Epistles to the Cyberchurch - Su Min

To: en & more
From: Su Min
Subject: Judah & Tamar

Hi, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance (Jude 1-2).

Genesis 38:1-2 records how Judah left his brothers and took a Canaanite woman, daughter of Shua for a wife. Judah was the one who proposed that Joseph be sold as a slave rather than being left to starve to death in an empty well (Gen 37:27). In doing so he did show some compassion for Joseph.

But in taking a Canaanite wife (daughter of Shua, herself not named) he began the slippery road of descent into trouble, partly because of the different religious backgrounds: Remember Isaac's command to Jacob (Gen 28:1). This Canaanite wife daughter of Shua bore three sons for Judah: Er, Onan and Shelah. A wife Tamar was found for Er (Gen 37:6).

Er was wicked. Why was Er wicked? We do not know. Perhaps he would have been wicked in any situation. Perhaps lack of a good religious upbringing contributed. We do not know. But certainly he would have had a better chance of walking the straight and narrow if his father Judah had been God-fearing, and if his mother daughter of Shua had been God-fearing. But we are told that the daughter of Shua was a Canaanite, and we can assume that she was a pagan worshipper. Mothers do have a very important role in child rearing.

But this does not remove the personal responsibility from Er. Er was wicked, and Er had his own choice whether or not to be wicked. We should not blame God for tempting us, nor the devil for forcing us to sin. We sin because we want to sin. We sin because we do not want to remain pure.

(When tempted no one should say "God is tempting me" For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone, but each is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has been conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.) James 1:13-15.

We do not know what wicked things Er did. but wicked he was. Er paid the ultimate price for his wickedness. Gen 38:7.Er died. I assume that this means an eternity in hell, but God is gracious and merciful, and who knows, upon death God may have granted him reprieve. It is for God to decide.

The ethnic custom was for a brother to take the widow as his wife, and Onan was in line to replace Er. But Onan decided that he did not want children of his own declared as Er's children. So he took matters in his own hand. Disobeying God's will was wicked. Onan paid the ultimate price for his wickedness (Gen 38:10). Onan died.

Two in a row. First Er, then Onan. Shelah was next. The tradition would have Shelah take Tamar as his wife. But Judah thought otherwise. He banished Tamar to her father's house (Gen 38:11) supposedly to wait for Shelah to grow up but in reality the plan was to separate the two of them permanently lest her jinx zap Shelah.

Judah's wife daughter of Shua dies. Judah grieves for her, and after mourning, Judah goes to Timnah (Gen 38:12). Tamar hears of this and disguises her self as a temple prostitute, placing herself in the path of Judah. Her motivation was to entrap Judah, for he had prevented her from marrying Shelah as was her right.. Judah has a transaction with her, leaving his personal seal and cord and staff as a guarantee for payment of a goat, and leaving behind, in the process, a baby (Gen 38:18). Tamar's plot works, for when she is found to be pregnant, Judah orders her to be burned to death (Gen 38:24). As she is being brought out she waves about the seal and cord and staff and identifies the owner as the man who impregnated her. (Gen 38:25).

Judah recognises his own folly in having a go at the temple prostitute, and at having with held Shelah from Tamar. His unwitting incestuous relationship with his daughter-in-law Tamar results in birth of twins Gen 38:27. In the New Testament we find Tamar is recorded in the lineage of King David (Matthew 1:3).

As we look at the story in Gen 38, I am terrified at the power of sexual sin. While sexual sin may not be the worst possible sin, it is indeed a very common sin. Man's desire for sexual satisfaction is very great, and until one leans to control the fire, one can easily get burned.

The second lesson I see is that despite our sins, sexual or otherwise, God loves us. God continues to use fallen, wicked, sinful people if they repent, to further his glory.

Let us pray.

Love Dad

For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min

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