How many know that it is good to have passages and concepts that you struggle with in regards to God and the Bible? If you didn’t have any at all, I would be concerned with your spiritual state. This has been one of those chapters for me over the years.
So Judah marries a Canaanite. He has three sons. The first is evil in the sight of the LORD and dies. The second is to raise up a progeny for his older brother with his older brother’s wife. He decides that he wants to take/lie with his brother’s wife, but is not interested in fulfilling his duty (promise) as a brother. God takes his life as well. So now we have two brothers, sons of Judah, who were or did evil in the sight of the LORD. Both at the cost of their lives.
So now, Judah tells Tamar to go and live in her father’s house and when his youngest son is old enough he will give her to him. So Tamar agrees and does what is right. Judah does what is not right, in being fearful for his youngest son’s life he refuses to fulfill his promise. O.K. so we have the back story, and now for the qualm.
Judah’s wife dies and not long afterwards he goes to shear his sheep. Tamar hears about it, and know and understanding the ways of men, she goes and sits as a prostitute to seduce him in his time of weakness on the way to where Judah’s sheep are. Judah goes in to lie with her and leaves his signet (i always want to spell and pronounce it signent) ring, cords, and staff in promise for a real payment. She leaves with the promises (items) and the promise (her real payment), and he attempts to bring her his promise (payment goat) to no avail.
Three months later, he finds out Tamar is pregnant from harlotry and wants to have her killed. She makes it clear through his promises (items) given to her that she simply fulfilled her promise (wedding vows) to her husband as well as Judah’s promises (to give her the seed) that he had not been willing to.
At times this chapter has troubled me, and at others times it has not. My big struggle has been that while the woman (Tamar) appeared to/was acting as a prostitute, she somehow deserved death. Yet when he went in to a prostitute, there appeared to be nothing wrong with that. For a long time i thought that the issue was that since he was a man it was considered acceptable due to unfair treatment towards women. But as time has gone by i have begun to realize that it wasn’t about man vs. woman, it was about promise.
She had been married and vowed to Er. When he died, so did her vow to him. She could have married another man. However, her father-in-law asked her to remain faithful and he promised to fulfill her vow. Judah’s wife died, and his promise was fulfilled (|| with Romans 8). He made no further promise and was not bound as such. That was a big part of my conundrum. It wasn’t a man vs. woman issue. It was a promise vs. lack of promise issue… or actually in this case it was a promise vs. promise issue.
After saying all of that, i want to make it clear that just because Judah was not under any promise, does not make it all right to go in to a prostitute. That is still a serious sin. Just as being unmarried (unpromised) and playing the harlot would be. That’s still a problem no matter what. Two still become one flesh as a result, and that is not something that can be undone.
So, what are the struggles with God and the Bible that you have to work through?