Summary: It’s good to know that Jesus welcomes such damaged people into his family!
Matthew 1 3rd Sunday of Advent: December 11, 2005
The Women of the Genealogy of Jesus
A few months ago I was beginning to read the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew has the genealogy of Jesus right away. Often when I hit a passage like that, I skim over it to get to the good parts – the stories. This time I read it & I was surprised by how many of the names I recognized. The list changed from being a list of semi-anonymous names to a list of makers to stories I know and love.
What intrigued me most was that in this long list of men, four women are mentioned – five if you count Mary. In this very patriarchal society, Matthew includes four women in his genealogy – it’s really interesting since it is Joseph’s genealogy, if you want Mary’s genealogy you have to read Luke
Tamar (Genesis 38)
You might know that the Jewish people often call God the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jacob’s family put the “dis” in dysfunctional. Jacob had 12 sons by 4 women, only one of whom he loved. The 11 brothers so hated Jacob’s favorite that they first tried to kill him, and then sold him into slavery.
The oldest brother in the family was Judah. He married and Had three sons: Er, Onnan and Shelah. When the oldest, Er, grew up he married Tamar. Er was an evil man and he died young with no offspring. There was a law in those days that if your brother died with no heir, you would marry his widow, but the offspring would be considered your brother’s and would carry his line. So Judah got Onan to marry Tamar. Onan didn’t want to produce offspring for his dead brother that he would have top feed and keep, (and most likely without an heir, Onan would get Er’s estate) so he slept with Tamar, but used his own style of birth control so as not to have children. Onan’s greed and lack of responsibility angered God and he died young too.
The third son, Shelah, is still a kid at this point and Judah says to Tamar, “live as a widow until Shelah grows up and he will give you children.” But he had no intention of getting the two together because he figures that she’s a man killer! Tamar thinks to herself these boys have a habit of dieing young with no kids, Shelah is still a kid and her biological clock is ticking, and besides that, his name is Shelah! So she decides not to wait for Judah to give her another husband.
Judah goes off to another town on a business trip, and Tamar goes there disguised as a prostitute. Prostitutes were veiled back then, so Judah doesn’t recognize her when he sees her. Judah sees her and promises to send her a goat for sleeping with him. She asks for a surety and he leaves his seal and staff with her to be given back when the goat arrived.
The next day, Judah sends a friend with the goat to retrieve his seal and staff. The prostitute is nowhere to be found, and the townsfolk say that they have never seen her. Judah decides that he was hoodwinked and pushes the issue no further, because it is pretty embarrassing.
Three months later, Tamar is starting to look pregnant! Word gets back to Judah that his daughter-in-law is guilty of prostitution and has become pregnant. Judah is furious that she would shame the family so and says, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” (honour killing is not a new thing)
As she is being dragged out, Tamar grabs the seal and staff and says to Judah, “I am pregnant by the man who own these things, do you recognize whose seal and staff these are.”
To his credit, Judah repents, and declares that Tamar is more righteous that he is, since he had planned to keep Shelah from marrying her.
Tamar gives birth to twins, Perez and Zerah. Perez is Jesus’ 35th Great Granddad.
Rahab (Joshua 2)
Years later, the children of Jacob have gone to Egypt, become slaves, liberated by Moses, walked in the desert for 40 years and now come to the edge of the land that God promised them. Joshua is leading the people, and he sends two spies to look over Jericho, which is the first city that they would attack. The scriptures tell us that they entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. The king heard that the spies were with Rahab, and ordered her to bring them out, but she lied and said that they had been there, but they left before the city gates were closed. She had really hid them in the thatch of the roof. After the soldiers left, she went to the spies and told them that she knew that God had given them this land, and she asked for herself and her family to be spared because of the kindness that she showed them. They agreed, and she helped them escape by a window in the city wall. When the attack came, and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, Rahab’s house was marked with a red thread on the window, and it remained standing. She and her family were safe. The writer to the hebrews says, “by faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” (Heb. 11:31)