Genesis 38: Judah and Tamar

Why did Judah leave his father’s household to live with a foreigner?

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Genesis 38:1 About this time, Judah separated from his brothers and went to live with Hirah, an Adullamite.
King James
Genesis 38:1 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.

God doesn’t kill every wicked person, so why did Er have to die?

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Genesis 38:2–7 Judah met a Canaanite woman there and married her. She was Shuah’s daughter. She became pregnant and had a son named Er. After that, she gave birth to a son named Onan. Her third son, Shelah, was born at Chezib.
Judah arranged for his firstborn son, Er, to marry Tamar. The Lord saw the wicked things that Er was doing and killed him.
King James
Genesis 38:2–7 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her. And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan. And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him. And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him.

If the Lord killed Onan because he would not let Tamar become pregnant, what do you think God’s attitude toward abortion might be?

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Genesis 38:8–10 Judah said to Onan, “Marry your brother’s wife so she can have children in his name.”
Onan knew the child would not be his, so when he slept with her, he was careful not to let her become pregnant. The Lord was not pleased and killed him too.
King James
Genesis 38:8–10 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also.

Why did Judah think his son Shelah might die like his brothers if he married young?

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Genesis 38:11 “Live with your father as a widow until my son Shelah is old enough,” Judah said to his daughter-in-law. “I don’t want him to die like his brothers.”
So Tamar went to live with her father.
King James
Genesis 38:11 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.

Why did Tamar think she could seduce her father-in-law when she had her face covered?

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Genesis 38:12–15 Years later, Judah’s wife, who was Shuah’s daughter, died. After his time of mourning, Judah went with Hirah the Adullamite to Timnah, where his sheep were to be sheared.
When Tamar was told that her father-in-law was on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep, she shed her widow garments and disguised herself with a veil. Shelah was grown and had not been given to her in marriage, so she sat in an open area on the way to Timnah.
When Judah saw her with her face covered, he thought she was a prostitute.
King James
Genesis 38:12–15 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. And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep. And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, 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. When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.

Why didn’t Judah recognize his daughter-in-law by her mannerisms and tone of voice?

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Genesis 38:16 He stopped to talk to her, having no idea that she was his daughter-in-law. “Come sleep with me,” he said.
“What will you give me to come sleep with you?” she said.
King James
Genesis 38:16 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?

How could Judah fail to recognize Tamar when he slept with her?

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Genesis 38:17–18 “I will have a young goat from my flock sent to you.”
She said, “What will you give me to guarantee that you will keep your promise?”
“What do you want?”
“Your signet ring and its cord,” she said, “and the walking stick that you’re holding.”
After receiving his guarantee, she slept with him and became pregnant.
King James
Genesis 38:17–18 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?
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.

How did Judah feel after his friend could not find the prostitute and was left with a goat instead of his ring and staff?

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Genesis 38:19–23 After returning home, Tamar removed her disguise and again wore the clothes of a widow.
Judah sent his Adullamite friend to deliver the young goat and get back his ring and staff, but Hirah couldn’t find her. “Where is that prostitute,” he said to the men, “the one who was sitting there by the road?”
“We’ve seen no prostitute around here,” they said.
So he returned with the goat. “I can’t find her,” he said to Judah. “The men knew nothing of a prostitute there.”
“Then she can keep what I gave her,” Judah said. “I sent the young goat, and you couldn’t find her. More searching would be embarrassing.”
King James
Genesis 38:19–23 And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.
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. 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.
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.
And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.

What led to Judah receiving the news about Tamar so early in her pregnancy? With the loose clothing that women wore in those days, couldn’t her condition have been kept secret a few more months? Why?

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Genesis 38:24 About three months later, Judah heard that his daughter-in-law Tamar had become pregnant by prostitution. “Bring her out,” he said, “and let her be burned to death.”
King James
Genesis 38:24 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.

By whose law could an unwed woman be burned to death because she was pregnant? How did Judah feel when he learned who the father was??

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Genesis 38:24–25 About three months later, Judah heard that his daughter-in-law Tamar had become pregnant by prostitution. “Bring her out,” he said, “and let her be burned to death.”
When brought out, she said to her father-in-law, “I am pregnant by the man who owns these.” She held up the staff and the signet ring by its cord. “Do you know whose they are?”
King James
Genesis 38:24–25 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.
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.

Do you think Tamar ever remarried? Why? Why didn’t Judah marry her?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Genesis 38:25–26 When brought out, she said to her father-in-law, “I am pregnant by the man who owns these.” She held up the staff and the signet ring by its cord. “Do you know whose they are?”
“Yes, they are mine,” Judah said to the others. “She has been more righteous than I have been, for I never arranged for my son Shelah to marry her.”
Judah never slept with her again.
King James
Genesis 38:25–26 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.
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.

How did Jacob and his sons in his household react to the news that Judah had twin sons by his daughter-in-law?

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Genesis 38:27–30 When Tamar was about to give birth, she knew she was carrying twins. While she was in labor, a baby’s hand reached out. “This one is the firstborn,” the midwife said as she tied a red thread around its wrist. The hand withdrew and the other baby came out. “How did you break through first?” the midwife said. So he was named Perez.
Then the baby with the red thread was born. He was named Zerah.
King James
Genesis 38:27–30 And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. 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. 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. And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.