January 24: Undue Favor
Genesis 38–39; Matthew 27:32–28:20; Ecclesiastes 9:7–10
Genesis 38 interrupts the climax of the Joseph narrative with another tale: Judah and Tamar. Switching protagonists is surprising enough, but the tale itself shocks us. We’re hardly given time to process the strange cultural practices of the ancient Near East, prostitution, deception, and the sudden death of those who displease God before we’re returned to Joseph’s struggles in Egypt.
The story is additionally confusing because it seems to lack a hero. Judah uses Tamar, as his two sons did—though he at least acknowledges his actions. Tamar uses her wits and risks her life to secure a future for herself, but she does so through deplorable means.
Attempts have been made to justify the characters and put it all in perspective, but there is no neat packaging. The characters in this story face dire circumstances and a unique cultural context—one that is nearly impossible for modern readers to understand. But we don’t need a lesson in ancient Near Eastern cultural studies to see that they are fallible, and that they exploit others for their own ends. And we don’t need a history lesson to be able to identify with them. An honest look at ourselves reveals our own sins—subtly deplorable, and respectably wrapped.
So, why is this story in the Bible? Why this tale of woe? Surprisingly, there is a hero. As we read, we see that God also uses people for redemption, not exploitation. Perez, the son of Judah and Tamar, is one in a long list of names that will lead to the birth of Christ. Through unlikely characters like Judah and Tamar, God prepared a way out of the sin that defined us.
Just like these characters, we are unlikely recipients of His favor.
How can you be thankful for God’s faithfulness in your life?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
- And at that time Judah went down from his brethren, and turned into a man called Hirah an Adullamite. and Judah saw there a daughter of a man called Shua a Canaanite: and he took her to wife, and went into her. So 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. Moreover she bare yet a son, whom she called Shelah: and Judah was at Chezib when she bare him. Then Judah took a wife to Er his firstborn son, whose name was Tamar. Now Er the firstborn of Judah was wicked in the sight of the Lord: therefore the Lord slew him. And Judah said to Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and do the office of a kinsman unto her, and raise up seed unto thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his: therefore when he went in unto his brother’s wife he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And it was wicked in the eyes of the Lord, which he did: wherefore he slew him also. Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, Remain a widow in thy father’s house, till Shelah my son grew up (for he thought thus, Lest he die as well as his brethren,) So Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house. And in process of time also the daughter of Shua Judah’s wife died. Then Judah, when he had left mourning, went up to his sheepshearers to Timnah, he, and his neighbor Hirah the Adullamite. And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold, thy father-in-law goeth up to Timnath, to shear his sheep. Then she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat down in Pethah-enam which is by the say to Timnah, because she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife. When Judah saw her, he judged her an whore: for she had covered her face. And he turned to the way towards her, and said, Come, I pray thee, let me lie with thee, (for he knew not that she was his daughter-in-law.) And she answered, What wit thou give me for to lie with me? Then said he, I will send thee a kid of the goats from teh flock, and she said, Well, if that wilt give me a pledge, till thou send it. Then he said, What is the pledge that I shall give thee? And she answered, Thy signet and thy cloak and thy staff that is in thine hand. So he gave it her, and lay by her, and she was with child by him. Then she rose, and went and put her veil from her and put on her widow’s raiment. Afterward Judah sent a kid of the goats by the hand of his neighbor the Adullamite, for to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not. Then asked he the men of the place, saying, Where is the whore, that sat in Enaim by the wayside? and they answerd, There was no whore there. He came therefore to Judah again, and said, I cannot find her, and also the men of the place said, Ther was no whore there. Then Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her. Now after three months, one told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter-in-law hath played the whore, and lo, with playing the whore, she is great with child. Then Judah said, Bring ye her forth an dlet her be burnt. When she was brought forth, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, By the man, unto whom these things pertain, am I with child: and said also, Look, I pray thee, whose these are, the seal, and the cloak, and the staff. Then Judah knew them, and said, She is more righteous than I: for she hath done it because I gave her not to Selah my son. So he lay with her no more. Now, when the time was come that she should be delivered, behold, tere were twins in her womb. And when she was in travail, the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound a red threadabout his hand, saying, this is come out first. But when he plucked his hand back again, lo, his brother came out, and the midwife said, How hast thou broken the breach upon thee? and his name was called Perez. And afterward came out his brother that had the red thread about his hand, and his name was called Zerah. Now Joseph was brought down into Egypt: and Potiphar an Eunuch of Pharaoh’s (and his chief steward an Egyptian) bought him at the hand of the Ishmaelites, which had brought him thither. And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a man that prospered and was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with im, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him: and made him ruler of his house, and put all that he had in his hand. And from that time that he had made him ruler over his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake: and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. Therefore he left all that he had in Joeph’s hand, and took account of nothing, that waswith him, save only of the bread, which he did eat. And Joseph was a fair person, and well favored. Now therefore after these things, his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph, and said, Lie with me. But he refused and said to his master’s wife, Behold, my master knoweth not what he hath in the house with me, but hath committed all that he had to mine hand. There is no man greater in this house than I: neithr hath he kept anything from me, but only thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness and so sin against God and albeit she spake to Joseph day by day, yet he hearkened not unto her, to lie with her, or to be in her company. Then on a certain day Joseph entered into the house to do his busiess: and there was no man of the household in the house. Therefore she caught him by his garment, saying, Sleep with me: but he left his garment in her hand and fled, and got him out. Now when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled out, She called unto the men of her house, and told them, saying, Behold, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us: who came in to me for to have slept with me: but I cried with a loud voice. And when he heard that I lift up my voice and cried, he left his garments with me, and fled away, and got him out. So she laid up his garment by her, until her lord came home. Then she told him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came into me, to mock me. But as soon as I lift up my voice and cired, he left his garment with me, and fled out. Then when his master heard the words of his wife, which she told him saying, After this manner did thy servant to me, his anger was kindled. And Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, in the place, where the king’s prisoners lay bound: and there he was in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and got him favor in the sight of the master of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison, and whatsoever they did there, that did he. And the keeper of the prison looked unto nothing that was under his hand, seeing that the Lord was with him: for whatsoever he did, the Lord made it to prosper. Genesis 38–39
- And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, named Simon: him they compelled to bear his cross. And when they came unto the place called Golgotha (that is to say, the place of dead men’s skulls) They gave him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, and did cast lots, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the Prophet, They diided my garments among them, and upon my vesture did cast lots. And they sat and watched him there. They set up also over his head his cause written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. And there were two thieves crucified with him, one of the right hand, and another on th left. And they that passed by, reviled him, wagging their heads. And saying, Thou that destroyest the Temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself: if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the high Priests mocking him, with the Scribes, and Elders, and PHarisees, said, He saved others, but he cannot save himself: if he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God, let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The self same ting also the thieves which were crucified with him, cast in his teeth. Now from the sixth hour was there darkness over all the land, unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, My God, my god, why hast thou forsaken me? And soe of them that stood there, when they heard it, said, This man callleth Elijah. And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge and filled it with vinegar, an d put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. Others said, Let be: let u see if Elijah will come and save him. Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up the ghost. And behold, the veil of teh Temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake, and the stones were cloven. And the graves did open themselves, and many bodies of the Saints, which slept, arose. And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. When the Centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earth quake, and the things that were done, they feared greatly, saying Truy this was the Son of God. And many women were thre, beholding him afar off, which had followed Jesus from Galilee ministering unto him. Among whom was Mar Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. And when the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who had also himself been Jesus’ disciple. He went to Pilate, and asked the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. So Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clea nlinen cloth, And put it in his new tomb, which he had hewn out in a rock, and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed. And there was mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulcher. Now the next day that followed the Preparation of the Sabbath, the high Priests and Pharisees assembled to Pilate, And said, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, Within three days I will rise. Command therefore, that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his Disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from teh dead: so shall the last error be wore than the first. Then Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go, and make it sure, as ye know. And the went, and made the sepulcher sure, with the watch, and sealed the stone. Now in the end of the Sabbath, when the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary magdalene, and the other Mary, came to see the sepulcher. And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the Angel of the Lord escended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. And his countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him, the keepers were astonied, and beecame as dead men. But the Angel answered, and said to the women, Fear ye not: for I know that ye seek Jesus which was crucified: He is not here, for he is risen, and he said: come, see the place where the Lord was laid., And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead: and behold, he goeth before you into Galilee: there ye shall see him: lo, I have told you. So they departed quickly fro teh sepulcher, with fear and great joy, and did run to bring the disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus also met them, saying, God save you. And they came, adn took him by the feet, and worshipped him Then said Jeus unto them, Be not afraid. Go, and tell my brethren, that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. Now when they were gone ,behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the high Priests all the things that were done. And they gathered them together with the Elders, and took counsle, and gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say, his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this matter come before the governor to be heard, we will persuade him, and so use the matter that you shall not need to care, So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is noised among the Jews unto this day. Then the eleven disciples went unto Galilee, into a mountain, wher Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came, and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto me, in heaven, and in earth. Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, until the end of the world. Amen.. Matthew 27:32-28:20
- Go, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a cheerful heart: for God now accepteth thy works. At all times let thy garments be white, and let not oil be lacking upon tine head. Rejoice with the wife whom thou hast loved all the days of the life of thy vanity, which God hath given thee under the sun all the days of thy vanity: for this is thy portion in the life, and in thy travail wherein thou laborest under the sun. All that thine hand shall find to do, do it with all thy power: for there is neither work not invention, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest. Ecclesiastes 9:7-10