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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why I like Tamar




I like Tamar.

Do you know her story?

Let me tell it to you briefly.

Judah was one of the 12 sons of Jacob. He marries a Canaanite woman who bears him two sons: Er and Onan. Judah decides to take a wife for his son,her name is Tamar. Tamar's husband Er was a worthless POS (not exactly how the Bible puts it, but you get the picture) so God kills him. Judah says to Onan, "Go in to your brother's wife and marry her, and raise up an heir for your brother." In ancient Israel, if a man died without male heirs, the wife had to sleep with his brothers to produce a male heir. Icky.

But Onan had another idea. Because Onan knew that the heir wouldn't be his, he decides to go "into" his brother's wife, but emits on the ground at the last minute. Talk about the ultimate SCREW YOU!

God didn't like that either, so He kills Onan.

Tamar is now in an awful situation. Judah sends Tamar back to her father (major disgrace by the way) and tells her to wait for his other son Shelah to grow up, and then he'll give her to him as his wife. So Tamar waited....and waited....and waited. Still no Shelah. Judah must have seen Tamar as a bad omen, since guys that sleep with her seem to get struck dead, so he balks on his promise. Now it looks like Tamar is going to be in a perpetual state of disgrace for the rest of her life. No husband. No heirs. No future.

This is where the story gets really good.

Tamar decides to take matters into her own hands.....by dressing up as a prostitute and seducing Judah to have sex with her. Judah decides to pay for Tamar's "services" with a young goat, though he doesn't have one with him, so Tamar asks for his signet, his cord, and the staff in his hand as pledge. Judah has no idea that it's Tamar, so when he finds out that his (ex) daughter-in-law is pregnant through harlotry, he wants to burn her at the stake.....until Tamar pulls out the signet, the cord, and the staff and says, "Hm....I wonder who these belong to?"

Judah realizes that the "harlot" was Tamar, and acknowledges that Tamar was more righteous than him, since he had not given Shelah to her as her husband.

Tamar conceives of twins. One of the twins, Perez, becomes the great, great, great, great....ect....grandfather of Jesus the Messiah.

There's a lot in this story, but I want to focus on the fact that Tamar started out with an awful husband. Er was, as the Bible puts it "wicked." Then one by one, every other man in her life "screws her" both literally and figuratively. Tamar finds herself disgraced and without a future...so she decides to take matters into her own hands. She could have chosen the path of revenge, but instead she decided to outsmart the man that had wronged her, and was vindicated in the end.

It's interesting that the Bible reflects (notice I said reflect, not prescribe. Big difference!) a patriarchal structure that favors men, yet is filled with stories of women outsmarting the men.

So all you ladies that have been used and abused, is there a way you can outsmart the men who have harmed you, without repaying them evil in return?

Tamar did it.

So can you.

And they say the Bible is irrelevant.....

Tamar's story is found in Genesis chapter 38. You can read the full story here.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really thankful I do not live in that society. Icky indeed! And so very cool that she is an ancestor of Jesus, as is Rahab. Says worlds the equality, worth of women, and God's overeaning Love.

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Sateigdra L Knowles said...

Wonderful post. I read the story of Judah and Tamar before I saw this post. I ended up stumbling on your blog when I was searching for the meaning of signet. I like your interpretation of the story, very nice. :-)