Genesis 38

Listen to Genesis 38

Judah and Tamar

1 It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and 1turned aside to a certain 2Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.
2 There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was 3Shua. He took her and went in to her,
3 and she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name 4Er.
4 She conceived again and bore a son, and she called his name 5Onan.
5 Yet again she bore a son, and she called his name 6Shelah. Judah[a] was in Chezib when she bore him.
6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar.
7 But Er, Judah's firstborn, 7was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD put him to death.
8 Then Judah said to Onan, "Go in to 8your brother's wife and 9perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother."
9 But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother's wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother.
10 And what he did was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and he put him to death also.
11 Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, 10"Remain a widow in your father's house, till Shelah my son grows up"--for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained 11in her father's house.
12 In the course of time the wife of Judah, Shua's daughter, died. When Judah 12was comforted, he went up to 13Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.
13 And when Tamar was told, "Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,"
14 she took off her widow's garments 14and covered herself with a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to 15Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that Shelah was grown up, 16and she had not been given to him in marriage.
15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.
16 He turned to her at the roadside and said, "Come, let me come in to you," for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, "What will you give me, that you may come in to me?"
17 He answered, "I will send you a young goat from the flock." And she said, "If you give me a pledge, until you send it--"
18 He said, "What pledge shall I give you?" She replied, 17"Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand." So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him.
19 Then she arose and went away, and taking off 18her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.
20 When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite to take back the pledge from the woman's hand, he did not find her.
21 And he asked the men of the place, "Where is the cult prostitute[b] who was at 19Enaim at the roadside?" And they said, "No cult prostitute has been here."
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 20has been immoral.[c] Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality."[d] And Judah said, "Bring her out, and 21let 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, 22the signet and the cord and the staff."
26 Then Judah identified them and said, 23"She is more righteous than I, since 24I did not give her to my son Shelah." And he did not know her again.
27 When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb.
28 And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, "This one came out first."
29 But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, "What a breach you have made for yourself!" Therefore his name was called 25Perez.[e]
30 Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called 26Zerah.

Genesis 38 Commentary

Chapter 38

The profligate conduct of Judah and his family.

- This chapter gives an account of Judah and his family, and such an account it is, that it seems a wonder that of all Jacob's sons, our Lord should spring out of Judah, ( Hebrews 7:14 ) . But God will show that his choice is of grace and not of merit, and that Christ came into the world to save sinners, even the chief. Also, that the worthiness of Christ is of himself, and not from his ancestors. How little reason had the Jews, who were so called from this Judah, to boast as they did, ( John 8:41 ) . What awful examples the Lord proclaims in his punishments, of his utter displeasure at sin! Let us seek grace from God to avoid every appearance of sin. And let that state of humbleness to which Jesus submitted, when he came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, in appointing such characters as those here recorded, to be his ancestors, endear the Redeemer to our hearts.

Cross References 26

  • 1. ver. 16; Genesis 19:3; 2 Kings 4:8
  • 2. 1 Samuel 22:1; 2 Samuel 23:13; 1 Chronicles 11:15; Micah 1:15
  • 3. [1 Chronicles 2:3]
  • 4. Genesis 46:12; Numbers 26:19, 20
  • 5. [See ver. 3 above]
  • 6. [See ver. 3 above]
  • 7. 1 Chronicles 2:3
  • 8. Matthew 22:24; Mark 12:19; Luke 20:28
  • 9. See Deuteronomy 25:5-10
  • 10. [Ruth 1:12, 13]
  • 11. Leviticus 22:13
  • 12. Genesis 24:67; Genesis 37:35; 2 Samuel 13:39
  • 13. Judges 14:1
  • 14. [ver. 19; Genesis 24:65]
  • 15. ver. 21
  • 16. ver. 26
  • 17. ver. 25
  • 18. ver. 14
  • 19. ver. 14
  • 20. Judges 19:2
  • 21. Leviticus 21:9; [Deuteronomy 22:21; John 8:5]
  • 22. ver. 18
  • 23. 1 Samuel 24:17
  • 24. ver. 14
  • 25. Genesis 46:12; Numbers 26:20; 1 Chronicles 2:4; Matthew 1:3
  • 26. [See ver. 29 above]

Footnotes 5

  • [a]. Hebrew He
  • [b]. Hebrew sacred woman; a woman who served a pagan deity by prostitution; also verse 22
  • [c]. Or has committed prostitution
  • [d]. Or by prostitution
  • [e]. Perez means a breach

Chapter Summary


This chapter is wholly taken up with matters relating to Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, from whom the Jews have their name, and from whom Christ sprung: it treats of his marriage with a Canaanitess, his children by her, their character and end, Ge 38:1-11; of his incest with his daughter-in-law, though unknown by him, Ge 38:12-23; of his resentment against her, when he heard she was with child, and his confusion when he found it was by himself, Ge 38:24-26; and of the birth of twins by her, named Pharez and Zarah, Ge 38:27-30.

Genesis 38 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.