Genesis 38 Judah And Tamar.
Judah departed from his brothers, saw, married, and had three sons with Shua a Canaanite. He then took a wife for his firstborn Er, whose name was Tamar (vv. 1-6). We don’t have the specifics on the evil which Er was guilty of, but the LORD killed him for it, and also his brother Onan, who was guilty of not seeking to provide Er with an heir through Tamar (vv. 7-10). Since his third son Shelah was too young, Tamar would have to wait as a widow in her father’s house (v. 11). However, even though Shelah eventually came of age, he and Judah were not keeping their commitment to Tamar. As a result she conspired to have Judah impregnate her, which he did, thinking that she was a harlot. She had proof by taking his signet and cord, and staff (vv. 12-18). This was the equivalent of his signature. “He signed contracts by rolling the seal over the clay on which the contract was etched.” (NGSB. 72)
Tamar then no longer wore the clothes of widowhood (v. 19). However, when Judah sent a goat to redeem his signet and cord, and staff, his friend the Adullamite could not find Tamar (vv. 20-22). In Judah’s mind he was able to cease this effort, for he had sent the young goat as an exchange, but the woman could not be found (v. 23). When Judah was told that Tamar had played the harlot he wanted her burned – the maximum penalty allowed for harlotry (v. 24 Cf. Lev. 20:14; 21:9; Dt. 22:21). When she presented to Judah his signet and cord, and staff, he was forced to acknowledge that he was the father, and that he was guilty of not giving his son Shelah to her. “And he never knew her again” (vv. 25-26). Tamar then gave birth to twins, and as in the case of Judah, the one to come first was overtaken by the younger, reminiscent of Jacob usurping Esau (Gen. 25:25-26).