The story of Tamar is not one that is usually spoken of or easily understood. She was the daughter-in-law of Judah, Leah and Jacob’s son. While Joseph was in Egypt, his story is interrupted by one that could have easily been on reality television. Judah was the father to three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. He allowed his son to marry a non-Israelite woman named Tamar. After Er died, Tamar married Onan as was the custom (called levirate law) so that she could stay in the family and provide an heir. But Onan did not provide Tamar with a child and willfully stopped the process from happening, which angered God. When Judah saw that two of his sons were dead and his youngest was still young, he told Tamar to wait until Shelah was older.
The years passed and Tamar lived in widowhood. Had Judah forgotten her and his promise?
When Tamar heard that Shelah was of age but she had still not been presented to him, she took it upon herself to find Judah. With a veil over her head, she coaxed him into having intercourse and became pregnant with twins. The punishment for adultery could have cost her life but she had Judah’s signet and walking stick as proof of his participation. Judah’s words when he sees his possessions in her hands speak volumes of her character: “She has been more righteous than I” (Genesis 38:26). She gives birth to twin sons, Zerah and Perez, the latter would become the ancestor of the Messiah.
Tamar’s story is quite unorthodox but it shows us the amazing grace of God. He takes our broken pieces and still manages to use them. Judah had a hand in his younger brother being sold to the Egyptians and did not honor the command that Isaac his grandfather had instilled to not marry among the Canaanites. Instead God turned that situation around for good and Tamar is mentioned in Jesus’s genealogy. God sees our mistakes, yet He can still use us to fulfill His will when we come back to Him.