0 Er, Onan, Judah, and Tamar (Genesis 38)

Episode 19: Er, Onan, Judah, and Tamar

(Genesis 38)

Judah and the daughter of Shuah

38 1 At about that time, Judah had sex with a Canaanite woman, the daughter of Shuah, which resulted in three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah.

Er, Tamar, and Onan

6 Judah selected a wife for Er, whose name was Tamar. 7 Er was wicked in God's sight, and God killed him.

8 Judah said unto Onan,

Go have sex with your dead brother's wife.

9-10 Onan did as he was told, but while doing so, he spilled his seed on the ground, so God killed him too.

11 After God killed her husband (Er) and his brother (Onan), Judah said to his daughter-in-law, Tamar,

Remain a widow in your father's house until my son Shelah is old enough to have sex with you.

It'd be a shame if he also died before impregnating you.

12 Later, when Judah's wife died, he went to Timnath to sheer his sheep.

Judah and Tamar

12-14 When Tamar heard that her father-in-law was in Timnath, she took off her widow's garments, covered herself with a veil, and sat in an open place on the way to Timnath.

15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face. 16 So Judah said,

Let me have sex with you. (He didn't know she was his daughter-in-law.)

And she said, "What will you give me to have sex with you?"

17 Judah said, "I'll give you a young goat."

18 Tamar asked for Judah's seal, bracelets, and staff as a deposit until he sent the goat. Judah gave them to Tamar, and then he had sex with her.

Judah and Tamar, Schoool of Rembrandt (1606-1669)

24 A few months later, someone said to Judah,

Tamar, your daughter-in-law, has played the harlot, and is with child by whoredom.

Judah said, "Find her and burn her to death."

25 When Tamar was found and was brought to Judah, she said,

I had sex with a man who gave me this seal, bracelets, and this staff.

26 Judah recognized them, and said,

She is more righteous than I, because I didn't make my son Shelah have sex with her.

27 Tamar later gave birth to two twin boys, Pharez and Zarah.

28 When the twins were delivered, the midwife put a scarlet thread on Zarah's finger, saying,

This one came out first.

29 But Zarah drew back his hand, and Pharez came out first.

30 And then Zarah came out with the scarlet thread on his finger..

A few more words about this episode

At about that time (v.1)

This story seems completely misplaced, sandwiched betwen the chapter where Joseph is sold and taken to Egypt and the one where Potiphar buys him there.

Judah had sex with a Canaanite woman (v.1)
Judah was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. (Genesis 29:35)
Er was wicked in God's sight, and God killed him. (v.7)
Drunk With Blood: 6. Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord (so the Lord slew him)
Go have sex with your dead brother's wife. (v.8)

The Bible says that if a man dies, his brother must have sex with his dead brother's wife. (Dt 25:5-10)

So when God killed Er, it was his younger brother Onan's job to impregnate Er's wife, Tamar.

And when God killed Onan (for spilling his seed when he was supposed to be using it to impregnate his dead brother's wife), it was his younger brother Shelah's job to get the job done.

When Shelah didn't do it, Tamar decided to get someone else to. That someone else was her father-in-law Judah.

Onan spilled his seed on the ground. (v.9)

This lovely Bible story is seldom read in Sunday School, but it is the basis of many Christian doctrines, including the condemnation of masturbation, homosexuality, and birth control.

What the Bible says about birth control, semen and masturbation

Drunk With Blood: Onan spilled it on the ground (so the Lord killed him too)

Monty Python: Every sperm is sacred

Judah didn't know she was his daughter-in-law (v.16)
Sex by mistake in the Bible
She is more righteous than I. (v.26)
Judah finally acknowledges that he has done something wrong. Though it wasn't that he had sex with his daughter-in-law, Tamar; it was that he didn't force his third (and only surviving son) to impregnate her.
Pharez and Zarah (vv.29-30)
From this incestuous union, twins were born (both were boys of course).

One of these was Pharez -- an ancestor of Jesus (Mt 1:3, Luke 3:33).

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