Genesis 38:12-23

12 Now in the process of time the daughter of Shua, Judah’s wife, died; and Judah was comforted, and went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

13 And it was told Tamar, saying, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.”

14 So she took off her widow’s garments, covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given to him as a wife.

15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face.

16 Then he turned to her by the way, and said, “Please let me come in to you”; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. So she said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?”

17 And he said, “I will send a young goat from the flock.” So she said, “Will you give me a pledge till you send it?”

18 Then he said, “What pledge shall I give you?” So she said, “Your signet and cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” Then he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him.

19 So she arose and went away, and laid aside her veil and put on the garments of her widowhood.

20 And Judah sent the young goat by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand, but he did not find her.

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

22 So he returned to Judah and said, “I cannot find her. Also, the men of the place said there was no harlot in this place.”

23 Then Judah said, “Let her take them for herself, lest we be shamed; for I sent this young goat and you have not found her.”

Timnah (v.12) — probably a town which was later located in the border of Judah, between Jerusalem and Diospolis, given to Dan, and mentioned in the history of Samson as belonging to the Philistines (Judges 14:1).

[Tamar] was actually posing as a temple prostitute, rather than as a common harlot, as is evident from the fact that the word used to describe her later by the Canaanite men themselves (Hebrew cedesha, meaning “one set apart” is used in verses 21-22) was the word used for this purpose. — Morris, page 553.

sat in an open place (v.14) — the common behavior of a prostitute (Proverbs 7:12; Jeremiah 3:2). “Open place” means “the door of eyes,” and some believe it is a proper name referring to Enaim, a city in Judah.

your signet and cord (v.18) — The “Signet” is a ring-seal, with which impressions were made to ascertain property, etc. Jeremiah 22:24 says it was worn on the hand; though it might also have been suspended from the neck by a ribband. “Cord” from a word meaning “to twist,” may mean either a wreath for the arm or neck, a twisted collar, or a bracelet. It may have been a collar by which the signet was suspended; although here it is used in the plural.

It must be recognized that the Biblical record itself does not condemn or criticize [Tamar]. … We cannot judge Judah’s actions so charitably, however. In fact, he later acknowledged that he had sinned (v.26). — Morris, page 553.

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