For some reason I was led to look at this part of the Genesis stories. I read the Wikipedia article entitled Tamar (Genesis) and recalled having read it before. Then I did a reverse lectionary search to find out when the Episcopal Church reads part or all of Genesis 38 and (crickets chirping) … ooops. Nada. This is one of those never to be read aloud in church stories [at least as the lectionary is presently set up; it might change over the decades). Therefore, I am called to read it silently. You can read along here: Genesis 38.
First, let me address the Wikipedia article’s “Narrative critics” section, which begins with identifying “Literary critics,” which is a linked search term that is defined as being those who study, evaluate, and interpret literature. In the vein of Biblical criticism [where veins carry blood spent of all value from the extremities and returns the bad blood to the heart and lungs to be revitalized], to see divine Scripture as “literature” is not quite correct. That is important to clear up.
Please know that these are the scum of the earth scholars that explain how the ” J corpus” [follow that link for a laugh] makes it hard to justify the chronology of this story from Genesis, matching it with the other chronology they have studied, evaluated and interpreted. In case you are unaware, the “Jahwist” writers are part of the same think tank that says there was some “E writer” who was so stupid that when he wrote Genesis and used the word “elohim” [the plural Hebrew word for “el“] he meant for scholars to intuit that properly as meaning it was his intent for all those plural references to be translated as the singular “God.” Those scholars also say Genesis 2:1-4 are really the last four verses of Genesis 1 [because someone ran out of parchment?].
Please do not laugh. This is a true capture of academia at its finest.
The synopsis of Genesis 38 is this: Judah – the fourth son of Jacob, an elder brother of Joseph – left mom and pop and married a woman, the daughter of Shua, having his own family. He and his wife had three sons (Er, Onan, and Shelah). Judah gave his eldest son Er a wife, a girl named Tamar. Er, however, being wicked, was killed by God. Due to first-born inheritance requirements, Judah told Onan to make a baby with Tamar, which would be seen as the son of Er, because Tamar was his widow. Onan, however, used the “pull out method” [Roman Catholic approved birth control], so he could not get Tamar pregnant. God did not like that, so He killed Onan too. Judah kinda promised to let his youngest son, Shelah, give it a try with Tamar, but because Shelah was too young, he told Tamar to wait a few years. The reality of that was Judah was a lying bastard and probably saw the sign ‘every son I let lay with Tamar get killed by God’, so he wasn’t about to make that mistake again. That led Tamar to dress like a prostitute [wear a veil over her face] and entice a drunken Judah to lay with her, with the price being a goat, Judah’s staff, the cord used to tighten his mantle, and his signet ring. Judah agreed, gave her his three things and then left after sex, sending an underling later to deliver the goat. Nobody knew who it was that was supposed to get the goat, because they had no prostitutes there. Three months later, Tamar announced she was pregnant and because she was not married [she was a widow, two times over] she was accused of being a prostitute, being brought before the counsel, where Judah declared she must be burned for harlotry. Tamar then produced the three things, saying these belong to my husband and Judah knew he was the father. Tamar then gave birth to twin sons of Judah: Perez and Zerah.
The lineage of Perez and Zerah are connected to both King David and to Jesus, meaning God knew what was going on.
As to the criticism that the chronology does not work out, based on other chapters close in Genesis, let me clear that up. The chronology has to be accepted as truth; but the truth of the chronology must then squeeze between the ears of the fools who think too much, due to having big brains, and then prove to God, “I got this. If You say it all fits, then it all fits.”
The truth says the chronology of the chapters does not have to meet the exact chronology within one chapter, because one chapter can take a beginning point that fits the others and then expand that chronology beyond the chronology of other chapters.
For instance here: The chronology is of Judah leaving his brothers. Prior, along with his brothers, Judah sold Joseph into slavery [after trying to kill him in a cistern]. Afterwards, Judah, along with his brothers, prostrate themselves before Joseph, without recognizing him, although he recognized them. At that time, Judah might have had only two sons, and Tamar was not married to either of them. Thus, the chronology, where some says the counsel that judged Tamar included Jacob [aka Israel], Joseph, and Judah, was well down the line of time; but, the story told in Genesis 38 of Judah happened exactly as stated. The Big Brains need to realize that and make accommodations that recognize God’s truth is well-beyond the extent of the biggest brain [is that in a whale?].
Everything is chronologically correct. The Holy Bible is not a set of history books. This story of Judah and Tamar can last forty years, as a story that stretches from the birth of Judah’s marriage to a daughter of Shua, until the birth of Zehar. That has no bearing on Genesis chronology of Genesis 38:1 not matching the the order of Genesis 37:1 and Genesis 39:1. Therefore, only an non-believer [scum of no faith] would ever begin to propose: “I know more than God!”
Hebrew scholars recognize the twin births of Perez and Zehar as being parallel to the twin births of Esau and Jacob. They equate that closeness in storyline with a divine theme, similar to barren women being allowed to give birth by God, for a divine purpose. Thus, they see Tamar in the same light as Rebecca and Rachel.
Because this story in Genesis 38 includes lots of names, with naming being an act that bears hidden meaning, I thought it would be fun to list those names and meanings:
Judah – Let Him (God) Be Praised; Praised
Shua – Nobel; Rich
Er – Watching; Watcher; Wild Ass
Onan – Iniquity; Vigorous
Shelah – Prayer; Prosperity; Request
Tamar – Palm, Palm Tree, Free Market
Perez – Breach; Breaking
Zehar – Dawning; Rising Of Light
In all the stories of Jacob’s sons all but Joseph and Benjamin (the sons of Rachel) are sinners. Anyone who thinks bloodline means a birthright to divine salvation needs to think again. Jacob was a sinner. His name change to Israel was a symbol of his seeking forgiveness for his sins and becoming righteous. Still, Judah, who would become the patriarch of all who later become known as Jews can be seen as the father of those who would keep the flame of light for Yahweh burning, in those who would “Let God Be Praised.”
Judah married wealth while in Canaan [Adullam], which becomes synonymous with those who would bear his name. The symbolism is a sense of power felt by Jews, which goes far beyond a confidence that Yahweh is their God, to a lust for the things that one surrounds oneself with, as symbols of God’s love. This wealth is then seen in the price Judah paid to have sex with a woman he believed to be a prostitute.
We do not get much detail about why Er was wicked, but his name implies he was an onlooker, rather than a participant. The fact that he is identified as the firstborn and thus the primary heir of Judah, Er becomes symbolic of all Jews who think they are the reincarnation of Judah’s firstborn son, the rightful heirs of all the wealth of Judaism. Before that baby with Tamar could ever be conceived, Yahweh struck Er dead. Twice is written “יְהוָ֑ה” [“Yahweh”], not “elohim” [all you scholars that like to play “gods” with God]. Er was wicked in the sight of Yahweh and Yahweh killed Er.
This has to be seen as a literal death of Er, the firstborn male child of Judah, but one needs to be able to see the greater scope of “muth,” the root verb that means “die.” In the imperfect, 3rd person masculine singular, the word written says “YHWH [He] caused to die, killed, or had executed” poor ole Er. We frail human beings, being the mortal creatures we are, always thinking [a brainal function] about our bodies of flesh and never our souls, fail to see that Yahweh not only killed the wicked body of flesh known as Er [the Onlooker, not the Participant], but He forever ceased that soul from ever being an heir to God’s Kingdom [Heaven]. The soul of Er has been killed spiritually. Er’s own wickedness probably led to his physical death, as Yahweh watched without protecting him. Whoever is the reincarnation of Er’s soul has no chance of redemption [and people wonder how people like Charles Manson come to be]. It is an evil demon spirit that is created, once a soul is killed.
Then we read about the middle son, Onan, who is tapped on the shoulder by Judah as the ‘next man up’ to bring about an heir to Judah’s wealth. By some misguided sense of righteousness, as if being of the bloodline of Jacob won anybody favor with the Lord, Judah was worried about dead soul Er not inheriting his double share as firstborn.
I have rich relatives that think their golden turds will be used to build them a mansion in Heaven, after death on this planet. They turn deaf ears to pondering forgiveness for their own souls, as they take delight in seeing myself as some lowly excuse of humanity, with no potential to ever crap golden turds. Onan lives on today in people like that.
Onan, whose name means “Iniquity,” as being full of himself [“Vigorous”], is no better than an Onlooker, as he pretended to go through all the acts of generating an heir for bubba, only to shoot his wad on the ground. Onan becomes symbolic of all the Jews and Christians today that love to pretend to be religious, when they ceased believing in God at puberty [per census poll answers]. Not wanting to get a woman pregnant is the second-worse sin a man of God can commit. The worst sin is getting one pregnant and then running away or telling her to kill the baby. Onan lives on today in the selfishness of people like that.
These two brothers reflect the Jews that walk today as the resurrections of Judah, with their souls still dead as doornails. They think they have inherited the double share of Judah’s wealth, but it is nothing more than the illusionary wealth of the temporal plane. The Jews that walk tall around Hollywood, buying and selling boys and girls that are seen as holes to be used, instead of flesh that can conceive anything virtuous, they are the reincarnations of Er, full of wickedness.
The New York City Jews that pretend to be pious, while paying to ensure a Zionist state in false Israel will always keep the world on the threshold of annihilation, they are the reincarnations of soulless Onan. They go through the motions of making love to G_d, while spilling their seed on the ground, where that symbolism means Jews buying the leaders of the free world to do their bidding [lest they forget]. Such is their Iniquity; so, Yahweh made Onan go the way of bubba Er, having not learned the Er of his ways.
Shelah, who becomes a seeming afterthought in the story, as he never does anything, has to be seen as the transformation of Judah, from asshole sinner, to confessed and repentant sinner [Sinners Anonymous says, “Once a Sinner, always a Sinner, just counting the days since one’s last sin”], who has prayed to Yahweh for another son, one who will allow the reformed Judah to raise a son that will serve God, not self. So, Shelah is the “Prayer” that Yahweh will answer, as the “Prosperity” of good seed and the “Request” made [a sincere promise made in exchange for hearing] that is answered. In that sense, Shelah becomes the eternal debt owed to God by Judah.
This brings us to the meaning of Tamar, whose name means “Palm” or “Palm Tree.” According to Abrahim Publications Biblical Dictionary: “in the Bible all trees (oaks, figs, olives, and so on) relate to certain aspects of the wisdom tradition.” They go on to mention that the prophetess Deborah “sat under a palm tree” [see my interpretation of that mistranslation]. The way to see Tamar is as a fruit-bearing tree, who is a willing offering of Yahweh to the sons of Judah, from which good fruit is to be found: be it dates from a date palm or figs, olives, grapes, etc [coconut-bearing palms do not grow naturally in Israel]. This means Er and Onan were dead branches that could never bear fruit.
In the story, Judah is all sad because his wife, the daughter of rich man Shua, has died. Wow! Think about that being symbolic [as a prophecy] of the overthrow of Jerusalem and Judah, when the Judeans were sentenced to captivity in Babylon. The days of being a rich man were over for Judah.
Judah had been reduced to going to Timnah (a place whose name means “Allotted Portion”). That reflect upon the return to Jerusalem, where the Persians-Greeks-Romans allotted the Jews a false sense of owning land. Judah went there to “shear his sheep” [the fleecing of lesser Jews in the name of YHWH]. That prophesies the wicked, unrepentant Jews would return, with their collective ass on their shoulders [Judah sad] because they lost their Covenant with Yahweh due to breakage and divorce.
It was in that place that Tamar wore a veil and wrapped herself [not sounding very sexy to me] and sat at the entrance to “Enaim,” a name that means “(Two) Fountains” or “(Two) Eyes,” or “A Place Of A Fountain.” When one connects a woman wearing a veil with a place of a fountain, in the same breath that says, “Judah means Jewish,” one is transported to old King David going to his rooftop and looking down on Bathsheba as she went to ritually cleanse herself after her period was over.
As far as Jerusalem is concerned in the metaphor, Gihon Spring is also known as the Fountain of the Virgin. It feeds the pool of Siloam that was in the City of David. It was in that pool that Jesus told the man born blind to go wash the mud and spit from his eyes. As such, the “Fountain Of Two Eyes” would be where the man born blind was able to regain his eyesight … from faith and the touch of Jesus. Therefore, Tamar waited with a veil that only left her two eye exposed, such that a drunken-on-wine Judah was blinded by the sensuality of only her two eyes.
The NRSV translates verse 21 as saying, “He [an Adullamite friend of Judah] asked the townspeople, “Where is the temple prostitute who was at Enaim by the wayside?” But they said, “No prostitute has been here.” The NIV replaces “temple” with “shrine.” The King James Version (and NKJV) state this like it is, with nothing written that says a temple or shrine was where Tamar was. It simply says “that place.” Sounds like someone was trying to rewrite the Old Testament and make it seem like Tamar acted like she was a harlot priestess, tricking devout Judah into getting a hardon, when he was just a horny guy who had just lost his wife.
One must see Tamar as God’s plan in play. Tamar was herself a temple unto the Lord, with her plotting to get impregnated by Judah just another example of the synchronistic way strange thing happen … unexplainable but with divine reason. Judah’s prayer had been answered in the birth of Shelah. At that point, Judah owed Yahweh a truly divine offspring that would be part of the lineage of Jesus, through David. To make that promise be fulfilled, Judah had to hand over his signet ring [his signature of commitment], his cord [the band of marriage that bound the two], and his staff [the branch of Jacob’s lineage]. All were symbolic of marriage to a tree that would produce good fruit. As for the goat that was part of the bargain, but never received, one can assume it was left in Enaim, but no one took it because it was payment for a prostitute, meaning it roamed free as a “scapegoat.” The sins of Judah had been expunged.
When three months had passed and Tamar was beginning to show her pregnancy, she announced it with a sense of happiness. She was finally pregnant, with all the delays of barreness that was the fault of poor excuses of husbands behind her. She knew the truth, so there was no reason to hide her pregnancy. There was no reason to move away in shame, because she was married to Judah, although he didn’t realize that fact yet. When Judah declared, as a judge of Tamar, saying she was a harlot, his saying “Bring her out and let her be burned!” was spoken from a newfound position as a responsible man of God.
Since punishment by burning was not an actual judgement, instead being metaphor for the raining down upon sinners the fire and brimstone of God, as was done to Sodom and Gomorrah, Judah was expressing that God will condemn the soul of all prostitutes. Being a former sinner, Judah must have known that all male children of God had to find some place to release pent up semen, when their wives were unavailable. Most likely, they all had some experience with such necessary sins, but it was unforgivable that a woman of God’s family stoop so low. [That is the fallacy that comes from men thinking they are the gods on earth over women. If Yahweh treated human males like they treat women, men would wail with sorrow and beg for forgiveness.] Israelites thought prostitution was what Gentile women did. However, all that attitude went out the window when Tamar showed Judah his wedding offerings (sans the goat).
This becomes a great example of how not to judge others, when you yourself have some dark little secrets that you like to keep hidden in the closet. God knows all. As long as you are married to God, just shut up and enjoy the ride, no matter how bumpy that ride might become. A bride of God’s standard reply is, “You know.” [That is why scholars fail to make the grade as wives of Yahweh.]
This brings us to the twins that came from Tamar. The firstborn reached his hand out of Tamar’s vagina and the midwife tied a scarlet ribbon around the wrist to signify the birthright due it. The color scarlet becomes symbolic of the blood of Christ, as the hand of God reaching out to be identified. While the midwife might have though scarlet reflected the hierarchy of royal birth order [from Judah being a wealthy tribal leader], the deeper symbolism is Christ.
Then, after that designation had been made, the twin that came out of the womb first was without the scarlet ribbon. He was then name “Breach” or “Breaking,” as Perez, which was to designate his body was blocking the other twin from coming out, so he turned sideways and ‘broke in line’ so he could come out first. The one that then came out next had the scarlet ribbon tied around his wrist, so he was name “Dawning” or “Rising Of Light,” as Zehar, because he made his coming known before he actually arrived. It is Zehar that links to Tamar that is in the Matthew 1:3 lineage of Jesus (with Perez), while Perez links in Luke 3:29 to David, both sons born of Judah.
Because of the similarities of Jacob coming out grasping his brother Esau’s heel, as twins where the second one born gained the birthright, this birth order in Tamar is seen as significant. As significant as it is, where the symbolism of “Rising Of Light” and “Dawning” are prophecies of the coming Messiah, who would be named Jesus, the Episcopal Church does not give it the breath of a public reading, like they do the Esau and Jacob birth.
Certainly, this Old Testament reading has a lot of significance for the Jews for Jesus, because Judah was one of the sons of Jacob, and one leader of the Tribes of Israel. But, that does not mean Christians can treat the Old Testament like it has no bearing on them. To think that is to Er, meaning to become the reincarnations of a soulless son of man that are “wicked in the eyesight of Yahweh,” so “Yahweh killed him” can be their epithets too. Christians don’t like to think of God as that kind of killing entity, so they lean over to loving Jesus and kiss his feet, forgetting that Jesus will come with a flaming double-edged sword coming out of his mouth that will lop the heads off anyone who denies anything of the Holy Bible. Neither God nor Jesus kill anyone. Human beings kill themselves, if for no other reason than being born in bodies assured of dying. What one needs to worry about is God killing one’s soul, or Jesus showing up in another [a true Christian] who looks you in the eyes and says, “Evil wicked demon come out!” Then it is possible you will give up the ghost, if that is all you have keeping you living in the flesh.
Tamar must be seen as the marriage proposal God has given to everyone who claims to believe in Him, no matter what religion they call their belief system. Marriage to Yahweh means giving birth to His Son, which is the reincarnation of a “Dawning” or “Rising Of Light” within one’s soul-flesh. Christians love to play the rich Judah, giving rise to sons that are abominations in the eyes of God, as the offspring of sinners who think their stuff don’t stink. Christians have to pray to God for Salvation AND MEAN IT SINCERELY! Then, as they go about their happy ways, they need to get ready to find out they have no power or glory oozing from their pours, with no righteousness flowing through their veins, until they accept the fact that every Tom, Dick and Harry Christian is a bride of God, who needs to be impregnated by Yahweh’s presence in their hearts, so they each become the twins born – soul [Perez] and Holy Spirit [Zehar].
All Christians and Jews [and Gentile seekers] are called to become Tamar, regardless of one’s human gender. Everyone is barren, otherwise. No one goes to Heaven without repentance [Prayer] and no one goes to heaven without his or her soul having been married to God’s Holy Spirit, being reborn as Jesus Christ. Thus, this story is another that supports that awareness.
R. T. Tippett