Taking things into your own hands: Tamar

My son saw me doing a search on my computer for Tamar and asked me this question, “Why are you looking up about Tamar?” This is what I told him as I read to him from Genesis 38. Many people love reading the good stories, but the Bible also has a lot of wisdom in all of the stories. Sometimes the “bad” stories where people use lies and deceit are placed there as learning tools for those of us in the future. Take for example, Tamar.

Now the story starts out innocently enough. Judah, the brother of Joseph, left his brothers and moved off. He married a Canaanite woman, the daughter of Shua. She bore him 3 sons. The first born was Er, the second born was Onan, and the last son was Shelah. Now Er married a woman named Tamar. The Bible tells us in Genesis 38: 7, that Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord, so He put him to death. Tamar had no children and biblical law said that the brother of the deceaced needed to produce an offspring with his brother’s widow to carry on his brother’s name. Onan KNEW that these offspring would not be his, so when he lay with Tamar, he spilled his semen on the ground, so that she wouldn’t get pregnant! (Oh, yes, that was THIS Onan!) Well, Onan didn’t please God with this, so God struck him down, too.

Now, that left Judah in a predicament. He had one more son. Would God strike down this son, too, if he gave him to Tamar? So, Judah told Tamar to wait until Shelah was older and he would give Shelah to her to fulfill his brother’s duty. So Tamar goes back to her father’s tent to wait for that day.

The bible says that after a *considerable time”, Judah’s wife passes away, and after his time of mourning, he goes to Timnah to shear his sheep. WHen Tamar finds out that her father-in-law is headed to Timnah, she decides to take matters into her own hands. How much time was this *coinsiderable time*, I don’t know. Considerable makes it sound like she waited more than long enough for Shelah to grow up. So, does she go and confront her father in law? Nope, she decides to deceive him.

Tamar takes off her widow’s garments and dresses for a confrontation with her father in law…but veiled. She sits outside the gate at Enaim, which was on the road to Timnah. There she waited for Judah to pass by. Obviously she felt taken advantage of. Shelah was grown by now, and he wasn’t brought to her to make him her husband. Now, Judah saw her on his travel, he thought she was a prostitute. He wants to use her services, but she asks what he’ll give her for it. He offers a young goat from his flock. She wants collateral for it until the goat arrives, so she takes his seal, his cord and his staff as collateral until her returns with the goat. He agrees and consummates with her and she conceives. After he leaves, she puts back on her widow’s clothing and goes home.

Judah sends a servant back with the goat, but can’t find the prostitute, so he asks the locals about her. They tell him there is no prostitute that sits at the gate. He goes back to report this to Judah, who realizes he would be made a fool if he pursued his things back.

Three months later, Judah finds out that his daughter in law is pregnant. He wants her to be brought out to be punished for her sinful behavior. She sends a message to him…”I am with child by the man to whom these things belong.” (Gen. 38: 25) Judah recognizes his things. He realizes that he had not given his son, Shelah to be her husband. Tamar gives birth to twin boys, Perez and Zerah.

I asked my son, do you understand why I chose Tamar for this lesson? He nodded as I told him there was a lot to learn from Tamar, so that we don’t repeat it ourself. Who knows what would have happened to Tamar if she had waited on the Lord. Would He have still provided her offspring? Sure, he would. It was in his plan that the lineage of Jesus come through her and Judah. Like Sarai, she decided it just wasn’t happening fast enough. So, when Judah was at his lowest, mourning a dead wife and probably really in need of a release, there was Tamar to get her offspring. Could she have done this another way? Sure, there was always another way, but as we learned from the past, we don’t always wait on the Lord. I recently saw a sign on a church marquis that said, “Sin is man’s Declaration of Independence.” While this has been up on the marquis for this church for a long time, it holds some truth to it. We have been given our own free will, and we sure do like to use it for our own purpose, and it leads us to sin. Tamar and Judah were both guilty of sin here. They both made bad choices.

BUT our hope is in the Lord. He forgives all our bad choices. As one of my favorite songs goes “Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord.” (Everlasting God) It is hard to wait on the Lord, but God’s ways are the best ways. Do not let sin tempt you into getting what you believe is rightfully yours. God will provide all your needs according to his riches and glory. (Philippians 4:19)

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