Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:6-10

6 And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother?

7 And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words: could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down?

8 And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones.

9 I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever:

10 For except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time.

Jacob complains that they ever told the Egyptians about Benjamin. It seems a strange thing to have disclosed, but the sons maintain that the line of inquiry had driven directly to that matter. Very bad luck it might seem to Jacob, but really there was no luck involved in it at all. Joseph knew exactly what he was getting at and intentionally directed the conversation there.

At this point Jacob’s complaints might simply be an attempt postpone the inevitable. I imagine he already knows that he is sending Benjamin with them, but he wants to express his frustration a bit more before doing so.

Now Judah turns to impassioned promises, much like Reuben did earlier. He will be responsible for the lad, and he will answer for anything bad that happens to him. The very same as Reuben has already pledged.

Judah and Reuben. The eldest and youngest of Leah, two blood brothers of Simeon, who still languishes in the Egyptian prison. Reuben who diverted his brothers’ intention to kill Joseph, and Judah who I have suspicions did the same. Thus, both of these men seem to have a track record of brotherly protection, the ones that Jacob could trust most to make good on their promise. And here, in this moment, their brotherly care is twofold. They are pledging protection of one brother, in order that they might rescue a second.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:1-5

1 And the famine was sore in the land.

2 And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food.

3 And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.

4 If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food:

5 But if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.

We don’t know how much corn the brothers bought the first time, nor how long it lasted, but it wasn’t enough. Once again, they found themselves unable to preserve their own lives, and needing outside help. I wonder whether this could have been by design on Joseph’s part. He had the benefit of knowing exactly how long this famine was going to last, and so he might have known that the amount of corn the brothers bought would not be enough to get all the way through. They would have to come back whether they wanted to or not.

Which is exactly the same conclusion that Jacob comes to. The sons must go back to Egypt and must buy more grain. But in his request, he leaves out any mention of Benjamin, and whether the boy will be allowed to go with the rest of his brothers.

Earlier Reuben had made impassioned promises to try and get his father to send Benjamin and it hadn’t worked. Now Judah uses a different tactic. He does not open with pleading or solemn oaths, Judah point-blank refuses the old man’s request unless he consents to send the boy. Jacob must choose between risking Benjamin’s life and risking everyone’s life…including Benjamin’s. No further argument is necessary, the correct choice is obvious.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38-39

I just finished reviewing the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38. When I started going through this chapter I thought it was a strange interruption in the story of Joseph. We had heard about the youth being sold into Egypt in chapter 37, and in chapter 39 we were going to continue to with his service in Potiphar’s house, so why does the narrative divert to a seemingly random and unpleasant story about Judah?

As I came to the end of chapter 38, though, I realized that its placement in the Bible is actually very clever. This chapter is meant to be a companion piece to chapter 39, read together and then compared and contrasted to each other. In each chapter a son of Jacob is being tugged at by depravity and they respond to that temptation in very different ways.

In Judah’s story he elects to leave his father’s house to live among a more carnal people. He adopts their ways, marries one of their women, and arranges for his son to do so as well. He full-heartedly steps into the lewd and filthy world, and as a result endures an icky family drama that is one of the most uncomfortable chapters to read in the entire Bible. At the end he is further tempted by lust, gives in, and finds himself caught in a trap entirely of his own making. Fortunately, in the final verses we see the first sign of remorse from Judah, something that will develop further when he meets Joseph again in Egypt.

As for Joseph, he also leaves his father’s house to live among a more carnal people, though in his case it is entirely against his will. Unlike Judah, he will not adopt their baser customs. He might be immersed in a society that does not follow the commandments of God, but he himself still will. He will similarly be tempted by lust and he will reject it. This will result in him being cast down in society, but will be a great victory for his soul.

Chapters 38 and 39 are together an examination on different ways that we can deal with all that is base and depraved in the world. We can seek it out and become part of its dirtying cycle, or we can keep ourselves holy, even as all around us is not. We are all invited to partake of the carnal but we can also reject it, and our lives will shift according to our choice.

Fortunately, for those of us who identify more with the story of Judah than of Joseph, the narrative does still provide a ray of hope. Judah stumbles, and he slogged through the gutter for a time, but he also came to see the error of his ways and seems to have turned over a new leaf. We will see his chance for restitution in a few chapters, and there still remains a chance for us as well.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38:24-26

24 And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.

25 When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff.

26 And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.

The hypocrisy in Judah is incredible. Three months prior he crept into the tent of a prostitute, but when he hears that his daughter-in-law has herself been a prostitute, he demands that she be burned! Not only is Judah hypocritical in this matter, but also in how he has done nothing but shirk his responsibilities to his daughter-in-law for years, yet once he believes her to be in infraction of her contract also, he immediately seeks justice against her!

Then, at last, the moment of revelation comes. Tamar has shrewdly held onto the signet, bracelets, and staff that she was given by Judah. They are clear markers of his identity and there is no question that she was the prostitute he met along the road, and he is the man who is the father of her child.

I do not know whether levirate law permitted for a widow to be given to his father, but it is worth noting that rather than go to some stranger Tamar had kept the whole affair within the family, and she only did what she did after Judah was a widower, with no other lawful wife. It may still be a shocking course of action, but Tamar deliberately chose to operate within the very limited restrictions that she had, rather than totally abandon her commitments.

All these matters turn Judah’s anger in an instant. He has been found out in front of others, and at last he admits his own unrighteousness. He has lived an unholy and lustful life, which has borne him a most awkward fruit, and at last he owns that shame. “She hath been more righteous than I.”

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38:19-23

19 And she arose, and went away, and laid by her veil from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood. 

20 And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not.

21 Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place.

22 And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place.

23 And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.

Judah attempted to make good on his deal with the unknown prostitute, but he sent a friend to bring her the promised kid instead of going himself. I can’t help but suspect he was anxious to not associate with the woman any longer than what it took to get what he wanted from her. In verse 23 he admits that he does admit that he has some shame in this area.

Judah’s desire to pay off the woman and get back his things is reminiscent of his attempts to offload Tamar on her father. In each case he was trying to wash his hands of a problem, trying to clear himself of responsibility, but without actually resolving it.

Which, of course, is something that we can all relate to as well. We do something selfish or lustful or conniving, and we quickly try to flee the scene, concerned only that we not be caught in association. It is a desire to live without consequence, to reap the benefits as if we had chosen rightly, but dodge the punishments for having actually chosen wrong.

Which, ironically enough, is the very same freedom that the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us! We can have the burden of our sins placed on another and live freely, as if we had never done the wrong. But the first step towards receiving that freedom is not to run from our mistakes, it is to wholeheartedly own them. Only when we make space to hold our failings do we have the option to then hand them over to a willing Savior. We run from God so we won’t have to face consequences, but He has been trying to take them from us all along!

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 38:1-6

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.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 35:23-26

23 The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun:

24 The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin:

25 And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali:

26 And the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid; Gad, and Asher: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padan-aram.

Now that we have heard about the birth of Benjamin, the Biblical record takes a moment to list out all twelve sons of Jacob, the future tribes of Israel. Well, technically, Joseph’s branch will further divide into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. I mentioned yesterday that the first three sons of Jacob had all compromised themselves in one way or another, and after them was Judah. Judah, of course, would go on to be one of the most significant tribes in Israel, and beginning with David, its kings would rule over all the other tribes. Even later, Jesus would himself be born of that favored line.

It also stands out to me that Joseph, though one of the youngest of the sons, was a firstborn in his own branch of the family, the one brought through Rachel. We will soon hear about his vision of all the other brothers bowing to him, to which they will take offense, but will ultimately fulfill.

Thus, the eldest of Rachel and the eldest-worthy of Leah will become two leaders among their brethren, sons who set the mark for the others to follow.