Summary: How Judah spiraled into immorality in Genesis 38 but Tamar's truth mixed with grace woke him up. Tamar is the Christ figure in this story- prefiguring Christ's truth and grace that wakes us up and transforms. A talk given to pre-professional undergrads.
Intro: Going down the Rabbit Hole means entering an unknown, confusing world. It comes from Alice in Wonderland. You see, Alice sees a white rabbit with a pocket watch, taking it itself, scampering into a hole in the ground, and she gets up, curiously follows it: “The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.” On the other end was a strange world that starts out funny with a crazy tea party but gradually turns into a nightmare. In a similar fashion right around Genesis 38 three members of a family are about to go down their own personal rabbit holes: Jacob “All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted, “No!” He said, “In mourning I will go down to the grave to my son.” (Gen 37:35) Joseph “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt.” (Gen 39:1) and Judah-Gen 38:1 “Around that time, Judah left his brothers and went down ...” (Gen 38:1) Jacob slips into depression, Joseph faces challenges, Judah is just breaking bad in Genesis 38.
Body: But let’s start at the ending to raise the question for tonight. Gathered around Jacob’s deathbed, the Double Portion goes to his favorite son Joseph - and you know what? Nobody cares, they all owe their survival to him. But the Ultimate blessing--the Messianic seed, through whom the whole world is to be blessed- is granted to---- Judah! Gen 49:10 “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.”
Now, wait a minute- Judah is a paradox:
a. It is Judah who convinces the others to sell Joseph as a slave. Gen 37:26, “What will we gain if kill our brother and over up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” They got twenty shekels of silver for it, about $8,000 in today’s relative value. Then they deceive their dad with Joseph’s coat dipped in goat’s blood.
b. But later, Judah offers himself to save Benjamin from being a slave. . . Gen 44: 33-34 “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father!”
What happened to Judah that changed him from a child trafficker to a child rescuer? Something-- happened in Genesis 38 that changed him forever.
1 At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down and lived near a certain Adullamite named Hirah. There Judah saw the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He took her and went into her; she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er. And yet again she conceived and gave birth to a son and she named him Onan. 5 She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. He [Judah] was at Kezib when she gave birth to him.6 Judah took a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the eyes of the Lord; so the Lord caused him to die.8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her to raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he wasted his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the eyes of the Lord; so the Lord caused him to die also. 11 Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “Perhaps he may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.
Notice: When did the rabbit hole swallow Judah? Around the time that Judah sold Joseph and Dad sank into a deep depression. Judah- left the ranch, left the church and went down geographically and spiritually near a man from Adullam named Hirah. There, he marries a Canaanite girl, whose name we are not given, but we are told her father’s name- Shua, (going down, a pit, a depression). Remember how the brothers got all worked up because Dinah was raped by a Canaanite and required them all to be circumcised because “We cannot let our sister marry a man who is not circumcised; that would be a disgrace for us!” (Gen 34:14) Well, Judah just did. So Why? Why is Judah doing all this?