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  • Writer's picturePatricia

Tamar, The Deceiving Widow

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

Word of the Day: Deceive

To cause to believe what is not true: mislead

Tamar was the wife of Er his name meant "the watcher." Er was the firstborn son of Judah, the son of Abraham. Judah's bride was a Canaanite from the town of Adullamite. Er's name was given to him by his father, and the names of his two other siblings, Onan and Shelah, were given by his mother. That indicated that this woman, the Canaanite was in charge of the house and the boys.

Genesis 38:1-5

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.

2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.

3 And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.

4 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.

5 And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.

The time for Judah to find a wife for Er had come, and Tamar was the lady chosen to become his wife, another Canaanite. Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord killed him. The Bible does not give us details on what type of sins were committed by Er; all we know is that a Canaanite mother raised him, and Judah was the father who never taught his boys the Word of God.

Genesis 38:6-7

And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.

7 And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him.

Judah decides to give his second son Onan to Tamar as her husband. Er left no heir, so according to the levirate marriage, Onan had to marry the childless widow to produce a son for Er. Onan was no different than Er; he was also wicked and had no intention of cooperating with his father's wishes. Onan did not want to raise an heir for his brother and spilled the seed on the ground. The Lord was not pleased with his action and killed him.

Deuteronomy 25:5-10

If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her.

6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.

7 And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother.

8 Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;

9 Then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house.

10 And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.

Genesis 38:8-10

And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

9 And 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.

10 And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also.

Judah puts the blame on Tamar for the death of his two sons instead of focusing the blame on him for not teaching them well. He tells Tamar to remain at her father's house and tells her to wait for Shelah to grow up as a man, and this becomes a promise to Tamar. Judah's wife died during this process, and he mourned his wife profoundly and found comfort in his friend Adullamite and not in God. Once again, Judad did not take refuge in God to find healing for his hurting soul.

Genesis 38:11-12

Then 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.

12 And 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.

Tamar deceives Judah, and she is told that her father-in-law was in Timnath to shear his sheep. She removes her widow garment, puts on a veil, and wraps herself around it, and this is when she notices Shelah has grown up and has not been offered to her as a husband. Judah did not keep his promise and was not interested and giving his only son to Tamar. Although this woman was a pagan woman, she remained obedient to God's law by staying a widow for many years.

Genesis 38:13-14

And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep.

14 And 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.

Once Judah saw her, he saw her as a harlot, for he did not recognize her as she had covered her head. Judah, a man with low morals, proposes to come unto her, and she asks him: "what wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? She demanded security as a form of payment, and that payment became his signet, his bracelet, and his staff. The signet was his ring to impress clay tables, something very personal. His bracelet was of great value, and it represented his possession. The staff marked the animals he had, which meant his position. All three items described him and gave them all in exchange for having a good time. After this incident, Tamar becomes pregnant.

Genesis 38:15-18

When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.

16 And 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?

17 And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?

18 And 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.

She puts back her widow's garments; Judad wants his items back because he is afraid of getting a bad reputation, but Tamar is nowhere to be found; there is no harlot in that place. All this time, he never thought of himself as wicked towards God. He had already custom himself to his way of living; he married a Canaanite woman, which had become routine.

Genesis 38:19-23

And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.

20 And 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.

21 Then 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.

22 And 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.

23 And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.

Three months later, Judah finds out that Tamar is pregnant, and Judah says: "Bring her forth, and let her be burnt". Tamar was probably brought to the town square as this was the place for adulters to get burnt. Here is where she confessed to having deceived him and brought forward the signet, the bracelet, and the staff to prove that Judah was the father of her child. Judah acknowledges that she was more righteous than he was and never again came unto her.

Genesis 38:24-26

And 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.

25 When 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.

26 And 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.

Tamar was pregnant with twins, and there was a struggle during her delivery. When one of the children reached out to be born (Zerah), the midwife took a scarlet thread around her hand to mark him as the firstborn but was pulled by Pharez, who became the firstborn. The midwife was amazed because she had never seen this fight before during birth, and we get to see, in this case, the birthright was given to Pharez and not Zerah. The scarlet thread represented the symbol of salvation, and Pharez, the unusual child forgotten by his father, would bring the lineage to Christ our Savior.

Genesis 38:27-30

And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb.

28 And 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.

29 And 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.

30 And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.

Conclusion: In this story, the Lord teaches us that He is faithful and will accomplish what He has already promised. Judah and Tamar found grace in His eyes, and although they did not deserve it, this act proves that His mercy and love are more significant than our thoughts.

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