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1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.

2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.

3 And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.

4 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.

5 And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.

6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.

7 And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.

8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

11 Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father's house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father's house.

12 And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah's wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

13 And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep.

14 And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, 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.

15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.

16 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?

17 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?

18 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.

19 And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.

20 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.

21 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.

22 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.

23 And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.

24 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.

25 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.

26 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.

27 And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb.

28 And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first.

29 And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez.

30 And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.

Commentary for Genesis 38

The profligate conduct of Judah and his family.

- This chapter gives an account of Judah and his family, and such an account it is, that it seems a wonder that of all Jacob's sons, our Lord should spring out of Judah, #Heb 7:14|. But God will show that his choice is of grace and not of merit, and that Christ came into the world to save sinners, even the chief. Also, that the worthiness of Christ is of himself, and not from his ancestors. How little reason had the Jews, who were so called from this Judah, to boast as they did, #Joh 8:41|. What awful examples the Lord proclaims in his punishments, of his utter displeasure at sin! Let us seek grace from God to avoid every appearance of sin. And let that state of humbleness to which Jesus submitted, when he came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, in appointing such characters as those here recorded, to be his ancestors, endear the Redeemer to our hearts.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

Discussion for Genesis 38

  • Adam
    People often cite this verse that it applies to Christians today to not spill their 'seed'. Does this mean if you have a nocturnal emission that you're lusting or sinning in your sleep? How do you choose which verses apply today or not- like greeting people with a kiss, covering your head, etc?
  • Stanjett
    Is using condoms and other birth control a sin?
    sorry thought it was but it was not. I got confused disregard the comment.
  • Gary johnson
    Unlike Joseph, Judah did not run from temptation.
    All I can say is the Lord is good.
  • A disciple
    Comparing these two chapters (38, 39), what instructions can we take from these two very different men? They were brothers according to the flesh, but one was righteous and one was evil; one was mistreated and hated, and the other was a friend of the world and a fornicator. It shows also, how that Christ came in the flesh, but not according to the flesh: spiritually Jesus was NOT a son of Judah.
    He said his daughter-in-law should be burnt but once he found out that she had his belongings he realized that he made a promise but didn't honor, so she used trickery on him...he forgave her because he felt she was more righteous than himself. Being faith and honoring your word shows faithfulness.
  • Lanell
    This situation also tells us that ,the Lord is reaching out to his people with open out stretch hands, no matter what the problem,
  • Dewey J
    Cesar, no he didn 't because she was impregnated by Judah. Even though that was the penalty in those days for adultery Tamar showed Judah and everyone else by presenting Proof of his signet, bracelets, and staff that Judah was the father Gen.38:25. Judah then confessed that Tamar had been more righteous than he. Tamar went approximately 6 months later to give birth to two sons Pharez and Zarah. God bless us all and also in the understanding of his Word. Praise God through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
  • Dewey J
    Jeremiah, interesting post. However, We must conclude that as the Scripture says, Isa. 55:8,9 "For my thoughs are not your thought, neither, are your ways my ways...Though you or me haven 't committed that particular sin as Judah here we all have our own sin Rom.3:10 "As it is written,there is none righteous, no, not one. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Therefore, We are commanded by God in Lu.6:37 "Judge not that you be not judged. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus in all situations in life as well as all Biblical stories. Because Ep.2:8,9 says, "For by grace are we saved through faith and that is not of ourselves it is the gift of God not of works least any man should boast. God bless us all and also in the understanding of his Word. Bless the Lord with all my soul and all that is within me bless his Holy name through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!

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Bible Trivia

Which of Judah's sons does God slay first?
  • Shelah
  • Onan
  • Er
  • Shuah