REMEMBER THE ODDBALL STORY of the widow Tamar pretending to be a prostitute so she could have sex with her father-in-law, Judah, one of Jacob’s 12 sons?
I learned something new about that story this week.
I learned why Tamar may have targeted him instead of his son – who was her fiancé.
Tamar had already married and buried two of Judah’s sons. The custom was for a man to marry the widow of his brother. This was a social security program for widows.
- Er, Judah’s oldest son, did what the Lord said was evil, so the Lord killed him (Genesis 38:7).
- Onan…made sure that she would not get pregnant. The Lord wasn’t pleased with Onan and took his life too (Genesis 38:9-10).
Onan’s problem was that if he gave Tamar a son, that son would be treated as Er’s heir. The boy would inherit everything his father had owned, possibly including the oldest son’s traditional birthright: a double share of the family estate.
If that was the case and if Onan made sure Tamar never had a son, Onan – as Judah’s oldest surviving son – would inherit the double share.
When Onan had sex with Tamar, he withdrew before he climaxed so she couldn’t get pregnant. The Genesis writer says that’s why God killed him – the penalty for early withdraw.
Judah promised to let Tamar marry his third and last son, Shelah. But Judah had no intention of giving the boy to this black widow. No matter what tradition said he should do.
Centuries later, Moses would take this tradition and make it law. One of the surviving brothers had to marry the widow of their death brother ([biblegateway passage=”Deuteronomy 25:5-10″]).
But Hittite people – some of whom lived in what is now Israel at the time of Judah – had a slightly different custom. It shows up in ancient records recovered in the Middle East.
If a man has a wife and the man dies, his brother should marry the widow. If the brother dies, his father should marry her. Hittite Law 193 of 200
Perhaps Tamar was a Hittite. Or familiar with Hittite custom.
For whatever reason, she dressed up as a prostitute wearing a face veil, parked herself on Judah’s path, and accepted his proposition to have sex in exchange for a goat. Nine months later she delivered twins.
Under the law of tradition, the boys would have been considered sons of Er, not sons of Judah.
We’re left to wonder if the kids called their father Daddy or Grandpa.
Random book winner this week
I give away one free book a week to a randomly selected subscriber to my free blog and quarterly newsletter.
Jerry is random this week.