Here is, I. Judah’s rigour against Tamar, when he heard she was an adulteress. She was, in the eye of the law, Shelah’s wife, and therefore her being with child by another was looked upon as an injury and reproach to Judah’s family: Bring her forth therefore, says Judah, the master of the family, and let her be burnt; not burnt to death, but burnt in the cheek or forehead, stigmatized for a harlot. This seems probable, Gen. 38:24. Note, it is a common thing for men to be severe against those very sins in others in which yet they allow themselves; and so, in judging others, they condemn themselves, Rom. 2:1; 14:22. If he designed that she should be burnt to death, perhaps, under pretence of zeal against the sin, he was contriving how to get rid of his daughter-in-law, being loath to marry Shelah to her. Note, It is a common thing, but a very bad thing, to cover malice against men’s persons with a show of zeal against their vices.
II. Judah’s shame, when it was made to appear that he was the adulterer. She produced the ring and the bracelets in court, which justified the fathering of the child upon Judah, Gen. 38:25, 26. Note, The wickedness that has been most secretly committed, and most industriously concealed, yet sometimes is strangely brought to light, to the shame and confusion of those who have said, No eye sees. A bird of the air may carry the voice; however, there is a destroying day coming, when all will be laid open. Some of the Jewish writers observe that as Judah had said to his father, See, is this thy son’s coat? (Gen. 37:32) so it was now said to him, “See, are these thy signet and bracelets?” Judah, being convicted by his own conscience, 1. Confesses his sin: She has been more righteous than I. He owns that a perpetual mark of infamy should be fastened rather upon him, who had been so much accessory to it. Note, Those offenders ought to be treated with the greatest tenderness to whom we have any way given occasion of offending. If servants purloin, and their masters, by withholding from them what is due, tempt them to it, they ought to forgive them. 2. He never returned to it again: He knew her again no more. Note, Those do not truly repent of their sins that do not forsake them.
III. The building up of Judah’s family hereby, notwithstanding, in the birth of Pharez and Zarah, from whom descended the most considerable families of the illustrious tribe of Judah. It should seem, the birth was hard to the mother, by which she was corrected for her sin. The children also, like Jacob and Esau, struggled for the birthright, and Pharez obtained it, who is ever named first, and from him Christ descended. He had his name from his breaking forth before his brother: This breach be upon thee, which is applicable to those that sow discord, and create distance, between brethren. The Jews, as Zarah, bade fair for the birthright, and were marked with a scarlet thread, as those that came out first; but the Gentiles, like Pharez, as a son of violence, got the start of them, by that violence which the kingdom of heaven suffers, and attained to the righteousness of which the Jews came short. Yet, when the fulness of time is come, all Israel shall be saved. Both these sons are named in the genealogy of our Saviour (Matt. 1:3), to perpetuate the story, as an instance of the humiliation of our Lord Jesus. Some observe that the four eldest sons of Jacob fell under very foul guilt, Reuben and Judah under the guilt of incest, Simeon and Levi under that of murder; yet they were patriarchs, and from Levi descended the priests, from Judah the kings and Messiah. Thus they became examples of repentance, and monuments of pardoning mercy.