Disclaimer: I am doing this as a way to share what I learn about these gals. I’m not saying what I discover and write about here is the absolute truth about them. I’m not thinking I’m going to discover some revolutionary truth that nobody’s heard before, nor am I looking to start legalistic fights. This is more about me being curious and wanting to learn more about these gals, and saying “Here’s what I learned in my Bible readings today!”
Okay! Entry #2 in the SSSIW series! Here's Tamar (The Genesis version, not a daughter of King David.)
Which One Is She?
As we’ll soon see, Tamar is a Schemer. But not an evil schemer, a schemer by necessity, thanks to being surrounded by not-so-obedient guys.
Who Could Be Her Celebrity Counterpart?
I’m gonna say she’s Minka Kelly. Here she is.
Does she look like someone else you might’ve seen? This becomes important later.
Where Is She In The Bible?
Genesis chapter 38, verses 1 to 30.
What Did You Already Know About Her Before This?
I remember her vaguely as the one who had sex with her father in law. And that’s about it.
So What’s the Story?
Okay, so there’s Judah. Who’s Judah? He’s the fourth son of Jacob. He’s the one (with Reuben) who saved Joseph from being killed by his brothers for his Technicolor Dreamcoat by getting Joseph out of the well and sell him to Midianite merchants. While Joseph goes off to Egypt, gets sold into Pharaoh’s house and has lots of merry adventures there, the brothers go their own ways.
Judah breaks from the herd and gets married to a Canaanite gal named Shua. She gives birth to three sons – Er, Onan and Shelah. Since Er is the firstborn, he gets married first, to a gal named Tamar. Per verse 6b “But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight so the Lord put him to death.” What did Er, er, um, do? Bible never says. Er is here, Er is, er, gone.
In Biblical times, they had this wackadoo thing called Levirate marriage, where if you’re a dude, and your married brother dies and you’re still single, you’re supposed to sleep with your brother’s widow so she can get pregnant and bear a kid. Why is this? Because in Biblical times, if you were a chick, you were a second class citizen and a woman couldn’t inherit her husband’s property, only her children could. Additionally, if you’re a woman in Biblical times and you’re not a daughter, a wife or a mother, you don’t have any rights. Right now, Tamar is childless and a widow. So really, she’s screwed. Actually, she’s not, that’s the whole point here, she’s gotta GET screwed.
So here’s son number TWO! Onan! Onan, step up! If you’re a high school student in any kind of religious institution, you know Onan as, snigger, snigger, the one that “spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother.” So he’s the first official rhythm method dude. He doesn’t wanna get Tamar pregnant, not because it’s kinda gross to be sleeping with your brother’s wife (even though it is), but possibly because any kids from this union would be considered Er’s, not his. These Biblical times are so messed up on so many levels.
So then God kills Onan. BWAH! Thanks, God! That’s what you get for practicing the rhythm method! Ya-woooooooo!
Now there’s only one son left, Shelah. Instead of viewing God as Tamar’s bodyguard, killing anyone who doesn’t give her a kid, Judah is viewing Tamar as a pox upon his household. Judah thinks Tamar’s unlucky, as his sons keep dying around her. So Judah sends Tamar back to her father’s house to live until Shelah “grows up.”
Judah’s not only scared, he’s not obedient. According to Levirate custom, if Shelah’s too young, Judah can perform the obligation himself and get Tamar pregnant. But Judah refuses, possibly because it’s gross, possibly because Mrs. Judah’s still around (Not for long, but important to note that Mrs. Judah did not die because she didn’t have sex with Tamar, more likely because of old age. BWAH!) but more likely, Judah suspects Tamar has the VAGINA OF DEATH, and doesn’t wanna inflict whatever curse she’s got on himself.
But God WANTS Tamar pregnant in the worst possible way. Why? Because she’s going to be part of the bloodline that eventually produces Jesus, though nobody knows that yet.
Tamar herself is looking at her situation and knows she’s gotta get screwed and if Judah and his household are not gonna step up and be a man about it, she’ll roll up her scheming sleeves and get the job done herself.
Instead of last week’s Woman At The Well who would pick anybody, Tamar’s gonna play by the rules and get pregnant by Judah. She hears that Mrs. Judah has passed away, and that Judah is gonna travel to get his sheep sheared (not a metaphor, we’re talking literal sheep.)So she disguises herself as a temple prostitute and waits by the side of the road for him. Wackadoo Thing #2 in Biblical Times – it was considered culturally okay for a guy to “worship” at a temple by sleeping with a prostitute. They thought it would bring favor on the guy’s life – water for crops, good luck with the sheep (I don’t even wanna think about what that means), etc. etc. etc.
So Judah approaches Tamar, who he thinks is the Gossip Girl actress Leighton Meister. Because they look a lot alike! So alike it was a plot point in the movie The Roommate !
But since Tamar’s saying she’s a prostitute, there’s a security deposit involved. Well… I got goats! Nifty cool keen! Tamar says yeah, it’s gonna take something else, so Judah coughs up a seal, cord and staff, and off they go to the races. When Judah sends his servant back the next day to get the security deposit back, there’s a problem with the carpet, holes in the walls, the door is kinda off its hinges and no you’re not getting the security deposit back… NO! Tamar is GONE! GONE with the security deposit! The servant asks around, and everyone’s like, “Nope, there’s no Leighton Meister around here. We don’t know who you’re talking about.”
But it doesn’t matter. we have a winner in the Screwing Tamar Sweepstakes! Judah! Come on down!!! When Judah hears that Tamar is pregnant, he says YES! BONUS! SHE’S A SLUT AND I CAN BURN HER TO DEATH! YESSSSSSS! (seriously. It’s verse 24b)
But Tamar then shows up with the seal, cord, and staff and says these belong to the father of my child. Judah says, “Hey, those’re mine!” and realizes what’s happened.
To his credit, Judah doesn’t try to get out of it, but instead gives total bonus points to Tamar – “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” (verse 26) And though he doesn’t sleep with her again (bonus points to him, I guess), Tamar gives birth to twin boys named Zerah and Perez. Perez goes on to become a (bunch of greats) grandfather to Boaz, then King David, and ultimately Jesus Christ.
Whatchoo Thinking About?
Oooooh, boy. Where do I start!? That poor other son Shelah! Can you imagine him seeing all of this on the sidelines and thinking to himself, “there but for the grace of God (that my Dad’s not obeying) go I.” BWAH!
No, seriously. Here’s a fascinating thing:
Tamar sees her situation very clearly. She knows Judah is not doing right by her, (being disobedient to cultural practices and to God.) Her options, as a widow with no kids, are very limited. She’s probably thinking to herself, “I gotta do something. But what can I do?”
And she has no idea that God’s looking out for her, she has no idea that she has a very important part in God’s plan to bring about Jesus Christ.
The chapter doesn’t say anything about what she thought, only what she did. So we don’t know if she was praying to God saying, “I’m thinking I’m gonna do this. What do You this?”
Because that’s what modern day Christians are told to do all the time – You think you’ve got a plan? Tell God about your plan. Talk, discuss, sit and listen for His response. Don’t say “Here’s what I’m going to do, please prepare me and bless me for success.” It’s supposed to be, “Here’s the problem. Here are my options. Here’s what I’d LIKE to do, but I’d much rather do what YOU want me to do. Do you have an opinion on what you’d like me to do? Please feel free to share.”
Though Tamar’s discussion would have to have gone like “Father God in Heaven. I have to go trick my disobedient father-in-law into thinking I’m Leighton Meester when I’m really Minka Kelly. All so I can get pregnant.
This is a wackadoo plan, God. It involves weird sex by the side of the road, and trickery, and is this really my LIFE!? REALLY, GOD REALLY? IS THERE ANOTHER WAY THIS CAN HAPPEN?”
Meanwhile God’s up in heaven chuckling softly to himself, thinking, “My son Jesus is gonna say something really similar in the garden of Gethsemane…”
Holy crap, is that a breakthrough? Ahhhhh! Move down to the next question!
What Did You Learn?
Could the Bible be seen as a collection of stories about people who all said the same thing? I’LL DO THIS IF YOU WANT ME TO, GOD, BUT IS THERE ANOTHER WAY TO DO IT? NO!? WELL… GOSH… OKAY THEN! TRUSTING IN YOU AND YOUR WACKADOO PLAN!!!!!
I mean, take anybody from the Bible. I bet you they thought that at some point.
If you wanna break that down, anyone who’s asking that question thinks a few things.
There is a God.
He’s in charge of my life.
There’s this thing He wants me to do.
It sounds really wackadoo.
I really don’t wanna do it.
But because I trust God.
I’ll do it.
It will suck.
So I hope I get something out of being obedient. Like a pillow top mattress in heaven or something.
Well, I need to give a special shout out and thank you to Tamar. I don’t know that I would’ve reached the conclusion any other way. JJJ