For a map of the Old Testament period that allows you to locate specific cities, sites and places mentioned see:
Genesis 25-39 The father of the nation of Israel (Jacob), cont’d.
Genesis 35-50 The suffering and the glory…Joseph, cont’d.
Genesis 38:1-5-Judah left his family and moved to the Canaanite city of “Adullam” (about 15 miles northwest of Hebron). There he married a woman and had three sons (Er, Onan, Shelah).
Genesis 38:6-7-Er married a woman named “Tamar”. The LORD took the life of Er (Judah's first born son) because he was evil. Considering the fact that all men are sinners and evil, Er must have been exceptionally so.
Genesis 38:8-10-Judah then told Onan (son #2) that he was to marry Tamar. This was a common practice that was later included in the Law of Moses (cf. Deut. 25:5-10). It was called “Levirate marriage” and the intent was that the bloodline of the deceased son would continue (through the deceased man’s wife and his brother). The son that was born to the wife would receive the inheritance of her deceased husband and continue his family lineage.
For an explanation of Levirate marriage see:
Because Er, the first born had died...Onan would now be first in line for his father's inheritance. But if Er's wife had a son, Onan would go back to second…a much smaller inheritance. Onan knew this and he wanted the inheritance of his brother for himself. So, when he and Tamar were intimate sexually, he “wasted his seed on the ground”…to keep her from getting pregnant. This displeased God, because Onan refused to obey the levirate law…so God “took his life also”. The word "evil" (an adjective), used of Er, and "displeasing" (a verb), used of Onan, have the same root in Hebrew. This is one of the rare occasions where it says that God specifically took the life of an individual.
Genesis 38:11-Judah should have then accepted the responsibility himself...but he was afraid that he might die. So instead, he used his third son’s age as an excuse to do nothing…telling Tamar that she would have to wait until he became old enough and then they would marry. After some time, Judah’s wife died. Obviously, the lifestyle of the Canaanites had had an affect on Judah, because while he and his Canaanite friend, Hirah, were on a trip to Timnah, he decided have sex with a temple prostitute (prostitution was apart of the Canaanite religion). But what Judah did not know is that Tamar had found out that he was making the trip. She dressed up like a prostitute (covering her face with a veil so that he would not recognize her) and waited for him to arrive at the gate that led into the city. He propositioned her and she asked what he was willing to pay. He said he would send her a kid from his flock. In order to guarantee that she would receive payment she told him she would keep “your seal and your chord, and your staff” and that she would return them when payment was received. Judah got more than he paid for…because Tamar became pregnant. Later, when Judah sent the kid for payment, the people in Timnah said that there wasn’t a temple prostitute. Judah decided to drop the matter instead of pursuing it and possibly have people laugh at him for being deceived. About three months later Judah was told that Tamar was pregnant. With great indignation he told them to bring her out so that she could be burned, as punishment. When she arrived, Tamar announced that the man who had gotten her pregnant had given her these items…and held up the belongings of Judah. Judah declared that Tamar was more righteous than he was and dropped the matter. Tamar gave birth to twins. When they were born, one child (“Zerah”) stuck his hand out and then drew it back in. Then, the second child (“Perez”) was born…and was the first born. Perez is listed in the genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:3).
It is interesting that Judah became indignant over the sin of his daughter-in-law, but had not felt it was wrong for him to commit adultery. How often are we quick to judge others for sin, but just as quick to excuse ourselves from sin.
Genesis 39:2,3,21,23-"and the LORD was with Joseph"...This phrase seems to become a theme of his life. The blessing that God gave to Joseph extended to those that he served (39:5,21).
Genesis 39:6-20-Potiphar’s wife tries to convince Joseph to have sex with her, but he refuses. One day, she grabbed his garment and tried to convince him. But again, he said no. As he tried to run away she held onto his garment. She then screamed for help and tried to blame him for attacking her. When Potiphar came home she told him the story. Potiphar became angry and put Joseph in jail. When Potiphar's wife accused Joseph of attacking her it was the second time that a garment was used as evidence to perpetrate a lie about him.
Genesis 39:21-23-The chief jailer recognized that God was blessing Joseph. So, he put him in charge of all of the prisoners in the jail.
Genesis 40:1-While Joseph was in jail Pharaoh became angry with his Chief Cupbearer and Chief Baker. He put them in the same jail that Joseph was in. After some time both of them had a dream on the same night. The next day Joseph noticed that they were upset. He asked him what was wrong and they told him that they had had a dream and did not know what it meant. Joseph told them that dreams and their interpretations come from God. He told them to tell him the dreams. The Chief Cupbearer told Joseph his dream and he interpreted it for him. It was a positive interpretation that he would be released. Joseph asked him to keep him in mind when he was released. Then the Chief Baker asked Joseph to interpret his dream. Joseph did so but it was a negative interpretation. He told him that Pharaoh was going to hang him from a tree. Three days later it was Pharaoh’s birthday and on that day he released the Chief Cupbearer and hung the Chief Baker, just as Joseph had interpreted. But the Chief Cupbearer did not remember to help Joseph as he had promised.
Prayer: Lord, Joseph’s brothers sold him, Potiphar’s wife lied about him, and the Cupbearer forgot him…and yet, You were always with him. I pray that no matter what happens, or what someone does…that I will always know Your presence. Please be with me. Help me to be constantly aware of Your presence.