Judah and Tamar
Genesis 38 tells the story of how Judah, one the twelve sons of Jacob, is deceived by his daughter-in law Tamar. Throughout the text, many themes are present including deceit, prostitution, anxiety, importance of law, and honor. This essay will analyze how the characters, their actions, and Judah’s pronouncement in Genesis 38:26 demonstrate these themes. The story begins with Judah marrying a Canaanite woman Shua. Judah and Shua had three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah, respectively. Judah took Tamar to be a wife for his first son, Er (Gen 38:6). Er dies after he marries Tamar because he is wicked. This probably meant that Er had committed wrongdoing and was evil otherwise God would have let Er live. After Er’s death Judah commanded Onan to take care of Tamar and giver her children. Onan did not want to have children with Tamar because he knew the children would not be his so he would spill his semen on the ground (Gen 38:8-9). God did not like this form of birth control so he killed Onan. After losing two sons Judah became very anxious, he did not want to command Shelah to take Tamar because he feared Shelah’s death. Judah asks Tamar to return home to her father until Shelah was of age because his fear was so great. After some time, Tamar receives word that Judah is coming to Timnah, which is a village close to her home. She decides to take off her widow garments, put on a veil (Gen 38:14), and go to the road that leads to Timnah. As Judah was traveling this road he came across what he thought was a prostitute but it was actually Tamar. Judah promises Tamar a goat but she insisted a pledge, his signet, cord, and staff (Gen 38:18). These were symbols of power. Judah and Tamar conceive. Tamar has become deceitful and Judah has been deceived but he does not know this until he tries to deliver the goat to the “prostitute.” Three months later Judah discovers that Tamar was a “whore” and has become impregnated as a result (Gen 38:24). He brings Tamar in...
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