This morning, we want to continue our exploration of Joseph’s story. We saw last time how everything was set up for him, and we let off as he was sold and made his way to Egypt. Amazingly enough, our next chapter looks like it came out from nowhere, sandwiched in the middle of Joseph’s story. It’s a hard story to tell, but I believe that it is there for a reason, because it is connected with the story of Christ.
We are going to read the whole story. If you want to sleep, it’s okay as long as you don’t disturb the people around you. So don’t snore.
- 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.
- And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.
- And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.
- And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.
- And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.
- And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.
- And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.
- And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.
- 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.
- And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.
- 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.
- 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.
- And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep.
- 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.
- When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb.
- 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.
- 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.
- And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.
This morning, I was putting the last touch on the message, and I get lost. I found so much in it. I am just hoping that I am able to share what the Lord has for us this morning. I have no doubt that God has something for each of us this morning in this story. Remember that Judah was the one who suggested to sell Joseph instead of killing him. He said, “Let’s make some money out of it.” Afterwards, he left the family altogether and lived as a Canaanite. His best friend was a pagan. The Bible tells us not to forsake our assembling. If you need the hypocrite, if you need the gossip, they are there. Everything you need, you can find it in the family of God. But if you decide to leave, everywhere you go will be worse.
Remember that Jesus asked Peter, “Will you leave?” And Peter said, “Lord, I’d really like to leave, but where would I go? You have the words of eternal life.”
The Bible says that Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite, and he went in unto her. It wasn’t a formal wedding. You know what I’m trying to say; he just did his own thing. The normal way was for the father to make the wedding arrangements. So she had a son, and he called his name Er. Now, there was a little of the old Judah left, so he took responsibility for naming the child with a Hebrew name. Er means “watchman.” But she bore a second son, and this time she called his name Onan. The name Onan means “the barbarian.” Why would you want to call your son “the barbarian?” That was a Canaanite name. So she bore a third son, and she called his name “Shelah”. Of course, by this time they were desperate for a girl, so they called his name “Shelah.”
So Judah chose a wife for his firstborn son, and her name was Tamar. This was the right way to do things. You may not think much of arranged marriages, but as you grow older, you will begin to appreciate it. I hope that my sons will get the opportunity to participate in this process. But in those days the whole family was involved in the process. If I were a younger brother, I would definitely be involved, because if the older brother died, I would be the one who would be stuck with her. So the younger brothers definitely will be involved.
There was shame and humiliation in being a widow, so the woman wanted to have children. Judah told his son Onan to go to Judah and give her children. The best I can explain this is that it was her “social security.” Onan thought, “How will I benefit?” So he decided to go unto her but not to let anyone else benefit. The problem with this verse is his selfishness. He refused to care for his brother’s widow by giving her offspring. He used her for his own benefit, but he didn’t care for her or for his brother. This was the sin. From a long time ago, this saying has been called “Onanism”, and they use this scripture against birth control, but all it is, is selfishness.
It is so bad that the thing displeased the Lord, and he slew Onan because of it. God doesn’t take pleasure in selfishness. There are different forms of selfishness, but let me give you an example so that you can detect it. You remember the words of Cain when the Lord asked about his brother? He said, “I’m not my brother’s keeper.” If you don’t look out from your brother, that is selfishness. You remember Nabal took food when he needed it, but when David needed food, he said, “I don’t care.” You remember the story that we call “The Good Samaritan”, with the Levite who saw the wounded man and passed by, because he didn’t care. This is what should be called “Onanism.” This is the sin of Onan: it is selfishness. Sometimes we see our brother and sister in sin, and we reject them. We say “Get away from me; I don’t want anyone to see me talking to you.” That is selfishness.
So after two of his sons died, Judah told Tamar, “Why don’t you go to your father’s house and stay there until my son Shelah is grown, and then I will give him to you.” That is not what should have happened. Tamar should have stayed where she was, and Judah would be her covering. What was going on in the inside was that Judah was saying, “Tamar has a problem. Already I have two sons dead; I don’t want to see the third one die also.” But the problem really started with Jacob: he came from a messed-up family, and the sin started with him.
- Judge not, that ye be not judged.
- For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
- And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
- Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
- Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
The problem was not in Tamar; the problem was right there with Judah. Now, we know that Judah’s wife died, and he mourned, and finally started getting things back together. Somebody told Tamar that her father-in-law would be coming, and by that time she realized that she was being deceived. So she decided to take matters in her own hands. She put off her widow’s garments, and she dressed as a temple harlot. This was like, you have a church, and you want to attract young men into the church, so you have a temple harlot to attract them. That was how it worked in those days. Dress is very important; it was then and it is today. The way you dress says a lot. It is said that the dress doesn’t make the priest, but the dress helps you recognize the priest. If you go to a Catholic church, you know who is the priest. Whether you are looking for a job or working on the streets, whether you are male or female, it is important how you dress. When you see a cowboy, you see a hat and boots. When you see me, you think “There goes a preacher.” But if I wore my pants down here, (pointing to upper thighs) you would have a different thought.
So when Judah saw her, he took her to be a harlot, because she covered her face. So Judah saw Tamar and wanted to go in unto her. She said, “what will you give me?” and he said, “A kid from the flock.” She said, “That will do, but how can I trust you?” He said, “What shall I give you?” and she said, “Give me your signet and bracelet.” The signet was a stamp you put on documents; it was like your signature. It was your “self”. And she said, “give me your bracelet.” Your bracelet in those days was a sign of wealth. Like today, if you want to be recognized as a man of wealth, you wear your necklace and drive your Cadillac, or whatever. And she asked for his staff, and that was the same. If somebody had a staff, he was a man of importance. So basically, she was asking for his identity, his wealth, and his position. That’s what you get when you sin. That’s what you get when you use this body not for the glory of God. You lose it all.
Here in the United States, we have a great example. To put it in our days, it was like she asked him for his driver’s license, his credit-card, and his social-security card. Would you be willing to give that for one night, or for a few minutes? But he was so desperate that he said, “She’ll give it back.” And afterwards, he would not go back himself, so he sent his friend with the kid. And when he couldn’t find her, he asked everybody and said, “Where is the harlot that was here?” And everybody said, “There is not harlot here.” so eventually he went back and said that he couldn’t find her. So Judah said, “Let her take it to herself, lest we be shamed.”
This man still had God in him, and he was somebody with some kind of prestige. He didn’t want everybody in town to know what he did, so he said, “Let her keep it. Whatever she is going to do with it, it’s better than asking everyone in town where she is.” So three months later, it was told to Judah that his daughter-in-law was pregnant. That was the opportunity that Judah had been waiting for, to get rid of her. He sure didn’t want to give Shelah to her to marry. So he said, “Let her be brought to be burned.” It was the responsibility of the father-in-law to take care of such things. You see how quick he was to pass judgment? If we would only take a little time to think about things before we pass judgment, we would say “You know, I am no better.” It happened when the Pharisees would stone the woman, but Jesus gave them the opportunity to think, and no one could cast the first stone. (John 8:3-7)
So Tamar gave the signet, the bracelet, and the staff, saying “You know Dad, before I get burned, can you see whose these are? By this man I am pregnant.” So Judah said, “She is more righteous tham I.” And from that time on, Judah began to change his ways for the better.
So she had twins. The firstborn is very important, so they take care to mark the first one. He put forth his hand, and they marked him. But he pulled his hand back, and the other one came out first. So they called him Pharez. The Bible says “the elder shall serve the younger” and Jesus said, “the last shall be first.” I’ll give you a small list of how God’s ways are not our ways:
The Bible says to look a things to come, but not with our natural eyes. Things to come are like younger things. And basically the older you get, the less you are attractive. You may have wisdom or whatever, but newer things will survive and you will go.
We find that Abel, for example that Abel was the younger. We find Esau and Isaac; Isaac was the younger. We find Ephraim and Manasseh; Ephraim was the younger. Pharez was the younger, but he was the one who was in the genealogy of Christ.
In the genealogy of Christ, there are four women named:
- Ruth the Moabitess: she wasn’t even a Jew.
- Tamar the Canaanite: she played the harlot.
- Rahab the harlot: she was a professional.
- Bathsheba the mother of Solomon: that was a nasty story.
These are the only four women named. Jesus is truly identified with sinners. God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten son. God loved the souls in the world so much that he gave his begotten son. Christ identified himself with sinners; he came from all those nasty people in all those nasty stories.
I hope that these words will be like vitamins for your soul. I hope that as you read them, they will help you grow better. God bless you.