Mar 22, 2008

Tamar and Judah

April 10,2008,  Class #6 

We are studying Tamar because of the verse Ruth 4:12  “may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah”

Here are a couple early texts about Judah to review.

Texts in Genesis
  • 29:35   Judah (Alter)  This time I shall sing praise to the Lord.  (she no longer expresses hope of winning husband’s affection – just gives thanks to God for her offspring)
  • 37:26/7            Judah says what do we gain by killing him – sell him to the Ishmaelites
    • (Alter 5) “A dubious expression of brotherhood, to sell someone into the ignominy and perilously uncertain future of slavery”

Then read Gen 38 2-30 carefully.   We talked about some of the following
    • 2          Judah marries bat Shua (Canaanite)
      • (RTWoTB)  Commentators ancient and modern say Judah’s troubles come from marriage to Canaanite, but no evidence of this in the bible – he has three sons –
      • All of Jacob’s sons will need to marry outside core family
    • 6-11     Tamar marries Er, sons dies, “lest he too die like his brothers” – does Judah blame Tamar?  In any event, he shows no grief at sons’ deaths.
      • Judah does not know what the narrator knows and he appears to blame Tamar
      • (RTWoTB)  He could have released Tamar from levirate, or performed the duty himself,  but did not – he binds her to his family without providing for her future
      • Tamar might have been Canaanite, Aramean, Mesopotamian
      • sons die by their own actions
    • 12        bat Shua dies –
      • sheep sheering is occasion for festivities
      • (ABN)  “A long while afterward” – backing up Tamar’s perception that she is deliberately neglected.
    • 13-24   Tamar and Judah  (19, still in widow’s garb!
      • Tamar places herself at petah eynayim “opening of the eyes”
      • 16  (Alter 5)  “let me come to be with you – brutally direct – no pretence of politeness
      •  (RTWoTB)  zonah prostitutes were not veiled – Tama uses veil only as disguise
      • (RTWoTB and ITWOG)  qedesha – woman attached to temple rather than to family – contemporary scholarship does not believe they were prostitutes – they had temple duties – but they were free to have sexual encounters – no evidence for religious sexual cult activity in Canaan and Israel – story mostly comes from Herodotus (talking about Babylon, not Syria or Israel) and not accurate.  All later Roman and Christian allegations come from H..
      • 16-18   (ABN) Tamar is a hard headed business woman
      • 17  Tamar cleverly takes pledges so she can prove paternity
      • 18   Seal and cord and staff like modern credit cards
      • (RTWoTB)  Judah looking for qedesha could have been looking for her for other duties – this save him face
    • 25        Judah says “burn her!” – precipitous haste, imperative.  In Hebrew just two words: hotzi’uha vetisaef
      • vehi mutz’et “she was being brought out” a rare passive participle
      • (RTWoTB)  people might mock Judah for allowing his daughter in law to become pregnant by a man outside his household
    • 26        “she is more in the right than I.
      • (RTWoTB)  Tamar acts unconventionally in such a way as to force Judah to fulfill his levirate function – incest prohibition is lifted for levirate.
      • levirate is over once the widow is pregnant.
      • (RTWoTB)  her boldness, initiative and willingness to defy society’s expectations enable God to provide Judah with two new sons.
      • (RTWoTB)  she makes it possible for Judah’s lineage to thrive and develop into a major tribe and eventually to lead to David.
      • Etz Hayyim says Tamar did not embarrass Judah and therefore he reacted nobly and was able to admit his guilt – but PW suggests that being pregnant was a pretty public humiliation, and Judah behaved nobly in spite of the humiliation
      • How much is Tamar responsible for turning Judah around – from brother-seller to family spokesman and leader?
    • 27-30   twins, Perez breeches to be first
      • No more about Tamar or sons until Ruth.
      • Tamar and Ruth occupy important roles, but within the patrilineal structure
We did not talked about some of this which is interesting if we want to see development of Judah’s character, but we did not get t all of it.
  • 42        Brothers first trip to Egypt
    • 24        Joseph takes Simeon – Judah not mentioned
    • 37        Reuben says “you may kill my two sons”  (ABN)  “one understands why Reuben the first born will be passed over and why the line of kings will descend from Judah”
  • 43:3-8  Judah reappears           .  Send Benjamin in my care, I am surety
  • 44:33   Judah offers himself as slave in Benjamin’s place
    • (ABN) Judah will now do anything in order not to see his father suffer again
  • 45        Joseph can no longer control himself and breaks down crying
  • 49: 8-12           Blessing of Judah by Isaac
    • Note what happens to Simeon and Levi – this does not look like the Exodus story of Levites.

We briefly reviewed Lot’s daughters and Rachel and Leah –
  • Look at the genealogy –the story has coherence and logic in a way larger than individual meanings
  • Note that the Davidic story bypasses the Levites.
  • Lot’s daughters: story of sexual depravity or brave and cleaver women?
  • Rachel and Leah – are they tricky and strong, or weak?

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