As we alternate our study from Genesis to the book of Revelation we can learn from the saints who were here on terra firma, as we are now, how to prepare for our meeting with the Lord. We see both bad examples and good examples and can learn from both. As Solomon says there is nothing new under the sun regarding our fallen human nature (Eccl. 1:9-10). In this account we see such evil that God kills two of Judah's sons; Judah leaves his family (and his faith temporarily), marries a Canaanite, lies to Tamar in fear and selfishness, fornicates, and is ready to burn Tamar alive for the very sin he committed himself and so he adds hypocrisy to all his other sins. Not a pretty picture. In contrast, in the very next chapter we see Joseph flee from sexual sin because of his absolute commitment to God's call on his life – saying a strong "Yes" to God's will, not just in the moment of temptation but as the very purpose for our lives, making saying "No" to sin much easier.
"At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and lay with her." Maybe Judah left the faith because of his guilty conscience and unconfessed sin against Joseph as seen in Chapter 37. But for whatever reasons, he wandered far off the path of God's will. (Gen 28:1) "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed." (Prov. 13:20; Psalm 1:1) Look at the wreckage that followed.
"But Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the LORD's sight; so the LORD put him to death. (Er left no heir, so according to the law of levirate marriage (the marriage of a widow to the brother of her deceased husband), his brother Onan was to marry the childless widow and provide a son for Er. This was widely practiced in the ancient Near East and was later incorporated into the Law of Moses (Deut 25:5-10 – KJV Bible Comm.) "So whenever he (Onan -Judah's second son) lay with his brother's wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD's sight; so he (God) put him to death also." Sexual gratification with no responsibility. And if he has no children with Tamar he would get his dead brother's inheritance rather than the child receiving it. God killing someone shocks some people today as if He has no right to take a life which He created by His power and for His purposes – to bring Him glory and pleasure. (Rev. 4:11) It reveals both our very low view of God and the seriousness of sin as if the Sovereign King and Creator of this vast universe has to give an account of Himself to His creatures. "When men no longer fear God they transgress His laws without hesitation."(Ps. 36:1; See Eccl. 8:11)
Judah then promises Tamar marriage to his third son Shelah but Verses 11 & 14 make it clear he was lying, and out of fear and selfishness he withholds his son from her. So Tamar wrongly takes matters into her own hands, posing as a prostitute to lure Judah to sleep with her and thus continue the family line. She gets his seal, cord and staff for a pledge for payment and becomes pregnant by him. Having his ID proved to save her life and thus the lives of the twin sons in her womb.
"About three months later Judah was told, "Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant." Judah said, "Bring her out and have her burned to death!" Judah now adds hypocrisy to his sin, as he had committed the very sin for which he is judging Tamar and trying to get rid of her; clearly a double standard. Like Judah and David (2 Sam. 12:1-7) we can often clearly see sin in others and yet not see it in ourselves when we do the very same thing. "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." (Rom. 2:1) A good prayer to pray regularly is "Lord, how do You see me?" (Psalm 139:23-24)
As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. "I am pregnant by the man who owns these," she said. And she added, "See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are." Judah recognized them and said, "She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn't give her to my son Shelah." At least he admits his wrong, but all of a sudden his judgment of sexual sin is very lax.
In the birth of the twins, the "younger" comes out before the older (see vv. 27-30) – a picture of Joseph the younger ruling over his elder brothers. Later on they all finally see this as God's plan and repent of hating and trying to kill Joseph.
God even uses Judah's and Tamar's sin (the Scripture does not condemn her and customs even allowed for her actions) to continue the line of Judah and even includes Tamar (a Canaanite woman) in the genealogy of Jesus. (Matt. 1:3) We do see Judah's repentance later on when facing his sin against Joseph (Gen. 44:18-34) and later God's promise/prophecy that the Messiah would come through his tribe. (Gen. 49:8-12)
Discussion Questions FOR APPLICATION OF GOD'S WORD
What did the Lord say to you through this message?
"At that time, Judah left his brothers" (and God's will – Gen. 28:1). Judah's great sins show us the human depravity apart from the grace of God. What can you do to strengthen your resolve to stay with your brothers (in fellowship with other believers) and on God's path for your life?
Does it shock you that God kills people for sin, even believers? (Acts. 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 11:30; 1 John 5:16-17) How would you rate yourself (privately) on the fear of the Lord? "When men no longer fear God they transgress His laws without hesitation."(Ps. 36:1; See Eccl. 8:11)
Like Judah and David (2 Sam. 12:1-7) we can often clearly see sin in others and yet not see it in ourselves when we do the very same thing. "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."(Rom. 2:1) A good prayer to pray regularly is "Lord, how do You see me?" (Psalm 139:23-24) Where may you be tempted to have a double standard?
We see the mercy and redemption of God in Judah's and Tamar's life and thus there is hope for us. How does this encourage you to live for the Lord the rest of your days?
Scripture memory verse: ""Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself, He won't call me into account?" "There is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin." (Psalm 36:1b-2)