Home Biblical History Tamar (Part One)

Tamar (Part One)

by Esther Griggs

Tamar’s story lies in Genesis 38. It’s value rests in its connection to Judah the fourth of Jacob’s sons and in Matthew 1:3, a genealogy of Jesus. In Genesis 49:10, Jacob prophesied over his son Judah. “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.” Tamar played a part in the fulfillment of this prophecy. Here is the story of Tamar and Er, Onan, and Shelah.

Tamar’s Story (Er)

Tamar became one of the family when Judah arranged her marriage to his eldest son Er. The Bible tells us Er was wicked so God took his life. In Deuteronomy 25:5-10 God’s law directs the second brother to marry the widow. Their first son would carry on the name of the deceased and provide for the widow. God made special provisions throughout the law for widows.

Tamar’s Story (Onan)

Judah initially followed the law by having his second son Onan marry Tamar. Onan married her but refused to father a son he could not call his own. It displeased God and He took his life also. Judah had one more son and therefore instructed Tamar to go to her father’s house and live as a widow until he was grown, but he feared Shelah would also die.

Tamar’s Story (Shelah)

After Judah’s wife died, Tamar learned Judah planned a trip to Timnah. Seeing Judah had not provided Shelah as a husband, she took the opportunity to disguise herself as a prostitute and received his pledge of payment. In time she bore twins and when Judah heard he wanted her burned alive because of the disgrace to his family because it. Then he learned the truth. He confessed that she was more righteous than he.

Here is the story of Tamar and Er, Onan, and Shelah. In part two we will reflect on why it troubles us and what we learn about God.

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