April 24 (Year One)
It was about this time that Judah decided to leave home, so he parted company with his brothers and went to see Hirah, a fellow from Adullam. When he was there, Judah laid eyes on the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and slept with her. She conceived and gave birth to her first son. Judah named him Er. She conceived again and gave birth to her second son, whom she named Onan. She then gave birth to her third son, and she named him Shelah. (Judah was away in Chezib when she gave birth to him.)
Now Judah arranged for Er, his firstborn, to marry a woman named Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was a particularly wretched human being in the eyes of the Eternal One, and so the Eternal ended his life. Judah summoned his second son, Onan.
Judah (to Onan): You know our customs and the duty of a brother-in-law in a situation like this. You must go and marry your brother’s wife and make sure your brother has an heir.
Resentful that any child born in this kind of marriage would not be his, Onan would interrupt intercourse and spill his semen onto the ground whenever he slept with his brother’s wife. That way he would not father a child that would belong to his brother. Onan’s selfish behavior was as wretched as his brother’s to the eyes of the Eternal One; so the Eternal ended Onan’s life like his brother. Judah summoned his daughter-in-law Tamar.
Judah: Tamar, it is best if you remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up.
Now Judah said this because he was afraid that Shelah, too, would die as his brothers had. So Tamar went and remained a widow with her father.
After losing two sons, Judah thinks Tamar must be a dangerous woman. What he isn’t willing to admit is that his own sons were wicked.
After a while, Judah’s wife (Shua’s daughter) also died. When Judah’s time of mourning was over, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went to Timnah to work with his sheepshearers and enjoy the festivities. When Tamar learned that her father-in-law would be coming to Timnah to shear his sheep, she took off her widow’s clothes, put on a veil to conceal her true identity, and sat down at the entrance to Enaim along the road to Timnah. You see, Tamar harbored deep resentment toward her father-in-law because she knew by this time that Shelah had grown up, but she had not been given to him in marriage as Judah had promised. When Judah passed by and saw her, he thought she was a prostitute because she had her face covered. He decided to proposition her, so he walked over to her by the roadside.
Judah: Come on, I want to have sex with you.
He had no idea she was his daughter-in-law, but she had a proposition of her own.
Tamar: What will you give me in return if I do?
Judah: I’ll send you a young goat from my flock. How about that?
Tamar: Only if you give me something to hold until you send it.
Judah: What should I give you as my personal guarantee?
Tamar: Your personal seal on the cord you wear around your neck, plus the staff you carry.
Tamar knows Judah cannot be trusted, so she asks for two items so personal and unique they can easily be linked to him.
Judah did as she asked and gave her his seal and walking stick. He then went and slept with her, and she conceived his child. Then she got up, took off the veil, and went back home, putting on her widow’s clothes once again.
Judah kept his word and sent his friend Hirah the Adullamite with the young goat so he could retrieve his seal and walking stick from the woman. But Judah’s friend couldn’t find her anywhere.
Hirah the Adullamite (to Timnah’s elders): What happened to the temple prostitute who was at Enaim by the side of the road?
Elders: We have not seen any temple prostitute here.
Bewildered, the Adullamite returned to Judah.
Hirah the Adullamite: I couldn’t find her, and what’s odd is that the elders claimed they haven’t seen any temple prostitutes around there.
Judah: Well let her keep my things then. If you go back, we’ll be laughed at. I did what I promised. I sent the young goat, and you tried but could not find her.
Approximately three months later, someone told Judah, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has been promiscuous. It’s obvious her business has even made her pregnant.”
Judah: Bring her out and expose her for what she is, and then let her be burned.
As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law.
Tamar: It was the owner of these items who made me pregnant. Please, take a close look and tell me whose personal seal, cord, and walking stick these are.
When Judah saw them, he realized they were his.
Judah: She is more in the right than I am. I did not keep my word and give her in marriage to my son, Shelah.
Judah didn’t sleep with her again.
When the time came for her to deliver, she discovered she was carrying twins. While she was in labor, one of them put out a hand; and the midwife tied a scarlet thread on it, so she would know which one came out first. But just then he drew his hand back into the womb, and his brother came out first. The midwife had never seen anything quite like this.
Midwife: What a breach you’ve made here, little one!
So the child was named Perez. His brother followed, the one with the scarlet thread on his hand. He was named Zerah.