At Christmas we read the very long genealogy of Jesus and since I was very young, I always anticipate the naming of the five women mentioned. Ordinarily, women were not included in the genealogies of the first century, so Matthew is unique in his identification of these women as significant in Jesus' lineage.
Like all of us, Jesus had some real characters, who on the surface, maybe should not have been linked with the Savior. Perhaps by adding them to His lineage ( rather than the holy Rebecca or Esther) the Lord is telling us we can all be redeemed.
The first woman named is TAMAR (Genesis 38) who bore Perez and Zerah by Judah. Due to the shenanigans of her dead husband's family, she resorted to some wiles of her own. Tamar was the widowed daughter-in-law of Judah who disguised herself as a prostitute in order to trick Judah into impregnating her and giving her a son who would tie her to her dead husband's family. Under Jewish law, Judah and his sons had sinned against Tamar, so she was seeking what was hers by right.
|Tamar & Onan- Tiarini|
Tamar is first described as marrying Judah's eldest son, Er. Because of his wickedness, Er was killed by God. Thus according to the law, Judah asked his second son, Onan, to provide offspring for Tamar so that the family line might continue. Because Onan practiced a form of contraception, Tamar did not become pregnant. For a Jewish woman this meant disgrace, because people thought that being childless was a punishment from God.
Onan's actions were deemed wicked by God and so, like his older brother, he died prematurely. (Would you want to stay in this family??) At this point, Judah is portrayed as viewing Tamar to be cursed, and is therefore reluctant to give his remaining and youngest son Shelah, to her. He told Tamar to wait for Shelah, but even after he grew up, Judah did not give him to Tamar in marriage.
At the time Shelah grew up, Judah became a widower. After Judah mourned the death of his wife, he planned on going to Timnah to shear his sheep. Upon hearing this news, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and immediately went to Enaim which was en route to Judah's destination. Upon arriving at Enaim, Judah saw the woman but did not recognize her as Tamar because of the veil she wore over her face.
|Tamar & Judah- Jacopo Tintoretto|
Thinking she was a prostitute, he requested her services. Tamar's plan was to become pregnant by this ruse in order to bear a child in Judah's line, because Judah had not given her to his son Shelah. So she played the part of a prostitute and struck a deal with Judah for a goat with a security deposit of his staff, seal, and cord. The seal, cord and staff were symbols of a man's identity, items of great personal worth, and it is astonishing that Judah gave them up.
What was the man thinking of ??
When Judah was able to have a goat sent to Enaim, in order to collect his staff and seal, the woman was nowhere to be found and no one knew of any prostitute in Enaim.
Three months later, Tamar was accused of prostitution on account of her pregnancy. Upon hearing this news, Judah ordered that she be burned to death. Tamar sent the staff, seal, and cord to Judah with a message declaring that the owner of these items was the man who had made her pregnant. Upon recognizing his security deposit, Judah released Tamar from her sentence. Tamar's place in the family and Judah's posterity secured, she gives birth to twins, Perez and Zerah. The midwife marks Zerah's hand with a scarlet cord when it emerges from the womb first but it slips back into the womb and Perez is born first. Perez is the ancestor of King David.
|Tamar- A. Bouguereau|
What we discover from the genealogy of Jesus is not just that He was indeed human, as well as divine, but that He descended from a line of people which included very strong, resilient, loyal, and faithful women. Women we would be proud of in our own lineage.