Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Genesis 38

Verses 1-30

Judah and his descendants (38:1-30)

Back in Canaan, Jacob's family had further troubles. Judah, Jacob's fourth eldest son, had three sons, the eldest of whom had married. When this son died childless, Judah, according to the custom of the time, asked his next son Onan to have a temporary sexual relationship with the widow Tamar, with the hope that by him Tamar might produce a child. Legally, this child would be considered son of the dead man and so would carry on the family name and inheritance. But Onan refused, for he wanted any children he fathered to be his own. Because of his refusal to carry out his family obligation, God killed him (38:1-10).

Thinking that he had already lost two sons because of Tamar, Judah hesitated to give his last son to her in case that son died too. Even when the son was old enough to marry, Judah would not give him to her. Tamar therefore thought of a plan to force Judah himself to have intercourse with her, so that she might produce an heir. She disguised herself as a prostitute and succeeded in seducing Judah (11-19). When Judah later found that his daughter-in-law was pregnant, he saw a welcome opportunity to be rid of her once and for all. Tamar saved herself and shamed Judah by revealing that he was the cause of her pregnancy (20-26).

Tamar gave birth to twins, the elder of whom began that line of descent from Judah which led to David and finally produced Jesus the Messiah (27-30; cf. Matthew 1:3; Matthew 1:6; Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23; Luke 3:31; Luke 3:33).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Genesis 38". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/genesis-38.html. 2005.