Dave Burnette's Commentary

Genesis Chapter 38

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Moses
Date Penned: (1450-1410 BC)
Overview: The Record of God's Chosen People (c 23-50)
Theme: The Story of Joseph (c 37-50)
Message: Judah and Tamar  (v 1-30)

Genesis 38 Commentary

(38:1-7) Joseph's Character is Revealed -  This chapter vividly contrasts the immoral character of Judah with the moral character of Joseph. Judah's lack of integrity resulted in family strife and deception. Genesis 39 shows how Joseph's integrity and wise choices reflected his godly character. His faithfulness was rewarded with blessings greater than he could imagine, both for himself and for his family.

(38:8-10) Judgement comes to Onan -  This law about marrying a widow in the family is explained in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Its purpose was to ensure that a childless widow would have a son who would receive her late husband's inheritance and who, in turn, would care for her. Because Judah's son Er (Tamar's husband) had no children, there was no family line through which the inheritance and the blessing of the covenant could continue. God killed Onan because he refused to fulfill his obligation to his brother and to Tamar.

(38:15-17) Pagan Prostitutes -  It may seem strange that prostitution is written about in such a matter-of-fact way here. Prostitutes were common in pagan cultures such as that of Canaan. Public prostitutes served Canaanite goddesses and were a common element of the religious cults. Fornication was encouraged in these cults with the belief that it would improve fertility in crops and flocks. Public prostitutes were more "acceptable" in that culture than private prostitutes, who were sometimes punished when caught. 

(38:18) Tamar has Judah's Signet - A signet was an identification seal used to authenticate legal documents. Usually a unique design carved in stone and worn on a ring or necklace inseparable from its owner, the signet was used by the wealthy and powerful to mark clay or wax. Because Tamar had Judah's signet, she could prove beyond a doubt that he had been with her.

(38:24-26) Judah's Double Standard -  When Tamar revealed she was pregnant, Judah, who unknowingly had gotten her pregnant, moved to have her killed. Judah had no regret over his own sexual sin, yet he came down harshly on Tamar for hers. Often the sins that anger us most when we see them in others are the same sins we commit, yet don't notice in ourselves. If you become indignant at the sins of others, you may have a similar tendency to sin that you don't wish to face. The next time you become angry at someone else's sin, ask yourself honestly if you are sinning in that same area.

Dave Burnette's Life Application

A Sin Unto Death

Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter, making application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. There are many applications we can make from each day's text. Today we Continue in the book of Genesis with Chapter 38, and in today's text, we focus on Judah and his family. The Lord Jesus comes from this family line, although it is not on merit but rather a lineage. It shows that the Lord is faithful to his promises, although we don't always deserve his favor. What catches my attention is verses 7-10 when the children of Judah, Er, and Onan, did wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord slew them. Making an application reminds me that we learn throughout the Bible that there is a sin unto death. In this chapter, we see the grace of the Lord administered but also His wrath. The difference is the Lord's will and his purpose for their lives. Today, I see the same course of action in motion. Some receive grace, some receive mercy, and some experience His wrath. The truth is there is a more significant story unveiling as we see the Lord has an agenda in motion. Only when we get to glory will we see the complete picture. This variance in God's Response in no way justifies the sins of some. We all are accountable for our sins, our actions, and our response to the Gospel for salvation. We all deserve death and Hell for our sins, but thanks be to God for Jesus and forgiveness of sin. Does this mean we have a free license to sin? God forbid. Let us learn from our text today that the next time you face a temptation to sin, remember that there is a "sin unto death." 


Genesis 38

Genesis 38

 1And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.

 2And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.

 3And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.

 4And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.

 5And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.

 6And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.

 7And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.

 8And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

 9And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

 10And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

 11Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father's house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father's house.

 12And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah's wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

 13And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep.

 14And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.

 15When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.

 16And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?

 17And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?

 18And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.

 19And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.

 20And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman's hand: but he found her not.

 21Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place.

 22And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place.

 23And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.

 24And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.

 25When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff.

 26And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.

 27And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb.

 28And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first.

 29And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez.

 30And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.