About that time, Judah separated from his brothers and hooked up with a man in Adullam named Hirah.
While there, Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite named Shua. He married her, they went to bed,
she became pregnant and had a son named Er.
She got pregnant again and had a son named Onan.
She had still another son; she named this one Shelah. They were living at Kezib when she had him.
Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn. Her name was Tamar.
But Judah's firstborn, Er, grievously offended God and God took his life.
So Judah told Onan, "Go and sleep with your brother's widow; it's the duty of a brother-in-law to keep your brother's line alive."
But Onan knew that the child wouldn't be his, so whenever he slept with his brother's widow he spilled his semen on the ground so he wouldn't produce a child for his brother.
God was much offended by what he did and also took his life.
So Judah stepped in and told his daughter-in-law Tamar, "Live as a widow at home with your father until my son Shelah grows up." He was worried that Shelah would also end up dead, just like his brothers. So Tamar went to live with her father.
Time passed. Judah's wife, Shua's daughter, died. When the time of mourning was over, Judah with his friend Hirah of Adullam went to Timnah for the sheep shearing.
Tamar was told, "Your father-in-law has gone to Timnah to shear his sheep."
She took off her widow's clothes, put on a veil to disguise herself, and sat at the entrance to Enaim which is on the road to Timnah. She realized by now that even though Shelah was grown up, she wasn't going to be married to him.
Judah saw her and assumed she was a prostitute since she had veiled her face.
He left the road and went over to her. He said, "Let me sleep with you." He had no idea that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, "What will you pay me?"
"I'll send you," he said, "a kid goat from the flock." She said, "Not unless you give me a pledge until you send it."
"So what would you want in the way of a pledge?" She said, "Your personal seal-and-cord and the staff you carry." He handed them over to her and slept with her. And she got pregnant.
She then left and went home. She removed her veil and put her widow's clothes back on.
Judah sent the kid goat by his friend from Adullam to recover the pledge from the woman. But he couldn't find her.
He asked the men of that place, "Where's the prostitute that used to sit by the road here near Enaim?" They said, "There's never been a prostitute here."
He went back to Judah and said, "I couldn't find her. The men there said there never has been a prostitute there."
Judah said, "Let her have it then. If we keep looking, everyone will be poking fun at us. I kept my part of the bargain - I sent the kid goat but you couldn't find her."
Three months or so later, Judah was told, "Your daughter-in-law has been playing the whore - and now she's a pregnant whore." Judah yelled, "Get her out here. Burn her up!"
As they brought her out, she sent a message to her father-in-law, "I'm pregnant by the man who owns these things. Identify them, please. Who's the owner of the seal-and-cord and the staff?"
Judah saw they were his. He said, "She's in the right; I'm in the wrong - I wouldn't let her marry my son Shelah." He never slept with her again.
When her time came to give birth, it turned out that there were twins in her womb.
As she was giving birth, one put his hand out; the midwife tied a red thread on his hand, saying, "This one came first."
But then he pulled it back and his brother came out. She said, "Oh! A breakout!" So she named him Perez (Breakout).
Then his brother came out with the red thread on his hand. They named him Zerah (Bright).
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)