A humbled and open heart is fertile soil for God’s seeds of wisdom to be planted. Establishing deeper roots requires analyzing God’s word to discover truths, values, and lessons for application to our lives. Periodically, a scripture or passage calls for further exploration, like Genesis 38:1-26.
Our Deeper Roots passage in Genesis shows how God can take our impulsive and deceptive actions and redeem them for His glory. Our scripture selection begins with Judah marrying a Canaanite woman and giving birth to three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. Judah arranges for his oldest son, Er, to marry Tamar. Before they can have children, God takes his life because he was evil. So Judah directs his second son, Onan, to marry Tamar and produce an heir for his brother Er. But Onan was determined not to have an heir for his brother, so he interfered with having a child and God struck him down. At this point, Judah sends Tamar back to her parents to wait on Shelah to come of age. Judah had no intention of letting Tamar marry his son because he did not want Shelah to die like his brothers. Years pass and Tamar hears that her father-in-law, Judah, is headed up to shear sheep. Tamar comes up with a plan to carry on the family name and fulfill her duties. Tamar gets pregnant by her father-in-law, but she takes three items, an identification seal, its cord, and his walking stick, as a guarantee. As the pregnancy progresses, the people accuse her of being a prostitute. When they are getting ready to sentence her to death, she sends the seal, cord, and walking stick to Judah and tells him that the owner of those items is who got her pregnant. Judah recognized his belongings and realized that he had done Tamar wrong because he didn’t arrange for Shelah to marry her.
The desperation of Tamar pushes her to do things that at first glance seem odd and unusual, but God uses her actions to continue the lineage of Judah. There are two customs from the time period at work here: Levirate and Hittite. In Levirate law of marriage, when a male dies without an heir, his brother is obligated to marry his widow and produce an heir to carry on his brother’s name. So Er’s death created a conflict for Onan. Onan didn’t want his brother to have an heir and he decided to spill his seed on the ground. This act was seen as detestable and God took his life too. So now Judah has lost two of three sons and doesn’t want to lose his last son, Shelah. So Judah sends Tamar back home to her parents to wait. Years pass and Tamar still finds herself unmarried and childless. She has endured so much and now she devises a plan to dress as a temple prostitute and sleep with Judah. In the Hittite legal code, if the brother was not available to produce an heir, then it was the father-in-law’s responsibility to continue the lineage. Tamar uses their encounter to secure three distinct items that were distinguishable. It is also important to note how hypocritical Judah was when approached about Tamar’s pregnancy. He lacked integrity and yet he was willing to punish Tamar for her lack of integrity. When Judah realizes that he was the one who impregnated Tamar, he realized how dishonorable he had been. This series of events changed the whole trajectory of Tamar’s life. She was able to birth twin boys, Zerah and Perez; and carry forward the lineage of Judah.
Tamar used deceptive means to entice Judah, but God used it for good. It was in that situation that Judah realized how hypocritical he had been in judging Tamar’s integrity and Tamar continued to take risks to fulfill her duties under the law. They both had flaws, but God used them both in the lineage of King David and Jesus Christ. This scripture selection shows that our actions can be redeemed. Our sins and missteps and mistakes can be transformed by God.