Another big chunk of scripture again! This tale is more like several small tales in one bundle, so feel free to read the entire passage or just skip below to my summary. Oh, and I hope you brought some tissue.
Genesis 38:6-26And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. 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.” But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother's wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father's house, till Shelah my son grows up”—for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained in her father's house.
In the course of time the wife of Judah, Shua's daughter, died. When Judah was comforted, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” she took off her widow's garments and covered herself with a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she had not been given to him in marriage. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—” He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. Then she arose and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.
When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite to take back the pledge from the woman's hand, he did not find her. And he asked the men of the place, “Where is the cult prostitute who was at Enaim at the roadside?” And they said, “No cult prostitute has been here.” So he returned to Judah and said, “I have not found her. Also, the men of the place said, ‘No cult prostitute has been here.’” And Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, or we shall be laughed at. You see, I sent this young goat, and you did not find her.” 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.” As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.
Here's the gist:
• Judah (son of Jacob) has three boys named Er, Onan, and Shelah.
• Judah "took a wife" for Er named Tamar.
• Er "was wicked in the sight of the Lord" and the Lord puts him to death.
• Judah tells Onan to have sex ("...perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her...") with the now-widowed Tamar and raise the child for his now-dead brother.
• Onan apparently decides to masturbate instead (using Tamar's vagina) and then "waste the semen on the ground."
• The Lord kills Onan.
• Judah tells Tamar "remain a widow" until Shelah (son #3) becomes old enough. (Judah may or may not be totally lying to Tamar about her marrying Shelah.)
• Later, Judah's wife dies and Judah heads into town to shear his sheep (not a euphemism).
• Tamar changes from her widow garments into wrappings and a veil and waits for Judah on the road to town.
• Judah sees Tamar (not knowing it's her) and solicits her for sex (thinking she's a prostitute).
• Judah, having given the I-think-she's-a prostitute his staff (and his staff), signet, and cord as collateral to ensure payment, then has sex with Tamar. Side note: she is his (twice) daughter-in-law.
• After the sex, Tamar quickly returns home and puts back on her "garments of her widowhood".
• Judah sends a boy to pay the "cult prostitute" and to retrieve the pledge (the staff, signet, and cord) as well. The boy doesn't find her and returns to Judah.
• Three months later, Judah is informed that Tamar is "pregnant by immorality" to which Judah immediately orders that she be burned to death.
• Tamar produces Judah's staff, signet, and cord and says "the owner of these is the one who made me pregnant".
• Judah goes "Whoops! I should have given her to my son, Shelah. Never mind, don't burn her!"
• In verses 27-30 Tamar gives birth to twins, Zerah and Perez. Good for her, she finally found a man who would squirt it between her legs.
In a sexy, sloppy, incestuous chapter of hypocrisy we have the following:
• (v7,10)God kills two people for being "wicked" ((v8-9)one, for cumming onto the floor instead of inside "his brother's wife") but doesn't do anything when (v15-18)Judah solicits his daughter-in-law and proceeds to not-waste semen with her.
• (v24)Judah is quick to have Tamar punished with death for being "immoral" when he himself just paid a stranger (or, so he thought) for sex only three months back.
Genesis 38 is a chapter that highlights the treatment of relationships (that sacred marriage some feel the need to defend) as bargaining chips and women as property back in those times (there are many other Bible passages that make this clear). There's also a strange focus of "wickedness = smiting" in the beginning of this passage. If there's a key word that can be chosen for God when it comes to action on his part it's "inconsistent". Jizzing onto the floor = DEATH. Boning your daughter-in-law = AWKWARD FAMILY GATHERINGS. (not the first time God has taken an interest in man juices!)
The makings of a Jewish soap opera would be the best way to describe Genesis 38. While shy on amnesia and interrupted weddings, there's incest, killing(smiting), a GrandpaBabyDaddy, jerking off onto the floor (not a soap opera thing... yet). In other words, HBO gold!