Day 20: Judah and Tamar

Genesis 38:8 The common law in many cultures of the time prescribed that the brother of the deceased would wed the widow in order to give his brother heirs. This law, called the “levirate” law, would later be incorporated into the Law of Israel (cf. Dt 25:5).

Ch 38:9-11 The sin of Onan, son of Judah, is thus called ONANISM; it consists of the man withdrawing from the sexual union before emission. This practice offends the dignity of marriage and the sacredness of human sexuality that must be always open to the possibility of conception. Onan’s motivation was likely selfish because he would have had the rights to all of his deceased brother’s possessions as long as Tamar remained childless; as a result, he was struck down by God for his transgression. The next legal stop would have been to give Tamar to Judah’s next son, Shelah, but Judah was afraid for his son’s life and sent Tamar back to her father instead This sin of Onan is essentially a PRIMITIVE FORM OF CONTRACEPTION, which is GRAVELY EVIL. Only natural methods of avoiding conception, which involve abstinence from marital relations when a conception might occur, are morally licit when undertaken for serious reasons. (CCC 2368-2370, 2399)

Job 29:1-25 Job once felt that his prosperity and social status were signs of being in God’s good graces. In appreciation for these many blessings, Job led a virtuous life. Now, however, he felt that God had rejected him. However, amid his anguish and suffering, he sensed that GOd had not abandoned him. The travails of this life, whether or not these are directly related to sinful choices or actions, are a special opportunity for purification and growth in personal sanctity. (CCC 1609)

Ch 30:1-31 Job lamented especially his present agony, which was in stark contrast to his former situation of ease and contentment. Even the poor, for whom he had so generously cared, ahd turned their backs on him. He suffered great pain and disillusionment. (CCC 2052)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

  • Quite the soap opera eh?

  • Judah is the fourth of the sons of Israel and his name means “Praise”

  • One of the great things about Judah is that when Israel went into battle, the battle cry was, “Let the tribe of Judah go first”

  • When we face our day and the battles of life, Let Praise go up First

  • And yet, we hear a very disheartening story about Judah

  • Judah has two sons who get married, Er and Onan

  • Er marries Tamar but is seen as wicked by God and dies

  • Onan is ordered by Judah to marry Tamar but refuses to……..”finish” inside her and spreads his seed on the ground instead

  • This angers God and he dies as well

  • This is a scriptural account for the connection between the sexual act and reproduction

  • Onan separates the marital act from the openness to life

  • The sin of Onanism is whenever we separate the unitive aspect of the sexual act from the procreative aspect of the sexual act

  • This is one of the places in scripture that shows this connection

  • By separating the unitive act from the procreative act, Onan did something evil in the sight of the Lord

  • He also did something evil in the sight of the Lord since he was supposed to raise up a son for his deceased brother and his brother’s widow and does not

  • Tamar knew Judah would not give his next son, Shelah, to fulfill his responsibility to be her husband and raise a child for her because Judah was afraid this son would also die

  • Tamar now takes matters into her own hands and dresses up as a prostitute

  • Judah asks to have relations with her and offers her a goat, and as a pledge, Tamar asks for his signet, cord, and staff while she awaits the goat

  • The signet and cord was the CYLINDER SEAL, through which a hole was bored lengthwise so that it could be worn from the neck by a cord, and was a distinctive sign of identification, as was the staff (*NABRE 3rd ed Catholic Study Bible)

  • Judah ends up seeing her, but not recognizing her because she veiled her face, and having sexual relations with his son’s widow, his daughter in law!




  • Judah does end up honoring his pledge because Tamar proves that Judah had relations with her by showing him his own signet, cord, and staff

  • Judah’s bloodline now continues through TAMAR and her children and NOT the third son, Shelah (*NABRE 3rd ed Catholic Study Bible)

  • Now, go and read the Gospel of Matthew, specifically the genealogy of Jesus

  • There are four WOMEN who are named in this genealogy

  • Bathsheba, who was the wife of Uriah that David had cuckolded - SIN

  • Ruth who was a Moabite (remember where they came from? Lot and his first daughter raping him) - SIN

  • Rahab, who was a prostitute - SIN

  • THE FIRST WOMAN MENTIONED in the genealogy of Jesus is TAMAR, the mother of PEREZ AND ZERAH by tricking Judah into having relations with her by pretending to be a prostitute - SIN

  • This highlights the fact that Jesus’ own family tree is marked by much BROKENNESS

  • All of this SIN in the family line of Jesus highlights how GOD WRITES STRAIGHT WITH CROOKED LINES…...LITERALLY in this case

  • God can do INCREDIBLE things when He is the LORD OF OUR LIVES

  • God can bring about a PHENOMENALLY GREATER GOOD, even when WE CHOOSE EVIL

  • Do you understand what a gift that is?

  • God can make something BEAUTIFUL out of something that is BROKEN

  • That is very encouraging for us every single day when we RECOGNIZE our own brokenness


  • The Second Vatican Council described Holy Scripture as the words of God in the words of Men.

  • You are not broken alone

  • You are not being made beautiful alone

  • We are broken together

  • We are being made beautiful together


Prayer by Fr. Mike: "Father in Heaven, we give you praise and glory. Thank you so much for your Word. Thank you for revealing your heart to us and revealing your will to us. We ask that you please meet us at this moment because in this moment is where we find you. And in this moment is where you find us. Help us to be found by you. And help us to know your presence in this moment, in this circumstance, in this season of our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen."


Well this is just a mess!

Jacob- Isaac's second-born, gets the birthright and blessing by which the Messiah comes.

Judah- Jacob's fourth-born, will ultimately get the birthright and blessing to be the line by which the Messiah comes.

Perez- Judah's fourth-born, will be the son through which the Messiah will come.

Even though Sherah, Judah's third-born is still alive, because his mother Tamar, is the wife of the firstborn son, Er, Perez is also Er's first-born son.

If you ever thought your family was messed up...