A Tale of Two Tamars, Part 3

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A Tale of Two Tamars, Part 3:
Tamar the Daughter-in-Law of Judah:
Genesis 38:6-30

Copyright © May 4, 2011 Douglas W. Jerving.
All Rights Reserved.

In this series of articles we have been examining the lives of two women in the Old Testament. Both women were named Tamar. The first Tamar we investigated is actually the second in the historical records. In the next three articles we examine the life of Tamar from the patriarchal era in Genesis 38:6-30.

Introduction: Critique of Mosesí Critics

In studying the Old Testament (OT), Bible students have traditionally divided it into three major categories: the law (of Moses; i.e., the first five books known as the Pentateuch), the Prophets, and the Writings. The Prophets consist of the histories after Moses, known as the Former Prophets, and the prophetic writings themselves, the Latter Prophets. The Writings are the literature of ancient Israel. We do find vast historical passages within the all these divisions of scripture. This is evident in the Pentateuchal book of Genesis, which is almost entirely historical. It should be viewed as narrative prose with prophetic undercurrents.

The purpose of Genesis is foundational. Moses wrote it as a preface to the law that he gave to ancient Israel, because it gave them (and us) a historically accurate accounting of the how, where, and why of the Hebrew religion, and consequently, our own.

The foundational principles of Mosaism are elucidated in Genesis. The law set forth by Moses had itís origins in the religion of the Patriarchal clans descended from Abraham. Much of Mosesí doctrine came down to him from the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Jacobís twelve sons. At the direction of Yahweh Moses modified Patriarchal religion so that it reflected more perfectly, what Yahwehís plan was for a people called to love and serve Him.

As such, despite much of modern liberal theology, it is important that we remember that Patriarchal religion as expressed in Genesis is the reinterpretation of that era by Moses. It reflects their history accurately while at the same time uses as the underpinnings for his system. Moses uses Genesis as a preface for his Law. By it he trains the Hebrew people who came out of Egypt under his leadership to understand and evaluate Mosaic law as a continuation of Patriarchal law.

Viewed this way, we see that Mosaism, as all Biblical religion, is not so much evolutionary, contrary to liberal thought, so much as it is developmental. God reveals his plans and purposes to man in an historical way. It is catechetical. We learn and then we learn some more. We could really say at this point that true religion is revelational: it is the product of God revealing His will to man in successively greater ways. Thus, the book of Acts says that the times of ignorance God winked at, because His perfect will for men had not been fully revealed as it has now been in Christ.

In light of these considerations we attempt now to look at the story of Tamar the daughter-in-law of Judah, the son of Jacob. While the law of Moses was not yet in place in Patriarchal times, the text of Genesis 38 does show us that the basic ideas that later became a part of Mosaism did exist within their culture. Their value is recognized and brought into Mosaic law probably in a more sublime way then they had existed in the culture of the Patriarchs, but it did so exist, and have value. In essence, it was the legal precedent for the law of Moses.

Why is this important?

First, Genesis 38 is viewed by the critical scholars as probably the most difficult passage in Genesis. It breaks up the Joseph story for no apparent reason. But this fails to see it in light of the salvation history that Moses intended, as we shall see.

Second, many writers see no value in the Tamar story to our daily lives. There is no universal message that appeals to all ages, and people. This is far from the truth, as we shall again see.

Third, Tamarís story is a story of redemption. We see Godís sovereignty in sparing his elect from certain destruction, and restoring them to righteousness.

And then, finally, we the sovereignty of God in providing the lineage for the Messiah through whom redemption would come to Godís elect people.

In the next section we will delve deeper into the study of Tamar the daughter-in-law of Judah.


Doug Jerving is the publisher of the NewEdisonGazette.com. You may contact him at dje@newedisongazette.com.


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