As we come to the conclusion of the story of Judah and Tamar, we are reminded that it is not just a story. When we read Genesis 38, it seems so out of place from the Joseph narrative, with characters that perform such foreign sins, that we are tempted to believe that it was just some fictional story that took place a long time ago in a land far away.
But the events of Scripture are real events with real people who actually lived in real history, and they have a real meaning to us today.. The conclusion of Genesis 38 reminds us of how real these sinful people were.
Please read Genesis 38:27-30.
Just like Jacob and Esau wrestled in Rebekah’s womb, so here we find two twins wrestling in Tamar’s womb. When it comes time to give birth, they fight over who will come out first. The midwives recognize Zerah as having stuck out his hand first, but Perez was actually the first to be fully born. These two twins will carry on the line of Judah, and Perez will be remembered as the most significant.
When we look at later genealogies of Israel, we pay particular attention to the tribe of Judah. We know that King David will come from the tribe of Judah, as will the Messiah. It is interesting that in the end of the Book of Ruth, David’s lineage is traced back through Jesse, Obed, Boaz and Ruth, all the way to Perez, the son of Judah.
What’s more, the New Testament begins with a genealogy that starts with Abraham fathering Isaac who fathered Jacob, who fathered Judah, who fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar. Then Perez fathered Hezron, who’s descendants lead all the way to “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (1:16 cf also 1:1-15)
Genesis 38 is not some fictional story used to encourage levirate marriage faithfulness; it is a real part of the history of Israel. God saw fit to include both the good and the bad in His revealed history of the world. He didn’t make people out to be perfect heroes, but described their sins as much as, or even more than, their accomplishments.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, when He became a man, was born into a sinful family with a sinful history. He came from people as sinful as Judah and Tamar! Why would He do that? Why would He choose them?
He did that for us. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus Christ knows what it’s like to come from a sinful family. He knows what it’s like to be tempted in every manner of sin, and yet be without sin.
Jesus Christ is our perfect High Priest, who is able to sympathize with our weakness in every way. He alone can both feel our pain, and heal our pain. We are reminded of this when we look at who his ancestors were, especially Judah and Tamar.
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