Questions to Consider
2. What nationality was Judah’s wife (Shua’s daughter)? (2) Review previous lessons (links above) dealing with Abraham’s offspring taking Canaanite wives. What were some of the reasons it was problematic and undesirable for those in the Abrahamic Covenant to intermarry with the Canaanites?
3. What was Judah’s wife’s name? (2,12) How many sons did she have, and what were their names?
4. Who was Tamar, and what was her relationship to Er and to Judah? (6) What happened to Tamar’s first husband? (7) What was Onan’s relationship to Tamar? What did Judah instruct Onan to do after Er died? (8)
5. Verse 8 is the first instance we see in the Bible of levirate marriage. God later codified this practice into Israel’s law. What was the purpose of levirate marriage? How did it protect both the widow and the posterity of the family line? Put yourself in the sandals of an Old Testament woman involved in a levirate marriage situation. Describe some of the circumstances you might face, and the thoughts and emotions you might experience.
6. What happened with Tamar’s second husband? Explain verses 9-10 in your own words. What was Onan’s sin? Was it sexual sin or something else? (9) What does Onan’s sin tell us about his character as a man and as a husband?
7. Describe Tamar’s husbands and her experience with marriage thus far as she might describe it. Think back over Rachel’s, Leah’s, and Sarah’s desperation to have children as a reflection of the pressure that culture put on women to prove their worth and value through bearing sons. Could Tamar have been feeling that same sort of desperation, especially since she had gone through the “right channels” (levirate marriage) and had been cheated out of her legal recourse?
8. Explain in your own words the situation with Tamar marrying Shelah, Judah’s third, and only living son. (11, 14b, 26) Had Tamar followed Judah’s instructions? Had Judah kept his word to her? Briefly explain how Tamar had been let down by Er, Onan, and now Judah.
9. Read verses 13-26. What was Tamar’s plan? Was it premeditated? In what way(s) did Tamar sin in this situation? Did Tamar’s desperation and hopelessness over her situation and her mistreatment by Judah and his sons justify her sin?
10. Make a list of Judah’s sins against Tamar and against God, including any Scripture references you can recall of biblical principles he violated. Consider how Judah’s hypocrisy and judgment of Tamar in verses 24-26 is an example of the unbiblical judgment and hypocrisy Matthew 7:1-5 talks about. Describe how Judah could have treated Tamar in a godly way.
11. Did Judah’s sins against Tamar justify her own sin? If someone sins against you, is it OK with God if you act sinfully in response? How did Jesus act when He was sinned against by the Pharisees, Judas, and others? How can we follow His example, and why is it important for Christians to respond in a godly way to ungodly people and situations?
12. Compare and contrast Tamar’s mistreatment at the hands of men, and her response to the situation, with the current clamor in evangelicalism to respond to misogyny (both real and perceived) in the church. How does Tamar’s story teach us the importance of responding to misogyny and abuse in a godly and biblical way rather than taking matters into our own hands and doing what seems right in our own eyes?
Tamar was let down by an evil first husband, a second husband who didn’t want the responsibility of her and only wanted to use her for sex, and a father in law who broke his promise to her. Desperate for offspring, Tamar took matters into her own hands rather than trusting and obeying God. Compare the way Tamar took matters into her own hands with the way Sarah took matters into her own hands when she couldn’t conceive. What were the outcomes? Describe a time when you were in a difficult situation and were tempted to handle things your own way rather than trusting and obeying God. Explain why the cliché “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” would be better changed to “Desperate times call for prayer, obedience, and trusting God.”
Suggested Memory Verse
Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.