27 And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb.
28 And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first.
29 And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez.
30 And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.
Tamar was not only successfully impregnated via her seduction of Judah, she ended up bearing twins! Now I’m far from an expert, but I do know that a baby trying to emerge hand-first is not the preferred method! Evidently this was a difficult and dangerous delivery, the culmination of a sordid and tumultuous family affair.
And, in fact, it led to another breach of the natural order. The child who first extended his hand then drew back inside and was surpassed by his brother. This story is very reminiscent of the birth of Esau and Jacob, who similarly competed with each other even during the moment of birth. We do not receive any further details about the lives of these two twins, Zarah and Pharez, so we do not know whether they continued to compete.
We do have one interesting detail about the breaching-brother Pharez, though. His descendant of nine generations would be none other than David, son of Jesse, the future king of Israel. And a future descendant of David, of course, was Jesus Christ.
It is notable to me that Jesus was therefore born of a branch that began in such an unorthodox manner. A union of a dishonest man seduced by his pagan daughter-in-law hardly sounds like the beginning of a great line. In fact, this is not the only abnormality that will appear in Jesus’s family line. He will also be the descendant of the Israelite-outsider Ruth. Jesus was a child born under less-than-ideal circumstances to a less-than-ideal heritage, but that only made him all the more relatable to us with our own family baggage.
Judah’s story is a strange and messy one. He chose a harder path and reaped difficult consequences and he didn’t have to. But through it all, he was never outside the reach of God’s plans. God was able to take an awkward situation and still weave into his tapestry of life.