Yesterday I read the following tweet from Mark Driscoll:
And when I read it, I let out a huge sigh.
Because of all the people Driscoll could’ve chosen from the genealogy of Jesus to make his point, he just had to pick Tamar.
As a woman, I get tired of people—especially influential men—picking on Tamar.
On the surface, when viewed through our 21st-century Western lens, Tamar might seem like a natural candidate for the title of Israel’s Most Ignominious. I mean, who disguises themselves as a prostitute in order to seduce their father-in-law?
Well, in Tamar’s day, a righteous woman might.
Previously on “Tamar: The Untold Story”…
Our story (see Genesis 38) actually begins with Jacob’s son, Judah. (A man who, when he was younger, sold his brother Joseph into slavery out of spite.)
Judah has now left his family and married a Canaanite woman named Shua, who bears him three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah.
When Er comes of age, Judah “takes” Tamar as Er’s wife.
But Er is so evil, the LORD strikes him dead.
Judah commands his second son, Onan, to perform his levirate duty and raise up an offspring for his dead brother.
But Onan would prefer to keep Er’s inheritance for himself, so he uses Tamar’s body for his own pleasure, but refuses to provide her with a son.
The LORD didn’t like that one bit, so he killed Onan too.
Judah fears that Tamar is cursed, so he deceives her into thinking he will provide Shelah as a husband for her, when he really has no intention of ever doing so.
Not only does Tamar have to take the blame for her two evil husbands dying, but she also has to carry the shame of childlessness. Not to mention that without a male heir, she will be left without provision, protection, or inheritance.
It’s difficult for us today to understand just how desperate Tamar’s situation was.
It’s also difficult for us to appreciate how courageous—not carnal—Tamar’s “I’ll Pose as a Prostitute” plan was.
Tamar inspires me. Because as powerless and marginalized as she was, she refused to play the victim. Instead she utilized her brains and her body to make right what was wrong.
In the end, even Judah had to admit, “Tamar is more righteous than I.” (v.26)
So why, when Mark Driscoll wrote his tweet, did he not say, “The genealogy of Jesus includes Judah to show that even the best families are still sinful families that need a Savior?”
Maybe he chose Tamar over Judah because our society—just like Tamar’s—employs a bias against women when it comes to sexual sin.
(I didn’t even elaborate on the part of the story where Judah, although he has slept with (who he thinks is) a prostitute, cries for Tamar to be “brought out and burned” as soon as he hears that she has become a prostitute.)
It’s tragic enough that Tamar had to endure the gossipy tittering of others during her lifetime. Let’s not add insult to injury by subjecting her name to slanderous Twittering today.
I find it fascinating that all five women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary) lived lives marked by sexual scandal. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
And there’s Tamar, at the front of the line.
A woman who suffered unjust accusation and became a scapegoat for the sins of those in power. A woman who willingly took on the scorn of shame for a time, in order to restore honor to her family and provide an inheritance for them.
Sounds a lot like the man whose birth inspired that genealogy to be written in the first place.