Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household. Genesis 38:11
Tamar learned a painful lesson not once but twice. To ensure it didn’t happen a third time she devised a plan that would seal her fate by securing her future or her death.
Tamar married into the family of Judah by marrying his oldest son, Er. Like all Jewish women she longed for children but Er did not share her hopes. He dies and she was left without child. But this was not the end for Tamar and her hopes of a family.
According to the religious customs of their time, if a man died childless, his widow could marry the dead man’s brother and any children conceived would be considered the rightful heir to the dead man’s inheritance.
Judah had a second son, Onan who agreed to marry Tamar. But he only used her for his pleasure and his own greed. He knew if a child was conceived his inheritance would be less. He dies and she is again left without child.
There was a third son, Shelah. Out of fear, Judah told Tamar to go home to her family and live as a widow until Shelah grows up. He was not willing to risk the death of his third son or himself for that matter. According to Middle Assyrian law Judah could have taken over the duty of being the surrogate father in place of his son but he felt in some way she was responsible for the death of his sons.
Tamar returned home to live as a widow and remain pure until Shelah reaches the age of consent. Time passes and she realizes the union between her and Shelah would not take place. Judah had lied to her, tricked her, and deceived her.
Tamar had been tricked and deceived for a third time, this time by Judah. To secure her future in the family she turned the tables and tricked him into sleeping with her. Disguised as a prostitute he took the bait. She conceived.
Judah learned of Tamar’s pregnancy and pronounced her condemned to burn to death. She sent a message to her father-in-law;
“the man who owns these things made me pregnant.” Genesis 38:25
Judah recognized the cord, seal and staff as his own. He was the father of Tamar’s unborn child.
Tamar deceived and tricked her father-in-law into getting what she wanted- children and a secure future.
In some ways I think we can all relate to Tamar. I’m sure we all can think back to a time when we were lied to by someone we knew and trusted; someone we thought had our back.
Tamar’s actions were not that of a righteous woman but of a desperate woman. She was wrong but her sons’ didn’t the pay the price for her wrongdoing. God still used them in the lineage of Jesus Christ. Tamar’s story is a great example of how