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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

August 10, 2016

Genesis 37:26:36, 38:1-26

  1. Verses 26-28. God, in His perfect timing, brings this caravan along to preserve Joseph’s life and take him where He wants him to be. Judah, like Reuben, did not relish killing Joseph. Yet he was not willing to let him go free either. He may have dreaded the prospect of Joseph receiving the rights of the first-born since he, Judah, was in line for Jacob’s blessing. His suggestion that the brothers sell Joseph implies that he knew slave trading was common in Egypt. The price agreed on for Joseph was the same price that God later specified the Israelites should pay for a slave between the ages of five and twenty years, under the Mosaic economy (Lev 27:5). The “twenty shekels of silver” is also intended to remind us of how Judas sold out Christ for 30 pieces of silver. This is not happenstance. Joseph’s life is designed to point to the life of the Lord Jesus.

  2. Verses 29-30. Reuben comes back to the pit, finds it empty, and panics. At this point we can discern his true motive in wanting to protect Joseph: He really was more concerned about protecting himself. As the oldest, he would have to answer to his father for whatever happened to his little brother. He was already in hot water with Jacob over the matter of sleeping with his concubine. He would have assumed that Joseph had escaped from the pit and fled for home, where he would tell Dad what happened. Joseph hadn’t known that Reuben was planning to rescue him. Now Reuben would be in even more trouble! That’s why when he hears what his brothers did, Reuben is quick to agree to their scheme. If he really was concerned about his brother he could have gone after the caravan and redeemed him.

  3. Verses 31-32. One sin leads to other sins. This becomes one of the most well-known cover-ups in the Bible. There is a sad irony in all this. Years earlier Jacob had deceived his father, Isaac, by offering him goat meat (27:16). Now his sons deceive him with the blood of a goat. The brothers undoubtedly prided themselves in the fact that they never said Joseph was dead. They simply “deceived” their father into believing this.

  4. Verses 33-35. Jacob felt the panic of losing his child. Imagine doing the funeral of your son. If you lost your child it would be devastating. The problem with Jacob in this text is not that he grieves, but that he refuses to be comforted. Never resist comfort. This life will bring many trials Where you won’t have folks to offer comfort, so when people do offer comfort receive it. We cannot wear our graves clothes forever. Now the family had a great secret. Families with great sin often don’t say a thing. The boys lived for years without ever telling their father what they did. Had Jacob believed more strongly in God’s revelations in Joseph’s dreams, he might not have jumped to the conclusion that Joseph was dead, and his sorrow might not have been as great. Jacob’s fears were groundless, but he did not realize this because he chose, in this instance, to live by sight rather than by faith.

  5. Verse 36. It was not coincidence that Joseph ended up in the home of one of the most responsible officers of Pharaoh’s administration. Hidden from the logic of man’s limited perspective, God was orchestrating His eternal and divine purposes for the preservation and deliverance of the people of Israel. God takes Joseph to Egypt to make him a great nation. But it would be 23 years of nightmare before Joseph’s dream and God’s ultimate plan for his life finally came to pass. God is never defeated by our deceit. Jacob deceived. Jacob was deceived. The brothers hated. They envied. They plotted. They lied. And when you get to the end of the chapter, God has placed Joseph exactly where he needs to be to accomplish God’s purposes. All of this points to the sovereignty of God. When you and I sin and go against the will of God, we don’t thwart the purpose of God. We thwart ourselves.

  6. Chapter 38:1-7. “Judah departed from his brothers, and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.” That didn’t happen accidentally. It involved a choice on Judah’s part. Judah saw a Canaanite woman, the daughter of a man named Shua (whose name probably means “riches” --her name is not given), and “he took her [in marriage] and went in to her” (38:2). The emphasis is clearly on the physical, not the spiritual. Judah saw her, he liked what he saw, her daddy was rich, so he decided to marry her. Instead of his parents having a say in this marriage and getting some counsel, Judah gets married anyway. Judah and his wife had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. They grew up and Judah took a wife for his oldest son, Er, named Tamar. So Judah, contrary to his great- grandfather Abraham’s strong warning, has picked a Canaanite wife for himself, and now for his son. Thus, it’s not surprising to read that Er was so evil that the Lord took his life. His sin is not mentioned, but he must have been a wicked man.

  7. Verses 8-11. Then Judah told his second son to go in to Tamar and perform his duty as a brother-in-law to her. This is called levirate marriage (from the Latin, “levir,” meaning “husband’s brother”), a common custom in the ancient Near East which was later codified in the Mosaic Law (Deut. 25:5-10). If a man died childless, his brother was to marry the widow and the first son was regarded as the heir of the deceased man. Onan apparently married Tamar, but he did not want to give his brother an heir, so he would interrupt the act of intercourse (which, by the way, is not a safe method of contraception). For his refusal to raise up an heir for his brother, God struck Onan dead. He was not struck dead for practicing birth control, but for his selfishness in wanting his brother’s inheritance for himself. Judah didn’t know why his sons were dropping dead. All he knew is, they married Tamar and died. So he wasn’t about to have his third son marry her. He told her to go back to her father’s house and wait until Shelah was old enough to marry, but he didn’t intend to go through with it (38:11). In Judah’s mind, Tamar was jinxed.

  8. Verses 12-19. Several years go by and Shelah is old enough to marry, but it’s becoming obvious to Tamar that Judah isn’t going to keep his word on the matter. Since she’s been twice widowed, her chances of finding a husband and having children are slim. Not having children was a disgrace, and as a childless widow, Tamar wouldn’t have been provided for when her parents died. So she concocts a plan to trick Judah into getting her pregnant so that she will be the mother of his heir. Judah’s wife had died, he had mourned for her, and now it was time for shearing his sheep. This was a festive time, “when sexual temptation would be sharpened by the Canaanite cult, which encouraged ritual fornication as fertility magic” (Derek Kidner, Genesis [IVP], p. 188). So Tamar took off her widow’s garments, dressed up as a cult prostitute, with a veil, and sat in a conspicuous place where she knew Judah would pass by. Sure enough, Judah saw her, assumed she was a prostitute, and solicited her services. Not expecting it to be Tamar, Judah was fooled by her disguise. They negotiated the price (one kid goat) and she took some collateral so that he would pay later. But it was the collateral, not the pay, she was after. She took his seal and cord--kind of like their Visa card. A man wore his special cylindrical seal on a cord around his neck, and when a business deal was transacted, he would roll it in hot wax to sign the deal. She also took Judah’s specially carved staff. They had sex, Tamar conceived, went home and put on her widow’s garments again.

  9. Verses 20-23. When Judah sent his payment by the hand of his friend, Hirah, he couldn’t find this prostitute. This put Judah and Hirah in an embarrassing situation. If Judah reported the theft of his seal and staff by a prostitute, or pressed looking for her, it would become public knowledge that a prostitute had gotten the best of him.

  10. Verses 24-26. Three months later, word comes that Tamar is pregnant because of harlotry. She is officially engaged to Shelah, Judah’s son. Even though Judah never intended to go through with the marriage (he thought Tamar was jinxed), he acts highly offended and calls for the death penalty. Tamar would be out of the picture and Shelah could take another woman as his wife. Or, it could be that Judah’s harsh reaction reflected the common double standard. Men could go to prostitutes all they wanted, but women had to remain faithful to their husbands. So he hypocritically condemned Tamar for the same sin of which he was guilty. Of course, in condemning her, he was really condemning himself. But Tamar had her bases covered. As they were taking her out to execute her, she calmly sent Judah’s seal and staff to him with the message, “I’m pregnant by the man to whom these things belong. Do you recognize them?” Judah was had. He admitted that he had been wrong in not giving Tamar to Shelah as he had promised.

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