the patriarch should have rightfully given. Shelah, the son of Judah, was of age, and Tamar should have been given to him as a wife. Thus, in the end, the continuation of the line of Judah was not due to the righteous actions of the patriarch Judah, but lay in the hands of the “righteous” Tamar.
(During this time – 41:50-52 Joseph is having children by his Egyptian wife! As with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – there are complications re. Heirs – this speaks of Satan’s hidden work to try to prevent God’s work)
27-30 The whole of the Jacob story reaches a fitting summary in this brief account of the birth of the two sons Perez and Zerah. As Jacob’s story began with an account of the struggle of twins (25:22), so now the conclusion of his story is marked by a similar struggle. In both cases the struggle resulted in a reversal of the right of the firstborn and the right of the blessing. The result of both struggles was that the younger gained the upper hand over the elder. As Jacob struggled with Esau and overcame him, so Perez overcame Zerah, the elder, and gained the right of the firstborn (cf. Nu 26:20, where Perez is regarded as the firstborn). The brevity with which the story is told leaves the impression that the meaning of the passage is self-evident to the reader. Indeed, coming as it does on the heels of a long series of reversals in which the younger gains the upper hand over the elder, its sense is transparent.
Application: Isn’t it amazing that Judah has his name written on the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21:12)? = that can only be GRACE! God’s kindness.
Paul speaks of himself (1 Timothy 1:12-16) as being the chief of sinners…. God’s Kindness…
Hymn A Sovereign Protecrtor I have
1 A sovereign protector I have,
unseen, yet for ever at hand,
unchangeably faithful to save,
almighty to rule and command.
He smiles, and my comforts abound;
his grace as the dew shall descend,
and walls of salvation surround
the soul he delights to defend.
2 Kind Author and Ground of my hope,
thee, thee, for my God I avow:
My glad Ebenezer set up,
and own thou hast helped me till now.
I muse of the years that are past,
wherein my defence Thou hast proved;
nor wilt thou relinquish at last
a sinner so signally loved!
3 Inspirer and hearer of prayer,
thou shepherd and guardian of thine,
my all to thy covenant care
I sleeping and waking resign.
If thou art my shield and my sun,
the night is no darkness to me;
and, fast as my moments roll on,
they bring me but nearer to thee.
Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778)