The Women of Jesus // Part 1
Tonight, we are beginning a new series about some of the women in Jesus’ family, specifically those listed in the genealogy of Jesus. Let’s read the genealogy from the book of Matthew:
The book of the genealogyof Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king.
David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ. /// Matthew 1:1-16
Five women are listed in the genealogy of Jesus:
Wife of Uriah the Hittite – Bathsheba
Tonight, we are going to focus on a woman named Tamar. Her story is found in Genesis 38:
It came to pass at that time that Judah departed from his brothers, and visited a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah. And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua, and he married her and went in to her. So she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er. She conceived again and bore a son, and she called his name Onan. And she conceived yet again and bore a son, and called his name Shelah. He was at Chezib when she bore him.
Then Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord killed him. And Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother.” But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord; therefore He killed him also. Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house till my son Shelah is grown.” For he said, “Lest he also die like his brothers.” And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.
Now in the process of time the daughter of Shua, Judah’s wife, died; and Judah was comforted, and went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. and it was told Tamar, saying, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” So she took off her widow’s garments, covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given to him as a wife. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face. Then he turned to her by the way, and said, “Please let me come in to you”; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. So she said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” And he said, “I will send a young goat from the flock.” So she said, “Will you give me a pledge till you send it?” Then he said, “What pledge shall I give you?” So she said, “Your signet and cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” Then he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. So she arose and went away, and laid aside her veil and put on the garments of her widowhood.
And Judah sent the young goat by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand, but he did not find her. Then he asked the men of that place, saying, “Where is the harlot who was openly by the roadside?” And they said, “There was no harlot in this place.” So he returned to Judah and said, “I cannot find her. Also, the men of the place said there was no harlot in this place.” Then Judah said, “Let her take them for herself, lest we be shamed; for I sent this young goat and you have not found her.” And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry.” So Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!” When she was brought out, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “By the man to whom these belong, I am with child.” And she said, “Please determine whose these are—the signet and cord, and staff.” So Judah acknowledged them and said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And he never knew her again.
Now it came to pass, at the time for giving birth, that behold, twins were in her womb. And so it was, when she was giving birth, that the one put out his hand; and the midwife took a scarlet thread and bound it on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” Then it happened, as he drew back his hand, that his brother came out unexpectedly; and she said, “How did you break through? This breach be upon you!” Therefore his name was called Perez. Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand. And his name was called Zerah. /// Genesis 38:1-30
This story takes place after the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers. Judah is one of the twelve patriarchs of Israel – father of the tribe of Judah. We know from the genealogy that Jesus was a descendant of the tribe of Judah. King David to whom it was prophesied would have the Messiah as his descendant was from the tribe of Judah. Judah appears to be a selfish, vindictive and immature man. He is the originator of the plot to sell Joseph to the Midianite traders for money.
We don’t know much about Tamar’s past but she appears to be a good woman. She is married to the firstborn son of Judah whose name was Er. The Bible says that Er was wicked. We are not told that Judah took any action to curb the wickedness of his son but, God did. Tamar becomes a widow because of her husband’s wickedness. Have any of you ever suffered because of your husband’s bad decisions? There was an ancient custom in tribal communities that if a man died without an heir, his brother would marry the widow, provide for her and raise up an heir for his brother. Tamar was married to Er’s brother, Onan. Onan used Tamar for sex but didn’t perform his duty to her. Again, no action from Judah, but God took action.
For the second time, Tamar is widowed. It is Judah’s responsibility to see that Tamar is provided for. But, he basically exiles her back to her father’s house until Judah’s third son, Shelah becomes of age to marry Tamar. At this point, Judah sees Tamar as a “black widow”. He has no plan to marry his son to Tamar. Tamar did nothing wrong to deserve her station. But, she ends up lied to, rejected, and forgotten – outside of her rightful inheritance. But Tamar actively gives herself a role in history when she stands alone and disguised in the road. She plays the role of a kedeishah - sacred prostitute - and, in fact, she has a sacred role to perform. When all is revealed, Judah's eyes are opened, and he says: “Tzadakah mimeini.” - “She is correct - it (the child) is from me” or, perhaps, “She is more righteous than I am.”
Tamar's intervention also seems to have been critical in changing Judah from a man with no moral compass, as evidenced by his treatment of Joseph, Tamar, and Er, into one who is eloquent, self-sacrificing, and compassionate when we next see him. Tamar's actions and Judah's reactions to them turned Judah to a right path as he became the man who recognized: Tzadakah mimeini - she is more righteous than I. In a sense, Judah had lost his true self. Having given his seal, staff, and ring to Tamar as collateral was only a physical acting out of that reality. He is as cavalier as was Esau in giving his very identity to a veiled kadeishah. However, he is luckier in that the person he gave them to was Tamar and not Jacob. Jacob stole Esau's inheritance, but Tamar gave Judah his real identity. She forced him to grow up and readied him for his encounters with Joseph and to be the preserver of the Jewish people. And then Tamar wanders out of the spotlight. We can imagine that she suffered and was an outcast. She could not know that by taking on the responsibilities cast on her, she was to play a key role in history. She, like Ruth, seems to have been an outsider. She acted the parallel role of Lot's oldest daughter who produced the child who would become Ruth's ancestor by having sex with her father Lot. In Ruth and Boaz (the descendent of Peretz), Lot and Abraham are reunited. And all this loss and outsider status flowed into the blood of King David.
Tamar’s story was so powerful, King David named a daughter after her.
- Matthew 1:1-16
- Genesis 38:1-30
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