Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Tamar’s Story: An Advent Study

By: Rebekah Hargraves

Photo Courtesy Of: Annie Spratt

“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,” ~Matthew 1:1-3a

There are only five women listed in the genealogy of Christ as found in Matthew 1, and the first

we see named is Tamar. The whole of Tamar’s story is contained in just one chapter - Genesis

38 - with verse six being the first time the Bible mentions her: "Judah got a wife for Er, his

firstborn, and her name was Tamar.”

Judah “got a wife” for his son. Enter patriarchy, one of the cultural mores where it is normative

for a father to go out and “get” a wife for his son, regardless of whether the two people know

each other, love each other, or even want to marry. But marry they must, for a male heir has to

be produced.

Following the announcement that Judah has procured a wife for his son, we read in the very

next verse that Er is struck down by the Lord for his wickedness. Tamar is now childless and

husbandless and, per the patriarchal norm, is sent back to her father’s house.

Tamar’s Faithfulness

The rest of the story reads like a tragic drama. According to the cultural norms of the day, Er’s

brother is required to marry Tamar and try to produce a son with her on Er’s behalf. Instead of

living up to his responsibility, he refuses to father a son on behalf of his brother and is

consequently struck down dead. Judah now has one remaining son, Shelah, whom Judah

promises to Tamar as a husband once he (Shelah) is of age (see verse 11).

As we continue to read, we next find that Judah’s own wife dies, and, after he recovers from

the worst of his grief, he goes on a journey to a place called Timnah. By now, much time has

passed, and Tamar has never been given to Shelah in marriage. Instead, she remains in her

father’s house, a rapidly aging widow.

When Tamar hears of Judah’s travels, she decides to meet him on the road to Timnah, wearing

the disguise of a prostitute.

Tamar’s Hope

This is the point in the account where many people wrongly begin to judge Tamar. She has not

been working as a prostitute, but has been in her father’s house the whole time. However, out

of a sense of duty and responsibility to preserve Judah’s family line (now that two of his sons

are dead, the remaining one has not married, and he has no grandsons), she disguises herself

as a prostitute and positions herself in such a way that Judah will certainly stumble upon her

while on his journey.

Tamar’s desire is to provide an heir for Judah. Though horrifying to our Western minds, what

Tamar does is actually a very selfless move on her part. To be sure, the judgment does not

belong on the head of Tamar, but rather on the head of Judah. We find him traveling on a

journey when he stumbles upon one he thinks is simply a prostitute by trade and decides to

hire her for sex. It’s pretty easy to see who the sinful one is in this story.

In a culture where Tamar is viewed as worthless unless she furthers her father-in-law’s family

line, Tamar has hope and sees this as her grand opportunity to hold up what she considers her

side of the bargain. Judah, however, just wants to have his physical needs and desires met.

In fact, we see Judah admit this himself later in verse 26 when he says, “She is more righteous

than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah. Verse 26 ends with these words: “And he did not sleep with her again.”

Hope for Women Today

Maybe you don’t live in a patriarchal society wrongly being told that your worth is found in

whether or not you are a mother. However, you may very well be facing something in your life

right now during this very Advent season that has left you feeling rathe hopeless - perhaps a

job loss, unmet desire, unreached goal, unfulfilled dream, loss of a loved one, abandonment,

financial stress, or health crisis. Whatever it may be that has left you feeling as if there is no

hope to be found for you, look up!

Don’t fix your eyes on your problems and your (perhaps many!) reasons to be lacking in hope

this season. Instead, fix your eyes on Christ, the Author and Finisher of your faith (Hebrews

12:2) - the One who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and brings good out of it

all (Romans 8:28).

Tamar’s story was one of hopelessness, trial, disappointment, loss, broken promises, and

betrayal. In the midst of it all, however, God was still at work. A baby was born to Tamar - a

baby who would be in the very lineage of Christ, the coming Messiah, just as Tamar herself

would be.

So, no matter what you are facing today, remember that today is not the end of your story. God

has a purpose and a plan. Just think what He could accomplish through you and the portion of

your story in which you currently find yourself. There is always reason to hope when we have


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