Genesis 38 Chapter Commentary: Judah

This tells the story of Judah, one of Jacob’s sons.  Er marries a woman named Tamar, but he dies without leaving any children. According to the law of the time, it was the duty of Er’s brother Onan to marry Tamar and produce children in Er’s name. However, Onan refuses to fulfill this duty and dies as well.

Judah promises to give his third son, Shelah, to Tamar as a husband once he is old enough, but he does not keep his promise. So, Tamar takes matters into her own hands and disguises herself as a prostitute, waiting for Judah to pass by.

Judah does not recognize her and sleeps with her, unknowingly impregnating her. When Tamar becomes pregnant, Judah orders her to be burned to death for her supposed immorality. However, Tamar reveals that Judah is the father of her child, and he acknowledges his wrongdoing.

Tamar gives birth to twins, Perez and Zerah. Perez becomes an ancestor of King David and ultimately of Jesus Christ.

What’s the Main Point?

Genesis 38 tells the story of Judah, one of Jacob’s sons. Judah marries a Canaanite woman named Shua and has three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah.

What Can We Learn from This Chapter?

The story of Genesis 38 is significant for several reasons. It illustrates the importance of fulfilling one’s obligations and promises, as well as the consequences of not doing so. It also highlights the cultural and legal practices of the time, such as the duty to produce offspring in a deceased brother’s name. Additionally, the story foreshadows the importance of Judah and his descendants in the lineage of Jesus Christ. It gives us life lessons as well.

Firstly, the story highlights the importance of fulfilling promises and obligations. Judah failed to keep his promise to Tamar and it resulted in her taking drastic actions to ensure her rights were protected. This serves as a reminder for us to honor our commitments and to act justly towards others.

Second, Tamar’s story illustrates the importance of perseverance and resilience in the face of difficulty. Tamar persevered and managed to preserve her rights despite experiencing cultural obstacles and being twice widowed. This serves as a reminder that we are capable of overcoming difficulties and resolving difficult situations if we have faith and perseverance.

Finally, the narrative in Genesis 38 serves as a reminder of the value of honesty and integrity. When Tamar’s pregnancy is discovered, she might have chosen to remain silent about the father’s identity, but she chooses to come clean. Judah does the same thing, admitting his error and accepting responsibility for his deeds. This reminds us to always be truthful and accept responsibility for our mistakes.


Dear God, as we reflect on the story of Tamar in Genesis 38, we are reminded of the importance of perseverance and trust in your plan. Tamar faced challenges and injustices but ultimately held onto her faith and was blessed with descendants who became part of the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Help us to trust in your plan for our lives, even when we face difficulties or obstacles. May we be empowered by the story of Tamar to remain faithful to you and your will for our lives. Amen.

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Featured image attribution:

Portrait of Yehuda (Judah), son of Jacob. Horace Vernet, 1840. This image is in the public domain. Cropped from original.