Read the Old Testament for about 3 and a half seconds and you'll find some pretty messed up family stuff. Besides the fact that is was perfectly acceptable to marry your half-sister or your cousin, families were plagued with the same things we are today: lies, favoritism, poor parenting, bigt time sibling rivalry, etc. But it's the story of Judah and Tamar that I found most outrageous today.
Just prior to this story, found in Genesis 38, we see the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. Originally the plan was to kill him, but big brother Reuben steps in and says, "Let's just throw him in this empty cistern instead." Reuben planned to rescue him later when the other brothers weren't looking. Only, when Reuben took a potty break (pure speculation of his whereabouts!) Judah steps in and convinces them to sell Joseph as a slave to a passing caravan. He was, after all, their own brother, their flesh and blood. So we get a glimpse into Judah's character.
Fast forward many years; Judah has separated from his brothers and builds his own family. His Canaanite wife (big NO-NO!) gives birth to three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Don't you just love Bible names?? Anyway, when Er comes of age Judah gets him a wife named Tamar. There's just one slight problem..."Er was wicked in the Lord's sight and the Lord put him to death." So Tamar is now a childless widow, so Judah tells son number two to do his brotherly duty and produce sons for his deceased brother. Another slight problem: Onan was wicked too, and the Lord put him to death as well. Here's Tamar, still childless and widowed. Son number three is not yet of age for marriage, so Judah tells Tamar to wait for him to grow up a bit. Third slight problem: Judah has no intention of actually having Shelah marry Tamar. Why, you may ask? Because he worried that Shelah would die as well. (Side note here: either Judah knew that Shelah was wicked like their brothers, or he had no idea why his older sons died in the first place. Either way, it doesn't look very good on Judah.)
Fast forward a few years. Shelah is of age, and Judah's wife dies. Here's where it gets really crazy. After his mourning time was over Judah went to check on his sheep. On the way he meets who he thinks is a prostitute. He offers her a young goat as payment for her services, and she accepts on the condition that he leave something as a guarantee of payment. Which he willingly does. And now Judah has another slightly larger problem. When he sends the goat (notice that he sent it; he doesn't take it himself) the messenger can't find the prostitute. Go figure. Fast forward 3 months. Judah gets the news that Tamar is guilty of prostitution and is pregnant. Dense Judah does not make the connection, but orders that Tamar be brought out and "burned to death!" Kind of hypocritical, isn't it? It was ok for him to use a prostitute, but not ok for her to be one. Of course, he then finds out that he is the father just as guilty as her, and does "not sleep with her again."
Ok, seriously? Talk about your made-for-TV-movie!! So I have to ask myself, "WHY is this kind of stuff in the Bible?????????" If it was a movie, I probably wouldn't watch it, it's so full of junk and ridiculousness. But I'm reading it in God's holy word. And if you're looking for a resolution, there isn't one. Tamar gives birth to twins and that's the end of the chapter. The next time we see Judah, he is personally guaranteeing the safety of youngest brother (and other father favorite) Benjamin on their journey back to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph. Perhaps he has learned his lesson and changed his ways, but we can only hope, since the Bible doesn't say for sure.
So back to the question, why does God include this for us to read? What's the lesson? When I figure it out, I'll let you know!!
to be continued....