1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.
2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.
3 And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.
4 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.
5 And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.
In Genesis 39 we will return to the story of Joseph, but first the Bible takes a detour to develop the story of Judah. Judah was the fourth-born of Leah, the last of the first set of sons born to Jacob. After him two sons were born to Bilhah, then two to Zilpah, then two again to Leah, and finally two to Rachel.
This there were three sons elder than Judah, and we have previously discussed how Reuben had sullied himself by adultery with his father’s wife Bilhah, and also Simeon and Levi by slaying the men of Shechem. Thus far all Judah has been guilty of is despising his brother and suggesting that they sell him to Egypt, though that might have been an attempt to save Joseph’s life. Now, however, we will take a view on Judah’s adult life, and it is a distasteful scene, fit for a modern soap opera.
It begins with Judah leaving his father to spend time with the people of the land. Then, like his uncle Esau, that leads to him taking a Canaanite woman to be his wife, someone who is outside of the covenant. There can be no doubt that he knew this was offensive to his father and God, but it does not seem like he was concerning himself with matters of virtue heretofore anyway. Together, Judah and this Canaanite woman have three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Now the stage is set and next we will begin to see how their unpleasant inter-relationships worked out.