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Tamar and Judah

Tamar, not to be confused with two other women of that name in Bible History, one a daughter of King David (2 Samuel 13:1), the other a granddaughter of King David through David's son Absalom (2 Samuel 14:27), was the daughter-in-law of the Israelite patriarch (see Children of Jacob) Judah (the term "jew" is derived from Judah's name). When Tamar's husband Er was put to death by The Lord because he was "wicked in the sight of The Lord" (Genesis 38:7 KJV), Tamar married another of Judah's sons, Onan. After he was also put to death by The Lord (Genesis 38:8-10) Judah promised another of his sons, Shelah, to Tamar in marriage. Shelah was however not yet an adult, and when Tamar realized that Judah didn't really want her to marry another of his sons, Tamar resorted to a risqué ruse that produced children for her through her father-in-law Judah.

Judah and Tamar

By that time, despite their age difference, both Tamar, a widow, and Judah, a widower, were unmarried so what occurred was not adultery. It wasn't entirely fornication either since Tamar was seeking to have children for her dead husband Er by means of the accepted custom of the time i.e. "Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother" (Genesis 38:8 KJV). When Onan refused to "raise up seed to thy brother," the reason that The Lord put him to death (Genesis 38:8-10), Tamar decided to have children for her dead husband Er through his father Judah. Tamar disguised herself as a harlot and enticed Judah to unwittingly become the father of her children. The later result of the incident was that Tamar gave birth to twin boys, Perez and Zerah. The entire story is found in Genesis chapter 38.

Tamar and Judah

"And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep. And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife. When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; for he knew not that she was his daughter in law."

"And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more."

"And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first. And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez. And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah." (Genesis 38:13-16,24-30 KJV)

Fact Finder: Judah and Tamar are recorded in the ancestry of Jesus Christ. From which of their sons is Jesus Christ descended, Pharez (also translated as Perez) or Zarah (also translated as Zerah)?
Matthew 1:3, Luke 3:33

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