Richard Agee

Genesis 38: Salacious story of Yehudah and Tamar points to coming glory of the Messiah

Richard AgeeThis isn’t a Bible passage one might want to read to young children, but it is recorded for a profound reason. It gives us another insight into the character of Yehudah (Judah), and the symbols point to King David and the Messiah.

This account is another example of the Bible’s not being written strictly in chronological order. The episode occurred before he was part of the sale of Yosef (Joseph) into slavery (Genesis 37).

At this point, Yehudah had separated himself from “his brothers.” It doesn’t mention Yehudah separating himself from his father. We don’t know why Yehudah did that.  Yehudah’s motive in the separation is not disclosed. 

He went to the town of Adullam and met a man of that area named Hirah and Hirah helped him find a wife. She had three children with Yehudah. The first son was named Er, his name means “watchful.” We don’t know who was watchful. The second son was Onan, which means strong, powerful. The third son was named Shelah. When Er was old enough to be married, his parents found him a wife, named Tamar. Sometime after Er’s marriage to Tamar, God Himself killed Yehudah’s first-born son because of his wickedness. The second son did something God didn’t like and killed Onan, too. We don’t’ like to think of God killing people unless we consider it a “good reason.” These deaths were a message to Yehudah. 

After the deaths of his two oldest sons, he sends Tamar back to her father’s house. After Tamar leaves Yehudah’s house, his wife dies and then she hears that Yehudah’s son Shelah was old enough to marry but he hadn’t been given to her. She also hears that Yehudah is leaving to go to Timnah to have his sheep sheared. She had reason to believe he was leaving the area for good and leave her as a widow for ever. She takes matters into her own hands by setting aside her widow’s garments and dresses as a cult prostitute and finds Yehudah. 

He offers to pay her a prostitute’s wage. She asks him for a pledge, she demands that he give her his signet, cord and staff in pledge. The seal was a representation of Yehudah’s name and status, he would have used it to sign documents. The cord was a representation of royalty and his staff would have been used for sheepherding. After he came into the “prostitute” he left to go and bring back her real wage, which was a young goat but she had already fled. He didn’t seem concerned about the fact that his primary identification were gone. He was more concerned about his public image than about his identity being stolen. 

Once Yehudah found out his daughter in law was pregnant, he wanted to have her killed. Once he realized that she was pregnant with his children, he withdrew his death decree against her. 

When she was giving birth, one of the boys stuck out his hand and the midwife tied some kind of red cord on it, then he immediately withdrew his hand and other brother was born first. The son that ended up as the first-born was Perez.

Perez’s name means “to breakthrough” The son with the red cord was named Zerah. Zerah’s name means “to rise like the dawn” and “bring forth light.”

It was the second son who ended up with the red string on his hand. Both names are Messianic names. Just as the Messiah, when He first comes into our lives, had to separate us like with a sword, from our friends and family who don’t love God. Then He brings light and knowledge into our hearts. 

This story is not primarily about the conniving of Yehudah and Tamar but about their two sons and their connection to King David. The blue cord, the signet and the staff are all a prophecy of King David and to the Messiah. 

Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.

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