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Judah and Tamar

38 About that time Judah left his brothers in the hill country and went to live near his friend Hirah in the town of Adullam. While there he met the daughter of Shua, a Canaanite man. Judah married her, and they had three sons. He named the first one Er; she named the next one Onan. The third one was born when Judah was in Chezib, and she named him Shelah.

Later, Judah chose Tamar as a wife for Er, his oldest son. But Er was very evil, and the Lord took his life. So Judah told Onan, “It’s your duty to marry Tamar and have a child for your brother.”[a]

Onan knew the child would not be his,[b] and when he had sex with Tamar, he made sure that she would not get pregnant. 10 The Lord wasn’t pleased with Onan and took his life too.

11 Judah did not want the same thing to happen to his son Shelah, and he told Tamar, “Go home to your father and live there as a widow until my son Shelah is grown.” So Tamar went to live with her father.

12 Some years later Judah’s wife died, and he mourned for her. He then went with his friend Hirah to the town of Timnah, where his sheep were being sheared. 13 Tamar found out that her father-in-law Judah was going to Timnah to shear his sheep. 14 She also realized that Shelah was now a grown man, but she had not been allowed to marry him. So she decided to dress in something other than her widow’s clothes and to cover her face with a veil. After this, she sat outside the town of Enaim on the road to Timnah.

15 When Judah came along, he did not recognize her because of the veil. He thought she was a prostitute 16 and asked her to sleep with him. She asked, “What will you give me if I do?”

17 “One of my young goats,” he answered.

“What will you give me to keep until you send the goat?” she asked.

18 “What do you want?” he asked in return.

“The ring on that cord around your neck,” was her reply. “I also want the special walking stick[c] you have with you.” He gave them to her, they slept together, and she became pregnant.

19 After returning home, Tamar took off the veil and dressed in her widow’s clothes again.

20 Judah had his friend Hirah take a goat to the woman, so he could get back the ring and walking stick, but she wasn’t there. 21 Hirah asked the people of Enaim, “Where is the prostitute who sat along the road outside your town?”

“There’s never been one here,” they answered.

22 Hirah went back and told Judah, “I couldn’t find the woman, and the people of Enaim said no prostitute had ever been there.”

23 “If you couldn’t find her, we’ll just let her keep the things I gave her,” Judah answered. “And we’d better forget about the goat, or else we’ll look like fools.”

24 About three months later someone told Judah, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has behaved like a prostitute, and now she’s pregnant!”

“Drag her out of town and burn her to death!” Judah shouted.

25 As Tamar was being dragged off, she sent someone to tell her father-in-law, “The man who gave me this ring, this cord, and this walking stick is the one who got me pregnant.”

26 “Those are mine!” Judah admitted. “She’s a better person than I am, because I broke my promise to let her marry my son Shelah.” After this, Judah never slept with her again.

27-28 Tamar later gave birth to twins. But before either of them was born, one of them stuck a hand out of her womb. The woman who was helping tied a red thread around the baby’s hand and explained, “This one came out first.”

29 Right away his hand went back in, and the other child was born first. The woman then said, “What an opening you’ve made for yourself!” So they named the baby Perez.[d] 30 When the brother with the red thread came out, they named him Zerah.[e]

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

39 The Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar, the king’s[f] official in charge of the palace guard. 2-3 So Joseph lived in the home of Potiphar, his Egyptian owner.

Soon Potiphar realized that the Lord was helping Joseph to be successful in whatever he did. Potiphar liked Joseph and made him his personal assistant, putting him in charge of his house and all of his property. Because of Joseph, the Lord began to bless Potiphar’s family and fields. Potiphar left everything up to Joseph, and with Joseph there, the only decision he had to make was what he wanted to eat.

Joseph was well-built and handsome, and Potiphar’s wife soon noticed him. She asked him to make love to her, but he refused and said, “My master isn’t worried about anything in his house, because he has placed me in charge of everything he owns. No one in my master’s house is more important than I am. The only thing he hasn’t given me is you, and that’s because you are his wife. I won’t sin against God by doing such a terrible thing as this.” 10 She kept begging Joseph day after day, but he refused to do what she wanted or even to go near her.

11 One day, Joseph went to Potiphar’s house to do his work, and none of the other servants were there. 12 Potiphar’s wife grabbed hold of his coat and said, “Make love to me!” Joseph ran out of the house, leaving her hanging onto his coat.

13 When this happened, 14 she called in her servants and said, “Look! This Hebrew has come just to make fools of us. He tried to rape me, but I screamed for help. 15 And when he heard me scream, he ran out of the house, leaving his coat with me.”

16 Potiphar’s wife kept Joseph’s coat until her husband came home. 17 Then she said, “That Hebrew slave of yours tried to rape me! 18 But when I screamed for help, he left his coat and ran out of the house.”

19 Potiphar became very angry 20 and threw Joseph in the same prison where the king’s prisoners were kept.

While Joseph was in prison, 21 the Lord helped him and was good to him. He even made the jailer like Joseph so much that 22 he put him in charge of the other prisoners and of everything that was done in the jail. 23 The jailer did not worry about anything, because the Lord was with Joseph and made him successful in all that he did.

Joseph Tells the Meaning of the Prisoners' Dreams

40 1-3 While Joseph was in prison, both the king’s[g] personal servant[h] and his chief cook made the king angry. So he had them thrown into the same prison with Joseph. They spent a long time in prison, and Potiphar, the official in charge of the palace guard, made Joseph their servant.

One night each of the two men had a dream, but their dreams had different meanings. The next morning, when Joseph went to see the men, he could tell they were upset, and he asked, “Why are you so worried today?”

“We each had a dream last night,” they answered, “and there is no one to tell us what they mean.”

Joseph replied, “Doesn’t God know the meaning of dreams? Now tell me what you dreamed.”

The king’s personal servant told Joseph, “In my dream I saw a vine 10 with three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its grapes became ripe. 11 I held the king’s cup and squeezed the grapes into it, then I gave the cup to the king.”

12 Joseph said:

This is the meaning of your dream. The three branches stand for three days, 13 and in three days the king will pardon you. He will make you his personal servant again, and you will serve him his wine, just as you used to do. 14 But when these good things happen, please don’t forget to tell the king about me, so I can get out of this place. 15 I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and here in Egypt I haven’t done anything to deserve being thrown in jail.

16 When the chief cook saw that Joseph had given a good meaning to the dream, he told Joseph, “I also had a dream. In it I was carrying three breadbaskets stacked on top of my head. 17 The top basket was full of all kinds of baked things for the king, but birds were eating them.”

18 Joseph said:

This is the meaning of your dream. The three baskets are three days, 19 and in three days the king will cut off your head. He will hang your body on a pole, and birds will come and peck at it.

20 Three days later, while the king was celebrating his birthday with a dinner for his officials, he sent for his personal servant and the chief cook. 21 He put the personal servant back in his old job 22 and had the cook put to death.

Everything happened just as Joseph had said it would, 23 but the king’s personal servant completely forgot about Joseph.

Footnotes

  1. 38.8 It’s your duty. . . child. . . brother: If a man died without having children, his brother was to marry the dead man’s wife and have a child, who was to be considered the child of the dead brother (see Deuteronomy 25.5,6).
  2. 38.9 the child. . . not be his: When Judah died, Onan would get his dead brother’s share of the inheritance, but if his dead brother had a son, the inheritance would go to him instead.
  3. 38.18 ring. . . walking stick: The ring was shaped like a cylinder and could be rolled over soft clay as a way of sealing special documents. The walking stick was probably a symbol of power and the sign of leadership in the tribe, though it may have been a shepherd’s rod.
  4. 38.29 Perez: In Hebrew “Perez” sounds like “opening.”
  5. 38.30 Zerah: In Hebrew “Zerah” means “bright,” probably referring to the red thread.
  6. 39.1; 40.1-3 the king’s: See the note at 12.15.
  7. 39.1; 40.1-3 the king’s: See the note at 12.15.
  8. 40.1-3 personal servant: The Hebrew text has “cup bearer,” an important and trusted official in the royal court, who personally served wine to the king.