Genesis 38

Judah's family

38:1Judah lived in the middle of the Canaanites. This chapter shows what happened then. He married a Canaanite woman. But God wanted the Jews to keep themselves separate from foreign people. Sometimes God's people mix with people who do not know God. Sometimes they marry them. This chapter shows what trouble can happen then.

1 At that time, Judah left his brothers. He went to stay with a man from the town of Adullam. His name was Hirah. 2 Then Judah met the daughter of Shua, a Canaanite man. Judah married her. 3 She became pregnant, and gave birth to a son. She called him Er. 4 She became pregnant again, and gave birth to another son. She called him Onan. 5 She gave birth to another son. She called him Shelah. She gave birth to Shelah at the place called Kezib. 6 Judah got a wife for his oldest son, Er. Her name was Tamar. 7 But God saw that Er, the first born son of Judah, was bad. So the Lord made him die. 8 Then Judah said to Onan ‘Marry your dead brother's wife. You must do this because you are her dead husband's brother. You must have a son for your dead brother.’

38:8In the Old Testament, if a man died before his wife had children, his brother must marry the dead man's wife. If the wife then had a son, they called that son the child of the dead brother.

9 But Onan did not want Tamar to have his child. He knew that a child like that would not belong to him. So when he had sex with his brother's wife Tamar, he made his semen go on to the ground. So Tamar could not become pregnant. He would not give Tamar a child for his dead brother.

Semen comes out of the man's sex part when he has sex. It can cause the woman to become pregnant. Onan did not want Tamar to have a child, so he did not let his semen go into her.

10 What Onan did was wrong. So the Lord made him die also. 11 So Judah said to Tamar ‘Go to your father's house. And live there as a widow. Live there until my son Shelah is older.’ Judah thought ‘Shelah may also die, because his brothers died.’ So Tamar went to live in her father's house.

38:11A widow is a woman whose husband has died.
38:11Judah thinks that Shelah may die if he marries Tamar. Judah does not plan to give Shelah to Tamar as a husband.

12 A long time passed. And Judah's wife, the daughter of Shua died. When Judah had stopped being sad because of her, he went to the place called Timnah. He went to some men who were cutting the wool from his sheep. And Judah's friend, Hirah the Adullamite went with him. 13 Someone told Tamar ‘Your husband's father is going to Timnah to get the wool off his sheep.’

38:13Wool covers sheep. It grows on their skin like hair. People use wool for making material.

14 So Tamar took off her widow's clothes. And she covered herself with a veil. She did not want anyone to know who she was. That is why she did this. Then she sat at the place called Enaim. This is on the road going to Timnah. Tamar knew that Jacob's son Shelah had grown into a man. And he had not married her. That is why she did this. 15 Judah saw her. And he thought that she was a prostitute. He thought that because she had covered her face. 16 He did not know that she was his son's widow. And he went over to her while she was at the side of the road. He said, ‘Let me sleep with you.’ Tamar asked, ‘If I sleep with you, what will you give me?’ 17 Judah replied ‘I will send a young goat from my animals.’ Tamar said, ‘You will have to give me something to show that you will do as you say.’ 18 Judah asked ‘What should I give you?’ Tamar replied ‘Give me your seal and the cord that holds it. And give me the staff in your hand.’ So Judah gave them to her. And he slept with her. And she became pregnant.

38:18A prostitute is someone (usually a woman) who has sex with another person for money or things.
38:18People used seals to make a mark on something. Each person or family had their own seal. A cord went round a person's neck. The seal went on the cord.
38:18A staff is a long stick. Some people cut the top of their staff in a special way. So, other people would know whom the staff belonged to.

19 After this, Tamar left Judah. And she took off her veil. And she put her widow's clothes on again.

20 Judah sent his friend, the Adullamite with a young goat back to where the woman had been. Judah wanted to get his seal, cord and staff back from the woman that he had slept with. But the Adullamite could not find the woman. 21 The Adullamite asked some men who live there ‘Where is the shrine-prostitute? Where is the woman who was by the road at Enaim?’ But the men said, ‘There has not been any shrine-prostitute here.’

38:21A shrine-prostitute sat at a place where people went to worship foreign gods.

22 So Judah's friend went back to Judah. He said, ‘I did not find her. The men who lived there said, “There has not been any shrine-prostitute here.” ’ 23 So Judah said, ‘Let her keep the things that I gave to her. People will laugh at me if you go back there again. I sent a young goat for her. But you could not find her.’

24 Then, 3 months later, someone told Judah ‘Your dead son's wife, Tamar, is pregnant. She has been a prostitute.’ Judah said, ‘Bring her out. And burn her to death!’ 25 So they brought Tamar out. They were going to kill her. But she sent a message to her dead husband's father. She said, ‘The man who owns these things has made me pregnant. Look at them. See if you know who the seal and cord and staff belong to.’ 26 Judah saw that the things belonged to him. He said, ‘She is more in the right than I am. That is because I would not give her to Shelah my son.’ Judah did not sleep with Tamar again. And he did not marry her.

27 The time came for Tamar to give birth. And she had two babies. 28 As she was giving birth, one baby put out his hand. So, the woman who was helping Tamar tied something red to that baby's arm. She said, ‘This baby came out first.’ 29 But the baby put his hand back inside Tamar. And his brother came out. And the woman said, ‘So you have come out!’ And Tamar called him Perez. 30 Then his brother came out. He had something red on his arm. And Tamar called him Zerah.

38:30Perez means ‘pushing out’.