This is a most solemn chapter revealing the “depravity of man,” but we shall also consider the “grace of God” as well. I often tell people that God is faithful to “tell it like it is” when it comes to the sinfulness of man. You can be sure if men had written the Word of God, they would have “told a different story.” This is too long to quote, so we will look at some “snapshots” of this sordid tale.

1) Judah marries a Canaanite woman (verses 1-5). Verse 2 says, “And Judah saw there (in Adullam) a certain Canaanite woman whose name was Shua, and he married her and went in to her” (NKJV). Here is the FIRST STEP in Judah’s sad story of sin and failure, for a Jew was NOT to marry a Gentile. In verses 3-5 we see that Shua bore him 3 sons….Er, Onan, and Shelah.

2) Judah makes a (false) promise to his daughter-in-law (verses 6-11). We learn in verses 6-7 that “Judah took a wife for Er…and her name was Tamar…but Er…was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him.” When death came into a Jewish family the custom was for a living brother to marry his brother’s widow but Onan refused and because of this God killed him too (verses 8-10). Judah then promised Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house till my son Shelah is grown” (verse 11).

3) Judah breaks his promise and Tamar deceives him (verses 12-23). In time Tamar “saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given to him as a wife” (verse 14), so she hatched a wicked plan. Judah “went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah…it was told to Tamar…so she took off her widow’s garments, cover herself with a veil…and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah” (verses 11-14). As Judah was passing by her “he thought she was a harlot…turned to her by the way and said, ‘Please let me come in to you’” (verse 15-16). God exposes the sins of prostitution and fornication in this passage! Before Tamar agrees to having sexual relations with him, she asks for a gift and Judah promises her a “young goat” yet before he can fetch it for her, he gives her his “signet, cord and staff” as a pledge (verses 16-18). They then laid with each other, she conceived and slipped away, and Judah came back with his goat to pay her and to retrieve his pledge, only to find that she had disappeared (verses 19-23).

4) Judah learns his daughter-in-law was pregnant and he sentences her to death (verses 24-26). Verse 24 states, “About three months after, Judah was told, saying, ‘Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot, furthermore she is with child by harlotry.’ So Judah said, ‘Bring her out and let her be burned!” Instead of searching his own heart for having relations with a harlot, he plays the hypocrite and condemns her to death! But Tamar was ready for this, for she called for Judah and said to him, “By the man to whom these belong, I am with child…please determine whose these are—the signet and cord and staff” (verse 25). Judas confessed his guilt by saying, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son” (verse 26).

If this was “the end of the story” it would be tragic indeed, but in verses 27-30 we learn that Tamar had twin boys and named them Perez and Zerah. Hundreds of years later we read of those twins in Matthew 1:1-3, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ…Jacob begot Judah…Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar.” In this account of the “family tree” of our Lord Jesus Christ we see how “God’s GRACE OVERRULED man’s sin!” Instead of judging Judah and Tamar for their sin and deceit, He allowed them to be part of the line through which the Savior would be born. Amazing grace indeed! (291.1) (DO)