Friday, October 2, 2015

Women in the Life of Jesus: Tamar

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.  Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. -Matthew 1:1-3

Scriptures where she can be found:  Genesis 38:6-30, Ruth 4:12, Matthew 1:3, 1 Chronicles 2:3-6

Her story:

It came to pass at that time that Judah departed from his brothers, and visited a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah.  And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua, and he married her and went in to her. So she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er.  She conceived again and bore a son, and she called his name Onan.  And she conceived yet again and bore a son, and called his name Shelah. He was at Chezib when she bore him.

Then Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar.  But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord killed him. And Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother.”  But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother.  And the thing which he did displeased the Lord; therefore He killed him also.

Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house till my son Shelah is grown.” For he said, “Lest he also die like his brothers.” And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.

Now in the process of time the daughter of Shua, Judah’s wife, died; and Judah was comforted, and went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. And it was told Tamar, saying, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.”  

So she took off her widow’s garments, covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given to him as a wife.  When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face.  Then he turned to her by the way, and said, “Please let me come in to you”; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law.

So she said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?”
 And he said, “I will send a young goat from the flock.”
So she said, “Will you give me a pledge till you send it?”
 Then he said, “What pledge shall I give you?”
So she said, “Your signet and cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” Then he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him.  So she arose and went away, and laid aside her veil and put on the garments of her widowhood.
 And Judah sent the young goat by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand, but he did not find her.  Then he asked the men of that place, saying, “Where is the harlot who was openly by the roadside?”
And they said, “There was no harlot in this place.”
 So he returned to Judah and said, “I cannot find her. Also, the men of the place said there was no harlot in this place.”
 Then Judah said, “Let her take them for herself, lest we be shamed; for I sent this young goat and you have not found her.”
 And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry.”
So Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!”
 When she was brought out, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “By the man to whom these belong, I am with child.” And she said, “Please determine whose these are—the signet and cord, and staff.”
So Judah acknowledged them and said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And he never knew her again.
 Now it came to pass, at the time for giving birth, that behold, twins were in her womb.  And so it was, when she was giving birth, that the one put out his hand; and the midwife took a scarlet thread and bound it on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.”  Then it happened, as he drew back his hand, that his brother came out unexpectedly; and she said, “How did you break through?This breach be upon you!” Therefore his name was called Perez.  Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand. And his name was called Zerah.

My thoughts:

I love her name.  It means "palm tree."  Palm trees are tall and beautiful.

One thing that always struck me as odd about her story was the placement. We are reading about Joseph in the book of Genesis, and then there is one chapter stuck in between Joseph's story about Judah and Tamar. 

For a long time, my opinion of Tamar was negative.  I thought she had acted like a prostitute, but the Bible says Judah "thought she was a harlot." That was his assumption. (*Note: Since I first wrote this, I have come to look at this a little differently.  You can read and see what you think for yourself. My thoughts now are what if she did pretend to be a prostitute? God still has the ability to work through our mistakes and shortcomings.)

She was given in an arranged marriage to a wicked man.  He died. And then she was given to another wicked brother.

Then her father-in-law sends her back to live in her father's home as a widow.  At this point, I would have been like, "Thank you.  No man for me."

Judah was supposed to give her his third son, but he didn't.  Why?  Because he was afraid of Tamar.  He thought it was her.  He couldn't see that his own sons were wicked.

Tamar, instead of going with my choice, decided to take matters into her own hands.  So, she disguised herself, and pursued Judah. 

I read somewhere that if the sons were unable to fulfill this obligation, that the father-in-law could as well.  Tamar must have known this, and since Judah's wife had passed, she felt like it was time.

Judah thinks the worst of her when it is reported to him that she is with child.  But she was smart, and got proof for herself.

Later on in the passage, Judah sees his error and says her actions were more "righteous" than his.  

Tamar could have done things a lot differently.  But she didn't.

She did the right thing, even though Judah wouldn't.  

And God blessed her, and technically Judah too. Tamar gave birth to two sons, twins, and was listed in the lineage of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1.

One last thing.  When Zerah was being born, he started to come out first. The midwife tied a scarlet thread onto his wrist, so she would know who was born first.  The scarlet thread runs through everything and points to Jesus.

But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.-Revelation 5:5 (NKJV)

To read more posts in this series, go here to Women in the Life of Jesus.


  1. Thank you for doing this series this month. I have never really taken the time to examine the women in Jesus' lineage and I'm excited to begin doing so while reading your blog this month!

    1. You are welcome Marla! I am glad you are excited! I am looking forward to spending some time with them too!