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Genesis 38

The profligate conduct of Judah and his family.

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The profligate conduct of Judah and his family

1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.

2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.

3 And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.

4 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.

5 And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.

6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.

7 And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.

8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

11 Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.

12 And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

13 And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep.

14 And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.

15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.

16 And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?

17 And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?

18 And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.

19 And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.

20 And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not.

21 Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place.

22 And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place.

23 And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.

24 And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.

25 When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff.

26 And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.

27 And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb.

28 And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first.

29 And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez.

30 And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. At that time Juda, twenty years old, marries the daughter of Sue, and has three sons by her during the three following years. The first takes Thamar to wife, when he was seventeen. Onan marries her the next year; after which she remains a widow about three years, when she bears twins to Juda. Phares goes down with him into Egypt, and has children there during Jacob’s life. On this account, they are numbered among those who went down with Jacob, (C. xlvi. 12.) as the children of Benjamin seem to be likewise. Thus all these events might happen during the twenty-three years that Jacob dwelt in Chanaan, and the seventeen that he sojourned in Egypt. Some have thought the time too short, and have concluded that Juda had been married long before Joseph’s slavery. He was, however, only four years older. C.

Ver. 5. Sela. Juda gave the name of Her to his first-born, as the Heb. shews. His wife gave names to the two latter. — Ceased; Heb. casbi: “she died in bearing him,” as Aquila has it. Most commentators take the word for the name of a place mentioned, Jos. xv. 44. “He (Juda) was at Casbi when she bare him.”

Ver. 7. Wicked; without shame or remorse, sinning against nature, in order, if we may believe the Jews, that the beauty of his wife might not be impaired by having children. Onan was actuated by envy. M.

Ver. 8. Wife. This was then customary among the Chanaanites, as Philo insinuates. It also continued to be practiced in Egypt, till the year of Christ 491 at least, when the marriage had not been consummated. Moses established it as a law, when no issue had sprung from the deceased brother. C. Deut. xxv. 5. The eldest son bore his name; the rest were called after their own father. This law is now abrogated; and the prohibition, which has been issued by the Church, can be dispensed with only by herself, (W.) as was the case in the marriage of Henry VIII. with Catherine, the virgin relict of his brother Arthur. H.

Ver. 10. Slew him, perhaps by the hand of evil angels, Ps. lxxvii. 49. Asmodeus, &c. who slew the libidinous husbands of Sara. Tob. iii. 7. M. — If an exemplary vengeance were oftener taken of the perpetrators of such a detestable thing, this abominable and unnatural vice would sooner perhaps be eradicated. H.

Ver. 11. Till. Juda had no design to give her to Sela, as the custom of that age required. C. — She waited patiently for a time; when, perceiving that she was neglected, she devised a wicked scheme to punish Juda, even at the hazard of her own life. H.

Ver. 14. Veil; (theristrum) a long robe, covering the whole body, except the eyes. Thus she was disguised; or, as it were, masked, as Aquila translates. Harlots herein imitated modest women, chap. xxiv. 65. — Cross way. Heb. Henayim, which the Sept. and Syr. take for a proper name. Others translate “at the gate of the eyes,” which means two roads, where a person must open his eyes to judge which is the right one—or “at the gate of the two fountains leading to Thamnas.” Jud. xiv. 1. Prostitutes formerly infested the high roads. Jer. iii. 2. Ezec. xvi. 25. Chrysippus says, “at first harlots remained out of the city, and covered their faces; but afterwards growing more hardened, they laid aside the mask,” &c.

Ver. 18. Staff. These were all marks of dignity. “Kings made use of spears, or sceptres, before they wore a diadem.” Trogus. 43. C. — Juda might blame himself for exposing these valuable things, and divesting himself of all his dignity, to gratify his unjustifiable passion. If some have excused both the parties concerned, the Scripture at least sufficiently shews in what light we ought to consider their conduct. Juda himself thought her worthy of death; though in some sense, she was juster than himself, v. 24. 26. H. — She was guilty of a sort of adultery, being engaged to Sela; and also of incest, &c.; whereas the fault of Juda, through ignorance of her person, was simply fornication; which is, however, always contrary to the law of nature, as the pagans themselves confessed. Grot. in Matt. v. C. — From Christ’s choosing to be born of such progenitors, we may learn to adore his humility and tender regard for sinners. H.

Ver. 21. Harlot. Heb. Kedesha a person consecrated to good or evil. Many nations esteemed prostitution, in honour of Venus, as a laudable action. 2 K. xvii. 30. C.

Ver. 23. A lie. Heb. “lest we be exposed to shame,” by making any farther search. M.

Ver. 25. Execution. The Rabbin say she was to be marked with a hot iron. If she was to die, before she was delivered, God prevented the cruel sentence from taking effect. H. — Many nations have punished adultery with fire. Macrinus, the Roman emperor, ordered the culprits to be tied together and thrown into the flames. Capitolin. — Moses commanded the daughters of priests, who should be detected in this crime, to be given to the flames, (Lev. xxi. 9,) and others to be stoned; (Lev. xx. 10,) whence the Rabbin have concluded, that Thamar was a priest’s daughter. C.

Ver. 26. Juster. For Juda had been guilty of injustice; and had thus exposed her to the danger of following a life of lewdness. H. — She remained a widow afterwards, as she was now rendered unfit to be married either to Juda or Sela. The latter married another woman. Num. xxvi. 19. C. — While Juda was engaged in this unlawful commerce, and yielded to the temptation, Joseph was triumphing over a much greater temptation, in rejecting the solicitations of his master’s wife. H.

Ver. 29. Partition; the secundin√¶. The midwife was apprehensive of danger. M. — Phares. That is, a breach or division. Ch.

Ver. 30. Zara. “Orient, or rising;” in whose hand the red ribband denoted, that the blood of Christ is the source of all our merits and happiness. These two brothers were a type of the vocation of the Gentiles, and of the reprobation of the Jews, who lost the privileges to which they thought themselves entitled. S. Iren. iv. 42. S. Chrys. &c. C. — Phares was the ancestor of Jesus Christ. S. Matt. i. 3.