Tamar: Seeker of justice - 10 August 2021

By Xanthe Hancox

Bible text(s)

Last week we looked at Mary’s incredible story. But she is not the only woman who appears in Matthew 1. There are four others listed in the genealogy of Jesus and we’ll be looking at their stories this week.

Tamar is the first woman mentioned and her story is truly extraordinary – and not in a particularly good way!

She was the daughter-in-law of Judah, a man who had three sons: Er, Onan and Shelah. Tamar married the eldest son, Er, but the man was “was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death” (Genesis 38:7). In that culture, it was customary for a woman to marry the brother of her deceased husband so that she would be provided for and remain a part of the family. Judah married Tamar to his second son, Onan, who was also wicked and put to death by the Lord.

At this point, Judah decided that Tamar must be the problem and that it was far too risky to give her another of his sons. So he lied to Tamar, promising that she would be taken care of when his youngest son was older.

The years passed and the third son grew up, and Tamar realised Judah had no intention of ever fulfilling his promise. Disguising herself as a prostitute, she slept with Judah and became pregnant.

Judah’s first response was to have her burnt to death, but when he discovered who Tamar was and what she did to ensure that she would be taken care of he said, “she is more righteous than I am.”

Tamar’s circumstances and actions are not those you might expect to be celebrated by Scripture. But it was her pursuit of justice in Judah’s abandonment of his promise that allowed her to be a part of Jesus’ family.

Tamar was given the honour of being the first woman included in Jesus’ genealogy. The pain, loss and sin would ultimately be redeemed by the Messiah in her family tree.

Prayer: Lord, many of us have histories that embarrass us. Yet you can grab hold of us and carry our past into a glorious future. Our future rests in your grace, through Jesus. Amen