Courage of Tamar

After a conversation with a friend the story of Tamar went through my mind, and I had to ponder it a bit. I thought I would share those thoughts.

According to Genesis 38, Tamar was married first to Judah’s oldest son Er, who the Lord killed because he was wicked. Then, as tradition in those times, she was married to the younger brother Onan. The Lord was displeased with Onan’s actions because he did not want to take responsibility to provide an heir for his brother Er. Seeing his two oldest sons are dead, Judah shifts the blame to Tamar, and sends her to her father’s house to wait until the youngest brother, Shelah, is grown. Or so he says.

Now we get to the part of the story where we see Tamar understand the situation before her: Shelah is grown, and she is not going to be given to him as his wife. Is it her fault her previous two husbands died? Nope. Does her first husband have an heir? Nope. So what is a girl to do? Take care of the matter, of course.

Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute, sleeps with her father-in-law, and obtains proof that she did. After it’s discovered she is pregnant, her family and Judah think she is quite naughty. Before they can put her to death, she sends Judah her proof that he was naughty too. Judah then declares she is in the right and was more righteous than he as he did not allow her to marry Shelah.

The word righteous in this instance means to make right in a moral or forensic sense. Judah declared she was righteous than he because he did not do what was right and proper. Tamar could have let the matter rest when she found out Shelah was grown, but she didn’t. She could have lived out the rest of her life as a widow in her father’s house, but she didn’t.

Tamar chose to not live under the judgments others had placed upon her. Instead, she mustered the courage to break through them without knowing what the outcome of her actions would be. She knew she had to try. Though her methods may be a bit controversial to us, she instead took a risk for what was right, and received her vindication.

Tamar gave birth to twins whose names were Perez and Zerah. Perez means breakthrough, Zerah means a rising light. What a beautiful gift for the courage she displayed.


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