Days of Our Lives, General Hospital, The Young and The Restless, nor Hollywood can hold a candle to the drama, suspense and scandals, found in the pages of The Bible! This week’s story of Tamar is no exception!
We need to begin with a disclaimer! So…be warned – Tamar had some drama in her life!
The scene opens with Tamar weeping over the death of her husband.
But Er, Judah’s first-born, was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD took his life. Genesis 38:7
Next enters Tamar’s brother-in-law, Onan.
“Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” Genesis 38:8
This is when the plot begins to turn…(IF this were a made-for-TV movie, the orchestra would begin playing long, suspenseful cords to build drama!)
Tradition of the time requires that the next of kin care for a brother’s widow.
And Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so it came about that when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground, in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also. Genesis 38:9
Judah surely pondered…what is this woman doing to my sons? He determined that son number three was too young and sends Tamar back to her folks until Shelah grows up.
(Cut to commercial.)
The scene picks up with the subtitle “A few years later.” We find Judah and the now grown Shelah traveling to sheer the sheep. Tamar hears the news and begins scheming to get what is due her. She removes her mourning clothes and puts on those of a prostitute.
(Suspenseful music quietly playing in the background.)
Tamar makes her way out to the road and just as she suspected…Judah comes along and propositions her. (Can you feel the plot thicken?) Judah negotiates the common payment of a young goat. From behind her veil, she asks for something to keep until she received payment? After all, not much could be done to force the “client” to pay after the fact.
(Long crescendo inserted here.)
In truth, Tamar had no interest in payment. She wanted only to become pregnant by Judah to carry on her husband’s name. (Remember I mentioned the customs of her time? This was common practice if there were no brothers and Judah had withheld Shelah.) Judah suggests she keep his personally designed seal, cord and staff.
(The plot thickens yet again!)
They complete their business and depart ways. As promised Judah sends his servant with payment to retrieve his belongings. With no luck, the servant even inquires about the temple prostitute only to discover that no such woman exists. For fear of being the laughingstock, Judah says, “Let it go.”
(Cut to another commercial.)
Subtitle “A few months later” The scene picks up with Tamar at her parents home, back in her mourning cloths, sporting a baby bump. Tamar is pregnant. The camera’s eye cuts to a trusted group revealing to Judah his daughter-in-law’s pregnancy. “Bring her out and let her be burned!”
(The music builds.)
They come for Tamar but she remains quite calm. She simply states….
“I am with child by the man to whom these things belong.” Genesis 38:25
(Complete silence abruptly falls.)
Judah was the guilty party. He recognizes his belongings and confesses,
“She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” Genesis 38:26
(And the curtain falls.)
I told you we needed a disclaimer!
Why are these unpleasant stories included in Scripture, and why are the people involved—people who hurt others, even their own family members—granted the privilege of being included in the Messianic line?
Simply…God’s purpose is accomplished despite man’s unrighteousness. Who of us would want to believe that God’s purposes were contingent upon our commitment and consistency? Nothing could be further from the truth than thinking that God is somehow limited by our sinfulness.
Righteousness comes only from God through faith.
And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, Romans 8:28