Chapter 38, Verse 13 – 26:
And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear
And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and
wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw
that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.
When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.
And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto
thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou
give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?
And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a
pledge, till thou send it?
And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets,
and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she
conceived by him.
And she arose, and went away, and laid by her veil from her, and put on the garments of
And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge
from the woman’s hand: but he found her not.
Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by
the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place.
And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place
said, that there was no harlot in this place.
And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and
thou hast not found her.
And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy
daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by
whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.
When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose
these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the
signet, and bracelets, and staff.
And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I;
because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.
By gazing at the generality of this story, we immediately fall into conclusion how wicked both Tamar and Judah’s roles were, and we can straightforwardly extract the lessons about immoralities particularly from Tamar’s acting as a prostitute, and Judah’s falling into her temptation in exchange for, we could say and will explain why, his “valuable possessions”. Furthermore, his act was aggravated by the fact that she was his daughter-in-law, although it was beyond his awareness.
If we peek inside the story, there is an obscure lesson we may be able to expose by analyzing the portrayals of the primary characters, things, and events in the story. However we say that it is a story about sexual immorality, we can, on the other hand, describe it as simply a story of “neglect” and the consequences we derive out of it.
We know Tamar simply wants attention for she wanted Judah to give her Shelah for marriage as promised, that’s why she pretended to be someone else who turned out to be a prostitute in the eyes of Judah. In the process of his continuous neglect, rebellion has shaped her into something he was never aware could become of her.
In this part of the story, from the situation they are in, we can compare Judah with parents of today who keep neglecting their Tamar’s, or their child’s emotional needs particularly that of intense attention and deeper personal concern. Parents today, in hopes to sustain more than enough their family’s financial needs, engross themselves completely with chores to the point where their primary duties to their child are overlooked. One of these duties of course is the kind of nurturing attention necessary to support the emotional development of the child. For fear that they may not be able to sufficiently provide for the material needs of the family, they inconspicuously abandon an important obligation by spending less and less time with the family for matters of work and business. In some situations, financial may not be the main cause of abandonment but for ill, an extramarital affair. As a consequence thereof, a child grows up with non-progressive thoughts about family relations, thereby causing the child to seek enlightenment out of chaos in a manner by which none of the parents may be aware of. Sometimes due to distress brought about by the situation and the frustrations earned by the child from the unheeding parents, the child resorts to finding “guidance” from other persons or activities which may perfidiously impair the child’s vision of the truth, and eventually lead to the path of irresponsibleness and immoralities, such as lack of interest in education, alcoholism and drug abuse, disobedience to parents, and so on – represented herein by Tamar’s pretense of prostitution. For one way a child fills in the longings within is by deceiving the self of the situations, emotions, possessions and achievements to be different from and better than their awful realities. Beyond the child’s understanding however, the outcome of self-deception could be far worse than simply finding the moral essence of the modest side of unpretentiousness and dealing with it through the counsels of rectitude. But without the right people to advise and guide the child, futile becomes the child’s struggle for understanding.
In further part of the story, Judah fell into her deception and the temptation tied in with it, that even his “signet, bracelets and staff” that was “in his hand” he willingly pledged in exchange for the sexual pleasure she was offering. Now regarding the “valuable possessions” we mentioned before as described of his properties pledged to Tamar, and the reason why we expressed them to be valuables, we can compare them to the child or the family relationships that parents sacrifice for the pursuit of personal pleasures, or due to obsession with work or other matters from which negligence is a resultant. Why would we give up our most valued possessions, even our own life and blood, in selfish quest for lust and bodily desires? It’s a common affair nowadays where a man willingly gives up his own family for the pleasures of another woman, or spends most of his time on leisure or business matters leaving very little of it for the family.
When time captures our realization, in a similar way when Judah found out about Tamar’s doing, we easily get enraged by the truth. And when it’s too hard for us to comprehend what has befallen to the people and things we have abandoned, we blame them for their own faults when in fact it was our ignorance and heedlessness that produced the reality of the circumstances, to a point where we might instill judgment without due process, as when Judah ordered Tamar to be burnt for acting as a harlot. What he didn’t realize though was the fact that she conceived through whoredom only by his own doing, therefore the life in her womb was the result of his own iniquity. Similarly with us, sometimes it is difficult to realize that what may have became of our possessions and loved ones, represented herein by Tamar’s unexpected conception, are direct results of our own mistakes and wickedness. We keep neglecting important things for personal pleasures, and only when things turn bitter that we begin to recognize the problem.
The hands of the clock revolve so quickly indeed. What we were looking at yesterday may appear totally different than today. Always when it’s too little, too late, we find out that we can no longer regain the time which has passed us by unnoticed. However, if there is still time left to remedy the situation, we must stop blaming others. Instead, admit first our transgressions then commit ourselves in conformity to truth to the laws of responsibility and morality in order to avoid repetition of our past wrongful deeds. Only when we acknowledge our mistakes, as when Judah acknowledged his own and said, “She hath been more righteous than I”, that we will realize we are no more righteous than the persons whom we closed our eyes on, and that we must not ignore them henceforth for they are exactly what we sculpt them to be; they are our artifacts who depend entirely on the degree of our craftsmanship and attentiveness to details.