Tamar (Tay-mer): A Two-time Widow in the Lineage of Jesus
Scripture: Genesis 38
Lesson: God forgives your past and can still use you for His plans.
To understand Tamar, we must also understand her father-in-law and father of her children, Judah.
Judah was one of the 12 sons of Jacob and was raised in a family that followed God. Judah ran away from God at one point in time: thus enters Tamar.
After selling his brother Joseph into slavery, rather than confessing his wrongs, Judah ran. Judah met and married a Canaanite woman, Shua, and had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah.
When the time came for his oldest son to marry, Judah chose a wife for his son Er (as was the custom), a Canaanite girl named Tamar. Er and Tamar never had children to fulfill the line of Judah. Being an unrighteous man, Er displeased the Lord greatly, and God took his life, leaving Tamar a widow (Genesis 38:7).
Per the custom of that day, Judah gave Tamar to his second son Onan to fulfill the line of Judah. Onan, knowing that any child conceived would not be his, but Er’s, would not allow Tamar to get pregnant whenever they were together. The Lord saw this as wicked and took his life. Tamar was a widow again(Genesis 38:8-10).
Judah, being scared that God was going to take the life of his third son if offered in marriage to Tamar, lied. Judah sent Tamar home to her family while his last son “grew to age,” telling Tamar that he would call for her, yet he never did.
Seeing this, Tamar devised a plan of her own to fulfill the line of Judah. After his wife’s death, Judah came upon Tamar, dressed in a veil to disguise herself and sit outside the town entrance to which he was traveling. Judah, assuming that she was a prostitute, propositioned her. In the proposition, Tamar convinced Judah to give her his seal, cord, and staff to later exchange for a young goat for payment. Tamar had no intention of giving the tokens back until later. Judah and Tamar slept together and parted ways. Judah sent his servant for the exchange but could not find “the gate prostitute,” so it was “forgotten” as not to bring embarrassment to Judah (Genesis 38: 12-23).
After some time, Judah learned that Tamar was pregnant and therefore guilty of prostitution because of her pledge to Judah’s third son. Judah, becoming angry, wanted Tamar dead. Before Tamar was killed, her servant presented the tokens to Judah and explained the father was their owner. Judah, recognizing his unrighteousness, took Tamar back into his household (Genesis 38:24-26). Tamar had twin boys establishing the line of Judah, who would receive the following blessing from his father, Jacob:
“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until He (Jesus) to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be His. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. (the blood of the Lamb)” Genesis 49:10-11 (NIV)
Jesus became the Lion of Judah, and Tamar was the woman behind it.
Lessons from Tamar:
- God forgives your past and can still use you for His plans. Tamar was a Canaanite woman that helped establish a Jewish family. God could have established His lineage any other way, but He chose to do it through the testimony of indiscretion and ultimately forgiveness and grace. After recognizing his unrighteous actions with Tamar, Judah turned back to God, and through his lineage, we find Jesus. Know that God sees every heart and will allow the opportunity to make Himself known even through your testimony!
- Wait with the Lord. We can become weary while we wait on what God wants to do in our lives. But we can also know that God is there even in times of weariness (1 Peter 5:7).
- What do you want your lineage to look like? When it’s all said and done, I hope that people will see Jesus and remember Him more than they remember me. Look up Galatians 2:20. Ephesians 3:17, and Psalm 115:1. Pray these scriptures over your life. Let’s be women who leave a legacy of Jesus!
Donna Fender is a worship leader, Bible teacher, and co-founder of Faithfully Following Ministries