Summary: HER BRAND OF JUSTICE
HER BRAND OF JUSTICE (GENESIS 38:6-26)
I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne'er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me.
While Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David (Rev 5:5), His grand ancestor was Tamar (Matt 1:3), the widowed daughter-in-law of Judah who became the legitimate bearer of Judah’s child! According to Deuteronomy 25:5-10 a surviving brother must seed his deceased brother’s wife so that the widow could have a child to continue the family name, but the surviving second brother of Judah’s sons and the superstitious father-in-law thwarted her hopes of motherhood and the birth of the Messiah.
How does the Lord want us to treat women without husbands, children or parents? What strength and support are available from the Lord for His people? Why is it best and wise for society honor them instead of hiding them?
Be Unafraid: Be Respectable and Be Reassured
6 Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. 8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law 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 spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death 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, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.
One day some elders came to see Father Anthony. In the midst of them was Father Joseph. Wanting to test them, Father Anthony suggested a text from the Scriptures, and, beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant. Each gave his opinion as he was able. But to each one the old man said, “You have not understood it.”
Last of all he said to Father Joseph, “How would you explain this saying?” and he replied, “I do not know.” Then Father Anthony said, “Indeed, Father Joseph has found the way, for he has said: ‘I do not know.’”
Tamar was married to Er, the firstborn of Judah (v 6), so she held a very high and honored position in the family, but tragedy struck her family and relatives. The phrase “wicked in the Lord’s sight” (v 7) occurs for the first time in the Bible. Mostly the phrase has to do with idolatry (Deut 4:25, Judg 2:11, 2 Kings 3:2). The widow’s father-in-law Judah ordered the second son to fulfill the Mosaic law obligations by seeding his deceased brother’s child to carry the firstborn brother’s name, but the second son Onan did not refuse but sabotaged the deed. Why did Onan do that? My guess is that he could get more with the deceased firstborn brother out of the way. The verb “spill” is in the “piel” intensive stem, so it was with purpose and plan. Verse 7 and verse 10 “wicked in the Lord’s sight” are similar except verse 10’s “wicked” is in the verb. My theory is that the second son had the fun without the fatherhood, because the phrase “slept/went in” in the Bible refers to sex, as in the case of Abraham and Hagar (Gen 16:4), Jacob and Leah (Gen 29:23), and even Judah with his wife (Gen 38:2).
Two of Judah’s sons were evil and dead, so things did not bode well for Tamar, but she waited patiently for the youngest son to grow up to father her child because her father-in-law ordered her with an imperative to “live/remain” as a widow till his son grow up. Judah, however, was tricky in that he did not promise his son to father her child. Instead, he feared the worst that his last son might die marrying the so called “black widow” in the family. In a sense he blamed her and not his sons their death.
The imperative “live/remain” was unfair to Tamar because Judah did not release her from marrying others nor guarantee his last son’s duty. Judah not only washed himself of any emotional support from his daughter-in-law by ordering her home, he wanted her out of mind, out of sight for fear she would prey on his youngest son, jinxed on the family further and invite the neighbors’ sympathy for her. Most commentators think Tamar was a Gentile, so dreading, discriminating, denying, dumping and damning her were convenient, calculated and cold, not courageous, caring or classy.