Tamar - the Bible text

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Young woman in white

Tamar's story

Wedding rings

The Levirate Law
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Drawing  of an old woman with headscarf

Who's who in the story

Judah and Tamar, Emile Vernet, 1840

Famous Paintings
of Judah and Tamar

Red cord twisted into a bracelet

Tamar's story
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Large family, Bible study activities

Bible study activities

Large Middle Eastern family

Families in ancient Israel

Heart-shaped cloud in a blue sky

Choosing a husband, marrying him

Tamar had twin sons

Childbirth in ancient Israel






The Story of a Determined Woman

Genesis 38

1  It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and settled near a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah. The Bride, Frederick Goodall
  There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; he married her and went in to her. 
  She conceived and bore a son; and he named him Er
  Again she conceived and bore a son whom she named Onan
  Yet again she bore a son, and she named him Shelah. She was in Chezib when she bore him. 
  Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn; her name was Tamar
  But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. 

Tamar's husband Onan masturbates

8  Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her; raise up offspring for your brother.’ Greed is the root of much of the evil in this world
  But since Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in to his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother. 
  What he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. 
  Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, ‘Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up’—for he feared that he too would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.

Tamar takes action

12  In course of time the wife of Judah, Shua’s daughter, died; when Judah’s time of mourning was over, he went up to Timnah to his sheep-shearers, he and his friend Hirah the AdullamiteBeautiful women with veiled face
  When Tamar was told, ‘Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep’, 
  she put off her widow’s garments, put on a veil, wrapped herself up, and sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. She saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him in marriage. 
  When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 
  He went over to her at the roadside, and said, ‘Come, let me come in to you’, for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. 

The Pledge

Ancient stone sealShe said, ‘What will you give me, that you may come in to me?’ 
  He answered, ‘I will send you a kid from the flock.’ And she said, ‘Only if you give me a pledge, until you send it.’ 
  He said, ‘What pledge shall I give you?’ She replied, ‘Your seal and your cord, and the staff that is in your hand.’ So he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 
  Then she got up and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.

Carved walking staff; the staff belonging to the chief man of the tribe was a symbol of authority

Carved walking staff; the staff belonging to the chief man of the tribe was a symbol of authority

Judah is puzzled

20  When Judah sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite, to recover the pledge from the woman, he could not find her. 
  He asked the townspeople, ‘Where is the temple prostitute who was at Enaim by the wayside?’ But they said, ‘No prostitute has been here.’ 
 22  So he returned to Judah, and said, ‘I have not found her; moreover, the townspeople said, “No prostitute has been here.” ’ 
  Judah replied, ‘Let her keep the things as her own, otherwise we will be laughed at; you see, I sent this kid, and you could not find her.’

Tamar is pregnant, and condemned

24  About three months later Judah was told, ‘Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the whore; moreover she is pregnant as a result of whoredom.’ And Judah said, ‘Bring her out, and let her be burned.’ 
  As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, ‘It was the owner of these who made me pregnant.’ And she said, ‘Take note, please, whose these are, the seal and the cord and the staff.’ 
  Then Judah acknowledged them and said, ‘She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.’ And he did not lie with her again.

Newborn twin babiesTamar has twin sons

27  When the time of her delivery came, there were twins in her womb. 
  While she was in labour, one put out a hand; and the midwife took and bound on his hand a crimson thread, saying, ‘This one came out first.’ 
  But just then he drew back his hand, and out came his brother; and she said, ‘What a breach you have made for yourself!’ Therefore he was named Perez. 
  Afterwards his brother came out with the crimson thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah.

  Bible text for the story of Tamar and Judah, Genesis; Bible study resource

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