In the middle of Joseph’s story, we are told about Judah leaving home. Why is this? Chapter 38 starts out saying, “It happened at that time…” What time? When we look back at chapter 37 verses 26-27, we see it was Judah who came up with the idea to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. He didn’t want to kill Joseph and have to hide the fact that they did this to their own brother.
Judah either couldn’t handle his part in hurting his father or he couldn’t handle his brothers blaming him for what happened or both.
Judah went down from his brothers. This could mean something naturally and spiritually. The location he went to was down or south of his brothers. Spiritually, he decreased in his righteousness. He sold an innocent young man without knowing what may happen to him. Then he married a Canaanite woman, which was forbidden by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Judah had three sons – Er, Onan and Shelah. He took a wife for Er. Her name was Tamar. Before she could have any children with him, God caused him to die because he was wicked in God’s eyes.
Good Decisions Can Save Your Life
As the custom of the day, Er’s brother, Onan took her as a wife to give her a son to raise up in his brother’s name. Onan wasn’t trying to have that happen so every time he had sex with her he pulled out and wasted his semen on the ground. He didn’t want to give her a child and the baby wouldn’t belong to him. God saw this as wickedness and put him to death also.
Judah didn’t want his third son to die so he asked Tamar to stay a widow until Shelah was grown. She did so. After grieving over his wife, Judah went up to Timnah to attend his sheep. Someone told Tamar he was coming, and she saw that Shelah was grown. She took off her widow garments, put on different clothing, and put a veil over her face.
Judah thought she was a prostitute and proposition her. They negotiated a price. She required him to leave something behind as proof he would send her the young goat. He left his signet ring, wrap, and staff. These three items identified who he was, just like the coat of many colors identified who Joseph was.
When they were finished Tamar went home, changed back into her widow clothing, and waited. She had done what was right, even if it was in a manner that was against her nature. According to customs, she was in her right to have children from Judah or Shelah.
Judah sent the young goat back to her, but the messenger couldn’t find her. Nor did anyone know who she was. He gave up looking for her and told Judah what happened. Judah didn’t want to make a big deal out of it because he didn’t want people laughing at him.
Three months later, people told Judah Tamar had committed harlotry and conceived from it. Enraged, he commanded her to be burned. When they seized her she sent word to him with the items he had given her saying, “These items belong to the man who got me pregnant. Now, identify who they belong to.”
What’s ironic is that he was with a harlot three months ago and didn’t think anything about it. Yet, he wanted to kill the woman whom he deceived by not letting his son marry her. With God, you can’t do dirt and expect not to get dirty. Let’s see the outcome of this situation.
Be Careful What You Sow
Now we come full circle. Judah asked his father to identify whose bloody coat he held. He caused him unfathomable pain. Now the tables were turned. Here he was being asked the same question – identify who’s these items belong to.
Some say Judah reaped what he sowed. Jacob lost two sons that day. Joseph, who appeared to be dead and Judah who left. Judah lost two sons also because they were wicked in the sight of God.
Judah admitted she acted more righteously than he did. He never had sex with her again. He welcomed the twins Tamar birthed him.
Whatever you do in life you will always reap more than you’ve sown. God tried to tell us this through agriculture. When a famer plants a tiny seed something bigger grows from it. What happens in the natural realm happens in the spirit realm. If you sow deceit, you’ll reap more than you’ve sown. If you sow kindness, you’ll get more in return.
Remember, what goes around comes around. Follow the path of righteousness so it will be well with you and your children.