Jacob, His Family Drama + 1 Woman

Every family has problems. And for some, what looks good on the outside is often not the case of what’s going on in the inside. Jacob, one of the Old Testament patriarch's, his family is not exempt from family problems. His youth choice of stealing his brother, Esau’s birthright haunted him for a time and he wrestled with God over it. But God forgave Jacob because He had a plan for his bloodline. And then, Jacob exercised bad parenting when he showed extreme favoritism of Joseph (and Benjamin), the children from the union of his favorite wife. This favoritism got Joseph sold into slavery and sent to live in Egypt for many years, and all the while Jacob thought his son [Joseph] was dead. But again God worked through the family issues because He had a plan for Jacob’s bloodline.

God is often in the business of reconciling family members back together, and changing individual lives within families. And then He often glorifies those that were once broken so that He can get the ultimate glory.

For this post I want to firstly look at Jacob’s third son, Judah, born from Leah, the wife that Jacob didn’t love. Secondly, I want to look at Judah’s relationship with Tamar, his [Judah’s] daughter-in-law, taken from Genesis 38. Thirdly, I want to briefly show what women today can learn from the Tamar story. And lastly, I want to show the significance of Tamar and how God uses family brokenness to carry out His plans.

A look at Judah:

Judah was a militant angry man. And understandably so. His anger was driven by the fact that he felt rejection early in life. His father didn’t love his mother. His father favored his two half brothers (Joseph and Benjamin) over he and his 9 full brothers. As a result of his feelings of rejections, Judah was a part of the campaign to sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt. Though he still had to deal with the fact that his father doted on his baby half-brother, Benjamin. His anger caused him to leave home and live among pagans, the Canaanites. He forged alliances with them; he married one, and started behaving ruthlessly like them.  And he raised ruthless sons that were so wicked that God cut their lives short. He didn’t have a relationship with God; he willfully disobeyed God by not allowing Tamar to carry on his family’s line to becoming pregnant. Judah was a strong-minded and willful man, but he was a lost man.

But God used a woman, Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law to break Judah. It was through Tamar’s brave actions and being confronted with his past sin of selling Joseph into slavery that broke Judah, and he was reconciled back to God by repenting of his past life choices.

Judah’s relationship with Tamar:

Go read Genesis 38. I won’t go into a long summary but basically, Judah, had 3 sons. They were wicked. A woman named Tamar (probably a Canaanite) was married to his oldest son, Er. He was wicked and he died. They didn’t have children. So Tamar was given in marriage to his second son, Onan. He was wicked too. Onan didn’t fulfill his duty of having a child to preserve Er’s name. The Bible said he willingly poured his semen on the ground to not allow Tamar to conceive. In this time it was heartbreaking for a woman to not have a child (still is); and, for a man to not have a child to carry his name was a big deal for the time and culture. Tamar was sent home to wait until the third brother, Shelah, was of age to marry. I’d imagine that Tamar was tired of being tossed around by Judah, and having learned that he was a widower, she took a window of opportunity and disguised herself as a prostitute to Judah and became pregnant with twins to preserve his family’s line. There’s more detail here upon finding out Tamar was with child, his child, so go read the story of Jacob’s family. Judah burned with anger upon finding out, but after he realized the wisdom of Tamar’s decision, he called her “righteous” (Genesis 38:26).

According to author Carolyn Custis James, Tamar wasn’t called “righteous for her quiet and gentle spirit. She was righteous by being strong and assertive. She was a Godly leader. She confronted Judah, the future leader of Jacob’s family, for turning his back on God’s covenant, and her courageous actions led him back to God. She was committed to build the house of Jacob and used her strength, her wit, and her courage to do what was right in God’s eyes. Judah rightly called her righteous.”

What can women in the 21st Century learn from Tamar:

It’s not only ok but it’s necessary for women to speak up when we see sin and wrongdoing going on in our families or the church. “Righteous strength like Tamar’s is an asset to the church. When we discard the strength of women, we disable a powerful weapon against the enemy and remove a vital safeguard for men. God calls the ezer (the helper) to be strong.” (James)

God often uses the once broken to carry out his plans:

Tamar didn’t emasculate Judah in any way. She actually empowered him as a man and made him a better man because of his encounter with her. God was displeased with Judah because He knew the plan he had for Jacob’s family line through Judah. It should seem that God would have allowed Jesus to come through the tribe of Joseph or Benjamin- the good children of Jacob. But, God took a broken, angry, lost, and rebellious man and reconciled Judah back to Himself. And then God glorified Judah by allowing an awesome men like Boaz, King David and the Lion of the tribe of Judah [Jesus] to be born from Judah’s seed. And, God used a woman who fought to preserve that line. “Tamar is the best role model in Genesis for the ezer, the strong helper. She is rightly included in Matthew’s genealogy as a forerunner of the king.” (James).

Let us resolve to follow God and trust Him in family brokenness, to not live in rebellion but to surrender to Him that His plans for our lives are always better than any plan we could think for ourselves.

Happy Friday xx!

**Thumbnail photo courtesy of WomenoftheBible.net