Genesis Chapter Thirty-eight
The profligate conduct of Judah and his family.
This chapter gives an account of Judah and his family, and such an account it is, that it seems a wonder that of all Jacob's sons, our Lord should spring out of Judah, Hebrews 7:14. But God will show that his choice is of grace and not of merit, and that Christ came into the world to save sinners, even the chief. Also, that the worthiness of Christ is of himself, and not from his ancestors. How little reason had the Jews, who were so called from this Judah, to boast as they did, John 8:41. What awful examples the Lord proclaims in his punishments, of his utter displeasure at sin! Let us seek grace from God to avoid every appearance of sin. And let that state of humbleness to which Jesus submitted, when he came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, in appointing such characters as those here recorded, to be his ancestors, endear the Redeemer to our hearts.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Genesis》
 And 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.
Judah went down from his brethren — Withdrew for a time from his father's family, and got intimately acquainted with one Hirah an Adullamite. When young people that have been well educated begin to change their company, they will soon change their manners, and lose their good education. They that go down from their brethren, that forsake the society of the seed of Israel, and pick up Canaanites for their companions, are going down the hill apace.
 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.
He took her-To wife. His father, it should seem, was not consulted, but by his new friend Hirah.
 And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.
And Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord — That is, in defiance of God and his law. And what came of it? Why God cut him off presently, The Lord slew him. The next brother Onan was, according to the ancient usage, married to the widow, to preserve the name of his deceased brother that died childless. This custom of marrying the brother's widow was afterward made one of the laws of Moses, Deuteronomy 25:5. Onan, though he consented to marry the widow, yet to the great abuse of his own body, of the wife he had married, and the memory of his brother that was gone, he refused to raise up seed unto his brother. Those sins that dishonour the body are very displeasing to God, and the evidence of vile actions. Observe, the thing which he did displeased the Lord - And it is to be feared, thousands, especially of single persons, by this very thing, still displeased the Lord, and destroy their own souls.
 Then 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.
Shelah the third son was reserved for the widow, yet with design that he should not marry so young as his brothers had done, lest he die also. Some think that Judah never intended to marry Shelah to Tamar, but unjustly suspected her to have been the death of her two former husbands, (whereas it was their own wickedness that slew them) and then sent her to her father's house, with a charge to remain a widow. If so, it was an inexcusable piece of prevarication; however Tamar acquiesced, and waited for the issue.
 And 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.
Some excuse this by suggesting that she believed the promise made to Abraham and his seed, particularly that of the Messiah, and that she was therefore desirous to have a child by one of that family, that she might have the honour, or at least stand fair for the honour of being the mother of the Messiah.
She covered her with a veil — It was the custom of harlots in those times to cover their faces, that tho' they were not ashamed, yet they might seem to be so: the sin of uncleanness did not then go so bare-faced as it now doth.
 And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?
A kid from the flock — A goodly price at which her chastity and honour were valued! Had the consideration been thousands of rams, and ten thousand rivers of oil, it had not been a valuable consideration. The favour of God, the purity of the soul, the peace of the conscience, and the hope of heaven: are too precious to be exposed to sale at any such rates. He lost his Jewels by the bargain: He sent the kid according to his promise, to redeem his pawn, but the supposed harlot could not be found. He sent it by his friend, (who was indeed his back-friend, because he was aiding and abetting in his evil deeds) the Adullamite; who came back without the pledge. 'Tis a good account, if it be but true, of any place that which they here gave, that there is no harlot in this place, for such sinners are the scandals and plagues of any place. Judah sits down content to lose his signet and his bracelets, and forbids his friend to make any farther enquiry.
 And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.
Lest we be shamed — Either, 1. Lest his sin should come to be known publicly, Or 2. Lest he should be laughed at as a fool for trusting a whore with his signet and his bracelets. He expresses no concern about the sin, only about the shame. There are many who are more solicitous to preserve their reputation with men, than to secure the savour of God, lest we be shamed goes farther with them than lest we be damned.
 And 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.
It should seem the birth was hard to the mother, by which she was corrected for her sin: the children also, like Jacob and Esau, struggled for the birth-right, and Pharez who got it, is ever named first, and from him Christ descended. He had his name from his breaking forth before his brother; this breach be upon thee - The Jews, as Zarah, bid fair for the birth-right, and were marked with a scarlet thread, as those that come out first; but the Gentiles, like Pharez, or a son of violence got the start of them, by that violence which the kingdom of heaven suffers, and attained to the righteousness which the Jews came short of: yet when the fulness of time is come, all Israel shall be saved. Both these sons are named in the genealogy of our Saviour, Matthew 1:3, to perpetuate the story, as an instance of the humiliation of our Lord Jesus.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Genesis》
38 Chapter 38
The character of Judah -
FAITHLESSNESS TOWARDS GOD.
1. In his separation from his brethren (Genesis 38:1).
2. In his marriage with an idolater (Genesis 38:2).
II. A STRONG SENSUAL NATURE (Genesis 38:12-18).
III. AN UNDERLYING SENSE OF JUSTICE.
IV. SELF-DEPENDENCE. (T. H. Leale.)
The lessons of Judah’s history
I. GOD’S CAUSE HAS IN IT THE SEEDS OF TRIUMPH EVEN WHEN IT SEEMS TO FAIL.
II. GOD’S JUDGMENTS ON THE SIN OF UNCHASTITY.
III. THIS HISTORY HAS AN IMPORTANT BEARING UPON GOD’S PURPOSE OF SALVATION. Considered in regard to God’s redeeming purpose, this history shows--
1. That God’s election is by grace. Otherwise Judah would not have been chosen as the ancestor of Christ. It shows--
2. The native glory of Christ, He derives all His glory from Himself, and not from His ancestry. It shows--
3. The amazing condescension of Christ. The greatest and most shameful sinners are found in His birth-register. (T. H. Leale.)
1. Arbitrary is the Spirit of God in recording times of events; therefore careful should we be to search them.
2. Wanton forward youths are apt to leave their station, brethren, and fathers, where they should be ruled.
3. Such averseness from duty inclines foolish hearts to lose acquaintance. So it was here.
4. Wanton youths choose to be familiar with worldly companions in lust rather than to be with a good father.
5. Names of men and places of miscarriage by the sons of the Church are noted for instruction (Genesis 38:1).
6. In bad company, and out of men’s places usually, are offered baits of temptation.
7. Wanton hearts have wanton eyes by which they are carried out to evil.
8. Daughters of the Canaanites may please the eyes of the sons of Jacob to misguide them.
9. Violence of lust drives men to take their delights, never desiring leave of God or man.
10. Lust desires no better marriage than a carnal enjoyment of its pleasure.
11. Lust fears no law of God that forbids Jacob’s seed to marry with Canaanites (Genesis 38:2). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Such as have been disobedient to parents are not willing their children should be such to them.
2. It is the father’s right to provide and give wives to their sons.
3. It is natural for fathers to care mainly for the first-born son.
4. Providence orders wives from strangers to be registered in His Church for His own ends.
5. The first-born of men’s hopes may prove most wicked, and greatest crosses.
6. It is height of wickedness to dare the Lord to His face.
7. God Himself turneth executioner to avenge Himself upon daring sinners.
8. Premature death is determined sometimes and executed upon obstinate wicked sinners. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Judah had taken to wife the daughter of a Canaanite, no doubt to the grief and regret of his father (Genesis 26:35); he had done what hitherto every member of the chosen branches of Abraham’s house had scrupulously avoided; for even the sanguinary deed of Simeon and Levi had been dictated by the desire of preserving the purity of their family. He left his brothers and went to Adullam. This is a town in the plain of Judah, south-west of Jerusalem, mentioned together with Jarmuth and Sochoh, or with Libnah and Makkedah; it is one of the most ancient cities, and enjoyed an existence of unusual duration; for in the time of the Hebrew conquest it was the seat of a Canaanitish king; a cave in its neighbourhood was the refuge of David from the persecutions of Saul; here his relatives joined him; here he assembled around his person a large number of distressed but resolute men; and here he met a part of the Philistine army. Adullam was fortified by Rehoboam; it was later counted among the important cities of Judah; it was still inhabited after the exile; and existed even in the time of the Maccabees. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
The sin of Onan
IT WAS PROMPTED BY A LOW MOTIVE. It was as selfish as it was vile. Onan’s design was to preserve the whole inheritance for his own house.
II. IT WAS AN ACT OF WILFUL DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD’S ORDINANCE. Ill deservings of others can be no excuse for our injustice, for our uncharitableness. That which Tamar required, Moses afterward, as from God, commanded--the succession of brothers into the barren bed. Some laws God spake to His Church long ere He wrote them: while the author is certainly known, the voice and the finger of God are worthy of equal respect.
III. IT WAS A DISHONOUR DONE TO HIS OWE BODY. Unchastity in general is a homicidal waste of the generative powers, a demoniac bestiality, an outrage to ancestors, to posterity, and to one’s own life. It is a crime against the image of God, and a degradation below the animal. Onan’s offence, moreover, as committed in marriage, was a most unnatural wickedness, a grievous wrong, and a desecration of the body as the temple of God. It was a proof of the most defective development of what may be called the consciousness of personality, and of personal dignity.
IV. IT WAS AGGRAVATED BY HIS POSITION IN THE COVENANT FAMILY. The Messiah was to descend from the stock of Judah, and for aught he knew from himself. This very Tamar is counted in the genealogy of Christ Matthew 1:3). Herein he did despite to the covenant promise. He rejected an honourable destiny. (T. H. Leale.)
Vain parents take little knowledge of God’s judgments in the death of one child when they have others.
2. Special law for the marriage of the deceased brother’s wife by the brother was given of God for special ends.
3. Seed was much desirable and is so in the Church of God; for which such laws were made (Genesis 38:8).
4. Wicked creatures are selfish in duty, therefore unwilling to seek any good but their own.
5. Self-pollution, destruction of the seed of man, envy to brethren, are Onan’s horrid crimes (Genesis 38:9).
6. Onans may be in the visible Church.
7. Such uncleanness is very grievous in God’s sight.
8. Exemplary death may be expected from God by such transgressors (Genesis 38:10). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
It must be borne in mind that the propagation of the family name formed one of the most sacred wishes of the Israelites; that “excision” was looked upon as the most awful indication of Divine wrath; and that polygamy itself was so long maintained, because it offers a greater guarantee of offspring. The Hebrews were not a strictly practical people; sentiment and indefinite aspirations had a large share in their religious views and social institutions: at an early period embracing and fostering the hope of a Messianic time, when all the nations of the earth would be united in love and the knowledge of God, they are eminently capable of prizing the permanent existence of their families. The agrarian character of the Mosaic constitution added power to this idea. Landed property was the foundation of the political edifice, and equality its main pillar. Each family was identified with a certain portion of the sacred soil; its extinction was, therefore, more strongly apprehended by the individual, and was injurious to the prosperity of the state, as the accumulation of wealth in the hands of individuals threatened to disturb the equality of the citizens. It is, therefore, impossible to misunderstand the spirit and tendency of the law concerning the marriage with the brother’s widow; it was neither dictated by the desire of preventing the abandoned condition of the widow, or of counteracting some other fancied abuse; its purport is distinctly expressed to have been to procure a descendant to the brother (Genesis 38:8); “that the name of the deceased be preserved upon his inheritance, and that his name be not erased from among his brethren and from the gate of his town” (Ruth 4:10). It may suffice to add, in this place, that similar customs prevailed among the Indians, Persians, and some Italian tribes, and that they are still practised by the Tsherkessians and Tartars, the Gallas in Abyssinia, the Afghans, and other nations. It was in conformity with this law that Judah commanded his second son, Onan, to marry the childless widow of his elder brother. But Onan was not more virtuous than the family to which he belonged: unwilling to maintain his brother’s name, he knew how to frustrate the hopes of Judah. God took away his life for that reckless wickedness. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
Sinful hearts when they suffer from God’s hand are apt to vent it upon creatures.
2. Carnal relations grow quickly weary of showing kindness when their aims are crossed by God.
3. Hard fathers-in-law, for their own ends, spare not to lay the hardest terms upon allies.
4. Such oppressors deal subtilly, though cruelly; they pretend fair at least.
5. Wicked hearts are apt to be jealous, and transfer faults and ill successes to others that are innocent.
6. Sinful fathers are willing to save children from death, but take bad ways to do it.
7. Widowhood is a solitary condition that binds souls to sit at home.
8. God overruling, natural hearts may be content to submit to hard injunctions from others when they cannot help it. So it was with Tamar when Judah layeth hard injunctions on her (Genesis 38:11). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Injuries to daughters-in-law God may repay upon men’s wives.
2. Days may seem many before God’s visit, but visitation will come for sin.
3. God may make death to be a just recompense of men’s hard dealings.
4. Vain and sinful hearts are soon comforted after the death of wives.
5. Comforts carnal hearts do seek by fleshly feasting and employments.
6. Bad companions and opportune places bad hearts delight in to enjoy their lusts (Genesis 38:12). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. A lustful eye will quickly turn the foot out of the way to sin. Connection (Genesis 38:15).
2. Men of lustful hearts turn of their own accord to evil with others without invitation.
3. Digression from men’s lawful way tends to transgression against God and man.
4. Lust is a hard solicitor for its unclean enjoyments.
5. Lust runs blindfold even to defile near relations, and enquireth not.
6. Sometimes lust is put to it to pay a price for its pleasure. The whorish custom (Genesis 38:16).
7. Unclean persons stick not to lessen their flock for increase of lust, so of estates.
8. Adulterous spirits are not credible with their own paramours; a price or pledge must be given (Genesis 38:17).
9. Wicked hearts stick not at pledge or price unto whorish women for enjoying lust.
10. Unclean creatures are subtle to have a great pledge for a small price.
11. Be it ever so great, lust will give it to the whorish woman for its pleasure.
12. Blind lust doth not only solicit but violate nearest relations when it can.
13. Providence denieth not conception sometimes to the most incestuous mixtures of men and women.
14. It is the order of providence that conception should be for Judah as well as by him (Genesis 38:18). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Sinful lust, when its turn is served, makes out of sight speedily.
2. Guile and deceit are usual adjuncts to lust of uncleanness.
3. Guileful harlots stay not long in common places, where they may be discovered.
4. Lust teacheth souls to put off, and to put on, any signals which might either discover or conceal them (Genesis 38:19). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Pawns may make naughty hearts careful to pay their debts for sin.
2. Wicked affairs are best trusted to hands of wicked friends.
3. Payment of debts by sinners is accounted just to take up pawns.
4. It is no rare thing for partners in sin to deceive each other; to get out of the way when they should be found.
5. Under Providence the debt of lust is not always paid, nor the pawn of iniquity restored (Genesis 38:20).
6. Sinners are diligent to inquire about their sinful affairs.
7. Sinners are impudent to ask openly after harlots in the high way; to bewray the worst matter.
8. Under wife providence, such inquisitors have an answer of frustration (Genesis 38:21).
9. The trustiest messengers of sinners may return bootless to such as send them.
10. Objects of uncleanness maybe found to ensnare persons to sin, but not to satisfy demands.
11. God sometimes ordereth the frustration, of sinners with a witness (Genesis 38:22).
12. By patience perforce, unclean sinners may be content to sit down with loss.
13. Fear of shame and reproach make sinners willing to be losers.
14. Uncleanness is a reproachful thing in the account of the worst adulterers.
15. A self-conceit of having done their duties make wicked ones sometimes content to sit down losers (Genesis 38:23). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. There is a season of bearing ordered by Providence and to be observed Ecclesiastes 3:2).
2. Providence may order abundant fruitfulness unto incestuous mixtures. Twins to incest (verse 27).
3. God sometimes returneth unto unclean conceptions bitter travails.
4. Cross coming of children to birth is God’s ordering to mind of sin sometimes.
5. Creatures may be deceived in marking that for first which cometh last (verse 28).
6. It is God’s prerogative to make first and last in births, and other conditions.
7. Even in the fruit of the womb God makes one child retreat that the other may come forth.
8. The breaking out of the fruit of the womb is sometimes wonderful to creatures.
9. The wonders of God are reasonably prepetuated in the very names of children (verse 29).
10. The first in man’s thoughts is many times last in God’s.
11. Safe births are great mercies, whether first or last; all come forth under providence.
12. Such mercies should be made known in the very names and beings of creatures (verse 30). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
──《The Biblical Illustrator》