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.