Genesis 38:24

24 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!"

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 He went back to Judah and said, "I couldn't find her. The men there said there never has been a prostitute there."
23 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."
24 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!"
25 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?"
26 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.
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.