The Double Standard
About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitiution, and as a result she is now pregnant.” Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son, Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.
For context read Genesis 38
There is no doubt that sin has negatively impacted marriage. Tamar was a woman who had sin negatively impact her marriage experiences to the extreme.
First, she was married to Judah’s son, Er, but he was so wicked that God smote him. She was left a widow with no heir. So Judah gave Tamar to his other son, Onan, to preserve his late son’s family line. But this son was just as wicked as the first! He used Tamar for his own pleasure but then spilled his semen on the ground to ensure that Tamar did not become pregnant. He knew that providing an heir for his dead brother would cost him. The child would get more of the estate than he did. Once again, the LORD put Tamar’s husband to death for wickedness.
Tamar was then promised to the youngest son, Shelah, when he was old enough. But Judah was superstitious and that God would kill Shelah, too. So he did not give her to him as a husband.
To understand why this was so wrong of Judah, we have to understand the importance of preserving the family line which may not make as much sense to us today. Remember the promise of the offspring that God made to Eve? He promised to redeem His people through a woman. Do you remember God’s promise to Abraham to bless all nations through his family line? Because of these covenants of God, it was extremely important for a woman to provide her husband with sons and it was a brother’s duty to continue the family line for a dead brother. By refusing to give Tamar to Shelah, he was sentencing his family line to death and was eliminating the possibility that his family would birth the Messiah.
Tamar was desperate. So, she disguised herself as a prostitute and met Judah on the side of the road. As a pledge for payment, Judah gave Tamar his seal, cord, and staff which is like giving her his ID. He willingly engaged her as a prostitute and she became pregnant. When he tried to send the promised goat as payment, she could not be found.
A few months later, he found out she was pregnant by prostitution. Here’s where the double standard comes in. He sentenced her to being burned to death despite the fact that he just slept with a prostitute himself! But when Tamar produces his identifying items, he realizes what he’s done. He exclaims that she is more righteous than he.
But she prostituted herself! How can she be considered righteous? I believe it has to do with her motives. She was motivated by a desire to continue the family line at any cost to her, even death.
While I don’t believe that God looks favorably on prostituition, look at Matthew 1:3. Tamar is listed in the genealogy of Jesus! Only one of 4 women to have that honor. Not only did her actions maintain the family line, but her actions perpetuated a line that eventually produced the Messiah!
The WORD about women in the story of Tamar shows that God can use a woman who is courageous and committed to obedience to Him-in mysterious, but mighty ways.
Why do you think God honored Tamar with being a mother in the line of Jesus when she had deceived her father-in-law and engaged in prostitution?
PrayLord, help me to be so obedient to Your will for my life that I am willing to do what is necessary to further Your kingdom. No matter the cost to me. Amen.