Genesis 38:24

24 About three months later Judah was told, "Tamar your daughter-in-law 1has been immoral.[a] Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality."[b] And Judah said, "Bring her out, and 2let her be burned."

Genesis 38:24 Meaning and Commentary

Genesis 38:24

And it came to pass about three months after
The above affair happened, and when the pregnancy of Tamar began to be somewhat visible, as it does in women with child about that time: that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played
the harlot:
her being with child being observed by some of the family, or her neighbours, and knowing that she did not cohabit with Shelah, who, according to custom, ought to have been her husband, concluded that she had had a criminal conversation with some other person, which they were officious enough to report to Judah: and also, behold, she [is] with child by whoredom;
which was judged to be a plain proof and evidence that she had played the harlot: and Judah said, bring her forth, and let her be burnt:
not that Judah can be thought to be a civil magistrate in a Canaanitish and Heathen city where he sojourned, and as such pronounced this sentence on her at once, or even had the power of life and death in his own family; and besides Tamar was not in his, but in her own father's house: but the sense seems to be, that as he was a man of credit and esteem in the neighbourhood, and had an influence and interest in it; he moved that she might be brought out of her father's house, and take her trial before the civil magistrates, and be committed to prison until she was delivered, for it would have been barbarous, and contrary to the law and light of nature, to have burnt her when quick with child, and then indeed to be burnt to death, according to the usage of this country; and as we find adultery in later times was punished with this kind of death, even among Heathens, ( Jeremiah 29:22 Jeremiah 29:23 ) ; as it was in Egypt in the times of Sesostris the second F6; so Salaethus, prince of Croton in Italy, made a law that adulterers should be burnt alive, as Lucian F7 relates; as did also Macrinus the emperor, that those that were guilty of adultery should be burnt alive together, their bodies joined to each other F8: and this criminal action of Tamar was judged adultery, because she was, of right, and according to a custom or law then in use, the wife of Shelah: the Targum of Jonathan intimates, she was judged deserving of this death, because the daughter of a priest; the same law obtaining among the patriarchs as did in the times of Moses, ( Leviticus 21:9 ) ; and some, as Jarchi relates, say she was the daughter of Shem {i}, the same with Melchizedek, priest of the most high God: one reason why Judah was in haste to have the sentence pronounced on her, and as soon as could be executed, was not only the disgrace she brought upon his family, but that she might be dispatched, and so his son Shelah freed from being obliged to marry her, which he did not care he should, and was glad of this opportunity to prevent it.


F6 Diodor. Sicul. l. 1. p. 54.
F7 "Pro mercede conductis".
F8 Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 4. c. 1.
F9 Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 4. 1.

Genesis 38:24 In-Context

22 So he returned to Judah and said, "I have not found her. Also, the men of the place said, 'No cult prostitute has been here.'"
23 And Judah replied, "Let her keep the things as her own, or we shall be laughed at. You see, I sent this young goat, and you did not find her."
24 About three months later Judah was told, "Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality." And Judah said, "Bring her out, and let her be burned."
25 As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, "By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant." And she said, "Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff."
26 Then Judah identified them and said, "She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah." And he did not know her again.

Cross References 2

  • 1. Judges 19:2
  • 2. Leviticus 21:9; [Deuteronomy 22:21; John 8:5]

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Or has committed prostitution
  • [b]. Or by prostitution
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.