Judah and Tamar
38 About that time, Judah left his brothers and went to stay with a man named Hirah from the town of Adullam. 2 Judah met a Canaanite girl there and married her. The girl’s father was named Shua. 3 The Canaanite girl gave birth to a son and named him Er. 4 Later, she gave birth to another son and named him Onan. 5 Then she had another son named Shelah. Judah lived in Kezib when his third son was born.
6 Judah chose a woman named Tamar to be the wife of his first son Er. 7 But Er did many bad things. The Lord was not happy with him, so the Lord killed him. 8 Then Judah said to Er’s brother Onan, “Go and sleep with your dead brother’s wife.[a] Become like a husband to her. If children are born, they will belong to your brother Er.”
9 Onan knew that the children from this union would not belong to him. He had sexual relations with Tamar, but he did not allow himself to stay inside her. 10 This made the Lord angry. So he killed Onan also. 11 Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Go back to your father’s house. Stay there and don’t marry until my young son Shelah grows up.” Judah was afraid that Shelah would also be killed like his brothers. So Tamar went back to her father’s home.
12 Later, Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. After Judah’s time of sadness, he went to Timnah with his friend Hirah from Adullam. Judah went to Timnah to have the wool cut from his sheep. 13 Tamar learned that Judah, her father-in-law, was going to Timnah to cut the wool from his sheep. 14 Tamar always wore clothes that showed that she was a widow. So she put on some different clothes and covered her face with a veil. Then she sat down near the road going to Enaim, a town near Timnah. Tamar knew that Judah’s younger son Shelah was now grown up, but Judah would not make plans for her to marry him.
15 Judah traveled on that road and saw her, but he thought that she was a prostitute. (Her face was covered with a veil like a prostitute.) 16 So he went to her and said, “Let me have sex with you.” (Judah did not know that she was Tamar, his daughter-in-law.)
She said, “How much will you give me?”
17 Judah answered, “I will send you a young goat from my flock.”
She answered, “I agree to that. But first you must give me something to keep until you send me the goat.”
18 Judah asked, “What do you want me to give you as proof that I will send you the goat?”
Tamar answered, “Give me your seal and its string[b] and your walking stick.” Judah gave these things to her. Then Judah and Tamar had sexual relations, and she became pregnant. 19 Then Tamar went home, took off her veil that covered her face, and again put on the special clothes that showed she was a widow.
20 Later, Judah sent his friend Hirah to Enaim to give the prostitute the goat he promised. Judah also told Hirah to get the special seal and the walking stick from her, but Hirah could not find her. 21 He asked some of the men at the town of Enaim, “Where is the prostitute who was here by the road?”
The men answered, “There has never been a prostitute here.”
22 So Judah’s friend went back to Judah and said, “I could not find the woman. The men who live in that place said that there was never a prostitute there.”
23 So Judah said, “Let her keep the things. I don’t want people to laugh at us. I tried to give her the goat, but we could not find her. That is enough.”
Tamar Is Pregnant
24 About three months later, someone told Judah, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar sinned like a prostitute, and now she is pregnant.”
Then Judah said, “Take her out and burn her.”
25 The men went to Tamar to kill her, but she sent a message to her father-in-law that said, “The man who made me pregnant is the man who owns these things. Look at them. Whose are they? Whose special seal and string is this? Whose walking stick is this?”
26 Judah recognized these things and said, “She is right. I was wrong. I did not give her my son Shelah like I promised.” And Judah did not sleep with her again.
27 The time came for Tamar to give birth. She was going to have twins. 28 While she was giving birth, one baby put his hand out. The nurse tied a red string on the hand and said, “This baby was born first.” 29 But that baby pulled his hand back in, so the other baby was born first. So the nurse said, “You were able to break out first!” So they named him Perez.[c] 30 After this, the other baby was born. This was the baby with the red string on his hand. They named him Zerah.[d]
- Genesis 38:8 Go and sleep … wife In Israel if a man died without children, one of his brothers would take the widow. If a child was born, it would be considered the dead man’s child.
- Genesis 38:18 seal … string People wrote a contract, folded it, tied it with string, put wax or clay on the string, and pressed the seal onto it to seal it. This was like signing the agreement. Also in verse 25.
- Genesis 38:29 Perez This name is like the word meaning “to break out.”
- Genesis 38:30 Zerah This name is like the word meaning “bright.”