OceanSide church of Christ

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Genesis 38

Victor M. Eskew


I.           The Title of Genesis 38


A.   A Strong Twist in Jesus’ Genealogy

B.    Tamar’s Revenge

C.   Judah Fathers Twins by Tamar

D.   Tamar Plays the Harlot

E.    A Woman Scorned


II.         The Key Verse of Genesis 38:  Genesis 38:14


And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not give unto him to wife


Why this verse?  Tamar’s actions and Judah’s actions are both mentioned in this verse.  Lies and deception led to an interesting twist in the lineage of the Messiah.


III.       The Outline of Genesis 38


i.               BACKGROUND OF STORY (Gen. 38:1-12)

ii.              BLUNDER BY JUDAH (Gen. 38:12-23)

iii.            BREAKING THE NEWS (Gen. 38:24-26)

iv.            BIRTH OF TWINS (Gen. 38:27-30)


IV.        The Lessons of Genesis 38


A.   When youth leave home, they enter a dangerous time of life (Gen. 38:1).


And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.


1.     Judah did not go far from home, only about 8 miles away.

2.     Now, however, he was on his own to make decisions for himself.

3.     James Dobson wrote a book about this time of life for youth.  It is entitled, Living on the Edge.


B.    We again see the importance of “who” one marries (Gen. 38:2).


And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.


1.     This woman was a Canaanite.

2.     Judah should have known from his family’s history that such a woman would not be good for him.

a.     Abraham did not want his son to marry a Canaanite (Gen. 24:3).

b.    Esau had married two Canaanite women much to the chagrin of his mother and father (Gen. 26:34-35).


C.   Judah seems to have taken responsibility for the marriage of his firstborn (Gen. 38:6).


And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.


D.   Wickedness and punishment go hand-in-hand (Gen. 38:7).


And Er, Judah’s firstborn was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him.


E.    The law of the kinsman redeemer (Gen. 38:8-9a).


And Judah said unot Onan, go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.  And Onan knew that the seed should not be his…


1.     The practice of raising up seed to one’s brother would become part of the Law of Moses (Deut. 25:5-6).


If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a srtanger:  her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother unto her.  And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of the brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.


2.     This law would play a big role in the tiny book of Ruth.  Boaz was the kinsman-redeemer for Mahlon.


F.     Onan’s actions have resulted in a term known as “Onanism” (Gen. 38:9).


And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest he should give his seed to his brother.


G.   It is easy to make a promise to another individual (Gen. 38:11).


Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown:  for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did.  And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s hosue.


H.   Some families seem to experience more than their fair share of tragedies (Gen. 38:12a).


And in the process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah’s wife died…



I.     One of the goals of the grief process is to reach a point of comfort and to joyfully return to one’s daily routine (Gen. 38:12b).


…and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.


J.    Broken promises by others bring feelings of resentment that can lead to evil actions (Gen. 38:14).


And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.


K.   The clothing that we wear tells others a lot about us.  In Genesis 38:14, we read of “widow’s garments.”  After Tamar changed her clothing, when Judah saw her, the thought her to be a harlot… (Gen. 38:15).


L.    There is always that moment when one chooses to sin (Gen. 38:16).


And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in to thee…


M.  Evidence of one’s sins can take many forms (Gen. 38:18).


And he said, What pledge shall I give thee?  And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand.  And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.


1.     Two evidences of Judah’s sin were present.

a.     His personal belongings

b.    The child that was conceived

2.     As technology increases, so does the evidence for sin.

a.     DNA

b.    Computer history

c.    Monitoring devices


N.   It is easy to condemn another for sins that we engage in (Gen. 38:24)


And it came to pass about three month after, that it was told Judah, saying Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom.  And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.


O.   Be sure, your sins will find you out (Gen. 38:25-26)  See Numbers 32:23


When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child:  and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff.  And Judah acknowledged them…


P.    What is the meaning of Judah’s words:  She hath been more righteous than I…? (Gen. 38:26).

1.     Judah had not fulfilled his promise to Tamar.  Too, he had committed sin with a prostitute merely to satisfy his carnal lusts.

2.     Tamar had patiently waited to be married to Shelah.  Tamar engaged in her actions due to the broken promise of Judah, namely, because that I gave her not Shelah my son.


Q.   Tamar gave birth to twins.  One of these sons, Pharez, would carry on the lineage of Judah toward the Messiah (Gen. 38:27-30).

1.     Matthew 1:1-3


The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; and Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esram; and Esram begat Aram.


2.     Quote by Henry Morris from the book, The Genesis Record:


“Tamar, therefore, had the distinction of being one of the few women whose names are listed in the official genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1:3).  The others were Rahab, Ruth, and the one who had been wife of Uriah, that is Bathsheba (Matt. 1:5, 6).  It is remarkable that all four of these women were non-Jews who had been won by other witnesses to the true faith of Jehovah.  Tamar was a Canaanite, Rahab a native of Jericho and thus presumably a Canaanite, Ruth was a Moabitess, and Bathsheba probably a Hittite (at least by marriage to Uriah, if not by birth).  Each of the four came into the family of Judah and Israel by morally dubious means.  Tamar posed as a prostitute in order to become pregnant by Judah.  Rahab was a harlot by profession until she married Salmon after the Israelites captured Jericho, Ruth persuaded Boaz to marry her by the questionable device of spending the night with him as he slept intoxicated on the threshing floor, and Bathsheba became wife to King David by first committing adultery with him.  Yet in spite of all the apparently unsavory past of these women, each one became a strong and faithful believer in god; and God signally honored them by placing them in the genealogical line of the Messiah.  The one who was, in her early life, probably the most irreligious and carnal of all of them, Rahab, has actually be included by the Holy Spirit in the great catalog of the heroes of faith in the New Testament (Heb. 11:31).  What a marvelous testimony to God’s grace, and the truth that God forgives past sins and brings new life!” (p. 557).