One of my most favorite persons in the Bible is Joseph, the son of Jacob. What a remarkable man he was. I look forward to the opportunity to meet him in Glory.
I have noted before that the latter portion of the Book of Genesis, from chapter thirty-seven to chapter fifty, is devoted to the story of Joseph. With the exception of chapter thirty-eight, all chapters are about Joseph. However, I have discovered, I was wrong. Chapter thirty-seven begins with, “These are the generations of Jacob.” This is a clue.
It was because of the juxtaposition of Genesis chapter thirty-eight that I discovered my error. This chapter contains the strange account of Judah and his daughter-in-law, Tamar. At first glance, this story does not fit into the account of the life of Joseph.
In chapter thirty-eight we learn that Judah’s eldest son, Er, was married to Tamar. Er was wicked and the Lord took his life. According to the levirate principal, Tamar was then given to Judah’s second son, Onan, to continue the line of his dead brother. Onan was also wicked and the Lord took his life. Judah’s third son was too young to marry, so Judah told Tamar to wait.
When the third son, Shelah, came of age, Judah did not give Tamar to him. So Tamar took matters into her own hands. Dressing as a prostitute, with the addition of a veil to cover her face, she went to where Judah was sheep shearing. At this point in time Judah was a widower. He saw Tamar and promised her a kid (a young goat) if she slept with him. He did not have an animal with him, so he gave Tamar his signet, his bracelets and his staff as surety.
In the English text there is a wonderful pun in this story. A “kid” was exactly what Tamar wanted. In fact, three months later it became obvious that unmarried Tamar was pregnant. The penalty for this act was death. Tamar sent the signet, bracelets and staff to Judah, saying these belong to the father of the child.
Judah of course recognized his property and stated that Tamar was more righteous than he, because he would not give her to his son Shelah.
Tamar delivered twins. The eldest was Pharez, who is noted in Matthew 1:3 as being in the lineage of the Lord Jesus.
Tamar is also noted in the genealogy of Jesus because she was instrumental in preserving the bloodline of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus. The Lord intended that Jesus would be of the lineage of Judah. This is confirmed by the prophecy of Jacob in Genesis 49:8-12. Judah was not acting in a manner whereby his line would continue through his sons. The Lord did not direct the actions of Tamar, but used them to ensure that the line of Messiah continued as He intended.
This is why Genesis chapter thirty-eight fits within the story of Joseph, because it is not about Joseph. This entire portion of Scripture is about preserving the promised seed of Abraham that would bless the entire world. (Genesis 12:2-3) Joseph specifically told his brothers that God’s purpose of his ending up in Egypt was the setting up of the system by which all of Egypt and the sons of Jacob were saved from the famine.
“And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” - Genesis 50:18-20Despite the failures of man, God directed that the seed of Abraham would come to pass as the Lord intended. His ways are so much higher that our ways. Our God is so mighty! Praise Him always and ever!