Chapter 38 seems to be a random change of subject. But of course, nothing is in scripture by random; everything means something.
The story of Joseph is important because of God's bigger picture. We see the nation of Israel take form and grow while enslaved in Egypt, and we see their ultimate deliverance from Egypt, which is a metaphor from sin. We need to know how they got there. So while Joseph's life is in many ways a foreshadow of the Messiah, he is not in the line of the Messiah.
The lineage of the Seed who would deliver Israel (and the world) is a key biblical doctrine; so God inserts this account of the Messianic line right into the middle of the Joseph story.
And oddly enough, there is a bit of a parallel to the Joseph story, in which God took an evil situation and used it for good.
The story of Judah and Tamar is completely countercultural to us. Some strange stuff is about to go down.
The first thing I want to note is that Tamar is the first of five women listed in the genealogy of Yeshua in Matthew chapter 1. Each of these five women mentioned there - Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary - have a unique and unusual role to play in the Messiah's lineage.
|The Women of Matthew 1|
Chapter 38 opens with Judah departing from his brothers. We read that he goes to hang out with his pagan friend Hirah the Adullamite. A total pagan.
Judah is probably fleeing from his father's great sorrow over Joseph's disappearance. Can you say guilty conscience? His life seems to be taking a downward spiral as he leaves his family behind and takes up residence with the Canaanites.
Hirah the Adullamite isn't a great influence on Judah. Through that friendship, Judah marries a Canaanite woman, whose name we are not told. This woman produces three sons for Judah - Er, Onan, and Shelah.
But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him.
And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also.
Psalm 69:28 says, May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous.
And in Exodus 32:32-22, after the golden calf episode, we read, But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.
The term book of life also appears in the New Testament - once in Philippians and seven times in Revelation.
God has placed this desire for eternal things into us, as Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us. We humans have an innate desire for significance, to be remembered, to make a name for ourselves. It is why we name hospital wings after donors, and why we build towers to the heavens (Genesis 11:4), and why we cheer for the hometown sports teams. And I confess: I made a donation to a certain museum once so that I could have my name written in Jerusalem.
In the Bible, a person's name and lineage is important. Perhaps Tamar acts as she does because she knows this. Perhaps Tamar also knows about God's promise of a Redeemer that was to come from the family of Jacob.
Well, Judah's two older boys are dead, and he is probably thinking that Tamar is some kind of black widow spider. Judah sends Tamar back to her father's house in humiliation, promising his younger son to her when he gets old enough.
But alas, the son gets old enough, Judah's wife dies, and Judah does not make good on his promise to Tamar.
Once again, he teams up with his Adullamite friend and goes off to Timnah to shear sheep. And Tamar hears about it. She takes action that to us seems bizarre.
More deception in the family of the deceiver.
Tamar dresses like a temple prostitute and lures Judah into an encounter. He names a price - a goat - which he doesn't happen to have on him. Somehow she convinces him to give her some very important items as a deposit - his signet which hung by a cord, and his staff. The signet is something by which Judah would have left his signature on something. The staff is a symbol of Judah's authority and would have been carved specifically for him. It would be the equivalent of giving Tamar his driver's license and social security card.
How strange that Judah is so easily talked out of these important items.
|Tamar takes action|
So Judah acknowledged them and said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And he never knew her again.
They will break out,
Pass through the gate,
And go out by it;
Their king will pass before them,
With the LORD at their head.”
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.
|Waiting for Messiah's glorious kingdom!|
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