You’ve undoubtedly heard of my father-in-law, Judah. He was the fourth son of Jacob. His line would eventually produce the birth of David, the ancestor of the Messiah. He was one of Joseph’s brothers. I’m sure you’ve heard of him as well.
Quite a clan they were. Judah and his other brothers were jealous of Joseph and wanted to put an end to his life. They planned to kill him, but Reuben interceded, saying they should throw him in a cistern in the desert instead. It was Judah’s idea to sell him to a caravan of slave traders. He didn’t want Joseph’s blood on his hands.
Judah separated himself from his family. Joseph was also cut off, but not voluntarily. No doubt Judah felt remorse for what he’d been a part of. He settled in Adulla, where he married a Canaanite woman and they had three sons.
This is where I came in. A marriage was arranged between myself and his firstborn, Er. This man turned away from his God and his sin resulted in his death.
In my time, it was traditional for marriages to be arranged. It was also the Levitical marriage custom for a widow to marry her brother-in-law determined by age. The woman had no voice in this. It was prescribed by law. So I married Er’s brother, Onan. The reasoning behind this law was to protect the bloodline of the tribes of Israel.
I began to understand this when Onan refused to consummate our marriage. He was convinced that if he did, his own inheritance would be in jeopardy. Not trusting in the promises of God led to his death as well.
There was one more brother named Shela, but too young to marry. Judah sent me back to my father and promised that I would become Shela’s wife when he came of age. This put me in a difficult situation. As Shela grew older, so did I. I would not be permitted to marry another because of my engagement. I wondered if Judah feared for the life of his son – if maybe he thought I carried a curse which would completely wipe out his bloodline
Many years later, Judah’s wife died and he was deeply distressed by his loss. After his time of grieving was complete, he took a trip to the hill country of Timnah with his friend, Hirah. When I heard about this, I set my plan into action. Women didn’t have rights in those days, but I was determined to take matters into my own hands. I was running out of time. Soon I would no longer be able to have children.
I discarded my widow’s clothing and disguised myself as a temple prostitute – covering my face with a veil so Judah wouldn’t recognize me. I knew it wasn’t the right way to handle things, but I also knew that if a child was not produced from my womb, the tribe of Judah would never provide the Messiah.
It wasn’t long before Judah came to me and asked for my services. I requested payment. He said he would send a young goat. I asked for a down payment – something to seal the deal – his seal and cord along with his staff. He agreed. He then he slept with me.
As soon as he left, I removed the veil and escaped. I returned to wearing my widow’s clothes and within three months it was apparent that I was pregnant. The blood line would continue. When the news of my out of wedlock pregnancy reached Judah, I was accused of prostitution and death by burning.
I still possessed the staff and seal and they were the proof I needed to defend myself. When Judah saw them, he knew that he was the man who impregnated me. His only recourse was to admit his guilt and allow me to give birth to the twin boys growing inside me.
Many would say I did the wrong thing, but Judah was not putting His faith in God when he withheld his son Shela from me. If the line of Judah were to continue, it was necessary for me to intercede.
One of the twins, Perez, became the head of the leading clan in Judah and the ancestor of King David. The list of names was already ordained by God. He used me, a simple woman, to fulfill the promise He made to Judah’s forefathers.
God’s Word is true and He always keeps His promises.