There is one of the most unusual stories inserted in Genesis 38. I say “inserted” because it almost seems out of place. In chapter 37, Joseph’s brothers have just sold him into slavery and convinced their Dad that a wild animal killed him. In chapter 39, we pick up Joseph’s story again as he arrives in Egypt.
Genesis 38 has a story that doesn’t fit in Joseph’s story. It’s sort of a giant parenthesis. Not only that, it’s a story of mistake after error after mess up after bad judgment after more mistakes.
Judah, an older brother of Joseph, came up with the idea of selling him instead of killing him. Perhaps being around his co-conspirators was too difficult for him, so Judah left town.
- Mistake #1: not dealing with his guilt and sin, but running away from it.
Judah married a Canaanite woman.
- Mistake #2: inter-marrying with a non-God-fearing culture.
Judah gave his son Er in marriage to Tamar.
- Mistake #3: allowing his son to inter-marry with the Canaanites too.
Er sinned. The Bible doesn’t say what it was, but it was so offensive that God put him to death.
- Mistake #4: sin against God.
Onan (Judah’s second son) sinned. He had a familial responsibility to his brother and sister-in-law’s family line, but he snubbed them both.
- Mistake #5: more sin against God.
- Mistake #6: disregard for family.
Judah promised Shelah (his third son) to Tamar. But he procrastinated in following through on that because he thought Tamar was a black widow.
Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and waited along the road for Judah.
- Mistake #8: more deception.
Judah slept with his daughter-in-law Tamar (yuck!), thinking she was a prostitute.
- Mistake #9: fornication.
- Mistake #10: incest.
Tamar became pregnant, and Judah wanted to have her publically punished for her infidelity.
That’s a whole lot of sin and error and lapses in judgment and mistakes for just one family. What a mess this family had become! So, why in the world is this story inserted here? Because Tamar had twins: Perez and Zerah. In listing the royal, kingly genealogy of Jesus, Matthew writes…
A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.
Perez is listed in the genealogy of Jesus. God took all of those mistakes and made something great come from it!
It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you’ve made. It doesn’t matter how many times you think you’ve blown it. It doesn’t matter how many lapses in judgment you’ve had. God still has a plan for you. He wants to do something great through you. Will you let Him?