New Blog Post: My Life is Worth Living: the Story of Judah & Tamar (Genesis 38)

As some of you are aware, we’ve begun a sermon series based on the Joseph narrative of Genesis (chapters 37-50).  On July 29 we began this series (chapter 37), and I believe that with God’s help, we got off to a good start.  The opening chapter of this narrative is engaging.  We’re drawn into the story, which is what the author intends to occur.  We wonder what will happen to Joseph as he’s taken to Egypt as a slave.  But then we encounter chapter 38, and wonder what in the world is going on.  I thought this was a story about Joseph.  Instead, the author focuses on Judah, one of the older brothers.  And what we see is disturbing.  Judah left his family and went to live with the Canaanites.  We’re not told why he left.  Was it out of guilt for what he and his brothers did to Joseph?  At any rate, Judah finds and marries a Canaanite woman and starts a family.  But all is not well, for Judah doesn’t raise his children in the faith.  Incidentally, the Lord intervenes and disciplines (puts to death) Judah’s firstborn son, Er, who was very wicked.  Could this be God’s punishment for selling Joseph into slavery?  The story gets worse.  Judah doesn’t care for his widowed daughter, Tamar, as he should, by providing another husband for her, so that she could produce children and carry on Er’s family-line.  In the end, Tamar resorts to deception: she disguises and prostitutes herself to Judah, who gladly accepts her offer.  And she becomes pregnant.  By the end of the story, Judah seems somewhat convicted about his sexual immorality, but overall, the author depicts a sinful man and a broken family.  So why would the author include this story of sin and brokenness, which isn’t directly about our hero, Joseph?  I think for at least two reasons.  First, I think he’s trying to illustrate the danger that Israel faced in a foreign land.  Would they remain faithful to God as they intermingled with people that served other gods?  Second, and perhaps more significant to the Joseph narrative, the author seems to be pitting Judah against Joseph, so that we may compare and contrast them.  Needless to say, Judah has acted dishonorably at this point, and has done so of his own accord.  Now how will Joseph, who was taken away to Egypt by force, act in a foreign land?  Will he remain faithful to God or not?  I invite you to read Genesis 39 to see what happens next.  

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