Caught in the Palm Tree

, ,

God's grace is amazing!

Genesis(102) (Part of the Origins(100) series)
by Stuart Johns(233) on March 19, 2023 (Sunday Morning(341))

Confession(14), Repentance(17), Salvation(84)

Origins

Caught in the Palm Tree

(Genesis 38:1-30)

 

INTRODUCTION

“An Indian bride called off her own wedding after getting a look at her groom for the first time on their wedding day. At a reception preceding the ceremony, the bride and groom both lifted their veils and saw one another for the first time. But the would-be bride didn’t like what she saw. According to local news reports, the woman complained the man was too dark-skinned and appeared to be too old. After the woman called off the wedding, the families that had arranged the marriage began fighting, stopping only when police were called to the scene.

 

Source: Staff, “Bad First Impression,” World.org, (1-18-20) p. 15.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2020/april/what-veil-hides.html].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Deception

        • Trash can veil

          • Our two oldest boys were wrestling in one of their bedrooms in the house we were renting

          • Judy heard a loud noise and went to investigate

          • Both boys were sitting on the bed

          • When Judy asked them what had happened they weren’t immediately eager to share

          • Judy saw the trash can sitting in the middle of the room along the wall, instead of where it normally was

          • When she moved the trash can, there was a hole in the wall from one of our boys back ends

          • It was a textured wall and I knew I couldn’t repair it and match the texture

          • We had to call a professional who did an amazing job of matching the preexisting texture

        • Clay veil

          • I’ve mentioned before that I bought Judy two vases while I was in Hungary in Romania

          • When we moved from California to Pennsylvania, I was packing up the items on the mantel over the fireplace

          • One of the items was the black vase I had bought Judy in Romania

          • I noticed that it didn’t quite look the same

          • One of the boys had broken a piece out of the vase and repaired it themselves

          • I never noticed because the repaired section was facing the wall

          • They had used clay to repair it and even painted it the same black color as the rest of the vase

 

  • WE

    • Perhaps all of us have experienced some kind of veiled deception in our lives

    • We have to be careful how we react when the deception is revealed, because we may be guilty of the same kind of deception

 

As we will see today, Judah and his family were plagued with sin and deception. ​​ Two of Judah’s sons were disciplined by the Lord and lost their lives. ​​ Judah was repentant when his sin and deception were revealed. ​​ He received forgiveness through the grace of God. ​​ We will see in this passage that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – God’s grace is amazing!

 

Let’s pray

  • GOD (Genesis 38:1-30)

    • Descent (vv. 1-11)

        • Judah’s marriage (vv. 1-5)

          • “At that time” refers to the time after Joseph was sold to the Midianites and they took him to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar

          • While that is happening to Joseph, Judah leaves his brothers and goes down to Adullam () and stays with Hirah (khee-raw’)

            • It is assumed that Judah is still living in Hebron with his father Jacob

            • Even though Adullam is northwest of Hebron, Judah is going down

            • Hebron is in the mountains and Adullam is in the lowlands

            • They are about 2.5 miles apart

          • While in Adullam, Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua (shoo’-ah)

            • Her name is never revealed in Scripture

            • They had three sons together

              • Their firstborn son was named Er (ayr/air), which means “awake”

              • Their second son was named Onan (o-nawn’), which means “strong”

              • Their third son was name Shelah (shay-law’), which means “a petition”

            • Jacob and his wife were in Kezib (kez-eeb’/kez-eve’) when Shelah was born

          • This sets the stage for the next part of the narrative about Judah’s sons and Tamar (taw-mawr’)

        • Judah’s son’s marriage (vv. 6-11)

          • Arranged marriages were not uncommon, so Judah got a wife for Er

            • Her name was Tamar, which means “date palm” or “palm tree”

            • She was most likely a Canaanite, like Judah’s wife

          • Er was wicked in the Lord’s sight

            • We are not told what wicked thing(s) he did in the Lord’s sight

            • We do know that the Lord removed him from the earth, because of his wickedness

            • PRINCIPLE #1 – The Lord punishes the wicked.

              • The Lord is holy and just, therefore He has to punish sin

              • Romans 6:23 tells us that what we earn or deserve for our sin is death – it’s not a physical death, but a spiritual death – a separation from God for all of eternity

              • He does not always require the life of the sinner, but sometimes in Scripture He did

                • Aaron’s sons Nadab (naw-dawb’/naw-dawv’) and Abihu (ab-ee-hoo’/av-ee-hoo’) for offering unauthorized fire (Leviticus 10:1-2)

                • Korah (core’-rack), Dathan (daw-thawn’) and Abiram (av-ee-rawm’), their families and possessions and the 250 men that followed them in their rebellion against Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:1-35)

                • Achan, his family, and possessions for not obeying God’s command to destroy everything in Jericho (Joshua 7:1-26)

                • Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11)

          • Levirate marriage

            • After Er died, Judah went to his second son Onan and asked him to fulfill his duty as a brother-in-law to produce an offspring for Er

              • This was a common practice that was active up to the time of Christ

              • It was obviously something that was practiced prior to the Mosaic law, but we see the regulations in the Mosaic law for the Israelites

              • Read Deuteronomy 25:5-10

              • When a brother died without any offspring, it was the duty of his next closest brother to marry his wife and produce an heir for him

            • Onan’s wickedness

              • He was selfish and greedy

              • Onan understood that if he produced an heir for Er that the child would receive the firstborn sons share of Judah’s inheritance

              • Onan was only thinking about himself and what he stood to inherit

              • He faked his obedience

                • “The syntax of v. 9 does not refer to one time ‘when’ Onan had sex with Tamar, but to whenever he had sex with her.” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 436]

                • Every time that Onan was intimate with Tamar he practiced coitus interruptus, so that she would not get pregnant

              • This was considered wicked in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord required his life

              • PRINCIPLE #1 – The Lord punishes the wicked.

            • PRINCIPLE #2 – Selflessness is pleasing to the Lord.

              • That is not what Onan was practicing

              • He was practicing selfishness – he was coveting what he perceived would be an incredible inheritance

              • While levirate marriage is not practiced in our culture today, there are others ways we can be selfless in our relationships (family and friends)

                • 1 Timothy 5:3-4, Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. ​​ But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.

                • Philippians 2:3-4, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. ​​ Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

                • Matthew 7:12, So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

              • Is there a family member or friend that could use some help right now? (physical, financial, etc.)

              • Your selfless act may be just what they need

          • Judah’s deception

            • What he said

              • Judah tells Tamar to live as a widow in her father’s house until Shelah grows up

              • This would have been unusual in their culture

              • Judah should have taken her into his household and provided for her, but what he said was not what he was thinking

            • What he thought

              • Judah is afraid that if he gives Tamar to Shelah as his wife, that Shelah will die too

              • “The sudden death of his two sons so soon after their marriage with Thamar made Judah hesitate to give her the third as a husband also, thinking, very likely, according to a superstition which we find in Tobit 3:7ff., that either she herself, or marriage with her, had been the cause of her husband’s deaths.” ​​ [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 219]

              • “Alternatively, women who seemed prone to become widows were in danger of being suspected of witchcraft.” ​​ [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 668]

            • What he missed

              • His two son’s deaths were not Tamar’s fault

              • It was their fault – they were wicked

              • Judah did not recognize the sin in his own children

              • Had he done that, he could have cautioned them

              • The same is true for us as parents

                • We need to recognize the sin in our children

                • We need to lovingly confront our children about their sin, even as adults

                • As adults, they are ultimately responsible for their sin

            • We will see that Judah’s deception will backfire on him

        • Some time passes as the narrative continues

    • Deception (vv. 12-30)

        • Judah’s wife’s death (v. 12)

          • Waltke believes verse 1-11 covers a period of twenty years, while vv. 12-30 covers a period no longer than a year [Waltke, 506]

          • At the beginning of this year long period, Judah’s wife died

          • After Judah recovered from his grieving period, he resumed his regular activities

            • One of those activities was to participate in the celebration surrounding the shearing of his sheep

            • He took his best friend Hirah (khee-raw’) with him

            • They traveled north to Timnah (tim-naw’)

              • [show map]

              • Scholars are divided on the exact location of Timnah

              • Some believe it is in the lowlands (Timnah)

              • Others believe it is in the highlands (Timnah-serah)

              • Either way, Judah and Hirah would have gone up to Timnah from Adullam

          • Next we see that Tamar has continued to grieve the loss of her two husbands – her time of mourning hasn’t stopped

        • Setting the trap (vv. 13-23)

          • We do not know who told Tamar about her father-in-laws travel plans, but this was perhaps the opportunity she had been waiting for

            • She recognized that Judah had lied to her about giving Shelah (shay-law’) to her as a husband

            • She took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself and sat down at the entrance to Enaim (ay-nah’-yim/ay-nam’)

            • “According to a Middle Assyrian law (ca. 1200 B.C.), the daughters, wives, and concubines of free Assyrian males, as well as sacred prostitutes, must be veiled in public, but a whore must not veil herself.” ​​ [Waltke, 512]

            • Tamar had to think about her future, since Judah was not fulfilling his duty as her father-in-law – she was part of Judah’s family now

          • The proposition

            • Judah saw her and assumed she was perhaps a shrine prostitute, because she had covered her face

            • Shrine prostitutes would cover their face with a veil as a symbol of being the bride of the god/idol [Walton, 669]

            • Judah approaches her and propositions her to sleep with him

            • Judah has no idea that she is actually his daughter-in-law, Tamar

          • The price

            • Tamar asks what Judah will give her to sleep with him

            • Judah promises to send a young goat

            • The fact that Judah did not have money or a young goat with him, is probably an indication that his act of sexual immorality was not premeditated

            • He was acting impulsively and gave in to the temptation of being satisfied sexually, especially since his wife was now dead

          • The pledge

            • Tamar does not want to be deceived and lied to again, so she presses Judah to give her something as a pledge until he sends her the young goat

            • Judah does not suspect anything, so he asks her what pledge he should give her

            • Tamar knows exactly what she is doing, so that she will be protected in the future

            • She asks Judah for his seal and its cord, and the staff in his hand

              • The seal would have been made of metal or stone and was probably a cylinder [show picture]

              • The seal would have had a design or marking on it that was unique to Judah

              • He would use the seal in business transactions and communications

              • He could roll the cylinder seal over soft clay and impress his unique mark on it

              • The cylinder had a cord that went through it, so it could be worn around the neck

              • Judah’s staff represented authority and probably had his unique identifying mark etched on top of it

            • Once the pledge was exchanged, Judah slept with Tamar

              • “Her demand that her father-in-law father a child by her, since he refuses to give her his son, is probably consistent with accepted ethical practices at her time. ​​ Both Hittite (fourteenth—thirteenth century B.C.) and Middle Assyrian laws legislated that if a married man died and his brother also died, then ‘his father shall take her …. There shall be no punishment.’ ​​ The Mosaic law did not go this far, but her actions are not inconsistent with the principle: ‘[the deceased brother’s] widow must not marry outside the family’ (Deut. 5:5).” ​​ [Waltke, 511-12]

              • Of course, Judah was not knowingly agreeing to this law

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – Sexual immorality is wrong.

              • Even though Judah was no longer married, it was still wrong for him to use a prostitute to satisfy his sexual desires

              • Sexual immorality comes in many forms

                • Exodus 20:14, “You shall not commit adultery.” (any sexual activity outside of marriage)

                • The Lord told the Israelites not to participate in the sexual practices of the Canaanites

                  • Leviticus 18:1-29 lists quite a few

                  • Most of them have to do with sexual relations with various family members (close relative, mother, father’s wife, sister, grandchildren, aunt/uncle, daughter-in-law, brother’s wife, neighbor’s wife, homosexuality, and animals)

                • Jesus elevated the command to “not commit adultery” from the physical act to the heart when He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ ​​ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

                • Paul, writing to the Corinthian believers, tells them not to unite their bodies with a prostitute (1 Corinthians 6:13-20)

                • Hebrews 13:4, Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

              • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess any sexual immorality in my life (physical or mental) and seek help to stop it.

            • What his first two sons were unable or unwilling to do, Judah unknowingly does

          • The pregnancy

            • Tamar becomes pregnant from the single sexual encounter with Judah

            • When she returned to her father’s home, she changed back into her widow’s clothes

          • The promise

            • Judah keeps his promise by sending a young goat with his friend Hirah (khee-raw’), so he can get his seal, cord, and staff back

            • “He has the honor to keep his obligation to a prostitute but not to his daughter-in-law!” ​​ [Waltke, 513]

            • When Hirah arrived, he could not find the woman, so he asked the men of the town where the shrine prostitute was

            • They told him that there had not been a shrine prostitute there

            • Hirah reported back to Judah about not being able to find the woman and that the men of the town said there was not shrine prostitute there

            • Judah told Hirah to forget about the woman, because he did not want to become a laughingstock to the people of Enaim (ay-nam’)

            • “Judah is like a reputable gentleman who unwittingly ‘loses’ his credit card in a brothel.” ​​ [Waltke, 513]

            • He told Hirah that he attempted to keep his promise to the woman – he did his due diligence

          • We are given a time stamp at the beginning of verse 24 – three months have passed

        • Springing the trap (vv. 24-26)

          • Judah is informed about Tamar’s pregnancy

            • The informant is again left unnamed, just like informant that told Tamar that Judah was going to Timnah

            • They told him that Tamar was guilty of prostitution and had become pregnant

            • At three months, Tamar would no longer be able to hide the fact that she was pregnant

            • Why was Judah informed?

              • “Such news would readily be passed along to Judah, for she evidently still had marital obligations to Judah’s family. ​​ He had not released her to marry another, which later was an option provided in Deut 25:5-10.” ​​ [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 722]

              • Whether Judah wanted to admit it or not, Tamar was now part of his family and his responsibility

              • It did not matter that he tried to pass off his responsibility to her father

            • Judah had to deal with the situation

          • Judah’s reaction

            • He asks that Tamar be brought out and burned to death

              • This seemed like a pretty harsh punishment

              • In the Mosaic law burning someone to death was reserved for a man who sleeps with a woman and her daughter at the same time (all of them were burned to death), and for a priest’s daughter who acts as a whore [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 590]

            • PRINCIPLE #4 – It is easy to condemn others for the sin we struggle with.

              • Judah had no problem condemning Tamar for being sexually immoral, even though he had also been sexually immoral

              • The same happens with us today when we condemn others, whether openly or in our hearts and minds for the same sin we struggle with

                • We may look at family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors, fellow believers and condemn them for doing any number of things

                • We may condemn them for gossiping, being spend thrifts, not being as spiritual as we are, being sexually immoral, struggling with an addiction, being prideful, coveting things, lying, stealing, using God’s name as a cuss word, not handling relationships well, etc.

                • This is so easy to do and sometimes we don’t even recognize it in ourselves

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Repent of my sin and extend grace to those who are struggling with the same sin.

            • Judah is about to be confronted with his own hypocrisy

          • Tamar’s defense

            • Tamar uses Judah’s pledge to protect herself from being burned to death

            • She sends a message to Judah with the seal, cord, and staff and asked him to identify the owner

            • She states that the owner of those items is the man she is pregnant by

          • Judah’s repentance

            • Judah recognized his seal, cord, and staff

            • He acknowledges that Tamar’s defense was right

            • “Judah’s remark did not mean necessarily that her action was approved; rather, Judah acknowledged that her motivation was consistent with the purpose of levirate marriage, whereas Judah had attempted to circumvent the custom.” ​​ [Mathews, 723]

            • He had withheld his son, Shelah from her

            • PRINCIPLE #5 – Repentance brings forgiveness.

              • Judah’s response to Tamar shows that he was repentant for his sin of lying and deceiving

              • The fact that he did not sleep with her again is also evidence of his repentance

              • It is important that for you and I to repent of our sins, so that we can experience God’s forgiveness

              • 1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

          • There is another time stamp for us as we see the birth of Judah and Tamar’s sons

        • Judah’s (grand)sons (vv. 27-30)

          • When the time came

            • We can assume that six months have passed

            • It is now time for the Tamar to give birth

          • Twin boys

            • Tamar was not as fortunate as Rebekah, who inquired of the Lord about the jostling in her belly and found out that she was having twin boys (Gen. 25:22-24)

            • Tamar found out the day of their birth that she was carrying twins

            • Jostling for position

              • One of the babies put his hand out and the midwife tied a scarlet thread on his wrist to identify him as the firstborn

              • That baby pulled his hand back inside

              • The other baby then came out first

              • This is similar to the happened with Jacob and Esau, except that Jacob came out second holding on the Esau’s heal – eventually Jacob was chosen as the covenant carrier

            • The boys names

              • Perez (peh’-rets/pair’-rets) – “broken out” or “breach”

              • Zerah (zeh’-rakh) – “rising,” “scarlet,” or “brightness”

          • “Tamar, a wrong wife (i.e., Canaanite), saves the family by her loyalty to it. ​​ The four women in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba) all come from outside of Israel and have a highly irregular and potentially scandalous marriage union. ​​ But because of their faith, God deems them worthy to carry royal seed.” ​​ [Waltke, 516]

          • Matthew 1:1-3, A record of the genealogy of Jesus ​​ Christ 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, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the of Ram, . . .

 

  • YOU

    •  

 

  • WE

    •  

 

CONCLUSION

“It is utterly astounding that Judah in connection with the twelve sons of Jacob has his name written on the gates of heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:12). ​​ He stands as a witness to God’s amazing grace. ​​ He fails as a son of the covenant (i.e., intermarrying with Canaanites and behaving like them), as a father (i.e., his sons are wicked), and as a father-in-law (i.e., deceiving Tamar). ​​ Even the worst sort of sinners can enter heaven by God’s redemptive grace.”

 

[Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 515].

 

That is true for every one of us too.

  • We are all sinners (Rom. 3:23)

  • We all deserve to be separated from God (Rom. 6:23)

  • We were all created by a loving God (Rom. 5:8)

  • Jesus died for all of us (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

  • We can all receive God’s redemptive grace (Eph. 2:8-9)

  • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Receive God’s free gift of salvation by believing in His grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

13