Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38:15-18

15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.

16 And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?

17 And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?

18 And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.

The family soap opera takes a shocking turn as Tamar seduces her own father-in-law under the pretense of being a prostitute. As mentioned before, Judah had tried to pawn her off on her family, not leaving her many honorable recourses if she wanted to bear children, but this is still a highly unpleasant solution to her problem.

Fortunately for Tamar she thinks ahead, and tricks Judah into giving her all the personal signifiers that he is carrying. In other words, she takes his identity from him. And so it is with us whenever we give into temptation also. We do not only perform the act, we sell a part of ourselves to it. By her guile Tamar gained a position of power over Judah by obtaining direct evidence of his own shame. So, too, when we give a part of ourselves to sin, it gains power to drive us where we would not.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38:11-14

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.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 27:5-10

5 And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it.

6 And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying,

7 Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the Lord before my death.

8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee.

9 Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth:

10 And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death.

This is the first we have heard directly from Rebekah since her introduction to Abraham’s servant, and this is a very different side of her from that sweet, industrious girl. In this scene she is planning a deception, one that is elaborate and bold.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that she has played a part in a deception, there was that time Isaac asked her to say that she was his sister, and not his wife, when they traveled in the land of the Philistines. And perhaps, in some way, this trick that is played on Isaac is a karmic retribution for his part in that deceit.

But something that stood out to me as I read these verses was that Moses gave an entire chapter dedicated to this one, small story. Of all the experiences in Esau and Jacob’s childhood, the two that were chosen to define them were the one of Esau selling his birthright and this one, with all other years just skimmed over. I’ve never seen much spiritual significance to this tale, but the realization that it was given in detail, rather than in a single passing verse, has me thinking that I ought to look more closely as I continue. Perhaps there is a lesson I have missed every time before.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 12:10-11, 13, 15-18, 20

10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.

11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:

13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.

16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.

17 And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.

18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?

20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

This is an interesting and perplexing piece of Abram’s story. Abram stating that Sarai is his sister seems dishonest. At another part of the story he will explain that Sarai actually is his half-sister (daughter of his father Terah, but not of his mother), but not mentioning the fact that they are also married still fells like a lie of omission.

There is another account of these events in the Pearl of Great Price, where it states that calling Sarai his sister was an instruction given to Abram by God, Himself. Though obviously that record isn’t canonical to those who aren’t members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

So there are a number of different ways that one might interpret this story. For some it might be a sign of just how harsh an environment Abram was coming into, where such tactics were necessary for survival. For some it might be an indication that the men in Egypt wouldn’t stay their hands from violence unless they were first given a show of force from God. And for some this story might be evidence that Abram was flawed, imperfect in spite of being a prophet, still needing to improve like the rest of us.

But no matter which of these interpretations one holds to, there is a common message in them all, a message that things work out. Even if the world is dangerous, or the truth is difficult to speak, or our better parts fail us, all remains in God’s hands, and all works out according to His purposes. Though the road may be bumpy, so long as we strive with Him, we will ultimately get where we need to go.