Drippings from the Honeycomb - Episode 1

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Who is Tamar?

Don’t Skip Genealogies! Look for Hidden Treasure Instead!

So often, when we read the Bible, we are tempted to skip over parts that just don’t seem important. And I get it when you’re reading something and you run into a bunch of names from a bunch of people that you don’t know that you can’t pronounce.


Why read it, right? I mean, after all, our lives are busy, and there’s limited time. But did you ever stop and wonder why are those passages in the Bible? Why did the Holy Spirit inspire the authors of Scripture to write down all these names in order and leave them for people to read 1000s of years later? After all, we don’t know who these people are? What difference does it make?


The Genealogy of Jesus is Very Important

A lot of people, when they get to Matthew one, they have that same feeling, even though there’s a certain sense that this genealogy might be pretty important, because first line says, The Book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham. So if you’re a Christian, and you’re reading the Bible, this is probably pretty important. After all, if it weren’t for Jesus, there wouldn’t be anything called Christians, and we wouldn’t have churches, and there wouldn’t be the faith of Christianity. So, if his genealogy is in there to start the history of his life, then I suppose we should probably read it. And yet, so often, myself included, will skip over this passage, and get onto the parts of Matthew that don’t have so many crazy names that we can’t pronounce.


However, it’s important to read these parts, and it’s important to understand why they’re there. Now, do we know everything about everyone in chapter one of Matthew? Of course not. But there are critical names in there that are important information. The first verse we’re going to look at in our walkthrough is Matthew 1:3, and just the first part of it. It says this, “And Judah, the father of Perez, and Zerah, by Tamar.” That’s it, short and sweet. That might not seem like something that we could really do a whole podcast on, but believe it or not, there’s a lot behind this verse, mostly starting with the story of Judah, and Tamar.


Who was Judah?

Judah, of course, is a bit of an interesting figure, because he is the founding father of one of the tribes of Israel, the tribe of Judah, which ultimately would turn into the ruling tribe of the Southern Kingdom of Israel and would be the last part of Israel that would be destroyed by the Babylonian kingdom in the mid-500’s BC. For this reason, we see that Judah was a prominent figure and played a prominent role.


On top of that, there were important people that came from the land of Judah, most notably was King David, and the promise of God to King David that one of his descendants would remain on the throne forever. Obviously, that’s talking about a Messiah, and it really elevates the tribe of Judah in the most amazing way, because from this tribe, out of the 12 tribes of Israel, is going to come the eternal King of Israel, who is going to gather his people back, and he’s going to restore their nation, and heal their land, and he’s going to usher them into eternity. So, the tribe of Judah holds a prominent place in the history of Israel, and that should immediately capture our attention.


But, What About Tamar?

But what about Tamar? Who is she? If we’re just reading through this passage without really taking a deep look, we could make an incorrect assumption about her. Perhaps Tamar was Judah’s wife. After all, do we know? Where can we even find out that information? Thankfully, back in Genesis 38, the story of Judah and Tamar is recorded for us in the Scripture so that we can learn something about these two people who end up in the line of Jesus Christ.


The Old Testament Adds Key Details to New Testament Understanding

Now, many of us are familiar with the old Bible story of Joseph and the coat of many colors, and how his brothers hated him and treated him poorly and sold him into slavery, and that story is recounted in Genesis 37. The story of Joseph ends up taking up quite a bit of the end of the book of Genesis, but in chapter 38 of Genesis, there’s an interruption in the discussion of Joseph, and it focuses on these two people, Judah and Tamar. Judah was one of the older brothers of Joseph, and it was actually Judah, who hatched the idea to sell Joseph to the slave traders that ultimately took him down to Egypt. Judah was a callous individual! He was willing to sell his own brother into slavery.


The Messiah Comes from Israel, Israel Comes from Abraham, Abraham’s Family Story is Important

And after this happens, Judah goes away from the family. He ends up leaving his brothers and father and going away and he goes into an area of the land that’s inhabited by pagan worshipers, by people who do not hold the same faith. They were called Canaanites, and ultimately, these Canaanites who were descendants of Cain, Adam’s son whose life is recounted earlier in the book of Genesis. These people worshipped foreign gods they worshipped evil spirits and pagan gods. Judah decides to make his home amongst these people, and he ultimately marries a woman from there, and from this woman, he ends up having three children. Now it seems clear from what ultimately happens, that Judah is not living a life that glorifies God. However, the details are not given in the Scripture specifically, but of these three sons, the oldest one gets married, and the Bible says that he is evil. He does a lot of bad things in the sight of the Lord, enough to the point where God ultimately kills him for the evil that’s in his heart. Now, it’s not specified exactly what he did, but whatever it was, it was offensive enough to God that God ended His life as a result.


Through his death he leaves this widow Tamar behind, and in the culture and the law of the area and of that day, Judah instructs his second son Onan, to marry Tamar and to have children with her to raise up offspring for his brother. However, Odin has absolutely no interest in doing this. He does not care that there is a promise made to Abraham, his forefather that of this family, God will make a great nation, he does not care about that. He is interested in promoting himself promoting his own lineage, and he does not want to be the kinsman redeemer, redeeming the line of his dead brother through his brother’s wife to preserve offspring that God would ultimately raise up into the tribe of Judah, he only wants to pursue his own path. And so, though he is forced to marry Tamar, whenever physical intimacy occurs with her, he intentionally takes actions to prevent her from getting pregnant.


As a result, Tamar is unable to have a child and to carry on the line of the older brother, and this angers God so that God actually strikes down Onan for this repeated wicked behavior. Now God is going to deal with Judah by using the actions of broken people to bring about his perfect plan. Nothing can thwart God’s plan, not even sinful people. Judah has two dead sons, both of whom have been married to this woman Tamar, and he has one more son who is not yet of age to give away in marriage. He says to Tamar go away from my house, go live in your father’s house. And when my youngest son is old enough, you’ll marry him, and you will raise up offspring to continue the line.


However, it is pretty obvious to see that Judah really considers Tamar as a jinx. At this point, it seems he does not want to give his youngest son to her. After all, the first two married her and they ended up dead, and the Scriptures are clear that it was their actions, not Tamar’s, that led to their being destroyed by the Lord, but Judah does not seem to see it that way. He does not focus on the fact that his parenting raised two evil sons, and that that is why God struck them down, not because they were married to Tamar.


After some time goes by, it becomes obvious to Tamar that now that the youngest son is old enough, Judah is not going to live up to his promise. He is going to keep her from marrying his youngest son, and she knows she should be the one to raise up offspring since she was the wife of the first brother. During the same period, Judah’s wife passes away, and after he’s done grieving, there’s this festival of sheep sharing that he attends. At this festival, it was very loose morality. There was a lot of wine that flowed there was a lot of celebration, the pagan religion of that area actually promoted ritualistic sex during this time, as a sacrifice to the gods to promote fertility amongst the animals, so, you have an idol worship based society that is intertwined with immoral living and lewd activity.


God Uses Broken People to Bring About His Will

During this time, Judah is up at this festival and Tamar sees her opportunity,  and she goes along the road to that place and she poses as a prostitute. Judah falls for her trap, and he actually goes to her and spends the night with her, and in payment for spending the night with her, he promises to send her a goat as payment. Yet, because he doesn’t have the payment with him, she asks him to leave a security, something that will guarantee that he will pay her that he will send back a messenger, or that he himself, will come back with the payment. He leaves his signet, which would have been kind of like a seal in today’s culture, it would have been like your wallet with all your credit cards and your ID, and his staff, which would have been a personalized walking stick that would have been carved with some sort of insignia that signified that it was his walking stick. Basically, he leaves her his government-issued ID. Now there is no way that he can deny that he was the one who was with her that night.


When he goes home, he sends back a friend, perhaps to avoid embarrassment of having been with a prostitute, to take the payment of a goat to her. And this friend searches for her high and low and cannot find this person. In fact, the local people know nothing about a prostitute in that area, and so the friend comes back to Judah and says, “I can’t find this person.” Judah’s attitude is, “Well let’s just let it be your we’re going to look really foolish because we’re looking all over the place for this prostitute to pay her, so, let’s just let it go and hope it never comes up again.” As a result of this union, the story in the Scriptures tells us that Tamar became pregnant. Eventually, this is found out obviously as it is difficult to hide these things, and at some point, somebody says to Judah, “Tamar has been unfaithful.”


Judah’s Self-Righteousness Led to His Hummiliation

Now, remember, technically, Tamar was engaged to Judah’s youngest son, so this would be considered immorality, this would be considered adultery. Judah is incensed! He’s enraged, and he calls for her to be brought out and burned to death. Now, this was a harsh punishment even by the standard of God’s law, which did call for the stoning of both people caught in immorality, which would have included Judah in the biblical law, but burning was reserved for very specific offenses, and this was not one of them.


Judas overreaction to Tamar’s apparent misconduct really signifies the distaste he had for this woman. While she is being brought out to be burned for her sin, she produces the trump card, which is the identification of Judah as the one who has fathered the child that she is carrying, ultimately, the children that she is carrying since she gave birth to twins, and Judah immediately recognizes that she is in the right, and he recants from punishing her. See, Judah understood that he was withholding his son from her and that by her bold actions, she actually saved his line, she preserved his line! Ultimately, one of those boys would become the many times great grandfather of King David. The Scripture does not say that Tamar’s actions were necessarily all correct. It does not say that they were without sin, it does not say that they were endorsed. However, what shows through is that God used broken people to fulfill his plan.


The Gospels are Credible Eye-witness Testimony

Now, why put this in the genealogy of Jesus Christ? Lots of people over the years have asserted that the apostles just made it all up, that it was just a big fancy tale that they got in a room and collaborated, and they came up with all these stories about Jesus. And there are numerous problems with that theory. But if you were going to actually come up with your own religion, and you were going to collude together to make it sound as good and as convincing as possible, do you think it really adds credibility to someone to include a story of their ancestors, that the line of their family was ultimately kept alive by a dishonest man who ended up having to be tricked into sleeping with his own daughter-in-law to preserve the family line? Probably not. That doesn’t look so great for the family history.


In fact, what that actually does for Matthew’s genealogy in Matthew 1 is give it a lot of credibility! Who would put that in their genealogy unless it were true? We see that God has put broken people in the line of Jesus Christ, both to show that humans were actually involved in the story of Jesus, and to add credibility to the gospel accounts. People didn’t come from some line of super people. If you were trying to peddle a false religion would really be ridiculous, especially one that frowns on such behavior, inventing a story like this would be utter foolishness. This story also shows us that God has a totally sovereign plan and that nothing can derail his plan. His plan will come about no matter what. He had promised Abraham that he was going to make of him a great nation. Jacob had 12 sons, and God was going to set up 12 tribes of Israel. And just because Judah sinned and didn’t do his job as a father, and just because his oldest son was so evil that God killed him and the middle son was so evil that got killed him, and then Judah failed his promise to Tamar, God wasn’t going to let that get in the way of his plan. Judah was going to have decedents that God was ultimately going to turn into a great nation, and he used the actions of broken people to accomplish His plan. God is completely sovereign, and nothing we can do can thwart his plan. That is what Matthew is getting at here in the first half of the first chapter of Matthew. He’s showing us this genealogy, and it’s filled with interesting characters. Judah and Tamar are not the only ones. But Judah and Tamar are a fantastic picture of the fact that God will interrupt human history whenever he pleases, to accomplish whatever he pleases, for the purpose of bringing his plan of pursuing his people with love and salvation to the ends of the earth.

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Podcast Info

Do you think Bible is boring?

King David, in one of his psalms, said the Scriptures were so sweet they were like “drippings from the honeycomb.” Perhaps it’s time that we take a few minutes out of our busy lives and look at the Bible through fresh eyes! Join us on a weekly journey to find these “sweet drippings” as we walk through the books of the Bible by studying selected key verses through which we can glimpse the whole theme of each book! We will look at stories you might not have heard before, talk about the real people and places behind each of these verses, see how one verse can connect to many others across the entire Bible, and learn to see the beauty of God’s sovereign plan which is woven through every page of His Word.

About Another12 Ministries

Another12 Ministries was formed in response to a major need seen within the church. Tim Andre and Chris Reimer met in 2015 when they were paired together to lead a group of high school boys at their local church. A friendship grew quickly as they bonded over many things, but the greatest of these was their love of the Scriptures and discipling their students. Over the years, the need for extensive youth leader training within the church became more and more evident to both Tim and Chris. In the summer of 2017, God placed the call firmly on their lives to undertake the task of creating what would eventually become Another12 Ministries. As a team, they bring a deep understanding of youth ministry, a comprehensive plan for training youth leaders, and a deep passion to see young people saved who then go out and bring the Gospel to their peers.