11 Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house. 12 And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13 And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep. 14 And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.
Judah had now lost two of his three sons, each while they were married to Tamar. He spoke kindly to her, promising that his third son would be her husband once he was old enough, but in the meantime she needed to return to her father’s house.
Evidently that was a lie, though, as in verse fourteen we learn that the third son, Shelah, was now old enough to marry, but still not given to Tamar for a husband. Judah was perfectly content to have her live out the rest of her days as a widow, with little prospect of finding any other husband to care for her, and thus no children to care for her either. Thus he was really pawning her off, not wanting to deal with her problem.
But if Judah thought his troubles were past him he was soon disappointed by the death of his wife. He had elected to go and join himself with a pagan people, and had intermingled his family with their lineage and their ways, and all around him his household was dying prematurely.
Much humbling had been inflicted upon Judah, but still his moment of repentance was not at hand. There was yet another uncomfortable trial to pass through before he would be willing to admit his own unworthiness, and it would come at the hand of Tamar, waiting on the road in a veil.