Tamar, Contending for Her Inheritance! A Woman Who Would Not be Denied!

Meet a contender wrestling with cultural inequality to secure her inheritance. Tamar would not be denied life, dignity and destiny.

Tamar is the first woman listed in the genealogical record of Jesus the Messiah. What merited Matthew’s inclusion of this incredible woman?

God intends for man to take his place as defender, protector and provider of his household, walking faithfully before Him. What happens when men stumble and lose their way? When deliberate choices to abandon personal identity, home and family invade, then what?

Choices

Judah

Genesis 38 begins with the words, “at that time

What time is “that time”?

“At that time” when Judah was involved in a jealous conspiracy to kill his own brother, eventually selling him into slavery. It was “that time” when lies couldn’t conceal sin or soothe a father’s grief. “At that time” when guilt haunted and self condemnation screamed.

“At that time,
Judah left his brothers
and went down to stay…”
Genesis 38:1

Little words containing enormous ramifications! Judah “left”Running away from his family, he hoped to escape himself. He “went down” the well-travelled road ultimately leading to dead ends.

Boundary crossed

Judah withdrew from more than his family, however. He crossed God’s boundary line of protection by marrying a Canaanite woman.

Together their marriage produced three sons: Er, Onan, and Selah.

Tamar

Tamar enters the picture as the wife chosen for Er.  Er was wicked in the LORD’s sight“, so wicked God put him to death. (38:7). Are there any willing volunteers  to take Tamar’s place? Instead of the fulfillment of a little girl’s dream of happy marriage, Tamar found herself in a painful nightmare.

Judah instructs his second son to fulfill the Levirate marriage requirement to ensure the continuation of his brother’s family line and protection of his widow. Onan also was “wicked” (38:10). He was all too happy to use Tamar for his own sexual pleasure while refusing to fulfill any obligation to her, his family or God.

Stubbornly refusing to face his own sinful heart or the blatant wickedness of his sons, Judah casts all blame toward Tamar.

Sin is never “private”! It’s twisted deception infects and affects everyone! 

Live as a widow
in your father’s household
until my son Shelah grows up.”
Genesis 38:11

Unknown path

An hollow empty promise, to be sure! With a word, Judah cut Tamar from her inheritance pushing her out of his sight — a widow, childless and vulnerable.

Her story unfolds like a soap opera! Tamar waits! Years pass! Still she waits.

Tamar means date palm, the ultimate symbol of life and productivity. Her confinement concealed the true destiny and calling within her name! Would she settle as castaway? Would she bare the burden of another’s sins in powerless obscurity?

Life

How long the wait was, we are uncertain. The bible simply says,

After a long time,
Judah’s wife … died.
When Judah had recovered from his grief,
he went to Timnah…” 
Genesis 38:12

Judah too had experienced great loss; no one dare minimize his anguish and grief. However, he gave himself permission to “recover from his grief.” 

His daughter-in-law was granted no such grace!

Because of Judah’s unwillingness to give his youngest son Shelah to Tamar, he alone could fulfill the Levirate Law.  With courage and boldness, Tamar veils herself and waits by the road, risking all to defend her family rights.

“When Judah saw her,
he thought she was a prostitute,
for she had covered her face.
Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law,
he went over to her by the roadside and said,
come now, let me sleep with you.”
Genesis 38: 15-16

One black sheep

Judah’s journey took him further than he ever thought possible! The cost was incalculable! 

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go,
keep you longer than you want to stay,
and cost you more than you want to pay.”
R. Zaccharias

This account of Judah is nestled within Joseph’s larger story.  A young goat’s blood was given to convince his father of Joseph’s staged death. Now Judah reaches into the flock a second time to mask another dark deception.

The Pledge

Judah promises a goat as payment for her services — a payment woefully lacking! Not searching to satisfy lust or fleshly desire, nor seeking revenge for gross injustice and mistreatment, she asks only for what is due her.

Boldly she claims her inheritance!

“What pledge should I give you?”
“Your seal and its cord,
and the staff in your hand,” she answered.
So he gave them to her…”
Genesis 38:18

The seal was a symbol of a man’s identity marking his personal worth, while the attached cord symbolized the binding of two things together. The staff in Judah’s hand was far more than a walking stick! It was an emblem of his authority, like a royal sceptre. It was probably hand carved; the length carefully etched with the names of his ancestry.

Staff of authority

Yet Judah willingly placed everything into the hands of an “unknown” woman! For one moment of sexual pleasure, he yielded his identity, authority and generational inheritance. Astonishing! 

Judah later sent his friend with the goat to pay the woman and retrieve his pledge. Unable to find her, his friend returns empty-handed.

Let her keep what she has,
or we will become a laughingstock.”
Genesis 38:23

“Let her keep what she has?” Judah flippantly disregards the value of what has been lost. Nonetheless, words prophetically spoken.

Tamar’s Honour

Tamar became pregnant in the encounter. The life growing within her forming the connecting link between Abraham and Jesus. The promise protected in her womb outweighed any treasure in her hand!

“The “widow” is pregnant!”

Years of suppressed resentment and anger burst forth from Judah with hot volcanic force,

Bring her out
and have her burned to death.”
Genesis 38:24

What could satiate a man’s tormented mind and heart? Public disgrace? Cruel aggression? Murder?

The flames of anger

Tamar’s godliness shines through in polar opposite,

“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 … 
“See if you recognize whose
seal and cord and staff these are.”
Genesis 38:25

Tamar’s strength of character and honour toward a man unworthy of such kindness overcomes. No public accusation of his failure! No shaming the guilty or demanding justice! Tamar privately presents the evidence and leaves the result to God.

Destiny Secured

Judah is humbled by Tamar’s integrity, wisdom, and bravery.

“…She is more righteous than I…”
Genesis 38:26

Within her, Tamar carried a double portion — two sons! One of them, Perez, would carry the DNA of his courageous mother who refused to forfeit her destiny. The DNA of a woman worthy of inclusion in the bloodline of the Messiah!

Tamar spurned the victim’s stool! She disdained the wicked example of those around her. By living above reproach she saw fulfillment of her destiny. Without compromise, she humbly followed the God others openly rejected.

Her reward? Her name forever written in God’s record of great women

Tamar's inheritance

Tamar modelled godliness in ungodly circumstances. Will her example of contending for inheritance be duplicated in our day? Who among us will choose integrity and honour in the face of injustice? Who will lay claim to the spiritual blessing available for this and future generations?  

Is there anyone who will stand against the cultural currents bringing Christ to the world today?  

Tamar presents a challenge worth considering!

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Second is Better Than First! When Second is Best!

No one intentionally aims to rank in second position. In fact, the desire to excel begins surprising young. For most people, expectations to consistently rank in top place is unrealistic. Is there ever a time when second is actually an advantage? Can second be best after all?

I have a lot of experience at second place! I was second oldest among my siblings. Scholastically I worked hard to achieve good grades, sometimes even coming in second best. At track meets the majority of ribbons earned were red, the reward for second. I even entered a writing competition in grade school. You guessed it — second place!

“Whatever is worth doing is worth doing right,” was my father’s motto for excellence. He was right! It is always a good practise to aim at doing our best.

Whatever your hand finds to do,
do it with all your might…”
Ecclesiastes 9:10

Trying for first! Achieving second!

Work willingly at whatever you do,
as though you were working for the Lord
rather than for people.”
Colossians 3:23

Often our best efforts don’t get us to the finish line the fastest, merit the achievement we hoped, or gain academic excellence. Then what?

The Issue of Pride

Jacob’s firstborn, and the one who should have received the birthright, was Reuben. But God rejected him for committing adultery with his father’s concubine. Simeon and Levi in vengeful anger annihilated an entire village. They too were checked off the list of eligible candidates for first place.

Jacob preferred Joseph’s son Ephraim for the honour of top choice. But God saw things differently!

“Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
but he chose the tribe of Judah…”
Psalm 78: 67-68

Why was Ephraim rejected as “first choice”?

You go first! I'll go second!

His name means “double fruitfulness“! What is more, the tribe of Ephraim was acclaimed for their skilled and mighty warriors. (1 Chron 12:30) Sounds like a top qualifier to me!

As we follow history, we see Ephraim’s descendants become overly proud of their abilities. On several occasions, they were more than a little upset about being excluded from battle or shunned from being chosen first. Pride, rebellion and disobedience enjoy cohabitation. The tribe of Ephraim accepted this ugly triad which ultimately led them away from God.

“Ephraim is joined to idols! Leave him alone!”
Hosea 4:17

Why Judah?

But why did God choose Judah? Judah was Jacob’s fourth son from his first wife Leah  — the wife he did not love. Jacob had two wives, two concubines, 12 sons and a daughter. To describe family life as dysfunctional would be a gross understatement!

First or second? Depends on the direction you're going!

In comparison to his older brothers, Judah would never be considered “righteous”. He had his own set of deviant behaviours! So why Judah?

Maybe, his mother started it!

“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved,
he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.
 
Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son.
She named him Reuben, for she said,
“It is because the Lord has seen my misery.
Surely my husband will love me now.”
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son
she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved,
he gave me this one too.”
So she named him Simeon.
Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son
she said, “Now at last my husband
will become attached to me,
because I have borne him three sons.”
So he was named Levi.
Genesis 29:31-34

Break Through

Second place is one thing; second place to a younger sister is unbearable. Especially when you share the same husband! Leah did everything she could to earn her husband’s favour. Nothing worked! She somehow reconciled herself to ever-present rejection, dwelling in the land of unloved.

It's my turn to be first!

Only those who have experienced such an agonizing existence, can appreciate her brave strength to praise God in the midst of her unending storm of pain.

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son
she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.”
So she named him Judah.”
Genesis 29:35

Sacrificial praise extended in the midst of unbearable grief! Leah gave birth to more than a son. She brought forth undaunted worship, courageously choosing to turn her gaze away from people to God, Adonai, her Lord.

Judah’s birth was a turning point for Leah.

Another Second

Follow the family tree down a few generations and we come to David.

When the Israelites demanded a king, God agreed and sent Samuel to anoint Saul as the first king to rule over his people. (1 Sam 10) Saul, however, proved himself unfaithful being far more concerned with what people were thinking about him than how he stood before God.

“… Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”
1 Samuel 15:23

Who is king now?

David’s father, Jesse, didn’t consider his young son even a remote possibility when Samuel came to anoint the future king. But God saw in David the perfect candidate to lead his people.

“So Samuel took the horn of oil
and anointed him in the presence of his brothers,
and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD
came powerfully upon David...”
1 Samuel 16:13

Undeniably, David as second king exceeding the first!

First and Second

The disciples felt an urgency to replace Judas Iscariot. They prayed, cast lots, and confidently chose Matthias. (Acts 1:24-26) God’s choice wasn’t on their list of applicants — Saul of Tarsus! The persecutor of the church, murderer of men, women and children? Saul? Yep, Saul! After Judas the traitor, Saul didn’t appear to be any step up, but he was. The second ultimately became the greatest Apostle of all, planting many churches and writing a large chunk of the New Testament.

Resting in place!

There is One “second” who is even greater. His name is Jesus. Jesus? Second? How could the Lord of all possibly be second?

 “So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”;
the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
The spiritual did not come first,
but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
The first man was of the dust of the earth;
the second man is of heaven.”
1 Corinthians 15:45-47

The first Adam sinned in the garden gaining for all mankind death while losing most everything else. Through his death and resurrection, the second Adam, Jesus, restored all the first forfeited.

“But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
1 Corinthians 15:57

There you have it!

After reading this, I know beyond a doubt that sometimes second so far exceeds the first, it is unbelievable to conceive it was ever second. In fact, Jesus was always God’s first plan, His only plan, His best plan.

Can second be best after all? Absolutely!