Friday, September 16, 2011

Genesis 38:1-11

Today’s chapter is a break in the story of Joseph. The drama is compelling and the lessons amazing! This is the story of Judah and Tamar. As we know, Jesus was from the line of Judah, so this little side trip in Genesis is important to His story. If you read the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, you will find Tamar, a Canaanite woman, is mentioned along with Rahab (also a Canaanite), Ruth (a Moabite), and Bathsheba (wife of a Hittite). These four pagans are the only women mentioned, besides Mary. So we want to pay attention to what God tells us about Tamar.

Jon Courson says in his introduction to this story, “Jewelers wisely display diamonds against black velvet, knowing the dark background highlights the beauty of the gems.” The ugliness of sin in our background certainly makes the grace of God more brilliant in our lives! Or, as the apostle Paul wrote:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Cor 4:7)

Only God could take the sin and deception we read of in this chapter, weave it into the line of the Savior, and redeem the line for His glory and our salvation! So let’s get into the story:

At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and lay with her; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him. (Genesis 38:1-5)

Of course, the first thing we need to note is the opening, “At that time...” What time is it referring to? Well, Judah and his brothers had just sold off Joseph and deceived their father, who was completely unconsolable. It was Judah who had argued that the brothers NOT kill Joseph, but rather sell him to the caravan that just happened to be coming toward them. Nevertheless, having to watch his father’s agony day after day must have been too much for him, so he splits from the family. He heads for a pagan area and stays with his pagan buddy, Hirah. There he meets his Canaanite wife and has three sons. Judah ran from one dysfunctional family, only to create his own:

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so the LORD put him to death.

Then Judah said to Onan, “Lie with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so he put him to death also. (vs. 6-10)

Goodness! What a pair these boys were! Er is the first individual mentioned in the Bible to be put to death by God. The previous judgments had been against groups (the people of Noah’s time and Sodom and Gommorah). So, he must have been one nasty fellow! Jon Courson writes in his commentary here, “... the problem with wickedness is that it’s contagious. Wicked people draw other people into their depravity. So, the LORD, in His wisdom and mercy, deals with the problem decisively.” (Courson’s Old Testament Commentary, P. 173)

When Er’s brother, Onan, was ordered by Judah to take his brother’s widow and produce an heir for him, he disobeyed and “spilled his semen.” He was willing to take pleasure from Tamar, but he would not give her a son. Courson makes an important point here:

This verse is often misused as a statement against birth control. The issue here, however, isn’t about family planning. It’s about family plotting - for in his actions, Onan is saying, “I’m going to despise the directive of my father and trample on the casket of my brother. Thus, this scenario has nothing to do with God’s opinion about family planning - and everything to do with a man determined to manipulate the situation. (Courson, P. 173)

With two sons gone, Judah decides the problem must be Tamar! So he sends her to live with her father, with the promise that as soon as number three son is of age, she will have him! (vs. 11) Will Judah keep his word, and will Tamar ever have her son? Stay tuned!


No comments:

Post a Comment