Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A child is born 13: Tamar bears Perez and Zerah

About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the whore; moreover she is pregnant and a result of whoredom.” And Judah said,” Bring her out, and let her be burned.”

At the end of this very shocking story, Tamar gives birth to twins. The route to that birth is a grim one, however. In Tamar, we meet one of the bravest and most persistent women in Scripture. She was married to Er, the son of Judah, one of Jacob’s children. But Er died before she had any children of her own by him. According to the custom of the time, called “levirate marriage”, the next oldest brother in the family was obliged to marry her and father a child which would count as her first husband’s, so that his family line would continue and she would have children of her own to support and help her. But Onan refuses to father children for his dead brother. Tamar is told to wait until Judah’s youngest son, Shelah, grows up, but Judah delays and delays arranging the marriage, leaving Tamar with no children. To force Judah’s hand, she disguises herself as a prostitute and Judah himself, not recognising her, sleeps with her.

When she is found to be pregnant, Judah, who still doesn't know what has happened, condemns her to be burned. It is only then that she reveals that he is the father of her children. He is shamed into acknowledging that “she is more in the right than I”. This is tale of a brave and resourceful woman, who has to use her ingenuity to make it possible for her to bear children. She is listed among the forebears of Jesus in Matthew 1.2

The story is shocking to us. It would also have been shocking to those who first heard it, and it was meant to be. It underlined the vulnerability of widows in a patriarchal culture, and the responsibility, echoed time and time again through the Old Testament, that they should be given special care.  Levirite marriage, while it seems odd to us, was a practical way of ensuring that widows were not left without support.

·         Why do you think that Judah and his sons were so reluctant to fulfil their responsibility to Tamar?

·         Do you know of any widows in your family history? What was life like for them?

·         Pray for widows and widowers bringing up children while grieving the loss of their spouses. 

No comments:

Post a Comment