Pax Hart

Genesis 38: Judah and Tamar

Another outlandish story of morality. These are like Aesop’s fables. This is a story about one of Joseph’s brothers. The one who suggested they sell him into slavery instead of killing him.

No God in this story though there are two instances where Judah’s sons Er and Onan die and it’s attributed to God’s punishment because they are wicked.

When I read the passage about Onan, his wickedness was his deception: not fulfilling his obligation to his brother’s wife but instead tricking her into never conceiving again.

It was not having non-procreative sex and it was not spilling his seed on the ground. It was his shirking his responsibilities and lying about it. It was what was in his heart, not what was on the floor.

All and still, this sounds like superstition. Why would Creator of the Universe, in all his majesty, deign to smite two nobody shepherds in Canaan?

I think this is a morality tale, possibly this will lead into a lineage thread on the way to Jesus, but I don’t see God in this passage.

I think this goes back to: what if God only brushes man every couple of thousand years? What if the intensity of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, where God walked among them and spoke to them, was such a rare and profound event that the vibrations are still being felt today, 4,000 years later?

Can you, as a believer, accept that there will not be fireworks and angles? Can you accept that we may not feel God’s presence in this part of the galaxy for another billion years, yet still keep your faith in him?

Judah has some growth here. When he calls for Tamar to be burned at the stake for prostitution and then discovers it was he who got her pregnant, he recalls that he sent her back to her father to live as a widow. How this redeems her in his eyes is unclear, but the mercy he shows here establishes some moral principle.

Judah will be essential later on when they face Joseph in Egypt and he offers his life to save Benjamin.