Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again. –Gen. 38:26 NIV
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Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, who was later renamed Israel, had relocated to Adullam, where he married Shua, the daughter of a Canaanite man, who gave birth to three sons, Er, Onan and Shelah, for him – Gen. 38:1-5. The first two had been killed by Jehovah, who found them guilty of the act of wickedness, and Judah, fearing that the third may also die, if he was to have any sexual relationship with Tarah, who had been earlier married to his two sons, both, elder brothers of Shulah in succession. She had been initially married to Er, who was the first son, but having been killed by Jehovah for his wickedness, Judah had encouraged the second son, Onan, to take up his responsibility to his sister-in-law. He agreed to have sexual relationship with Tarah, but deliberately spilled his semen on the ground to avoid getting her pregnant, since he was aware that the offspring would not be his – Gen. 38:6-10.
Judah, in what he thought was a smart move, decided to prevent the third son from having similar relationship with Tamar, believing that he could also, by that action, go the way of his elder brothers. He thus advised her to wait at her parents house until he was old enough to take up his responsibility to the widow of his brothers, since according to him, Shelah was still young – Gen. 38:11. Although Shelah eventually became ripe for marriage, Judah did not keep his promise to Tamar, and this did not go unnoticed by her but she remained patient until her opportunity came calling – Gen. 38:14.
Judah had lost his wife and after his period of grief, went to Timnah in the company of his friend, Hirah the Adullamite, to visit the men who were helping him to shear his sheep. It was while on this visit that Tamar who had been earlier informed of the visit of her father-in-law, changed from her widow’s clothings, covered her face with a veil and sat down at the entrance of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah, where Judah on seeing her and thinking she was a prostitute, invited her over for a one night stand – Gen. 38:12-16. Although a fee of a young goat was agreed, the inability of Judah to pay up immediately, led to her agreeing to be paid at a later date, but she demanded for a collateral in the form of his seal with its cord, and his staff. Not reading much into her request and knowing that he was going to pay up his pledge, he accepted her conditions and slept with her. He did eventually send his pledge through his friend, the Adullamite, so he could retrieve the items that were pledged, but it could not be delivered, as everyone approached in an effort to identify her, confirmed that there was no prostitute that fitted that description in their vicinity, so he gave up – Gen. 38:17-23.
That single occasion was however, sufficient to get her pregnant, and three months later, information got to Judah that his daughter-in-law was pregnant. For someone who had been looking out for an excuse to prevent her from marrying his only remaining son, Shulah, he quickly accepted the allegation of prostitution levelled against her, and consented that she be burnt to death as penalty – Gen. 38:24.
Hang on a minute!, she must have said. She would be willing to accept her punishment, if the owner of the seal with its cord, and the staff could be identified, since that was the person with whom she committed the act, for which she was about being accused. Having recognised and admitted that the items she tendered belonged to the him, Judah quickly accepted his guilt and, and as revealed in the foundation scripture for today’s Devotional, he admitted that he was pronouncing judgement of unrighteousness on someone who was obviously more righteous than him. This may not be because he slept with a prostitute, but because his refusal to have his son marry her and still not release her had been the cause for her action – Gen. 38:25-26. The rest became history as Tamar eventually gave birth to a set of male twins, in what can be assumed to be a divine replacement of Judah’s two dead sons – Gen. 38:27-30.
Actions similar to that of Judah are associated with human beings today, and Christians are not exempted. Several people have been stigmatized for crimes which they were directly or indirectly left with no choice than to commit. There may be sufficient evidence that the crime was committed by the person been so accused, but such crimes would have been avoided, had someone else done the needful. In an attempt by some people to achieve personal but ignoble objectives, the knowledge of which cannot be shared with others, because of the desire to appear righteous, an innocent person is put in an unavoidable situation, that leaves such with no choice than to transgress the laws of Jehovah, while the one who created the situation, appears innocent and sometimes, even wants to quickly pronounce judgement of guilt. Tamar was lucky to have gathered evidence which was sufficient to indict Judah, but one can only imagine what the repercussion would have been, if she did not have such evidence, or worse still, if her emotional urge, which is very natural, had been satisfied by another man.
Human beings must learn to conduct their activities in a manner that will not leave others with no choice than to commit transgressions. All Jacob needed to have done was to convince his son, into refusing to have anything to do with Tamar and be willing to face the embarrassment associated with such act, but he would rather hold down the marital life of Tamar forever and place her in very difficult situation, physically, socially and emotionally. That person may without doubt have committed that act of unrighteousness, but true judgement, the type that Jehovah will administer, will not exonerate the one who created the situation that led the individual into such act of unrighteousness, as the latter will then be seen as a victim of a setup.
Avoid actions that will leave others with no choice than to commit errors, as that will be one of the ways you can be his keeper. May God save us all from situations that leave us with no choice than to commit acts of unrighteousness in Jesus name. Amen.