Genesis 38

Judah and Tamar

1 At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah.
2 There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her;
3 she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er.
4 She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan.
5 She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.
6 Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar.
7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so the LORD put him to death.
8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.”
9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother.
10 What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so the LORD put him to death also.
11 Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.
12 After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him.
13 When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,”
14 she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.
15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.
16 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.” “And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked.
17 “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said. “Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked.
18 He said, “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 and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him.
19 After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.
20 Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her.
21 He asked the men who lived there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?” “There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said.
22 So he went back to Judah and said, “I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’ ”
23 Then Judah said, “Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn’t find her.”
24 About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.” Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”
25 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. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”
26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.
27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb.
28 As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.”
29 But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez.[a]
30 Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.[b]

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 55

  • 1. S Genesis 29:35
  • 2. Joshua 12:15; Joshua 15:35; 1 Samuel 22:1; 2 Samuel 23:13; 2 Chronicles 11:7
  • 3. ver 12,20
  • 4. ver 12; 1 Chronicles 2:3
  • 5. ver 6; Genesis 46:12; Numbers 26:19
  • 6. ver 8,9; Genesis 46:12; Numbers 26:19
  • 7. Numbers 26:20
  • 8. ver 11,13
  • 9. S Genesis 6:5
  • 10. ver 10; Genesis 46:12; Leviticus 10:1-2; 1 Chronicles 2:3
  • 11. Deuteronomy 25:5-6; Ruth 4:5; Matthew 22:24-28
  • 12. S ver 7; Genesis 46:12; Deuteronomy 25:7-10
  • 13. S Genesis 11:31
  • 14. S ver 6
  • 15. Ruth 1:8
  • 16. ver 14,26
  • 17. Ruth 1:13
  • 18. S ver 2
  • 19. ver 14; Joshua 15:10,57; Joshua 19:43; Judges 14:1,2; 2 Chronicles 28:18
  • 20. S Genesis 31:19
  • 21. S ver 1
  • 22. S ver 6
  • 23. S Genesis 31:19
  • 24. ver 19
  • 25. S Genesis 24:65
  • 26. Jeremiah 3:2
  • 27. S ver 12
  • 28. S ver 11
  • 29. Judges 11:1; Judges 16:1
  • 30. Genesis 42:23
  • 31. Leviticus 18:15; Leviticus 20:12; Ruth 1:6
  • 32. Genesis 39:7,12; 2Sa 13:11
  • 33. S Genesis 30:15
  • 34. Judges 15:1; Ezekiel 16:33
  • 35. ver 20
  • 36. ver 25; 1 Kings 21:8; Esther 3:12; Esther 8:8; Song of Songs 8:6; Isaiah 49:16; Jeremiah 22:24; Haggai 2:23; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13
  • 37. S Genesis 32:10; S Exodus 4:2
  • 38. S Genesis 19:32
  • 39. ver 14
  • 40. S ver 1
  • 41. ver 17
  • 42. S Genesis 19:5; Leviticus 19:29; Deuteronomy 22:21; Deuteronomy 23:17; 2 Kings 23:7; Hosea 4:14
  • 43. ver 18
  • 44. Exodus 32:25; Job 12:4; Jeremiah 20:7; Lamentations 3:14
  • 45. Leviticus 20:10,14; Leviticus 21:9; Deuteronomy 22:21,22; Joshua 7:25; Judges 15:6; 1 Samuel 31:12; Job 31:11,28; Ezekiel 16:38
  • 46. S ver 18
  • 47. 1 Samuel 24:17
  • 48. S ver 11
  • 49. Genesis 25:24
  • 50. S Genesis 35:17
  • 51. ver 30
  • 52. Genesis 25:26
  • 53. Genesis 46:12; Numbers 26:20,21; Ruth 4:12,18; 2 Samuel 5:20; 2 Samuel 6:8; 1 Chronicles 2:4; 1 Chronicles 9:4; Isaiah 28:21; Matthew 1:3
  • 54. ver 28
  • 55. Genesis 46:12; 1 Chronicles 2:4; Nehemiah 11:24

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. "Perez" means "breaking out."
  • [b]. "Zerah" can mean "scarlet" or "brightness."

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