Genesis 38

Judah's family

38:1Judah lived among the Canaanites. He married a Canaanite woman. But God wanted the Israelites to keep themselves separate from foreign people.

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 While he was there, Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man called Shua. Judah married her and he had sex with her. 3 She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. Judah gave him the name ‘Er’. 4 His wife became pregnant again, and she gave birth to another son. She gave him the name ‘Onan’. 5 Later, she gave birth to another son. She gave him the name ‘Shelah’. She gave birth to Shelah in Kezib.

6 Judah found a wife for his oldest son, Er. Her name was Tamar. 7 But the Lord saw that Er, Judah's firstborn son, was very bad. So the Lord caused him to die. 8 Then Judah said to Onan, ‘You should marry your dead brother's wife and have sex with her. You are her dead husband's brother. You must have a son who will become your dead brother's descendant.’

38:8In those days, there was a custom. If a man died before his wife had had children, his brother had to marry the dead man's wife. The family would think of a new son born to those parents as the child of the dead brother. So this son would receive any land belonging to the dead man.

9 But Onan did not want Tamar to give birth to his child. He knew that the child would not belong to him. So when he had sex with his brother's wife Tamar, he made his semen go onto the ground. Onan did this so that Tamar would not give birth to a child for his dead brother.

10 What Onan did was bad, and the Lord was not pleased with him. So the Lord caused Onan to die too. 11 Then Judah said to his son's widow, Tamar, ‘Go back to your father's house and live there as a widow. Stay there until my son Shelah grows older.’ Judah thought, ‘I do not want Shelah to die in the way that his brothers died.’ So Tamar went to live in her father's house.

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

14 Tamar knew that Judah's son Shelah had now become a man. But Judah had not yet let Shelah marry her. So Tamar took off her widow's clothes and she put on other clothes. She covered her head with a veil. She did not want anyone to recognize her. Then she sat at the gate of Enaim. Enaim is a town on the road that goes to Timnah.

15 Judah saw her as she sat there. He thought that she was a prostitute, because she had covered her face. 16 He did not know that she was his son's widow. He went to her at the side of the road. He said, ‘Let me have sex with you.’ Tamar asked him, ‘If I have sex with you, what will you give me?’ 17 Judah replied, ‘I will take a young goat from my animals and I will give it to you.’ Tamar said, ‘Please give me something now to show me that you will really send the goat to me.’ 18 Judah asked her, ‘What should I give you?’ Tamar replied, ‘Give me your special ring and the string that holds it. And give me the stick that is in your hand.’ So Judah gave them to her. He had sex with her. As a result, she became pregnant.

38:18The special ring and the stick would have Judah's mark on them. So other people would know who they belonged to.

19 After this, Tamar left there and she took off her veil. She put her widow's clothes on again.

20 Judah sent his friend Hirah, the Adullamite, to take a young goat back to where the woman had been. Judah wanted to get his special things back from the woman. But Hirah could not find the woman. 21 He asked some men who lived there, ‘Where is the temple prostitute who sat by the road at Enaim?’ But the men said, ‘There has not been any prostitute here.’

38:21A temple prostitute sat at a place where people worshipped foreign gods.

22 So Hirah went back to Judah, with the goat. He told him, ‘I did not find her. The men who lived there said, “There has not been any temple 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 this young goat for her, as I promised, but you could not find her.’

24 Three months later, someone told Judah, ‘Your dead son's wife, Tamar, has become a prostitute and now she is pregnant.’ Judah said, ‘Take her out of the town and burn her to death!’ 25 So they took Tamar away to kill her. But she sent a message to her dead husband's father. She said, ‘The man that these things belong to had sex with me. That is why I am pregnant. Look at these things carefully. Do you know who the ring, its string, and the stick belong to?’

26 Judah saw that the things belonged to him. He said, ‘She is more honest than I am. She has done this because I would not give her to my son, Shelah, as his wife.’ Judah did not have sex with Tamar again.

27 The time came for Tamar to give birth, and there were twins! 28 While she was giving birth, one baby put out his hand. The woman who was helping Tamar tied a red string to that baby's arm. She said, ‘This baby came out first.’ 29 But then the baby moved his hand back inside and his brother came out first. The woman said, ‘You have opened a way for yourself to come out!’ So they gave him the name ‘Perez’. 30 Then his brother came out, with the red string on his arm. They gave him the name ‘Zerah’.

38:29‘Perez’ means ‘pushing out’.