Judah found a wife for his son Er. Her name was Tamar. But soon after their marriage, God killed Er due to his wickedness.
So as was the custom, Tamar was given to Judah’s second son, Onan, so that he might pass along Er’s line. But Onan had a problem with that. If he had heirs, he wanted them to be his, not his brother’s, so he made sure that Tamar didn’t get pregnant. This displeased God, so He killed him as well.
Judah had a third son, but he was afraid to give him to Tamar for fear of what might happen, so he sent Tamar back to her family to wait for Shelah, the last son, to grow up. He had no intention, however, of bringing Tamar back.
Unfortunately, this put Tamar is a difficult situation. As a widow promised to a brother of her dead husband, she was unable to marry anyone else. When she realized that Judah had reneged on his promise, she took matters into her own hands.
After the death of Judah’s wife, Judah went with his Canaanite friend to the sheep shearing celebration. Learning of his plans, Tamar concocted a way to get what Judah had denied her. Part of the festivities included temple prostitutes whose job was to encourage the gods to provide a fertile year. Tamar disguised herself as one of these women in order to trap Judah. It worked.
As a result of her deception, Tamar had twins, one of whom became an ancestor of Christ.
It’s hard for us to imagine why God chose Judah and Tamar to be part of His son’s lineage. But they show us His grace. His lineage is not filled with perfect souls but rather flawed individuals who were undeserving yet redeemed.
Tamar in Scripture: Genesis 38
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