“This one came out first.”
Family responsibilities have changed since the time of Jacob and Judah. When a man died childless in those days, his brother was expected to marry the widow and father a child to carry on his brother’s line. Thus, after his older brothers died, Judah’s youngest son was expected to provide his sister-in-law Tamar with a child. But Judah wanted Tamar to wait until that son, Shelah, was older, so Judah abandoned her to be a widow.
Some time after his own wife died, Judah went to someone he thought was a prostitute, but it turned out to be Tamar claiming her rights. When she became pregnant by him, Judah admitted he had been irresponsible. So in this strange way Judah provided children for his long-dead son.
God also used this strange episode to bring good out of something that had gone bad. The son who became the firstborn, Perez, became an ancestor of David, in whose line Christ was born (see Matthew 1:3-6).
Later Judah showed he had learned something from this chapter in his life. Judah volunteered to be kept as a slave so that his youngest brother, Benjamin, could go free (Genesis 44:14-24). In other words, Judah had learned to put others ahead of himself. And this led to reconciliation: Judah helped to restore Joseph to his father and to the rest of his brothers (45:25-46:7).
Bless us, Lord, to honor Jesus today, who made himself least among us all. Open our hearts to your ways of forgiveness and reconciliation so that we may bless others. Amen.
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