Monday Dec. 9
Scripture: Genesis 38
Tamar is the first of five women mentioned by Matthew in the genealogy of Jesus. Her name is one of the first to appear in the New Testament. Just as the genealogy of Matthew’s Gospel is often skipped over in favor of the Christmas story that follows (1:18-25), the story of Tamar is usually bypassed by modern readers of Genesis.
Why? For one thing it interrupts the story of Joseph, a multi-chapter story that we frequently tell to children.
Cover the children’s eyes and ears, though, when you get to Genesis 38!
As we say in the third chapter of From Heaven to Earth, this story (understandably) makes us uncomfortable. And while we might prefer to dwell on “happy” things in this season (we love to distract ourselves), studying this passage raises some important questions. Not comfortable or easy questions. But questions that matter.
Some of the most important questions have to do with the assumptions that Judah (in the story) and we (the readers) make. Many readers assume that this is a story about how Tamar seduced Judah. That’s far too simplistic and leaves out some important (and difficult) parts. It’s Judah who assumes that this woman, whose face he cannot see, is a prostitute. He approaches her. And he is, shall we say, very forward. You can read what he says for yourself in Genesis 38:16, but it doesn’t look like there was any seducing to be done. Judah already knows what he wants to do.
Upon closer examination, Tamar’s actions and intentions are not nearly as clear as many interpreters have made them to be. Could it be that we too have relied too much on our assumptions when we talk about this chapter?
This is also true in our daily living. Where have we built our lives on unexamined assumptions? Have we made assumptions about certain people? Are we living based on assumptions about the way things are and how the world works? In what areas of our lives do we need God’s help to take a closer look?
We must also spend some time reflecting on the double standard in this story. Why was Judah ready to have Tamar put to death for allegedly being a prostitute while seeming completely untroubled at his own behavior? Indeed, when he saw Tamar and assumed that she was a prostitute, there was no moral dilemma. He simply went after what he wanted.
This is an odd story for Matthew to allude to in the opening of his Gospel. It’s certainly a strange one to be reflecting on in Advent. But sin hides in the unexamined corners of our lives. Perhaps this story is an invitation to help us confront things we don’t want to and bring the hidden things into God’s light.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see everything in your light and to seek the truth, even (especially) when it’s difficult. Amen.