Friday, May 17, 2013

Genesis 38: Bang Your Brother's Widow

Today's Podcast

Judah and Tamar (v. 1-30)

Judah (one of Jacob's sons) found a Canaanite wife and had 3 sons with her (Er, Onan, and Shelah).

We don't actually learn the wife's name, we learn her father's name though.

From Guzik
Through an ungodly and unwise marriage to a Canaanite woman Judah fathered three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. 
It isn’t hard to see the sons of Israel rapidly being corrupted by their Canaanite neighbors, and what the future will bring if they continued in that land. God had a plan to bring them out.
I hadn't really thought much of this, but Guzik has said things along these lines quite a few times. We should remember that god put them in this situation, it is because of him that they have settled here, and if he's omniscient he knew that all of this would happen. 

He gets a wife for Er named Tamar, but God didn't like Er and killed him. So Judah told Onan to bang Er's wife and raise the kids as Er's. Onan didn't like that the kids would not count as his, so he pulled out and didn't make any babies, so God killed Onan too.

Funny thing here, verse 9 is the one where the brother was "spilling his seed", and it is the verse than many have used to say masturbation is a sin. But that isn't what this story is about, it very clear that it is a very different situation. 

verification from Guzik :)
Many Christians have used this passage as a proof-text against masturbation. Indeed, masturbation has been called “onanism.” However, this does not seem to be the case here. Whatever Onan did, he was not masturbating. This was not a sin of masturbation, but a sin of refusing to care for his brother’s widow by giving her offspring, and of a selfish use of sex.
I have another thought here though, God killed Er for being Wicked, and yet he killed Onan for not helping Er produce posthumous children. That doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense! Onan is essentially being punished for not doing a favor for Er, whom God hated.

Judah told Tamar to go live with her father as a widow until Shelah was grown up.

Presumably so he could have kids for his older brother. 

Guzik seems to suggest that Judah simply was afraid his last son would die and that is why he sent Tamar away. This is supported by what happens later in the chapter. Perhaps what was said about him being too young was not true?

In the meantime, Judah's wife dies and he took a trip to Timnah. Tamar saw that Shelah was old enough and she wasn't married to him, which means Judah is dragging his heals. When she heard of his trip she changed out of her widow clothes and covered up her face and also went to Timnah. Judah saw her and thought she was a prostitute and negotiated a business transaction. He said he'd give her a young goat for her services, and she took his signet, cord, and staff as collateral. Of course, later when he tried to find her again to give her the goat and get his stuff back she was gone.

Three months later when everyone realized she was pregnant outside of marriage, Judah wanted to burn her at the stake. But she produced the collateral and he realized what had happened. He said that she was more righteous than him since he didn't give her to Shelah.

I guess he thinks that his inaction drove her to doing what she did, and that is why he feels more guilty than her. What would be nice is if this episode demonstrated that burning at the stake is not an appropriate punishment for sex outside of marriage, but that doesn't seem to be the lesson.

From Guzik
When Tamar conceived, it certainly was not intended by Judah, but it was definitely planned by both Tamar and God.
Wait, this was God's plan? Based on what? The fact that he didn't kill everyone? I certainly didn't see any indication that God had consulted with her on this plan.

Tamar was pregnant with twins, and when she was giving birth one baby put out it's arm and the midwife tied a ribbon around it, but it went back inside. Then the other was actually born first. Perez was the one who was actually born first, Zerah was the one with the thread.

I imagine this will cause some problems as pertains to birthrights. The one with the ribbon got declared as older while the other was actually older. Hilarity ensues?

for the verses of note post


Genesis 38:8 If your older brother dies before having children, you need to bang his wife

"Then Judah said to Onan, 'Go in to your brother's wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.'"

--Sexuality and Women--

Genesis 38:24 Death penalty for adultery (for women)

"About three months later Judah was told, 'Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.' And Judah said, 'Bring her out, and let her be burned.'"


Genesis 38:7-10 God kills people for "being wicked" and for pulling out of his dead brother's wife

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