II. Vs. 1-19 The pleasure of sin for a season
III. Vs. 20-30 Rotten roots to healthy fruit
Having just started our look at Joseph this chapter takes a detour into the life of Jacob’s fourth son through Leah Judah. The question ought to come to our minds, “Why in the story of Joseph do we look at Judah?” Joseph’s story is from the nation of Israel or man’s perspective on “HOW” they ended up in Egypt. Judah’s story here in the 38 chapter serves to give us God’s perspective of “WHY” their departure was necessary in the first place. The tone of the chapter is to show us that God’s people were in danger of becoming completely like the Canaanites. It was important for their survival that they leave the world in which they dwelt. The Canaanites worshiped sex, their society revolved around sex. In other word’s their society looked a lot like ours. The statistics are in as to the cost of our sexual freedom:
90% of black babies and 55% of white babies are now born to teenagers outside of marriage.
Women who give birth as teenagers are more likely to have an income level below 50% of the poverty line.
Teenage girls raised without their fathers are much more likely to become sexually active then those who are raised with both parents.
80% of teens in psychiatric hospitals come from broken homes.
50% of all teen suicides come from single parent homes.
60% of all rapists grew up without fathers.
72% of all teens that commit murders grew up without fathers.
Now if we fall into some of these categories it doesn’t mean that we need to stay there because God can and does bring about change even through our failure.
II. Vs. 1-19 The pleasure of sin for a season
Vs. 1 Based upon the phrase “It came to pass at that time that Judah departed from his brothers”, that the timing of this chapter and its events happen right after the selling of Joseph. We know that Joseph was 17 so this would make Judah around 21. It seems as though Judah seared conscious at the selling of his brother into slavery led to a further cold heart as he decides to go and hang out with a wealthy Canaanite from the area of Adullam named Hirah (nobility). Based upon verse 20 this fellow became one of his good friends.
Vs. 2 So during the 22 years of Joseph’s slavery in Egypt this is what was happening with Judah. When you compare the 34th chapter of Genesis and the way that Shechem played Dinah with this chapter there is little difference with how Judah treated the gal he marries. Judah sees her, marries her and lies with her. There is little doubt that all that Judah had for this lady was the lust of physical attraction. It is interesting to note that her name is not known only that of her father Shua (wealth).
Vs. 3-7 The names of Judah’s sons from this union are told us:
Er. = awake on the watch
Onan = strong or pain
Shelah = weak or drooping
After the birth Onan they moved to Chezib (town of lies). We are not told the age of Er nor the wickedness that he committed, but it was bad enough for the Lord to take him out no doubt seeing that his wickedness would soon spread to the rest of the family. His wife was from among the woman of that region named Tamar.
Vs. 8-10 After the death of Er, Judah instructs Onan to marry Tamar and produce a Child by her. This practice is a bit odd to our culture but it was clearly a practice held by the Jews as Moses speaks of it in Deut. 25:5-10. It served several purposes:
It ensured the continuance of the family name and lineage.
It also served as away to preserve the life of the widow (old fashion welfare system), as she would bare offspring that would be able to help support her and until they were able the brother would care for them, other wise she would have no hope of remarriage.
Onan’s problem was that the offspring form this union would not be his but rather of his deceased brother. Thus he did not want any children by her so he emitted his sperm on the ground, which displeased the Lord and his life was also taken. This text has been used as a proof text against two things but it is in actually a fit for neither:
It has been used as a text against that which it bares Onan’s name “Onanism” (masturbation) as it is thought that God struck him because he spilled his seed upon the ground. The sin Onan committed is not masturbation as he lay with Tamar thus it could not have been masturbation, even though he obviously did so only for his self-gratification. If that is the case, then every time a person has sex with their spouse and self-gratification is the goal then it would be seen as masturbation. Onan’s sin was that of refusing to care for his brother’s widow and instead using her for his own pleasurable experience.
It has also been used as a proof text against birth control of any kind. This act was common place but here because it was a command doing so became wickedness. Onan clearly wanted to appear right and enjoy the pleasure of sex with Er’s widow Tamar but without the responsibilities that went with it, (Acts 5:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira). He had no problem obeying his father’s wish of laying with Tamar just the obligation of support, which he would have had to provide to the child produced with such a union. Now Romans 14:23 tells us “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” So if you are using birth control because you doubt God’s ability to provide for you materially or emotionally then it would be considered sin. Now the form of birth control that would kill the baby after conception is clearly not what we are speaking of here.
I do believe that sexual relations with your self or with your spouse for your own pleasure and selfish reason is sin, (1 Cor. 7:2-3 A person is to have their spouse and not burn with lust but give their bodies over for the pleasure of their spouse). But that is not what Onan did but rather what Paul spoke of in 2 Tim 2:22 where he says we are to “Flee… youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness”. In other word’s I believe that it is impossible to masturbate without fantasizing of others and thinking of them fulfilling or lust for self-gratification. We are clearly not to walk according to our own lusts. If anyone thinks I’m wrong on this issue needs to picture Jesus watching the fantasies of your mind as you seek to please yourself!
Vs. 11-13 Judah withholds Shelah from Tamar no doubt because of the outcome of the last two unions, which resulted in the death of his two boys. But in none of this had Tamar acted wickedly but rather it was his son’s which had sinned and not Tamar. Yet Judah vows to do so but does not act upon what he promised and mean while she is left to live in her father’s house. The time delay and the death Judah’s wife led to a wicked opportunity for Tamar. What were the things that led Judah down this path?
Judah had departed from the faith of his fathers as we see him hanging around the sexually perverted society of the Canaanites.
He married a woman based only upon his physical attraction towards her. The loss of her led him seek comfort among the “sheepshearers of Timnah”. Why would she be hanging around a bunch sheepshearers bring comfort to a man who has lost his wife? It is my opinion that these fellows hung out at strip clubs with prostitutes, why else would Tamar dress up as a harlot?
Vs. 14-19 She seizes the opportunity and judging by the way Judah responds to her this was not the first time Judah had been a john! The word used here for harlot and the word used in verses 21-22 is different. Here the word means a person who exchanges goods for sex but in verses 21-22 the word used is a temple prostitute who had sex as part of the worship of their gods. Simply put Judah was out for a “good time” and was unaware of the spiritual dangers. The parallel is an interesting one as sexual immorality always leads to idolatry. A person may think that porn or casual sex is not hurting anyone but pretty soon you become consumed by it and have to keep feeding the worship of sex. From Tamar’s perspective the issue is not the money but rather the pledge of which Judah has already broke. The items were all one of a kind thing’s that were clearly associated with the person they belonged too.
III. Vs. 20-30 Rotten roots to healthy fruit
Vs. 20-24 The whole encounter would have ended as far as Judah was concerned as he sent back a goat by way of Hirah but he can not find the harlot, he asks around but no one knows of such a woman. Judah must have realized that he had been had as all those things identify him as having lay with a harlot but he could not pursue this any further as it would have made him seem guilty. I don’t care how “discreet” we may think our little secret sin is it always seems to fins us out does it not? All he can do is let her have the items and everyday he must have waited tell she came waiting for the truth to come out. But with each passing day he began to think, “maybe nobody will ever find out!” Every thing is going great until he hears Tamar is pregnant and she is not married. Judah demands that she be burned alive for her sin of sleeping around, which was far worse of a punishment then what the law commanded stoning to death. We often cover our sin by hating it passionately in others don’t we?
Vs. 25-26 Tamar quietly tells her father in law who it was that she had lain with as she brings out all the stuff that had been given her as a pledge. Judah has nothing to say as that sentence that he had pronounced upon her ought to be given to him as well. Judah point as far as Tamar being more righteous is not in the area of her immorality but rather in the area of procuring rightful heirs. It seems as though Judah was cured as far as sexual immorality was concerned as he never again slept with her, in fact the next time we read of Judah he is back dwelling with his father and brothers which seems to suggest that he had repented.
Vs. 27-30 Tamar gives birth to twins, Perez (forging through) and Zerah (springing up). If it were not for Matt. 1:3 we would not think much of this offspring through sin but we read them both in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus. Is not God’s grace marvelous? Perez “forged through” and was chosen to be an heir of Jesus! Now He did not chose them because of their works but because of His grace. So no matter what our back ground God can and desires to redeem us.