One short chapter tells Tamar’s bizarre story.
Tamar’s husband, Er, was the son of Judah. He was a man so awful that God did away with him. Likewise, his brother Onan who was supposed to give Tamar a child in his brother’s place. He did not want to give her a child for selfish reasons. I read that the firstborn’s heir would receive a double portion. Having a child—a son—provided for the widow, as women didn’t have many rights or avenues to care for their own financial needs at this time, so Onan was sleeping with her but refusing to provide for her. God got rid of him too.
Judah had one son left, and he didn’t want to take any chances on letting Tamar around this one, lest he lose him too. So he’s blaming Tamar instead of his wicked sons? What had happened to turn these early descendants of Abraham so evil already? Likely, the pagan culture nearby. God had warned them about hanging out with the Canaanites who practiced idolatry and the abhorrent practices that went along with their worship.
Judah sends Tamar home to her father’s house to wait until his son is old enough to provide a child. So for years, she’s dressed as a widow, unable to remarry—a childless woman with nothing.
Tamar takes matters into her own hands when she realizes that Judah is going to ignore his duty. Here we go again. We women do tend to go this way, don’t we? She might have asked God to intervene somehow, but instead, she dressed as a prostitute, face covered, and waited for Judah to pass. Her father-in-law was widowed, so he took the bait, leaving his calling cards—his seal, cord and staff—as a promise to send her back a kid (a goat). I had to laugh at the wording in English of the bargain, since he’s offering a kid goat, rather an actual kid son.
Ironically, when he hears Tamar is pregnant, having prostituted herself, he thinks she should be killed. Burned even. Double standard, for sure. Then she nails him with the truth. He was the man she’d been with. The child inside her was his. He finally admits he was the one in the wrong.
Wow, this is a gross story to me. How about you?
Yet, God doesn’t shy away from the nitty gritty of real life in his Word, making it much more believable. The Bible is not a fairytale. This is a story of a woman being done wrong and an early quest for social justice. Tamar ends up having twins, and this woman is also in the lineage of Jesus.
France Rivers has a wonderful historical fiction series about the women in Christ’s ancestry if you’re interested in reading more and putting yourselves in their place. Of course, I love reading biblical fiction and that may not be your thing.
What are your thoughts on this weird story?
I love hearing your take!
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Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson