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Gen. 38:1-30 - Judah - Part 1
This chapter can be described as being nothing less than rated R! This chapter also really shows us how spiritually messed up things were within this family! Dysfunction, death, sex, blame shifting, prostitution, incest, a paternity scandal... this may sound like the stuff we find in tabloids, or even on our modern local news sources, but here we will see it playing out in Scripture.
In Scripture we find scandal and fallout, sin and consequences, complete with all the bitter repercussions in the lives of those directly involved, as well as the collateral damage in those around them. The collateral damage aspect we typically don’t see in the papers and in the news. But we face some of these same questions, don’t we? The same story lines play out among ourselves, our friends and our family. Sometimes they even have headline grabbing potential. At other times, the life-sapping impact of evil is a little less obvious.
In our own lives, many of us experience the fallout from the wrong that we've done or that has been done to us. And we may wonder: “Is there any hope for us in the aftermath of sin?”
Yes, there is! It may look very different from our expectations. The rawness of these following passages hopefully puts to death some of our worst tendencies in reading the Bible. I think many of us approach the Bible as if it were a series of heartwarming stories designed to inspire us to good, clean, moral living. But in its place we find a more profound hope. These bizarre passages move beyond the effects of sin to provide a picture of hope, transformation, and divine breakthrough for Judah and Tamar.
It’s the story of God triumphing over the evil in and among us. Sometimes God triumphs through harnessing our evil thoughts, words, and actions for purposes we had never intended.
We’ll be staying with Jospeh for the rest of Genesis, but it’s interesting that chronologically, this detour into the life of Judah is happening as Joseph is being forced away into slavery. The reason we’re getting this insight into Judah is the Word of God is deliberately singling out Judah here because Judah is who?? - The line through whom the Messiah will flow!
So deliberately following the line of the Messiah here.
Vs. 1-7 - “At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er.
She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.
Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.”
Now there does seem to be, operating within Judah, a slight conscience, though a very slight conscience. I would imagine, after watching this whole deal with Joseph, watching his father grieve day after day over the loss of his son, he’s got brothers committing murder and theft and incest. This guy has a whacked out, dysfunctional family here and I’m sure the guys like: “I’m outta here, gotta get away from crazy town. I’ve had enough, I’m gone!”
The problem is, he goes from crazy to crazier and starts hanging out with the Canaanites. The nicest thing you could say about the Canaanites was that they were VERY bad people! That’s the nicest thing you could say about them! Both Biblical history and archeology speak of a culture that was downright demonic, and we’ll just leave it at that.
So Judah takes a Canaanite wife, and the first kid here, evidently a real piece of work, so deeply evil evidently, that the Lord just takes him out in vs. 7.
The problem is, the wife that he found for son #1, Tamar there, well he’s taken out, so she’s widowed, and that’s where son #2 comes into play here in vs. 8, in a very awkward moment for the Pastor here in vs. 8 also.
Vs. 8-10 - “Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.”
We talked about this before, that In that culture for a woman not to have a child was to really be ridiculed. In this culture, and later this would be set in the Mosaic law in Deut. 25, that if your brother passes away before his wife has a male child, and you as his brother were yet to be married, then by what is called the ‘Levirate law’ were required to then go marry his wife and then the first male child that would be produced from that marriage would then legally bear the name of the dead brother. The idea was to perpetuate the dead brother’s family line. This was called ‘The Levirate law.”
Well, Onan decides he doesn’t want the responsibility of kids, he doesn’t want any part of this, so what he does - his sin is really self-gratification. So he uses his dead brother’s wife for self-gratification only and he does so in such a way as to not impregnate her. NOT going into details here - you can figure that out for yourself!
But I will say this, this text is sometimes used by people to prohibit masturbation. Now “Onanism,” named after this guy here, is unfortunately one of those terms that is used for masturbation, and yet this story has nothing to do with that at all! So, throw THAT out as a text GOVERNING that! At any rate, the Lord takes this guy out as well.
Very deliberately, moving right along here is vs. 11...
Vs. 11-12 - “Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household. After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him.”
No doubt a heavy loss for Judah here. He’s lost 2 sons, now he lost his wife. But what I want you to mark here is notice where he’s NOT getting his comfort from. Notice there’s no mention here of seeking the Lord at all, there's no mention of God. But he is once again seeking out ungodly companionship. Some of us need to hear this. Not only are you KNOWN by the company you keep, but you are FORMED by the company you keep. You keep hanging out with Canaanites it’s not going to be too long before you’re living like a Canaanite. I trust the application here is pretty obvious. If you find that you're not growing in the Lord, you’re inconsistent in your relationship with God, chances are you just might be being formed by the company you keep.
So be very careful with this if this is a struggle for you. You would do well to hang out a bit in 2 Cor. 6:14-18. Eternity is at stake, no small point.
All of that then sets up in this story now, it’s gonna get pretty weird beginning in vs. 13, and we’re going to wrap it up with just a bizarre story that this has all led to beginning next week
Blessings to you all.