Jesus’ Family Tree: Tamar’s Story

Tamar was the first woman mentioned in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ genealogy. Ur, Tamar’s first husband, was extremely wicked. For this reason, the most merciful and patient God killed him. Ur’s wickedness suggests Tamar must have been in an abusive marital relationship. After Ur’s death, tradition required Tamar to marry her late husband’s younger brother, Onan. 

Onan married Tamar according to tradition, but he was selfish, greedy, and did not consider Tamar’s need for a child. He did not want his family’s lineage to continue through Tamar. Like Ur, God saw Onan’s wickedness and killed him.

After Onan’s death, Tamar still could not move on with her life. She had to wait for Shelah, Onan’s younger brother to grow up so she could marry him, have a child, then move on with her life. Having lost two sons, Tamar’s father-in-law was concerned. He did not want his only living son Shelah to marry Tamar; neither was he willing to let Tamar marry into another family. Here, we see Tamar—the victim, being discriminated against. She was treated like she was responsible for the death of her late husbands.

When Tamar realized she was stuck, she decided to avenge herself by having sex with her father-in-law. She disguised herself as a prostitute and committed incest, deliberately. The incestuous union produced twin brothers Perez and Zerah. 

It is interesting that this is the story of the first woman listed in Jesus’ genealogy. Tamar was traumatized, abused, rejected, a victim of tradition, and she was not perfect. Yet, God saw fit to have her in Jesus’ lineage. God did not let Tamar’s story and sin disqualify her. Tamar’s story assures us that God is not ashamed, nor afraid, of our imperfect lives and stories. Every life matters to God. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us because we matter (Romans 5:8).

Romans 15:4 (NIV) says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

Tamar’s story was written to give us hope. Regardless of our shortcomings and shameful past, God wants us to be encouraged and know that we matter to him. 

Journey with me as we briefly study and reflect on Tamar’s life over the next three days. I pray that you will be encouraged, receive God’s correction with an open heart, and hope will arise in you.

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