1-2 Judah Departs from His Brothers 3-11 Judah, His Sons and Tamar 12-19 Judah Commits Fornication with Tamar 20-23 The ‘Payment’ of Judah 24-26 The Sin of Judah Discovered 27-30 Perez and Zera Born
Judah Departs from His Brothers

1And it came about at that time, that Judah departed from his brothers and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. 2Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in to her.

Joseph’s history is interrupted by what happens to Judah. Besides many practical lessons, this history has a prophetic application. Joseph is a picture of the Lord Jesus. In the previous chapter he is rejected by his brothers and sold to Egypt. In the next chapter his history in Egypt continues.

This chapter prophetically represents the present time, the time since the Lord Jesus is rejected. The Lord Jesus was rejected by His brothers, the people of Israel, who were mainly Jews, Judeans, names derived from Judah. Judah is seen here separated from his brothers, the other tribes. Israel has rejected its Messiah and then committed fornication with the world. This we see in the connection of Judah with the daughter of the Canaanite Shua. In the history here we see in Judah a people who have strayed from God.

Judah’s history contrasts sharply with that of Joseph. Joseph refuses to sin and walks in purity (Psa 119:99How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping [it] according to Your word.
). Judah is a man who does not control his lusts, but is guided by them. The deep destruction of human nature is shown unabashedly by the Holy Spirit in this history. It is a chapter full of sins. It is as if here the background is made clear for the necessity of the death of the Lord Jesus, so that fortunately today, in the time of grace, every sin can be forgiven (Mt 12:31a31“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.).

When someone leaves the company to which God connects His presence and blessing, he can only follow a way full of misery. There is no longer looking at the Lord, but at what is in sight. Judah is led by his eyes. He “saw” (verse 22Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in to her.) and marries a Canaanite woman. That is what Abraham has forbidden his servant in the case of his son (Gen 24:33and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live,).

Judah, His Sons and Tamar

3So she conceived and bore a son and he named him Er. 4Then she conceived again and bore a son and named him Onan. 5She bore still another son and named him Shelah; and it was at Chezib that she bore him. 6Now Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name [was] Tamar. 7But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD took his life. 8Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” 9Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. 10But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also. 11Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up”; for he thought, “[I am afraid] that he too may die like his brothers.” So Tamar went and lived in her father’s house.

From the corrupt connection Judah has entered into, only corruption can arise. Er, his firstborn son, is killed by the LORD. The reason given is that he is evil in the sight of the LORD. The exact action of his wickedness is not mentioned. In any case it is so evil that the LORD kills him. God rules and punishes all evil.

Onan is also killed by the LORD. He does not do this because of the alleged self-gratification of Onan – self-gratification is wrongly also called ‘onanism’, after Onan. [Read more in ‘Sexuality, a gift from God’ on, other articles, English flag.] With Onan it is not about self-gratification, but about refusing to conceive offspring for his brother, because this would not be accounted to him. This custom, that the brother marries the widow to raise up offspring for his deceased brother, is later made law (Deu 25:55“When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be [married] outside [the family] to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.).

Judah promises Tamar that she will be allowed to marry his youngest son – when he has arrived at a marriageable age – to have offspring. He does not fulfil this promise for selfish reasons (verse 1111Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up”; for he thought, “[I am afraid] that he too may die like his brothers.” So Tamar went and lived in her father’s house.).

Judah Commits Fornication with Tamar

12Now after a considerable time Shua’s daughter, the wife of Judah, died; and when the time of mourning was ended, Judah went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13It was told to Tamar, “Behold, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14So she removed her widow’s garments and covered [herself] with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in the gateway of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah had grown up, and she had not been given to him as a wife. 15When Judah saw her, he thought she [was] a harlot, for she had covered her face. 16So he turned aside to her by the road, and said, “Here now, let me come in to you”; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. And she said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17He said, therefore, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” She said, moreover, “Will you give a pledge until you send [it]?” 18He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” And she said, “Your seal and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave [them] to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19Then she arose and departed, and removed her veil and put on her widow’s garments.

When Tamar sees that Judah is not keeping his promise, she resorts to a low trick: she will act as a harlot. She sees in the shearing of the sheep the opportunity to seduce Judah. Sheepshearing is always accompanied by celebration and frivolity.

Tamar’s sin cannot be justified. She demands her right and sees no other way to do so than the way of fornication. However reprehensible the way is that Tamar goes, Judah is the one who, as the Scriptures call it, is the stumbling block to her, bringing her to this fall into sin. Tamar knows Judah. She knows that he will not refuse a woman who offers herself. It marks the low moral status of Judah. We can ask ourselves a personal question: How am I known? Judah is deceived by his daughter-in-law, dressed as a harlot, just as he had deceived his father with a tunic, Joseph’s tunic (Gen 37:31-3231So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic in the blood;32and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, “We found this; please examine [it] to [see] whether it is your son’s tunic or not.”).

Judah’s sin begins with the eye, he sees her. He has a heart and eyes full of adultery (2Pet 2:1414having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children;). When Judah wants to go in to her, she asks what he wants to pay for her ‘service’. His answer is that he will send her a young goat. She then asks him for a pledge, so that she can be sure that he will keep his promise. When asked what she wants as a pledge, she says she wants his seal and his cord, and his staff.

These things represent symbolically what someone spiritually loses when he goes into sin. His seal is a picture of fidelity and property (printing your seal on something): he throws it away. His cord (or: line) stands for an inheritance (Psa 16:66The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
): he loses the enjoyment of his inheritance. His staff is a picture of what supports him: he also surrenders it to an unknown woman. Judah relinquishes everything: his fidelity, what is his own, his personality, his habitat, his world, and finally that which gives him strength to walk.

Tamar knows not only Judah’s infidelity, but also his insincerity. He cannot be trusted on his word. That’s why she asks for a pledge. Unfaithfulness in the home and unfaithfulness in other relationships (e.g. business) go hand in hand.

The ‘Payment’ of Judah

20When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite, to receive the pledge from the woman’s hand, he did not find her. 21He asked the men of her place, saying, “Where is the temple prostitute who was by the road at Enaim?” But they said, “There has been no temple prostitute here.” 22So he returned to Judah, and said, “I did not find her; and furthermore, the men of the place said, ‘There has been no temple prostitute here.’” 23Then Judah said, “Let her keep them, otherwise we will become a laughingstock. After all, I sent this young goat, but you did not find her.”

The kind of friendship Judah has with the Adullamite is that of sinners among themselves. This friendship consists of supporting and covering of sin. A true friend points out the wrong to his friend and will try to prevent evil or, if evil has already happened, help his friend to confess his sin.

When his friend returns without being successful, Judah no longer cares about the loss of his belongings. To continue to solve the matter means that he is ridiculing himself. He does not want to suffer this loss of face. He has done his best to keep his appointment. Thus he speaks to keep his conscience clean, but he does not take into account God Who in His time will confront him with his sin.

The Sin of Judah Discovered

24Now it was about three months later that Judah was informed, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot, and behold, she is also with child by harlotry.” Then Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!” 25It was while she was being brought out that she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “I am with child by the man to whom these things belong.” And she said, “Please examine and see, whose signet ring and cords and staff are these?” 26Judah recognized [them], and said, “She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not have relations with her again.

When Judah hears of his daughter-in-law’s pregnancy, he passes a harsh judgement on her. That judgment also suits him, because then he certainly doesn’t have to give her to his son Shelah anymore. People who commit a serious sin with ease and without regret, are often very strict in judging the sins of others. By so doing, however, they condemn themselves (Rom 2:11Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.).

All the sins that are done in secret will one day be revealed. One day everything will come to light. That is when the Lord Jesus will reign. Here Judah is confronted with his sin in a way that makes it impossible to deny it. He acknowledges his sin and states that Tamar is in her right. He also acknowledges that his sin came from another sin, namely withholding his son Shelah from Tamar. If sin persists, it paves the way for even more sins. That Judah’s confession is real, he shows by having no relations with Tamar again.

Perez and Zera Born

27It came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb. 28Moreover, it took place while she was giving birth, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet [thread] on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29But it came about as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out. Then she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” So he was named Perez. 30Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet [thread] on his hand; and he was named Zerah.

The grace of God triumphs and rises above the sin of Judah and also above Tamar, who is descended from the cursed race of the Canaanites and is also guilty of harlotry. Judah becomes the ancestor of the Messiah. Tamar and the sons Perez and Zerah, who were born from the fornication between her and Judah, are mentioned in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus, whereby Perez comes into the genealogy of the Lord Jesus (Mt 1:33Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.).

Read more