Judah and Tamar
38 And it happened that at that time Judah went down from his brothers and pitched his tent near a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. 2 And Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite there whose name was Shua. And he took her and went in to her. 3 And she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er. 4 And she conceived again and bore a son, and he called his name Onan. 5 And once again she bore a son, and she called his name Shelah. And he was in Chezib when she bore him. 6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 And Er, the firstborn of Judah, was evil in the eyes of Yahweh, and Yahweh killed him. 8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to the wife of your brother and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the offspring would not be for him, so whenever he went in to the wife of his brother he would waste it on the ground so as not to give offspring to his brother. 10 And what he did was evil in the sight of Yahweh, so he killed him also. 11 Then Judah said to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, “Stay a widow in your father’s house until Shelah my son grows up,” for he feared he would also die like his brother. So Tamar went and stayed in the house of her father. 12 And in the course of time the daughter of Shua, the wife of Judah, died. When Judah was consoled he went up to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite, to Timnah. 13 And it was told to Tamar, saying, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14 So she removed the clothes of her widowhood and covered herself with the veil and disguised herself. And she sat at the entrance to Eynayim, which is on the way to Timnah, for she saw that Shelah was grown but she had not been given to him as a wife. 15 And Judah saw her and reckoned her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 And he turned aside to her at the roadside and said, “Please come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. And she said, “What will you give to me that you may come in to me?” 17 And he said, “I will send a kid from the goats of the flock.” And she said, “Only if you give a pledge until you send it.” 18 And he said, “What is the pledge that I must give to you?” And she said, “your seal, your cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” And he gave them to her and went in to her. And she conceived by him. 19 And she arose and left, and she removed her veil from herself and put on the garments of her widowhood. 20 And Judah sent the kid from the goats by the hand of his friend the Adullamite to take back the pledge from the hand of the woman, but he could not find her. 21 So he asked the men of her place, saying, “Where is that cult prostitute that was at Eynayim by the roadside?” And they said, “There is no cult prostitute here.” 22 Then he returned to Judah and said, “I could not find her. Morever, the men of the place said, ‘There is no cult prostitute here.’ ” 23 And Judah said, “Let her take them for herself, lest we be laughed at. Behold, I sent this kid, but you could not find her.” 24 And about three months later it was told to Judah, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the whore, and now, behold, she has conceived by prostitution.” And Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned.” 25 She was brought out, but she sent to her father-in-law saying, “By the man to whom these belong I have conceived.” And she said, “Now discern to whom these belong: the seal and cord and the staff.” 26 Then Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again. 27 And it happened that at the time she gave birth that, behold, twins were in her womb. 28 And it happened that at her labor one child put out a hand. And the midwife took it and tied a crimson thread on his hand saying, “This one came out first.” 29 Then his hand drew back and, behold, his brother came out, and she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” And she called his name Perez. 30 And afterward his brother who had the crimson thread on his hand came out. And his name was called Zerah.
Joseph in Potiphar’s House
39 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, a court official of Pharaoh, commander of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the hand of the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2 And Yahweh was with Joseph, and he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. 3 And his master observed that Yahweh was with him, and everything that was in his hand to do Yahweh made successful. 4 And Joseph found favor in his eyes and he served him. Then he appointed him over his house and all that he owned he put into his hand. 5 And it happened that from the time he appointed him over his house and over all that he had, Yahweh blessed the house of the Egyptian on account of Joseph. And the blessing of Yahweh was upon all that he had in the house and in the field. 6 And he left all that he had in the hand of Joseph, and he did not worry about anything except the food that he ate. Now Joseph was well built and handsome. 7 And it happened that after these things his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not worry about what is in the house, and everything he owns he has put in my hand. 9 He has no greater authority in this house than me, and he has not withheld anything from me except you, since you are his wife. Now how could I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And it happened that as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not heed her to lie beside her or to be with her. 11 But one particular day he came into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house were there in the house, 12 she seized him by his garment and said, “Lie with me!” And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and he went outside. 13 And it happened that when she saw that he left his garment in her hand and fled outside, 14 she called to the men of her house and said to them, “Look! He brought a Hebrew man to us to mock us! He came to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15 And when he heard me, that I raised my voice and called out, he left his garment beside me and fled, and he went outside.” 16 Then she put his garment beside her until his master came to his house. 17 Then she spoke to him according to these words, saying, “The Hebrew slave that you brought to us came to me to make fun of me. 18 And it happened that as I raised my voice and called out, he left his garment beside me and fled outside.” 19 And when his master heard the words of his wife that she spoke to him, “This is what your servant did to me,” he became very angry. 20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into prison, the place that the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in prison. 21 And Yahweh was with Joseph, and showed loyal love to him, and gave him favor in the eyes of the chief of the prison. 22 And the chief of the prison put all the prisoners that were in the prison into the hand of Joseph. And everything that was done there, he was the one who did it. 23 The chief of the prison did not worry about anything in his hand, since Yahweh was with him. And whatever he did Yahweh made it successful.
Jesus Is Crucified
32 And as they were going out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon. They forced this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they gave him wine mixed with gall to drink, and when he tasted it he did not want to drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots. 36 And they sat down and were watching over him there. 37 And they put above his head the charge against him in writing: “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 And those who passed by reviled him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “The one who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” 41 In the same way also the chief priests, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he is not able to save himself! He is the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him! 43 He trusts in God; let him deliver him now if he wants to, because he said, ‘I am the Son of God’!” 44 And in the same way even the robbers who were crucified with him were reviling him.
Jesus Dies on the Cross
45 Now from the sixth hour, darkness came over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) 47 And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, said, “This man is summoning Elijah!” 48 And immediately one of them ran and took a sponge and filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Leave him alone! let us see if Elijah is coming to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52 And the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
54 Now the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that took place, were extremely frightened, saying, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” 55 And there were many women there, observing from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, serving him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Jesus Is Buried
57 Now when it was evening, a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph came, who also was a disciple of Jesus himself. 58 This man approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a large stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Now Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
The Tomb Is Sealed and Guarded
62 Now on the next day, which is after the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees assembled before Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember that while that deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore give orders that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went with the guard of soldiers and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
Jesus Is Raised
28 Now after the Sabbath, at the dawning on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to view the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came up and rolled away the stone and sat down on it. 3 Now his appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. 4 And the guards trembled from the fear of him and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has been raised, just as he said. Come, see the place where he was lying. 7 And go quickly, tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and behold, he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there.’ Behold, I have told you.” 8 And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid! Go tell my brothers that they should go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
The Guards Report the Body Stolen
11 And while they were going, behold, some of the guard of soldiers went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 And after they had assembled with the elders and had taken counsel, they gave a rather large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 telling them, “Say ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him while we were sleeping.’ 14 And if this matter is heard before the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were told, and spread abroad this report among the Jews until this very day.
The Great Commission
16 So the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated for them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age.”
Enjoy Life While It Lasts
7 Go—eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart! For God already has approved your deeds. 8 Always be clothed in white garments, and never let your head lack oil! 9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which he gives you under the sun, because this is your lot in life and in the toil with which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do—do it with all your might; for in Sheol—where you are going—no one works, plans, knows, or thinks about anything.
Genesis 38 interrupts the climax of the Joseph narrative with another tale: Judah and Tamar. Switching protagonists is surprising enough, but the tale itself shocks us. We’re hardly given time to process the strange cultural practices of the ancient Near East, prostitution, deception, and the sudden death of those who displease God before we’re returned to Joseph’s struggles in Egypt.
The story is additionally confusing because it seems to lack a hero. Judah uses Tamar, as his two sons did—though he at least acknowledges his actions. Tamar uses her wits and risks her life to secure a future for herself, but she does so through deplorable means.
Attempts have been made to justify the characters and put it all in perspective, but there is no neat packaging. The characters in this story face dire circumstances and a unique cultural context—one that is nearly impossible for modern readers to understand. But we don’t need a lesson in ancient Near Eastern cultural studies to see that they are fallible, and that they exploit others for their own ends. And we don’t need a history lesson to be able to identify with them. An honest look at ourselves reveals our own sins—subtly deplorable, and respectably wrapped.
So, why is this story in the Bible? Why this tale of woe? Surprisingly, there is a hero. As we read, we see that God also uses people for redemption, not exploitation. Perez, the son of Judah and Tamar, is one in a long list of names that will lead to the birth of Christ. Through unlikely characters like Judah and Tamar, God prepared a way out of the sin that defined us.
Just like these characters, we are unlikely recipients of His favor.
How can you be thankful for God’s faithfulness in your life?
Author: John D. Barry & Rebecca Van Noord
Publisher: Lexham Press
Publication Date: 2012
This 365-day devotional walks you through the Bible in a year, following a custom reading plan that delves into the stories of the Bible from five unique perspectives.