Woman of the Bible - TAMAR
Tamar is not a well-known woman of the Bible but none the less a significant character. We find the story of Tamar in the 38th chapter of Genesis. She was the daughter-in-law of Judah, who was subject to a series of unfortunate events and was forced to take drastic actions to secure her future.
The story of Tamar begins with a happy event, a marriage. Judah had arranged the marriage of his eldest son to Tamar. But the son who Tamar married was not a good man; God had him killed. It was the custom of the day that if the eldest son should die without having a child, the second son should marry his brother’s wife.
But this second son betrayed the tradition and wouldn’t have a child with Tamar. By not giving Tamar a son, he ensured that he would inherit his dead brother’s share. Tamar’s second husband was acting in complete contradiction to God’s plan in continuing Abraham’s lineage. Because of this, Tamar’s second husband was also killed.
Judah could not see how his sons could have done anything to displease God, so instead, he blamed Tamar. In order to stop the death of his youngest, Judah sent Tamar away to try and save his youngest son from the same fate, promising that his youngest son would marry her when he was old enough.
Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household. (Genesis 38:11)
But when the boy came of age he did not marry Tamar, she had been abandoned by her father-in-law. However, Tamar was not to be held back. She disguised herself, taking some extreme steps to secure her future.
She disguised herself as a prostitute and was picked up by Judah. From this incident, she took his staff and his seal, knowing that she would need evidence of their relationship in the future. And she was right. Tamar became pregnant and was dragged in front of the elders to face judgement. Judah, one of the elders, declared that she should be burnt as punishment. But when she produced the seal and the staff, Judah realised what had happened and that he was the father of her unborn child. He then declared, before the court, that Tamar was “more righteous than I” before the court, as she had gone forth and secured her own destiny.
Judah recognised them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” (Genesis 38:26)
Tamar went on to give birth to twin boys, who surpassed Judah’s youngest son, ensuring that the line of succession would be followed, as had been promised by God. This was all part of God’s plan for His people to survive and thrive.
Even though Tamar took serious and quite shocking actions, she was still portrayed as being righteous and brave in fighting for her rights when what was promised to her was denied; she felt she had no choice but to take matters into her own hands. Not only this, but by doing what she felt needed to be done, God honoured her and her story is one of such importance from the lineage of Abraham through to King David and further down the line to Jesus. God turned her actions for good and honoured her.
Tamar is mentioned in Matthew 1:3 in the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah. How amazing to think that there is nothing that God cannot turn around for our good and ultimately for His glory.
Even with the seriousness of the actions she had resorted to, her taking matters into her own hands still formed a part of God’s plan and eventually led to the birth of Jesus.
Judah, the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar… (Matthew 1:3)
Genesis 38 firmly places Tamar as one of God’s righteous people. The story of Tamar has much to teach us. In life, we all face difficulties and challenges, but her story shows us that even when we take things into our own hands, there is always a path of redemption through God’s grace and hand over our lives. This past year has been challenging for us all, and we may not know what the future holds, but we know that with God’s help, we can weather any storm we might face.
Initially, when I began to write this blog I did not know much about Tamar but now, having spent time reading her story, I feel hers is a story that we all should know. It is a fascinating story. I would encourage you to read her story in Genesis 38 and see what God has to teach you through it for your own journey.