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Jesus’ Ancestry – Tamar

The Reading: Genesis 38:6-30

“By the man to whom these belong, I am with child” (v.25) RSV

This series of the female lineage of Jesus began with Sarah, and was followed by Leah. We now move on to the five women who are mentioned in the list of ancestors given in the Gospel according to Matthew. This genealogy (Matt. 1:1-17) is peculiar in as far as any women are mentioned at all. And then, as we shall see, the five women mentioned are each of them somewhat suspect!

The first of them is Tamar: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar” (Matt. 1:3). Now the story as to how Judah produced children by his daughter-in-law is a salutary tale! Judah had married off his eldest son, Er, to Tamar. In due course he died without issue. So, according to the custom at the time, the widow was to be ‘serviced’ by the dead man’s brother. This man, Onan, decided not to go through with this duty, and he too died. Judah obviously thought that Tamar was a bit of a black widow and so refused to let his third son anywhere near her. Instead she was to remain effectively under house arrest.

Tamar felt that her father-in-law had not been fair. So she tricked him into ‘lying’ with her by pretending to be a prostitute, though he did not know it was her. She conceived, and when accused by Judah of unfaithfulness, she produced evidence that he was the father (Gen. 38:25)! She bore twins, Perez and Zerah. And it was Perez, Judah’s son by incest (Lev. 18:15), that the line down to Jesus was maintained.

This may seem extraordinary, and yet God’s grace and sovereign purposes are even more extraordinary. Despite our incredible rebellion and human failure, God continues to work out his purposes. Despite deception and incest God brought Jesus, our Saviour, into the world. Hallelujah!

Thank you Lord that whatever sin has been perpetrated in my past I am in your hands. With us these things are impossible, but with you all things are possible. Amen. 

Explore More

1 What happened to a different Tamar?

2 Samuel 13:7-21

2 Read about Judah and Tamar’s place in Jesus’ lineage

1 Chronicles 2:1-4


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