Fathers in the Bible: Judah, the Unreliable Father

Judah was one of the sons of Jacob and is the line from which the Messiah descends. But, what do we know about him as a father?

Tamar lost both husbands because of their disobedience to God

“here Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua {means cry for help}. He married her and made love to her.”  {Genesis 38:2}  She had three sons:

Er—means watchman

Onan—means pain, force iniquity

Shelah—means that breaks, that unties, that undresses

Judah got a wife for his son, Er.  Her name was Tamar {means palm tree}.

Tamar veiled herself when she went to Judah

“But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.”  {Genesis 38: 7}

Judah doesn’t have a great track record with his oldest sons.  We don’t know what makes them wicked or evil, but the Lord wasn’t pleased with them.

“Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.”  {Genesis 38: 8-10}

Once again, Tamara becomes a widow.

Judah sent Tamara back to her father’s house, because Shelah wasn’t of age.

Tamar later had two sons with Judah and became one of the women listed in the genealogy of Jesus

“Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.””  {Genesis 38: 11}

Tamar does as commanded, but eventually grows tired of waiting.  Especially, when Shelah grows up and she’s not sent for to become his wife.

Judah’s wife dies and Shelah grows up, but Tamar continues to live in her father’s house.  She thinks to herself “though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.”  {Genesis 38:14}

She dresses as a prostitute and approaches Judah, who sleeps with her.  She keeps his staff and chord to prove he is the father, when he discovers she is pregnant. Judah wants to kill her at first, until he discovers he is the one who impregnated her. 

He says, “Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.”  {Genesis 38:26}

Tamar had twins, Perez and Zilpah

Tamar gives birth to two sons:

Perez—means breach or burst forth; the line the Messiah came from

Zerah—means dawning or shining

Later, when Israel {Jacob} and his family journey to Egypt, Judah’s sons are counted in those who go with them.

Judah was an unreliable father with his first three sons.  Hopefully, he redeemed himself with the last two.

Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan had died in the land of Canaan).   {Genesis 46:12}

“In the last words of Jacob much is said of Judah (Gen. 49:8). We have:1. His praise 2. His Conquests 3. His pre-emence  and 4. His Regal Authority.”   {All the Men of the Bible}

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