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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.

7. And the Lord slew him. We know that long life is reckoned among the gifts of God; and justly: for since it is by no means a despicable honor that we are created after the image of God, the longer any one lives in the world, and daily experiences God’s care over him, it is certain that he is the more bountifully dealt with by the Lord. Even amidst the many miseries with which life is filled, this divine goodness still shines forth, that God invites us to himself, and exercises us in the knowledge of himself; while at the same time he adorns us with such dignity, that he subjects to our authority whatever is in the world. Wherefore it is no wonder that God, as an act of kindness, prolongs the life of man. Whence it follows, that when the wicked are taken away by a premature death, a punishment for their wickedness is inflicted upon them: for it is as if the Lord should pronounce judgment from heaven, that they are unworthy to be sustained by the earth, unworthy to enjoy the common light of heaven. Let us therefore learn, as long as God keeps us in the world, to meditate on his benefits, to the end that every one may the more cheerfully endeavor to give praise to God for the life received from him. And although, at the present day also, sudden death is to be reckoned among the scourges of God; since that doctrine is always true,

“Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days,”
(Psalm 55:23;)

yet God executed this judgment more fully under the law, when the knowledge of a future life was comparatively obscure; for now, since the resurrection is clearly manifested to us in Christ, it is not right that death should be so greatly dreaded. And this difference between us and the ancient people of God is elsewhere noted. Nevertheless, it can never be laid down as a general rule, that they who had a long life were thereby proved to be pleasing and acceptable to the Lord, whereas God has sometimes lengthened the life of reprobates, in aggravation of their punishment. We know that Cain survived his brother Abel many centuries. But as God does not always, and to all persons, cause his temporal benefits manifestly to flow in a perpetual and equable course; so neither, on the other hand, does he always execute temporal punishments by the same rule. It is enough that, as far as the present life is concerned, certain examples of punishments and rewards are set before us. Moreover, as the miseries of the present life, which spring from the corruption of nature, do not extinguish the first and special grace of God; so, on the other hand, death, which is in itself the curse of God, is so far from doing any injury, that it tends, by a supernatural remedy, to the salvation of the elect. Especially now, from the time that the first-fruits of the resurrection in Christ have been offered, the condition of those who are quickly taken out of life is in no way deteriorated; because Christ himself is gain both for life and death. But the vengeance of God was so clear and remarkable in the death of Er, that the earth might plainly appear to have been purged as from its filthiness.


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