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38. Judah and Tamar

And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. 2And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her. 3And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er. 4And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan. 5And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him. 6And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. 7And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him. 8And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. 9And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. 10And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also. 11Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.

12And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep. 14And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife. 15When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. 16And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? 17And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it? 18And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him. 19And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood. 20And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not. 21Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place. 22And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place. 23And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.

24And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. 25When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. 26And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.

27And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. 28And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first. 29And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez. 30And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.

14. And sat in an open place140140     Mansitque in ostio Henaim, “in the door of eyes, or Enajim.” — Margin of English Version. — Ed. Interpreters expound this passage variously. Literally, it is “in the door of fountains, or of eyes.” Some suppose there was a fountain which branched into two streams; others think that a broad place is indicated, in which the eyes may look around in all directions. But a third exposition is more worthy of reception; namely, that by this expression is meant a way which is forked and divided into two; because then, as it were, a door is opened before the eyes, that they which are really in one way may diverge in two directions. Probably it was a place whence Tamer might be seen, to which some by-way was near, where Judah might turn, so that he should not be guilty of fornication, in a public way, under the eyes of all. When it is said she veiled her face, we hence infer that the license of fornication was not so unbridled as that which, at this day, prevails in many places. For she dressed herself after the manner of harlots, that Judah might suspect nothing. And the Lord has caused this sense of shame to remain engraved on the hearts of those who live wickedly, that they may be witnesses to themselves of their own vileness. For if men could wash out the stains from their sins, we know that they would do so most willingly. Whence it follows, that while they flee from the light, they are affected with horror against their will, that their conscience may anticipate the judgment of God. By degrees, indeed, the greater part have so far exceeded all measure in stupor and impudence, that they are less careful to hide their faults; yet God has never suffered the sense of nature to be so entirely extinguished, by the brutal intemperance of those who desire to sin with impunity, but that their own obscenity shall compel even the most wicked to be ashamed.141141     The following sentence is omitted in the translation. “Putida igitur fuit Cynici illius protervia, qui in flagitio deprehensus, sine rubore jactavit se plantare hominem.” Base was therefore the impudence of that cynic philosopher, who, being catched in vice, boasted of planting a person. In short, the veil of Tamer shows that fornication was not only a base and filthy thing in the sight of God and the angels; but that it has always been condemned, even by those who have practiced it.


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