The Life of Joseph - Lesson 9, The profligate conduct of Judah and his family.
The scene in the Life of Joseph is about to be shifted from Canaan to Egypt.
We will get our last glimpse of Canaan through an embarrassing account of the wickedness of Judah in this wicked land.
As we read this account it is like literally reading the morning newspaper.
There is nothing new under the sun for in our own time we cannot avoid similar accounts of wickedness and cover up in high places.
For all have sinned, past, present, and future, and come short of the glory of God.
Genesis 38, 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 veil, 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 veil 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.
Genesis 38:1, 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.
This 38th chapter of Genesis is a parentheses in the story of Joseph.
It appears to be chronological since it begins with, "And it came to pass at that time.
Perhaps it is inserted here to provide a sharp contrast in the conduct between Judah and Joseph in similar situations and temptations.
It also shows the necessity for Joseph and later, Jacob's whole family to be separated in Egypt in order for God to make of Israel a great nation and a people for his name.
Unless God acted this family was about to be sunk irreversibly into the Canaanite culture by union with Canaanite women with Canaanite ideals of life.
Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers is an eternal principle, past present and future!
But God would act!
God was to provide a place where this family would have a distinctiveness necessary for them to become a separate nation as God promised Abraham.
This lesson in separation must not be lost to us if we intend to be a disciple of Christ and to rear children who also will be followers of Christ.
The 38th chapter of Genesis deals with a case of family law.
At issue is a case of childlessness of the young widow, Tamar (taw-mawr').
Tamar is the hero of the story while Judah is the villain for Tamar fought for her right to be the mother in the family of Judah and to protect the family while Judah hindered her from that right.
The problem that she faced caused her to revolt in what we would consider a wicked way but the problem she faced was in a large part caused by corruption or indifference of the men in her life.
Again we will see the theme of deception wherein we see Jacob and Judah deceived and forced to recognize a piece of evidence that will force Judah to do right by Tamar.
She indeed produced the smoking gun and pointed it in the face of Judah.
Judah was the fourth son of Leah born to her in Haran.
If the beginning of this account was shortly after Joseph was sold into Egypt Judah was probably around 21 or 22 years old.
Judah would meet Joseph again in Egypt when he was 42 to 43 years old.
So the events of this passage span a time of 20 or so years.
That means that in this time period Judah married the daughter of Shuah, had three sons, Er, Onan and Shelah, the first two being slain by the Lord, then had twin sons Pharez and Zarah by Tamar, the wife of his first son Er and second son Onan.
Reuben, the oldest, had sacrificed the birthright because he had invaded his father's bed with Rachel's handmaid, Bilhah.
Simeon and Levi, the next oldest, evidenced cruelty because of their murder of the Shechemites.
And we find in this account the wicked character of Judah the next in line.
Jacob had one son in which to hope in the Lord and it was not Judah as we can easily see in this passage.
Judah left home and went down to Adullam in the low country.
Adullam means "sealed off place".
It is five miles south of Beth-shemesh in Judah and nine miles northwest of Hebron and thirteen miles southwest of Bethlehem.
We are later told that Joshua conquered Adullam and that David escaped to the caves of Adullam and there collected an army from the lower class and outcasts of society.
King Rehoboam rebuilt Adullam's defenses and stationed solders and stored supplies there.
Adullam was also prominent in the prophet Micah's life.
And Adullam is prominent in Judah's life because Judah had an Adullamite friend named Hirah, (Hi' rah) whom he decided to visit.
Isn't it amazing what chain of events can be placed into action by a seemingly non-descript visit?
But we will find that first Hirah was Judah's aquaintance, then he was Judah's associate and then he was Judah's accomplice.
It is impossible to be partially separated, or a little separated.
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.
Genesis 38:2-5, 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 (Watchful). And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan (o-nawn')(strong). And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah (shay-law')(he that breaks): and he was at Chezib (kez-eeb'), when she bare him.
We do not know why Judah departed from his brethren but it seems at this time Judah left home to be with a Canaanite friend.
Perhaps it was connected with the selling of Joseph into slavery and Judah's part in that wicked deed.
He was faced with a father who refused to be comforted.
Perhaps Judah's sleep was interrupted with dreams of Joseph's desperate cries ringing in his ears.
Most likely, knowing Judah's wicked tendencies, he did not leave home under good circumstances.
But there in Adullam he meets the daughter of a man named Shuah, a name that means opulence.
Judah does not operate according to the principle of separation and is easily connected with a women who is not in the promised line.
Jacob knew this but apparently had not imparted this principle to Judah:
Genesis 28:1, And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.
But Judah seemed to care little for spiritual things.
This woman was of the Canaanites. a people who practiced a religion of utter vileness and this religion would fully reveal itself in the three sons born of this union.
This is the same sin-cursed race that God will command to be destroyed by the children of Israel when Joshua leads them into the promised land.
We see in this passage Judah naming the first son, but the mother names the second and third sons.
This most likely is an indication of the mothers increasing influence and dominance in this family and of Judah's indifference.
With this pagan woman exercising this influence on these boys it is not surprising to find wicked boys who soon are taken by the Lord because of their wickedness
Genesis 38:6-10, 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.
Er, the senior of these boys, had grown to manhood and Judah carries out his responsibility by finding a wife for Er.
The woman he chose for him was named Tamar, which means Palm Tree, suggesting beauty, slenderness, grace and usefulness.
From the rest of the story and from the position that God gave her in the Messianic line, most likely she was a woman of high character and nobility in spite of her pagan birth and background.
It is obvious when we see to what lengths she went to insure that she bare children to carry on her deceased husband's name.
For Er was not given life long enough to give Tamar child for:
... 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.
In pre-messianic days it was very important that families continue.
The custom, later codified in the law was for a brother to perform the part of a husband and raise up seed for his brother.