Genesis 38 is really outside our American culture. It is about Judah. Remember, Jesus comes from the tribe of Judah and is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Plus, to this day, the people of Israel are called Jews, those from the tribe of Judah. Remember that Judah is the one who suggests to sell Joseph instead of kill him. Judah is corrupted, but not a murderer. Possibly Judah was the best of the whole bunch and God knew He could work His plan through Judah even if he was corrupted. This reminds me that Jesus was sold by a “brother”, Judas, and rejected by his corrupted family, the Jewish religious elite, who manipulated outsiders, the Romans, to imprison and kill Jesus.
Judah leaves his brothers and tribe to live with pagans and gets a Canaanite wife….another prodigal son. Judah had 3 sons. The eldest son marries Tamar. He dies without any children. Custom required his brother to lie with Tamar that she might birth a son to lead her household and replace her previous husband. The second son laid with her but spilled his seed because he did not want to give her a son to replace his brother’s rights and inheritance. He dies. Judah is fearful that if he gives Tamar his third son, he will die also. So, he deceives her saying his third son was not yet of age and then stalling. Tamar sees the deception and goes back to live with her own father.
Years later after the death of his wife, Judah goes “to town”. At the gate, he hires a temple prostitute..and leaves his seal, cord, and staff with her to ensure payment of a goat later. What he does not know is that this woman is really Tamar tricking him to get what is rightfully hers….a promised son. Later, Judah is told that Tamar is pregnant due to prostitution and he determines to have her killed for immorality. Tamar shows him his own seal, cord, and staff as the sign of the father of the pregnancy. Judah judges that she is more right than him, because he does owe her a child and had withheld one.
Tamar has twins. The first to be partially born with an extended arm had a red string tied to his wrist, but the other child actually completed birth first. The child with the red string was Zerah meaning brightness. The child who actually pressed through to completed birth was Perez meaning to break forth or breach. Together, they mean breaking forth brightness, to be a breach. Jesus breaks forth in brightness. Jesus is born of the line of Perez.
Another mess for Jacob’s tribe…first Joseph sold and Jacob told he is dead…and now this with Judah. The generations have been sliding into wickedness since Abraham…and now acting like pagans. But, God made a covenant promise and has a plan…and He will continue to work it out in spite of their failings.
It is also of prophetic significance because goats were used in sacrifice as well as lambs. During one of their feasts, they offered 2 goats…the chosen one was sacrificed and the other one was tied with a red cord and sent out into the wilderness to bear the sins of the people away. Jesus is our blood sacrifice to bear sins for both the Jew and the Gentile as our Savior, our hope, our light in a dark place, our morning star…our breaking forth in brightness. AND, He is the son of man as well as the Son of God….He is born of the line of a prostitute woman…..a Jewish people who broke covenant with God the Father, yet He remains faithful. God gives us His Word, seal, cord, and staff in Jesus, His promised Messiah!