Skip to main content

Genesis 38:1-39:18 #eebc2018

Genesis 38 does not start off well. It does not end well.  And, honestly, the stopping point at Genesis 39:18 isn't a particularly happy moment, either.

These narratives demonstrate the use of sexuality as a weapon. For Judah, Onan, and Shelah, it was an economic weapon: Onan declined his responsibility to his brother, Er, and Judah kept back Shelah as if the problem had been Tamar in the death of Er and Onan.

It wasn't. Both of these men died because of their own sin--Er being the first person recorded as being "put to death" by YHWH for his evil behavior. Onan's sin is debated these days, and his death is given as the reason to avoid masturbation or birth control, though neither are rightly condemned from this passage. This is explicitly about his decision to serve his own needs.

Also worth noting is this: Genesis is not speaking about the morality of what is called "levirate marriage." That is, this passage is not about the whether or not the cultural practice of a childless widow being expected to bear a child through her brother-in-law. It was a common practice of the time, and is codified in the Law given at Sinai (see Deuteronomy 25). I would suggest that it was a common practice which was regulated in the Law, somewhat as slavery was, because it was going to happen--note that the Deuteronomy passage establishes the rights of the woman in the situation--not because it was a great idea. Since it would happen, there needed to be safeguards, and the Law established those.

Back here in Genesis, though, the big concern is Tamar: what will happen to her? She is left in her father-in-law's home, living as a widow and awaiting Shelah as a husband. She's not free to move on to another husband, and she's not getting what she needs from Judah. She then turns to the only option she finds available: Judah. He is the one who is holding her, effectively, hostage. So she uses his own lusts against him, resorting to the only thing she has available.

And before we condemn her, we need to ask the question: what outlets are available to those on the outside of power in our society? If someone has no recourse within the law or respectable opinions, then who are we to decry their actions outside of those places? Tamar had nowhere else to turn--at the word of her father-in-law, she and her unborn child were nearly executed! If there are no good options for justice, people will turn to the least bad option available to them.

Tamar goes on to see two sons born, Zerah and Perez, and Zerah is in the lineage of Jesus. There is little else about Tamar, but she stands as an example of the disaster that powerful men can wreak on other people's lives.

The next chapter gives us the disaster that powerful women can wreak on other people's lives, as we see Joseph imprisoned by the false accusations of Potiphar's wife. Joseph has worked hard, acted with integrity, and still goes to prison. Again, we see the lack of a valid system for justice: in this case, Potiphar holds power and his wife wields that power against Joseph.

In the long run, though, Joseph does have an out. Pharaoh can do something about the prisoners in Egypt--he just needs to know about the problem. And Pharaoh does not like to hear about problems, so it will take some time.

What do we learn from this?

First, the clearest lesson in both of these cases is that justice should never be an "option." It should be something that is readily available for all.

Second, let us be careful about being quick to condemn others. Note that both Tamar and Joseph are condemned for actions without the full story--and that condemnation came from some corners that were hardly righteous. Give time for someone to explain themselves, and then throw those into prison who deserve it.

Finally, be careful of judging people based on their heritage alone. I've been in small to medium Southern American towns most of my adult life, and in very few of them could Perez or Zerah have gotten a fair shake. Simply through their birth under a cloud of controversy, they would have been watched more closely at school, overlooked at churches, and sidelined in the community. We must be careful not to quickly judge someone because of who their parents were--for good or for ill. Let people stand on their own.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: The Heart Mender by @andyandrews (Andy Andrews)

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second ChancesEver read a book that you just kind of wish is true?  That's my take on The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  It's a charming story of love and forgiveness, and it's woven into the historical setting of World War II America.  For the narrative alone, the book is worth the read, but the message it contains is well worth absorbing as well.However, let's drop back a minute.  This book was originally published under the title Island of Saints.  I read Island of Saints and enjoyed it greatly.  Now, Andrews has released it under a new title, with a few minor changes.  All of this is explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, but should be noted for purchaser's sake.  If you read Island of Saints, you're rereading when you read The Heart Mender.  Now, go ahead and reread it.  It will not hurt you one bit.Overall, the story is well-paced.  There are points where I'd like more detail, both in the history and the geog…

Book: The Gospel Call and True Conversion

A quick note: This book, The Gospel Call and True Conversion, is currently available on Kindle for $4.99. This is the second in a series of 3, and the first, The Gospel’s Power and Message, is available for $2.99.The Gospel Call and True Conversion. The title of this book alone sounds intimidating, and adding that it’s written by one of the heavyweights of American Reformed Christianity, Paul Washer, does not lessen the intimidation factor. Washer is known to be a straightforward preacher—for good or for ill.What did I find in The Gospel call and True Conversion? I found some things to like:1. Paul Washer is passionate for the truth. He wants to know the truth. He wants to proclaim the truth. He wants the truth heard. He wants you to know the truth. This is good. It is good to see someone not try to base theology on popularity or as a response to modern events, but to base it clearly on truth. 2. There is a strong emphasis on the reality that true conversion (from the title) will resu…

Sermon Recap for July 29 (and 22)

Good Morning!Here is what you'll find: there is an audio player with the sermon audios built-in to it, just click to find the one you want. You'll also find the embedded Youtube videos of each sermon.If you'd like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/east-end-baptist-church/id387911457?mt=2 for iTunes users. Other audio feeds go here: http://eebcar.libsyn.com/rssThe video is linked on my personal Youtube Page here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJBGluSoaJgYn6PbIklwKaw?view_as=publicSermons are stockpiled here: http://www.doughibbard.com/search/label/SermonsThanks!July 29 AM: (Audio)
July 29 PM: (Audio)
July 22 AM: (Audio)July 22 PM: (Audio)