Chapter 21 – Tamar
There’s more than one woman named Tamar in the Bible. I want to look at the one whose story is told in Genesis, chapter 38. Her story is scandalous by our standards but strangely lawful in Old Testament times.
She was married off to the Er, the oldest son of Judah (one of the 12 sons of Jacob), but Er was wicked in God’s sight and God slew him. According to the law, if a man died leaving a widow without a son to carry on the line then his brother was to marry her and produce an heir. This was not incest, and the relationship was only to produce an heir; thereafter the brother would no longer have sex with her or else that would indeed be considered incestuous. Therefore Tamar was given to Judah’s second son, Oman. Apparently Oman enjoyed Tamar so much that he didn't want her to get pregnant and thus lose bedroom privileges. His responsibility was to produce a child, but he practiced a certain form of birth control (see Genesis 38:9) which in this case angered the Lord. God slew him for his wickedness.
Judah had one more son. He sent Tamar back to her father’s house to stay until son number three, Shelah, was old enough.
She waited and waited. When Judah did not honor his promise to marry her to Shelah, she took matters into her own hands. According to the law she needed to have a child through Judah’s line. If there were no more sons, then the father-in-law himself should perform the “duty”. She knew this. She covered her face, sat at the side of the road (where widows and virgins wouldn't be hanging out) and waited for Judah to pass by. With her face veiled she was unrecognizable to her father-in-law. He propositioned her and she took advantage. He slept with her, but, oops, he left his wallet at home. She took his ring, bracelets, and staff as pledge against payment.
There’s more to the story (and it’s fascinating), but the end result of Tamar’s deception was that she conceived, as she was meant to, to produce a son for Judah in the line that flowed from Abraham to David to Jesus Christ.
Next Saturday – Zeruiah