The Plan of God in the Book of Genesis—Part 24

A Link in Jesus’ Genealogy


VERSES 1-11  “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.”

A prophecy concerning Judah had not been made at the time of these incidents. Later Jacob, on his deathbed, gathered his sons and told each what would happen to him. Judah was told, “Thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Gen. 49:8-10) Jesus is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5), and Jesus was to be the promised seed descended from Judah and David.

The reason Judah left his brethren to go to a town southwest of Jerusalem is speculative. But he married a woman of Canaan and had three sons with her: Er, Onan, and Selah. Er married Tamar, and being wicked, the Lord slew him. In those times a ‘levirate marriage’—levirate means ‘brother-in-law’—was practiced to perpetuate the seed of the deceased. So the next son was supposed to take Tamar for a wife and carry out this provision, but he did not do so. He also was slain of the Lord for his wickedness. The youngest son was to be given to Tamar when he had grown into manhood. But Judah was fearful of losing this son as he had the first two, and ignored the levirate rule.

VERSES 12-26  “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 in 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, that 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.”

This led to a peculiar set of circumstances in which Tamar bore twin sons to Judah—Pharez and Zarah. Thus, eventually, seed was raised in the name of Er, Judah’s eldest son. Er, as the eldest son, would have been the heir of Judah’s estate. Instead, he died because of wickedness, as did Onan, the next in line. That left Shelah, who was not given to Tamar to raise seed to the eldest son. He built his own house, which is mentioned in I Chronicles 4:21,22, and is the last of Judah’s descendants in Judah’s genealogy recorded in I Chronicles 4:1-23.

VERSES 27-30  “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.”

Er, however, finally did have a son, but not through his brothers, but rather through his father. When Tamar was giving birth to twin sons, one stuck his hand out, and the midwife put a scarlet thread around his wrist. This was Zarah. Instead of Zarah being born first, his brother, Pharez, was first, and automatically became the heir to Judah’s estate. Even though Shelah was older than Pharez and a son of Judah, the levirate ruling made Pharez a son of Er and he preempted Shelah.

The nation of Israel was like the older twin, who, in the matter of ‘time’ had the first opportunity to become members of the Christ. Being only partially successful in their endeavors, God had to turn to the gentiles, who, as the ‘second twin’ are to be delivered first, and share with Jesus in the “first resurrection.”—Rev. 20:5,6; I Cor. 15:23

In this chapter we have a detailed account leading up to the birth of Pharez, a son of Judah. The narrative breaks into the sequence of the story relating to Joseph, and we might wonder what useful purpose it serves since not even a good moral lesson is suggested by it. However, the purpose of the narrative is apparent when it is discovered that Pharez is one of the links in the genealogical chain from Abraham to the birth of Jesus. See Matthew 1:3.

In this connection, some interesting sidelights might be mentioned. For example, in the Book of Ruth we have an entire book of the Bible devoted to a story, the evident and chief purpose of which is to identify another link in the line of genealogy leading down to Jesus, namely, Obed. See Matthew 1:5.

In this narrative we also have an illustration of what is evidently the Lord’s choice, that is Pharez, although an attempt was made to establish his twin brother as the firstborn. (vss. 28-30) We have something similar to this in connection with the birth of Jacob and Esau. God works in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.

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Dawn Bible Students Association
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