Genesis 38 - Judah gets schooled by a woman

 Judah leaves his brothers and goes to hang with his friend Hirah. He meets an un-named Canaanite woman and takes her and has 3 boys with her. Judah buys a woman named Tamar for his first son Er, but Er is suddenly found to be evil and so the “lord” kills him. Judah then gives Tamar to his second son, Onan. But when Onan goes to do the dirty deed with Tamar he pulls out and spills his seed on the ground. He is killed, because like his brother he displeased “the Lord.”  Realizing that Tamar is a poison woman, Judah tells her to go back to live with her father so that his final and last son doesn’t meet the same fate as the other two. Eventually Judah’s wife with no name dies and Judah goes to be comforted by his sheep. His friend Hirah tags along. Tamar finds out that he is “come up unto” his sheep” and decides to play the harlot and trick Judah. She is mad that she wasn’t given a chance at his youngest son. Anyway, Judah sees her, doesn’t realize it is the women who killed his two sons, and hires her so he can “come unto” her. She asks for his signet, bracelet, and staff as a pledge until he can deliver to her a kid goat as payment. When Judah sends Hirah with the kid goat, they can’t find the harlot, but eventually come to find out it was Tamar. Judah wants her burned, but she shows proof to everyone that Judah was the one who hired her, He makes a statement that she is the one who is “righteous” (a statement that was probably meant to absolve her of the suspicion that she killed her two “husbands”) and then she is set free. In the meantime it turns out she had gotten pregnant by Judah and has twins,

What I think really happened:

Tamar so totally killed her "husbands" and Judah was right to send her away. Of course, she was just trying to get her freedom because she was bought for the purpose of being a wife to bear children to men she didn’t know and apparently “found displeasing.” And according to the laws governing her purchase, she wasn’t going to be free until Judah set her free as he was her rightful owner at that point. Tamar is clearly a force to be reckoned with. Judah was unable to prove she killed his sons, and she was eventually able to shame Judah into letting her go free.

Interesting side note:

It turns out that Jesus is descendant from Judah and Tamar (yes - Jesus’ family tree runs straight through the children of an illicit coupling between a man and his daughter in law).

Favorite bit:

When Judah is comforted by going to his sheep - seriously. It’s kind of shocking to read it and you think, wait, does that say what I think it says?

What’s annoying:

That this section is used to justify a prohibition on masturbation. No one masturbates and the lord doesn’t kill anyone for masturbating in this. In fact, why these men are killed is never clear except that they were found to be displeasing to the Lord.  I realize that some people claim that God was upset that Onan’s seed was spilt. But really, since Judah and Tamar have to be the ones to bear children in order for Jesus to eventually be born, it doesn’t make sense that God would kill Onan for spilt seed. It makes more sense that he killed Onan to ensure that Judah would eventually be the one to father a child with Tamar. I’m just saying.

Moral Lessons Learned:

Women who don’t want to be treated as sexual slaves can be very dangerous.


When buying a wife for your son, don’t just go on looks. Make sure the woman in question isn’t a homicidal maniac who doesn’t like being treated as chattel.