Biblical text with discussion questions

Genesis 38:6-27

6 Judah got a wife for Er his first-born; her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah's first-born, was displeasing to God, and God took his life. 8 Then Judah said to Onan, "Join with your brother's wife and do your duty by her as a brother-in-law, and provide offspring for your brother [see sidebar on levirate marriage]." 9 But Onan, knowing that the seed would not count as his, let it go to waste whenever he joined with his brother's wife, so as not to provide offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was displeasing to God, and God took his life also. 11 Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, "Stay as a widow in your father's house until my [last] son Shelah grows up" — for he thought, "He too might die like his brothers." So Tamar went to live in her father's house.

12 A long time afterward, Shua's daughter, the wife of Judah, died. When his period of mourning was over, Judah went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, with his friend Hirah the Adullamite.13 And Tamar was told, "Your father-in-law is coming up to Timnah for the sheepshearing." 14 So she took off her widow’s garb, covered her face with a veil, and, wrapping herself up, sat down at the entrance to Enayim [“Petach Enayim”], which is on the road to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him as wife. 15 When Judah saw her, he took her for a harlot; for she had covered her face. 16 So he turned aside to her by the road and said, "Here, let me sleep with you" — for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. "What," she asked, "will you pay for sleeping with me?" 17 He replied, "I will send a kid from my flock." But she said, "You must leave a pledge until you have sent it." 18 And he said, “What pledge shall I give you?" She replied, "Your seal and cord, and the staff which you carry." So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she conceived by him. 19 Then she went on her way. She took off her veil and again put on her widow's garb.

20 Judah sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite, to redeem the pledge from the woman; but he could not find her. 21 He inquired of the people of that town, "Where is the cult prostitute, the one at Enaim, by the road?" But they said, "There has been no prostitute here." 22 So he returned to Judah and said, "I could not find her; moreover, the townspeople said: There has been no prostitute here." 23 Judah said, "Let her keep them, lest we become a laughingstock. I did send her this kid, but you did not find her."

24 About three months later, Judah was told, "Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot; in fact, she is with child by harlotry." "Bring her out," said Judah, "and let her be burned." 25 As she was being brought out, she sent this message to her father-in-law, "I am with child by the man to whom these belong." And she added, "Recognize these: whose seal and cord and staff are these?" 26 Judah recognized them, and said, "She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah." And he was not intimate with her again. 27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twins in her womb.

(JPS translation, edited)

ו וַיִּקַּח יְהוּדָה אִשָּׁה, לְעֵר בְּכוֹרוֹ; וּשְׁמָהּ, תָּמָר.  ז וַיְהִי, עֵר בְּכוֹר יְהוּדָה--רַע, בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה; וַיְמִתֵהוּ, יְהוָה.  ח וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה לְאוֹנָן, בֹּא אֶל-אֵשֶׁת אָחִיךָ וְיַבֵּם אֹתָהּ; וְהָקֵם זֶרַע, לְאָחִיךָ.  ט וַיֵּדַע אוֹנָן, כִּי לֹּא לוֹ יִהְיֶה הַזָּרַע; וְהָיָה אִם-בָּא אֶל-אֵשֶׁת אָחִיו, וְשִׁחֵת אַרְצָה, לְבִלְתִּי נְתָן-זֶרַע, לְאָחִיו.  י וַיֵּרַע בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה; וַיָּמֶת, גַּם-אֹתוֹ. יא וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה לְתָמָר כַּלָּתוֹ שְׁבִי אַלְמָנָה בֵית-אָבִיךְ, עַד-יִגְדַּל שֵׁלָה בְנִי--כִּי אָמַר, פֶּן-יָמוּת גַּם-הוּא כְּאֶחָיו; וַתֵּלֶךְ תָּמָר, וַתֵּשֶׁב בֵּית אָבִיהָ.  יב וַיִּרְבּוּ, הַיָּמִים, וַתָּמָת, בַּת-שׁוּעַ אֵשֶׁת-יְהוּדָה; וַיִּנָּחֶם יְהוּדָה, וַיַּעַל עַל-גֹּזְזֵי צֹאנוֹ הוּא וְחִירָה רֵעֵהוּ הָעֲדֻלָּמִי--תִּמְנָתָה.  יגוַיֻּגַּד לְתָמָר, לֵאמֹר:  הִנֵּה חָמִיךְ עֹלֶה תִמְנָתָה, לָגֹז צֹאנוֹ.  יד וַתָּסַר בִּגְדֵי אַלְמְנוּתָהּ מֵעָלֶיהָ, וַתְּכַס בַּצָּעִיף וַתִּתְעַלָּף, וַתֵּשֶׁב בְּפֶתַח עֵינַיִם, אֲשֶׁר עַל-דֶּרֶךְ תִּמְנָתָה:  כִּי רָאֲתָה, כִּי-גָדַל שֵׁלָה, וְהִוא, לֹא-נִתְּנָה לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה.  טו וַיִּרְאֶהָ יְהוּדָה, וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לְזוֹנָה:  כִּי כִסְּתָה, פָּנֶיהָ.  טז וַיֵּט אֵלֶיהָ אֶל-הַדֶּרֶךְ, וַיֹּאמֶר הָבָה-נָּא אָבוֹא אֵלַיִךְ, כִּי לֹא יָדַע, כִּי כַלָּתוֹ הִוא; וַתֹּאמֶר, מַה-תִּתֶּן-לִי, כִּי תָבוֹא, אֵלָי.  יזוַיֹּאמֶר, אָנֹכִי אֲשַׁלַּח גְּדִי-עִזִּים מִן-הַצֹּאן; וַתֹּאמֶר, אִם-תִּתֵּן עֵרָבוֹן עַד שָׁלְחֶךָ.  יח וַיֹּאמֶר, מָה הָעֵרָבוֹן אֲשֶׁר אֶתֶּן-לָךְ, וַתֹּאמֶר חֹתָמְךָ וּפְתִילֶךָ, וּמַטְּךָ אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדֶךָ; וַיִּתֶּן-לָהּ וַיָּבֹא אֵלֶיהָ, וַתַּהַר לוֹ.  יט וַתָּקָם וַתֵּלֶךְ, וַתָּסַר צְעִיפָהּ מֵעָלֶיהָ; וַתִּלְבַּשׁ, בִּגְדֵי אַלְמְנוּתָהּ.  כוַיִּשְׁלַח יְהוּדָה אֶת-גְּדִי הָעִזִּים, בְּיַד רֵעֵהוּ הָעֲדֻלָּמִי, לָקַחַת הָעֵרָבוֹן, מִיַּד הָאִשָּׁה; וְלֹא, מְצָאָהּ.  כא וַיִּשְׁאַל אֶת-אַנְשֵׁי מְקֹמָהּ, לֵאמֹר, אַיֵּה הַקְּדֵשָׁה הִוא בָעֵינַיִם, עַל-הַדָּרֶךְ; וַיֹּאמְרוּ, לֹא-הָיְתָה בָזֶה קְדֵשָׁה.  כב וַיָּשָׁב, אֶל-יְהוּדָה, וַיֹּאמֶר, לֹא מְצָאתִיהָ; וְגַם אַנְשֵׁי הַמָּקוֹם אָמְרוּ, לֹא-הָיְתָה בָזֶה קְדֵשָׁה.  כג וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה תִּקַּח-לָהּ, פֶּן נִהְיֶה לָבוּז; הִנֵּה שָׁלַחְתִּי הַגְּדִי הַזֶּה, וְאַתָּה לֹא מְצָאתָהּ.  כדוַיְהִי כְּמִשְׁלֹשׁ חֳדָשִׁים, וַיֻּגַּד לִיהוּדָה לֵאמֹר זָנְתָה תָּמָר כַּלָּתֶךָ, וְגַם הִנֵּה הָרָה, לִזְנוּנִים; וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה, הוֹצִיאוּהָ וְתִשָּׂרֵף.  כה הִוא מוּצֵאת, וְהִיא שָׁלְחָה אֶל-חָמִיהָ לֵאמֹר, לְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-אֵלֶּה לּוֹ, אָנֹכִי הָרָה; וַתֹּאמֶר, הַכֶּר-נָא--לְמִי הַחֹתֶמֶת וְהַפְּתִילִים וְהַמַּטֶּה, הָאֵלֶּה.  כו וַיַּכֵּר יְהוּדָה, וַיֹּאמֶר צָדְקָה מִמֶּנִּי, כִּי-עַל-כֵּן לֹא-נְתַתִּיהָ, לְשֵׁלָה בְנִי; וְלֹא-יָסַף עוֹד, לְדַעְתָּהּ.  כז וַיְהִי, בְּעֵת לִדְתָּהּ; וְהִנֵּה תְאוֹמִים, בְּבִטְנָהּ.

Discussion Questions

  1. Some commentators suggest Tamar was selflessly carrying on the line of Judah, others that she is working for her own survival or benefit. Some portray her as brazenly sexual and others as pious. What do you think Tamar’s motives are?
  2. Choose one of these themes and discuss where you see it in the text, and in modern life:
    • using any means necessary to right the balance of power
    • fertility as a personal and social issue
    • hiddenness of the self in intimate or familial relationships

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Biblical text with discussion questions ." (Viewed on July 16, 2020) <https://jwa.org/node/22782>.

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