Genesis 38 tells us how Judah found a wife for his eldest son, Er.
Unfortunately, Er was wicked in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord put him to death. Tamar was left a childless widow. Judah then said to his second son, Onan, “’Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother.’ But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother. And the thing, which he did, displeased the Lord; therefore He killed him also. Genesis 38:8-10 (NKJV). Onan knew that any child Tamar bore would belong to his brother Er. Thus it would reduce his inheritance and wealth. God did not look with favor on his greed.
Even though Judah promised to give his youngest son to her once he had come of age, she did not trust Judah to follow through. The men in her life had failed to keep their promises, so she took matters into her own hands and came up with a scheme. She disguised herself as a prostitute and arranged to be in the same location as her father-in-law when he was in Timnah shearing his sheep. Indeed, Judah unknowingly had relations with his daughter-in-law.
The product of Tamar’s deception was Perez and Zerah, her twins. God used Tamar’s determination and righteous rebellion to ensure that the Tribe of Judah would continue. Indeed, King David and Jesus Christ are descendants of this Tribe.
Three months later, Judah heard of Tamar’s pregnancy and called for her to be burned. When she presented his signet, cord, and staff as proof of his parenthood, “Judah acknowledged them and said, ‘She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.’ And he never knew her again.” Genesis 38:26 (NKJV)
This entire chapter is about sinful people. So, why did God bless Tamar’s deceptive act? Despite Tamar’s unorthodox methods, she was a woman of integrity. She risked her life to fulfill her duty to herself and her family. She had the right to a child and her first husband (Er) had the right to an heir. We cannot always see God’s plan or understand it, but good can come from evil.
“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
God brought Judah to see his sin and he acknowledged them publicly, calling Tamar more righteous than he. God also blessed Tamar with twins, a double blessing of the fruit of the womb. God chose which sins to bless! He decided which sins to use as a means of furthering His sovereign plan among sinners corrupted in every way by sin.
God chose Perez to have a special place in the covenant family, even though Judah’s third son, Shelah, eventually married and became the father of Israelite clans (they became workers in the house of linen and potters in the kings service, 1 Chron 4.21-23).
We are told to sin not but Genesis 38 reeks of sinfulness. Look deep and you will discover that the story of Tamar offers a deeper message. God is sovereign. Nothing we do will destroy His divine plan.
Only five women are mentioned by name in the lineage of Jesus, and Tamar is one of them. God ordained these five women to be a part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Rahab, a prostitute living in Jericho gave birth to Boaz. Ruth married Boaz and gave birth to Obed, King David’s grandfather. Bathsheba was the mother of Solomon, through which we find our way to the Messiah. Mary is the fifth and final woman named in the genealogy of Jesus. They are all in the Savior’s genealogy to give us hope, and to foreshadow the kind of people the Messiah came to save. Jesus came from a lineage of sinners to save sinners, but He remained sinless.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
The power of God overshadows any sin we commit and accomplishes every purpose He has ordained. He does what He pleases and what He pleases is good and loving.
“Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him. Psalm 115:3 (NIV)
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)