101-138 Genesis Part 3 Chapter 38
This chapter may seem out of place, as Moses changes focus from Joseph to his brother Judah. The time frame of this chapter is the same as the amount of time that passed from when Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery until the time his family came to Egypt for food during the famine.
First this chapter is a story of Judah who was the bloodline of the coming Messiah. Second it was Judah that persuaded his brothers not to kill Joseph but to sell him into slavery. Third Judah’s immorality is the contrast to the moral purity of Joseph. Forth it sets the stage for Joseph’s reunion with his brothers twenty two years later. During this time Judah leaves home and marries a Canaanite woman and has three sons, two of which are so wicked that God takes their lives.
It is not surprising that Judah left home as it must have been hard to see his father, Israel grieve over the death of Joseph and refusing to be comforted. Abraham was careful not to have his son Isaac marry a Canaanite woman. Isaac was not so careful but God provided two wives for Jacob through Rebekah’s brother Laban. Judah leaves home and marries a Canaanite woman who bears him three sons. When the firstborn son, Er, was old enough Judah acquires a wife for him named Tamar, a Canaanite. Er was evil in God’s sight and God took his life. Judah instructed his next born son Onan to take Tamar for a wife and raise up a descendant for his dead brother, but he prevented Tamar from bearing a son. For this act God took Onan’s life also. Judah afraid to lose another son asked Tamar to wait until his third son, Shelah, was old enough to marry.
After a considerable amount of time Judah’s wife died and Tamar realized that Judah would never give her his third son. Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and stationed herself along the road she knew Judah would be passing to Timnah. Judah hired her to go in with him and gave her some of his possessions as a surety until payment could be made. Sometime later Judah was told that his daughter-in-law, Tamar, was with child. Judah became furious and insisted that she be put to death for her immorality. Tamar produced the items that he had left as surety and he realized that he had slept with her. Judah proclaimed that she was more righteous than he as she was the one that sought to preserve his bloodline.
Tamar bore twins to Judah and Perez would be the one through whom the Messiah would be born, no thanks to Judah. (Ruth 4:12 Hebrews 7:14) This is why God removed the Israelites from Canaan to Egypt. The Egyptians loathed the Hebrews and would not have any kind of relations with them, even if Judah’s brothers had been as immoral as he. If the Israelites had remained in Canaan they would have probably inter-married. This episode of Judah and Tamar explains why God set the Israelite nation in Egypt for four hundred years.