BSF Lesson 11 Readings for the Study of Revelation

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BSF Lesson 26 Sixth day: Review Genesis 37-38


Today’s passage is Genesis 37-38 and we will focus on Judah and Tamar which is mainly in Genesis 38.

But let’s go through Genesis 37 see what we can reasonably infer about Judah.

37:2 Joseph brought a bad report about his brothers to his father.

This might have included Judah. Note this does not mean that the report was true, though given the way the brothers described in later verses suggests that this is true.

Why isn’t Judah, the eldest child the one keeping an eye on his brothers? Is it because he is as bad as the rest of them?

37:4 Joseph’s brothers hated him.

Again, this would appear to include Judah. As the eldest, he should have given a good example to his younger brothers or told them off for it.

37:12-17 Joseph’s brothers were supposed to be at Shechem but were at Dothan instead.

Now I don’t want to read into this that they were bad or disobedient. It is not clear from these two chapters whether they had the authority to move their flock in search of pasture. It would appear likely, to me, that they should have the authority.

37:20-21 The brothers consider killing Joseph

Again Judah fails his responsibility as the eldest. Not standing up for justice when the brothers suggest killing Joseph. Instead it falls to Reuben to plead for Joseph’s life.

37:26 Judah suggests selling Joseph as a slave.

Even worse now, Judah not only failed to restrain his brothers, he is instigating the sale of Joseph to the slave traders!

As an aside, how often do we do something thinking it’s the better choice when in reality it is the lesser evil – lesser but still evil?

38:1 Judah goes to Adullam.

The Bible states that Judah left his brothers but we are not told the reason why.

Like Esau, Judah did not marry right. He had three sons: Er, Onan and Shelah.

It does not say whether Judah brought up his sons right but he has to take at least some responsibility for the way his kids turned out. Er was wicked in the Lord’s sight and Onan did what was wicked in the Lord’s sight.

38:11 Judah sent his daughter-in-law, Tamar, back to her father

38:16, 20 Judah sleeps with Tamar thinking that she was a shrine prostitute.

He sins in three ways.

1)      Sex outside marriage

2)      Sex with a shrine prostitute is a form of idol worship, yes Tamar was not a shrine prostitute but the fact is that Judah was fully willing to sleep with a shrine prostitute

3)      Sex with his daughter-in-law

38:24 Judah sentences Tamar to death

Despite having abandoned his obligation to Tamar by withholding Shelah as a husband, and sending her back to her father, Judah now wishes to judge Tamar.

38:25-26 Judah recognises his sin.

Whether he repents of it or not, it is not made clear in the Bible.

But seeing as Jesus was part of the nation of Israel it would be safe to infer that Perez and Zerah were with Judah and not with Tamar’s father, and by extension so was Tamar (though Judah did not sleep with her again).


At first when I read the story of Judah and Tamar I am struck by the ordinariness of it.

By moving to Adullam, Judah could represent the backsliding that often happens to Christians. We absorb the culture that we live in, so it is not surprising that Er and Onan were wicked / did wicked things.

<sarcasm> Sleeping with shrine prostitutes appears socially acceptable in those days, so why should Judah not avail himself of them? Afterall his wife had died and as a man he has needs! </sarcasm>

Superstitious thinking existed back in Judah’s time (38:11) just as it does now. It is shown to have real world implications when instead of fulfilling his obligations to Tamar he sends her to live with her father.

Face-saving too existed in Judah’s time (38:23).

So what do we have here? Ordinary people living ordinary lives. People being people, some wicked, thinking superstitious thoughts and living according to the morality of the society they find themselves in. Yet through it all, God is working, not slowly but patiently, behind the scenes. God works through the pain (Can you imagine how painful it must have been for Tamar to wait all those years? Only to be accused of prostitution?) through all the wrongs and double wrongs (ie using wrong methods to correct an initial wrong) to bring about His ultimate plan of salvation. For Jesus came through the line of Judah and Perez.

Sex vs Intimacy

Seven sins

We probably live today in one of the most sex-saturated times throughout history.

Sex with prostitutes might not be a common past-time in America but in parts of Asia, fuel by sex tourism, it much more common.

And, think about it, perhaps you aren’t having sex but you’re watching people doing it (this also includes nudity) on television. Does indulging in voyeurism mean that our present day culture is any less hedonistic than cultures of yore?

Articles tell us about how to measure our “performance” using physical metrics. Size, frequency, duration and number of partners.

They might even allude to the spiritual and/or emotional aspects of the act, the benefits to a relationship, etc, etc. But the world ultimately view it as an “act”.

But it is so much more. I believe a better way to view it is through a Biblical perspective.

The concept I’m talking about here is intimacy. In my mind, I see a link between intimacy and exclusivity. And exclusivity is a common thread that runs throughout the Bible. (A related concept is being chosen)

God demands our exclusive devotion. He will not share us with other gods.

Holiness is being set apart for God, exclusively.

Related to that is the concept of something being devoted to God, to be exclusively used for/by God.

Noah and his family were chosen, exclusively, to survive the flood.

Out of all the nations, Abraham and his descendants were chosen, to exclusively be called God’s people.

Christ is to be our head, our bridegroom. No-one else is to take His place, the relationship is exclusive.

The marriage analogy is used to describe the relationship between Christ and His church. And marriage itself is also exclusive.

Exclusivity can be liken to being first. There can only be “one” first. Only one “most” favourite. If someone asks you what’s your favourite ice-cream and you roll off a list of several flavours then you don’t have a (clear) favourite. You have lots of likes.

I would define intimacy as an outcome, a result of exclusivity. When you are in an exclusive relationship, intimacy develops. You have someone you share you thoughts and feelings with, more so than with any other person. And when you decide to commit to that person, to say that you wish that relationship to continue for as long as you live, you get married. (In my opinion not wanting to get married is saying you don’t want to spent the rest of your life with someone, because that’s what marriage is – wanting to be with someone for the rest of your life and making that statement publicly).

And I believe that sex is the physical manifestation of that exclusive intimate relationship. Which should occur after the commitment and not before. That’s why we should avoid pre-marital sex.

And we should also avoid extra-marital sex. Because if you do the “act” outside of marriage, then it demotes and demeans sex within marriage.

You basically become a liar, because what you have done is – though you have publicly committed to being exclusive with someone – you have broken that exclusivity, you have been unfaithful. And worse, you have taken the ultimate expression of that exclusivity and intimacy and made it non-exclusive.

Sex is more than an act, it is much much more than that. But if you only view it as an “act” (be it purely physical, or also mental / spiritual) that can be done with more than one person then that will be all that it can be for you.