Tamar - The Forgotten Woman of
By Patricia Chadwick
Tamar is often a forgotten woman,
because her story isn't pretty and
we'd rather overlook it. But God
didn't overlook her. She is the first
woman listed in the genealogy of
Jesus. You can read Tamar's story in
the book of Genesis (Genesis 38:6 -
The Bible is silent about Tamar's
genealogy. All we know is that she was
a Canaanite woman. She was married to
a man named Er, who was the son of
Judah, one of the 12 sons of Jacob. Er
displeased God in some way (we are not
told what he did) and was slain by
God. According to Hebrew law a widow
was to marry the next son in the
family, so Tamar was wed to Er's
brother Onan, so he could raise up
seed for his deceased brother. Onan
didn't like this idea. He knew that
according to Hebrew law any offspring
would not be considered his so instead
of fulfilling his responsibilities to
his dead brother's memory and
posterity, Onan spilled his semen on
the ground instead of impregnating
Tamar. This angered God and for Onan's
faithlessness to the dead, God slew
him, leaving Tamar a widow once again.
According to Hebrew law, Tamar should
have been given in marriage to Judah's
third son, Shelah. Judah promised
Tamar that when Shelah became of age,
she would be his wife. In the
meantime, he sent her back to her
father's house to wait for that day.
When Shelah grew into manhood, Judah
broke his promise. Maybe he was afraid
that Shelah would suffer the same fate
as his brothers, but we are not told.
Regardless, Judah's failure to give
Shelah in marriage to Tamar, as was
promised had far-reaching results.
As far as Judah was concerned, his
promise to Tamar had been forgotten.
But Tamar refused to be forgotten. She
does the unthinkable. If her
father-in-law wouldn't give her his
son to raise up an heir for her dead
husband, she would see to it that she
had that heir, in her own way. She
disguised herself as a prostitute and
seduced Judah. Nine months later she
bore twins as a result of this union.
One of those twins, Peraz is listed in
the Messianic line.
Now this was a questionable
relationship, to put it mildly. Was
this God's will? I don't think so. I'm
sure God would have preferred to have
Judah follow Hebrew law by giving
Shelah to wed Tamar, which would have
resulted in perpetuating an heir to
the Messianic throne. While Judah
chose to shirk his duty to provide
male heirs to keep the messianic
promise alive, Tamar would not let
him. Tamar refused to be forgotten.
She refused to be shoved aside.
Although there is no evidence that
Tamar worshipped Israel's God, it is
assumed that she must have had known
the significance of Judah's family
line and she was determined to provide
a male heir. Though she resorted to
methods we cannot condone, God used
this situation for His own good
We may be shocked when we see both
Judah and Tamar listed in the
genealogy of Jesus Christ, but we
cannot presume to question God's ways.
Perhaps their heritage played a part
in their being chosen to be in the
line of the Messiah. Judah was a Jew.
Tamar was a gentile. Perhaps their
union was a foreshadowing of the fact
that both Jews and Gentiles were to
share in the blessings of the Gospel.
Excerpt from Old Fashioned Holidays
from History's Women written
by Patricia Chadwick. It is available
in both print and ebook formats