This is the story of Tamar, a woman who went through a lot in her life but eventually became part of the lineage that bore King David, the other kings of Judah and eventually, Jesus Christ himself. Tamar was the daughter in law to Judah, one of the sons of Jacob and his first wife Leah. Her husband was Er, son of Judah, who never gave her any children. In that period, it was especially difficult for a married women to be without children. The Lord saw that Er was wicked and struck him down.
As was customary back then, Tamar, now a widow, was given to her husband’s younger brother Onan. He was to produce offspring for his brother, who would then be Er’s heirs. Onan, knowing that Tamar’s children would never really be his, practiced a form of contraception and denied Tamar children. This was a wicked thing to do and so he too died, leaving Tamar twice a widow and still childless.
Tamar was the promised to Judah’s third son, Shelah, when he was older. So Tamar went back to live in her father’s house. We can imagine that she had become known as a black widow of sorts having lost two husbands. In fact, her father in law, Judah, had grown afraid that his son Shelah would also die like his brothers and so, even when Shelah became of age, he withheld him from Tamar. Having waited for a long time for Shelah to grow up, Tamar then observed that she was being kept from him on purpose and she hatched a plan to finally have the children she had always wanted.
She heard that her father in law was coming into town to shear his sheep, so she took off her honorable widow clothes and disguised herself as a prostitute. Her plan worked, because Judah asked to sleep with her and in exchange, she got him to give up his seal and staff. Later on it was discovered that she was pregnant, and was accused of being promiscuous for she would not reveal who the father of her children was. When news got back to Judah, he ordered that she be burned to death.
As she was being brought out, Tamar took the seal and staff with her and sent a message to Judah saying that the owner of those items was the father of her children. Pretty dramatic stuff! Of course Judah recognized his belongings and was embarrassed by his misdeeds, recognizing the lengths he had pushed Tamar to by denying her his son. In this way, Tamar was spared a terrible death and went on to bear two twin sons. One of them, Perez, became David’s ancestor.
Tamar’s story is one of desperate times calling for desperate measures. She was of course quite the intelligent woman while at the same time virtuous and enduring. After being denied children by her in laws for a long time, she eventually used her wits to get justice for herself and was rewarded twice over. In a similar way, we as women are often denied things that are rightfully ours – promotions, positions of leadership, and more. Tamar’s story shows us that God sees the unfairness and if we have the courage to stand up for ourselves in tactful ways, He repays what has been taken from us twice over.
0The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.Roseanne Barr