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Summary: verse-by-verse

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Last week we discovered the beginning of the story of Joseph. His story began with his brothers selling him into slavery that would take him to Egypt. A tough way to begin your adult life – but God would use it to shape him into the man he needed to be.

But the story of Joseph seems to get interrupted with chapter 38 of Genesis which is all about Judah. It seems like we were just getting started with Joseph and then here comes this chapter that’s filled with all kinds of vanity and wickedness that seems to have nothing to do with Joseph. Why is this chapter here?

First of all, it’s chronologically accurate to have this chapter here. While Joseph is going through his trials in Egypt as a slave to Potiphar, Judah is carrying on with life in Canaan as a slave to sin. Both heading different directions in life at the same time.

Also, this chapter serves as an extremely important genealogical reference. As we continue through the book of Genesis we must always keep in mind God’s covenant with Abraham – that through his seed He would bring forth nations and peoples that would bless the entire world. We know that this ultimately came true through Jesus Christ. This chapter helps to connect the dots between Jesus and Abraham.

So, this seemingly out-of-place chapter is actually perfectly placed and extremely important. And it all starts with Judah wanting to carve out his own family.

I. The move into a pagan lifestyle

[Read Genesis 38:1-5.]

Now I think there’s several reasons as to why Judah moved away from the family.

1. To get away from the scene of the crime

Remember, he was the one who came up with the idea to sell Joseph into slavery. He

probably wanted to distance himself from the witnesses to his part in the crime. And I’m sure that home wasn’t a very happy place to be with Jacob constantly mourning the loss of his son.

2. To establish his dominance in the family

Judah was now probably going to receive the first-born’s inheritance. Remember, the

other three eldest brothers, Simeon, Levi and Reuben had forfeited their rights with their wickedness and Joseph, (daddy’s favorite), was gone. So the honor would fall to Judah. Moving away and building up his own family would enhance his dominance.

3. To have some fun

It will show later in the passage that Hirah, who invited Judah to his city, was Judah’s

friend and that they would go our carousing together. Judah enjoyed the sensual, pagan lifestyle so that’s where he decided to live. But it was a lifestyle that would dearly cost him.

II. The cost of a pagan lifestyle

[Read Genesis 38:6-10.]

In this culture, when a man died before giving his wife a son, his brother was expected to marry his widow and have kids with her. The firstborn son from that marriage was to be named after the deceased first husband to carry on his name. This was called a levirate marriage and later became distinguished in the Mosaic Law.

[Read Deuteronomy 25:5-10.]

Now the reason the law had to be so specific is because often men wouldn’t want to marry their brother’s wife. “What if she was mean and ugly!”

The real reason was because the son of the new marriage would get the firstborn inheritance that could have fallen to the younger brother if there was no son of the firstborn. That’s why Onan wouldn’t allow himself to get Tamar pregnant. He knew that if she remained childless then he would get the first born inheritance from Judah.

So that in and of itself was bad and displeasing to the Lord. But what made it worse was the fact that he continued having sex with Tamar, just not enabling her to get pregnant. He selfishly used her just for sex.

But just like with his older brother, time ran out on him and the Lord took his life. Judgment had come twice to Judah’s household because of the utter wickedness of his sons.

Now you’d think this would get Judah’s attention. You’d think that he might repent of his leading his family into such depraved lifestyles that were no-doubt as a result of where they lived and his leadership in the family. But it didn’t. Things just got worse. And you know, when God speaks to someone about their sin this is what happens. They either listen, repent, and have their life restored. Or they ignore God’s voice and get worse. Judah chose the latter.

III. The wickedness of a pagan lifestyle

[Read Genesis 38:11-12.]

A few years have passed and Judah’s wife dies. When the customary time of mourning was over he went with his friend Hirah to sheer his sheep. Translation – road trip! And this wasn’t just a trip to do some business. This trip was all about getting paid and partying down. This was like going to Vegas with a big bonus you just got from your job.

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