Tuesday, 10 September 2013
Reading the Bible 30: Genesis 38 – What is displeasing in the Sight of the Lord?
The account of Judah and Tamar (as the passage in my bible is headed) has been inserted into the story of Joseph. We have left Joseph being sold as a slave to Potiphar one of the Pharaoh’s officials with Jacob is mourning his apparent death. This passage could have been introduced with the phrase, ’meanwhile back at the ranch’. We are now introduced to a new branch of the family. Judah has married a Adulamite woman (who doesn’t happen to be named – not important in the narrator’s eyes apparently) and they have started a family. We now have an example of family values of a different kind indeed.
Reading the account of Judah and Tamar I must wonder how anyone could question that the bible must be put into context to be understood. Here we have an account of a widow - Tamar being required by custom/law to have intercourse with her brothers-in-law - Onan; of a father (Judah) ‘going into’ h is daughter-in-law (Tamara) through deception – Judah only thought she was a temple prostitute so no harm done; the practice of Onanism being established as a form of birth control (again with a sister-in-law). Judah also righteously is going to condemn Tamara to death because she has ‘played the whore’ and become pregnant outside the bounds of holy matrimony (as they existed them) – no hypocrisy or double standard there.And what is God doing while all this is happening? We hear that Er, Judah’s first born is put to death by God because he was evil in God’s sight. We have to wonder what terrible thing he did to bring down God’s wrath on him. I would hazard a guess it wasn’t something such as not upholding the family values of today judging by the fact that God doesn’t seem concerned by all the carryings-on in the story. Soory, I spoke too soon. God did also strike down Onan for his terrible act of not impregnating his sister-in-law so perhaps all was not well with Judah and his family.
Apparently cultural context does matter when we are considering how we relate to others and how God views what is good in his sight.