My notes for teaching the Old Testament, by Mama Brenda.
Leader’s notes: Lesson 6 - Genesis 38:1-30
Do not give out notes at the beginning. Ask those with books to keep them firmly closed.
Get the ladies to work in twos - read the story - pick out the details of Genesis 38:1-30
At that time it was obviously acceptable to have prostitutes at religious shrines.
Accepted by whom?
Student's worksheet: Lesson 6 Tamar Genesis 38:1-30
A shameful story, but God has kept it in our Bible.
Jacob’s fourth son, Judah, decided to move out from home - he may well have felt uncomfortable because of his part in the events of chapter 37 which will be part of the next study.
He went to stay with Hirah from Adullam, and met a Canaanite girl. We do not have her name, only her father’s name, Shua. Judah and his wife had 3 sons - Er, Onan and Shelah. Time passed.
There was a custom among Israel’s people, and other cultures as well, that if the man died, a brother had the obligation to marry the widow, and produce a child, in order to inherit the dead brother’s family land. We see an extended version of this in the story of Ruth (Ruth 4:13-17) and it is mentioned in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 22:24) when the Sadducees tried to trick Jesus with a question that related vaguely to levirate (brother-in-law) marriage. See also Deuteronomy 25:5-6.
Judah got a wife, Tamar, for his eldest son, Er. Er was put to death by God. Tamar was now a widow with no sons. Judah told Onan to marry his brother’s widow to continue the family line. Onan obeyed and disobeyed. He married Tamar but whenever they had intercourse he spilled his semen on the ground - so no baby! God put him to death as well. Judah promised his youngest son, Shelah, to Tamar when he was old enough.
Time passed. Judah’s wife died. Soon Judah and Hirah went to Timnah, where his men were shearing his sheep.
Tamar heard about these events and knew that Shelah was now old enough to be married, but Judah had not brought Tamar to be Shelah’s wife. Tamar changed from her widow’s clothes put on a veil and went to the side of the road going into Enaim on the way to Timnah. Judah saw her and thought she was a prostitute because of her veil. He asked her to have sex with him and Tamar asked how much he will pay - a young goat was the answer.
She asked him to leave her with a pledge or deposit until the goat came - Judah’s seal and its cord and the staff. The seal was probably a small cylinder with markings on it which when rolled on a clay document made the equivalent of a signature. It was worn on a cord round the neck which went through a hole drilled in the cylinder.
They had intercourse, and went their separate ways. Judah sent Hirah to find the ‘shrine prostitute’ and deliver the goat. A shrine prostitute would have had a higher social status than a normal prostitute.
Leader's notes: Lesson 6 - Tamar.
Give out notes or ask the ladies to open their books.
Run through the story - encourage the ladies in what they got right.
The ladies may already have commented on the wrongs in the story – if so gather up their thoughts and questions, or elicit the wrongs you see.
Wow!! And yet …..This sentence needs as many exclamation marks as you can put into your voice!!!!!!!!!
Get the ladies to read the four references about sovereignty by themselves, or to each other, or to the group – which ever works better for your study group. Talk about them.
Do you believe these truths?
Do the same again for forgiveness.
Then apply personally – this may be in discussion and sharing, or may be simply as a challenge. You know your ladies. Remember there are two sides to forgiveness – forgiving, and being forgiven (that is: accepting forgiveness).
Student's worksheet: Lesson 6 - Tamar.
He asked the local men but they told him there had never been a shrine prostitute there. Judah said to stop trying to find her or he would be a laughing stock.
Three months later Judah is told that Tamar is pregnant and is guilty of prostitution. He said she should be burned to death. As she was being brought to face her accusers, she sent a message to Judah with the pledge articles.
Judah recognised that he had done wrong by not giving her to Shelah. He took her into his protection but had no sexual relationship with her. In due time she produced twin sons, Perez and Zerah - sons of a union between father-in-law and daughter-in-law!
Judah was wrong to not keep his promise about Shelah.
Tamar was wrong to try to get what was right - the inheritance of her dead husband for a son - in her own way.
Judah was wrong to let sexual feelings control his behaviour and use a prostitute.
And yet, Judah and Tamar are in the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1:3.
God’s sovereignty is beyond our understanding Job 42:2
Do you understand how God works things out?
Would you have expected to find the child of an illicit relationship in the ancestry of God’s perfect Son?
God’s forgiveness is amazing. Isaiah 1:18
1 John 1:9
How good are you at forgiving?
Please read Genesis 37, 39-50 for next time.