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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.

1. And it came to pass at that time, that Judah. Before Moses proceeds in relating the history of Joseph, he inserts the genealogy of Judah, to which he devotes more labor, because the Redeemer was thence to derive his origin; for the continuous history of that tribe, from which salvation was to be bought, could not remain unknown, without loss. And yet its glorious nobility is not here celebrated, but the greatest disgrace of the family is exposed. What is here related, so far from inflating the minds of the sons of Judah, ought rather to cover them with shame. Now although, at first sight, the dignity of Christ seems to be somewhat tarnished by such dishonor: yet since here also is seen that “emptying” of which St. Paul speaks,138138     Philippians 2:7 “But made himself of no reputation,” literally, “emptied himself, ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε.” — Ed it rather redounds to his glory, than, in the least degree, detracts from it. First, we wrong Christ, unless we deem him alone sufficient to blot out any ignominy arising from the misconduct of his progenitors, which offer to unbelievers occasion of offense. Secondly, we know that the riches of God’s grace shines chiefly in this, that Christ clothed himself in our flesh, with the design of making himself of no reputation. Lastly, it was fitting that the race from which he sprang should be dishonored by reproaches, that we, being content with him alone, might seek nothing besides him; yea, that we might not seek earthly splendor in him, seeing that carnal ambition is always too much inclined to such a course. These two things, then, we may notice; first, that peculiar honor was given to the tribe of Judah, which had been divinely elected as the source whence the salvation of the world should flow; and secondly, that the narration of Moses is by no means honorable to the persons of whom he speaks; so that the Jews have no right to arrogate anything to themselves or to their fathers. Meanwhile, let us remember that Christ derives no glory from his ancestors; and even, that he himself has no glory in the flesh, but that his chief and most illustrious triumph was on the cross. Moreover, that we may not be offended at the stains with which his ancestry was defiled, let us know that, by his infinite purity, they were all cleansed; just as the sun, by absorbing whatever impurities are in the earth and air, purges the world.

2. And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite. I am not satisfied with the interpretation which some give of “merchant” to the word Canaanite. For Moses charges Judah with perverse lust, because he took a wife out of that nation with which the children of Abraham were divinely commanded to be at perpetual strife. For neither he nor his other brethren were ignorant that they sojourned in the land of Canaan, under the stipulation, that afterwards their enemies were to be cut off and destroyed, in order that they might possess the promised dominion over it. Moses, therefore, justly regards it as a fault, that Judah should entangle himself in a forbidden alliance; and the Lord, at length, cursed the offspring thus accruing to Judah, that the prince and head of the tribe of Judah might not be born, nor Christ himself descend, from this connection. This also ought to be numbered among the exercises of Jacob’s patience, that a wicked grandson was born to him through Judah, of whose sin he was not ignorant. Moses says, that the youth was cut off by the vengeance of God. The same thing is not said of others whom a sudden death has swept away in the flower of their age. I doubt not, therefore, that the wickedness, of which death was the immediate punishment, was extraordinary, and known to all men. And although this trial was in itself severe to the holy patriarch; yet nothing tormented his mind more than the thought, that he could scarcely hope for the promise of God to be so ratified that the inheritance of grace should remain in the possession of wicked and abandoned men. It is true that a large family of children is regarded as a source of human happiness. But this was the peculiar condition of the holy patriarch, that, though God had promised him an elect and blessed seed, he now sees an accursed progeny increase and shoot forth together with his offspring, which might destroy the expected grace. It is said, that Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord, (Genesis 38:7.) Notwithstanding, his iniquity was not hidden from men. Moses, however, means that he was not merely infected with common vices, but rather was so addicted to crimes, that he was intolerable in the sight of God.

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