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Genesis 38 (Bereshit)

Genesis 38

Genesis 38 (Bereshit) Summary

Genesis 38 (Bereshit) narrates the story of Judah, his sons, and Tamar. Judah leaves his brothers and marries Shua the Canaanite’s daughter. She births three sons – Er the firstborn, Onan and Shelah. Shelah is born in Chezib.

Er is evil and Onan does evil. Yehovah kills them both. Judah asks Tamar, Er and Onan’s wife, to wear widows’ clothes and return to her father. He promises to give her to Shelah.

When Shelah is grown his mother dies and Judah comforts himself. Hirah the Adullamite travels with Judah to his shearers at Timah. Tamar is informed about Judah’s travels.

She removes the widows’ clothes and veils herself. Judah, thinking she is a prostitute, negotiates to sleep with her. He offers terms she agrees but wants a pledge for the payment. Judah agrees and sleeps with her. Unknowingly he has impregnated Tamar his daughter-in-law. She leaves removes the veil and returns to the widows’ clothes.

Judah attempt to pay the prostitute but she cannot be located.

Three months later Judah discovers Tamar is pregnant. He sends for her to be punished. She provides evidence the children are his. He repents and never sleeps with her again. We are given the birth story of Perez and Zerah.

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Genesis 38 (Bereshit) Outline

Genesis 38 (Bereshit) can be navigated in three possible ways. (1) Jewish tradition of daily reading called Torah Portions, (2) Semitic literature, and (3) theme-based verses.

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Torah Portions:

  1. Fourth Reading vv. 1-30 – Parsha Vayeshev

Semitic Literature:

  1. Judah and Tamar

Verses Topics:

  1. v 1 – Judah leaves his brothers and camps near an Adullamite named Hirah
  2. vv 2-5 – Judah married Shua the Canaanite’s daughter. She births and names Er, Onan, and Shelah. Shelah was birthed in Chezib.
  3. vv 6-10 – Er, Judah’s firstborn, marries Tamar. Er is evil before Yehovah and He kills him. Onan is given Tamar to raise up seed for Er. He spills his seed instead of providing a son for Er. This is evil before Yehovah. Yehovah kills him, too.
  4. v 11 – Judah sends Tamar to her father and remain a widow until Shelah of age to marry.
  5. vv 12,13 – Judah’s wife dies. After comforting himself he travels to his shearers at Timah with Hirah the Adullamite.
  6. vv 13,14 – Tamar is informed about Judah’s journey. She removes the widow clothes and veils herself. She sits by the entrance to the springs. Shelah is grown.
  7. vv 15,16 – Judah thinks Tamar is a prostitute. He asks to sleep with Tamar. She begins the negations.
  8. vv 17-19 – He offers a goat. She requests a pledge. Judah agrees to giving his seal, cord, and staff. He sleeps with Tamar. She becomes pregnant. She removes the veil and returns to the widow’s clothes.
  9. vv 20,21 – Judah sends the goat with Hirah. He can’t locate the cult prostitute.
  10. vv 22,23 – Hirah returns to Judah with the news he could not find the cult prostitute. Judah responds.
  11. v 24 – Three months later Tamar is showing. Judah is informed she has been a prostitute. Judah judges her swiftly and harshly.
  12. vv 25, 26 – As Tamar is being brought to Judah she sends the seal, cord and staff and says the owner of them got her pregnant. He recognizes them and acknowledges her righteousness and his wrongdoing. He never sleeps with her again.
  13. vv 27-20 – The birth story of Perez and Zerah.

Genesis 38 (Bereshit) English Verses

Parsha Vayeshev #9
~ And he settled ~


→ Judah and Tamar

1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite *, whose name was Hirah *.
2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua *; and he took her, and went in unto her.
3 And she conceived, and bore a son; and he called his name Er *.
4 And she conceived again, and bore a son; and she called his name Onan *.
5 And she yet again bore a son, and called his name Shelah *; and he was at Chezib *, when she bore him.
6 And Judah took a wife for Er his first-born, and her name was Tamar *.
7 And Er, Judah’s first-born, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.
8 And Judah said unto Onan: ‘Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother unto her, and raise up seed to thy brother.’
9 And Onan knew that the seed would not be his; and it came to pass when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest he should give seed to his brother.
10 And the thing which he did was evil in the sight of the LORD; and He slew him also.
11 Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter-in-law: ‘Remain a widow in thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown up’; for he said: ‘Lest he also die, like his brethren.’ And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.
12 And in process of time Shua’s daughter, the wife of Judah, died; and Judah was comforted *, and went up unto his sheep- shearers to Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

Genesis 38.1-6, 12 Notes

v1 … Hirah חִירָֽה – Meaning uncertain comes from חָוַר chavar, meaning to be or grow white or pale

v1 … Adullamite  עֲדֻלָּמִ֖י – an inhabitant of Adullam

v2 … Shua  שׁ֑וּעַ – Meaning uncertain

v3 … Er עֵֽר – Meaning uncertain. from the root O.O.R, ur,  עוּר means to rouse oneself, awake

v4 … Onan פָּֽרֶץ – Meaning vigorous comes from an unused word אוֹן on pronounced one, meaning vigor, wealth

v5 … Shelah שֵׁלָ֑ה – Meaning uncertain. Come from  שָׁלָה  shalah or shale: meaning to be quiet or at ease. According to Nehemia Gordon it means child, offspring.

v5 … Chezib כְזִ֖יב a place in the plain of Judah?

v6 … Tamar תָּמָֽר meaning is uncertain. Comes from תֹּמֶר tomer: which comes from an unused word meaning palm tree, post
Out of its 24 appearances in the Tanak the name Tamar is also associated with two other Israelite women and a place south of the Dead Sea.

v12 … comforted וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם vayinahem – Although most English translations use the word comforted the root Hebrew root N.H.M. has a second meaning.  “The same grammatical form of this verb appears in many other places in the Bible (e.g., Gen. 6:6, Exod. 14:14) where it means “to regret.” ” Quoted from this source

13 And it was told Tamar, saying: ‘Behold, thy father-in-law goeth up to Timnah to shear his sheep.’
14 And she put off from her the garments of her widowhood, and covered herself with her veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in the entrance of Enaim, which is by the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she was not given unto him to wife.
15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot; for she had covered her face.
16 And he turned unto her by the way, and said: ‘Come, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee’; for he knew not that she was his daughter-in-law. And she said: ‘What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?’
17 And he said: ‘I will send thee a kid of the goats from the flock.’ And she said: ‘Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?’
18 And he said: ‘What pledge shall I give thee?’ And she said: ‘Thy signet and thy cord, and thy staff that is in thy hand.’ And he gave them to her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.
19 And she arose, and went away, and put off her veil from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.
20 And Judah sent the kid of the goats by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive the pledge from the woman’s hand; but he found her not.
21 Then he asked the men of her place, saying: ‘Where is the harlot, that was at Enaim by the wayside?’ And they said: ‘There hath been no harlot here.’
22 And he returned to Judah, and said: ‘I have not found her; and also the men of the place said: There hath been no harlot here.’
23 And Judah said: ‘Let her take it, lest we be put to shame; behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.’
24 And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying: ‘Tamar thy daughter-in-law hath played the harlot; and moreover, behold, she is with child by harlotry.’ And Judah said: ‘Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.’
25 When she was brought forth, she sent to her father-in-law, saying: ‘By the man, whose these are, am I with child’; and she said: ‘Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and the cords, and the staff.’
26 And Judah acknowledged them, and said: ‘She is more righteous than I; forasmuch as I gave her not to Shelah my son.’ And he knew her again no more.
27 And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb.
28 And it came to pass, when she travailed, that one put out a hand; and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying: ‘This came out first.’
29 And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold his brother came out; and she said: ‘Wherefore hast thou made a breach for thyself?’ Therefore his name was called Perez *.
30 And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand; and his name was called Zerah *.

What happened to Tamar and her children?

Although the text does not state what happens to her 1 Chronicles 4.22 may suggest she was given to Shelah in levirate marriage. In this genealogical list his first-born son is named Er.

29 … Perez פָּֽרֶץ – The meaning of his name is uncertain. See Note 1
Perez the first born of Judah and Tamar. Other than this story, Torah does not say anything about the man, but his name appears 15 times in Tanak. He becomes the progenitor of David (Ruth 4.18-20). See also Mat. 1.3; Luk 3.33.

Note 1: The Schocken Bible states, “breach: Not in the sense of a “breach birth”. In Hebrew, פָּֽרֶץ pares, Perez and פָּ֑רֶץ pares, breach are exactly the same except the cantillation marks. This suggests it is enunciated differently.

Translation Note: Therefore his name .. the TLV and The Steinsaltz Humash shows Judah named him by using the pronoun he. TLV “And he named him” TSH “Therefore, he, Judah, called his name…” Same for Zerah.
The Schocken Bible uses the pronoun “They”. In Hebrew I don’t see a pronoun being used.

30 … Zerah זֶרַח – The meaning of his name is uncertain. See Note 2 and Note 3
Beyond the birth story and his descendants nothing is really shared about him. In fact, the 21 appearances of the name Zerah is associated with three Israelites, an Edomite, and an Ethiopian.

Note 2: The Schocken Bible states, “Zerah: Possibly connoting “red of dawn” – connecting the with the scarlet thread of v. 28 (and possibly paralleling Esav, who was known as Edom, the “Red One”)

Note 3: The Steinsaltz Humash states, “literally, ‘”glow” alluding to the gleaming red thread tied to his hand.”

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וישב ט 9

ל Chapter 38

[רביעי] א וַֽיְהִי֙ בָּעֵ֣ת הַהִ֔וא וַיֵּ֥רֶד יְהוּדָ֖ה מֵאֵ֣ת אֶחָ֑יו וַיֵּ֛ט עַד־אִ֥ישׁ עֲדֻלָּמִ֖י וּשְׁמ֥וֹ חִירָֽה: ב וַיַּרְא־שָׁ֧ם יְהוּדָ֛ה בַּת־אִ֥ישׁ כְּנַֽעֲנִ֖י וּשְׁמ֣וֹ שׁ֑וּעַ וַיִּקָּחֶ֖הָ וַיָּבֹ֥א אֵלֶֽיהָ: ג וַתַּ֖הַר וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֑ן וַיִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ עֵֽר: ד וַתַּ֥הַר ע֖וֹד וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֑ן וַתִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ אוֹנָֽן: ה וַתֹּ֤סֶף עוֹד֙ וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֔ן וַתִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ שֵׁלָ֑ה וְהָיָ֥ה בִכְזִ֖יב בְּלִדְתָּ֥הּ אֹתֽוֹ: ו וַיִּקַּ֧ח יְהוּדָ֛ה אִשָּׁ֖ה לְעֵ֣ר בְּכוֹר֑וֹ וּשְׁמָ֖הּ תָּמָֽר: ז וַיְהִ֗י עֵ֚ר בְּכ֣וֹר יְהוּדָ֔ה רַ֖ע בְּעֵינֵ֣י יְהוָֹ֑ה וַיְמִתֵ֖הוּ יְהוָֹֽה: ח וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוּדָה֙ לְאוֹנָ֔ן בֹּ֛א אֶל־אֵ֥שֶׁת אָחִ֖יךָ וְיַבֵּ֣ם אֹתָ֑הּ וְהָקֵ֥ם זֶ֖רַע לְאָחִֽיךָ: ט וַיֵּ֣דַע אוֹנָ֔ן כִּ֛י לֹּ֥א ל֖וֹ יִהְיֶ֣ה הַזָּ֑רַע וְהָיָ֞ה אִם־בָּ֨א אֶל־אֵ֤שֶׁת אָחִיו֙ וְשִׁחֵ֣ת אַ֔רְצָה לְבִלְתִּ֥י נְתָן־זֶ֖רַע לְאָחִֽיו: י וַיֵּ֛רַע בְּעֵינֵ֥י יְהוָֹ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֑ה וַיָּ֖מֶת גַּם־אֹתֽוֹ: יא וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוּדָה֩ לְתָמָ֨ר כַּלָּת֜וֹ שְׁבִ֧י אַלְמָנָ֣ה בֵית־אָבִ֗יךְ עַד־יִגְדַּל֙ שֵׁלָ֣ה בְנִ֔י כִּ֣י אָמַ֔ר פֶּן־יָמ֥וּת גַּם־ה֖וּא כְּאֶחָ֑יו וַתֵּ֣לֶךְ תָּמָ֔ר וַתֵּ֖שֶׁב בֵּ֥ית אָבִֽיהָ: יב וַיִּרְבּוּ֙ הַיָּמִ֔ים וַתָּ֖מָת בַּת־שׁ֣וּעַ אֵֽשֶׁת־יְהוּדָ֑ה וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם יְהוּדָ֗ה וַיַּ֜עַל עַל־גֹּֽזְזֵ֤י צֹאנוֹ֙ ה֗וּא וְחִירָ֛ה רֵעֵ֥הוּ הָֽעֲדֻלָּמִ֖י תִּמְנָֽתָה: יג וַיֻּגַּ֥ד לְתָמָ֖ר לֵאמֹ֑ר הִנֵּ֥ה חָמִ֛יךְ עֹלֶ֥ה תִמְנָ֖תָה לָגֹ֥ז צֹאנֽוֹ: יד וַתָּ֩סַר֩ בִּגְדֵ֨י אַלְמְנוּתָ֜הּ מֵֽעָלֶ֗יהָ וַתְּכַ֤ס בַּצָּעִיף֙ וַתִּתְעַלָּ֔ף וַתֵּ֨שֶׁב֙ בְּפֶ֣תַח עֵינַ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־דֶּ֣רֶךְ תִּמְנָ֑תָה כִּ֤י רָֽאֲתָה֙ כִּֽי־גָדַ֣ל שֵׁלָ֔ה וְהִ֕וא לֹֽא־נִתְּנָ֥ה ל֖וֹ לְאִשָּֽׁה: טו וַיִּרְאֶ֣הָ יְהוּדָ֔ה וַֽיַּחְשְׁבֶ֖הָ לְזוֹנָ֑ה כִּ֥י כִסְּתָ֖ה פָּנֶֽיהָ: טז וַיֵּ֨ט אֵלֶ֜יהָ אֶל־הַדֶּ֗רֶךְ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ הָ֤בָה נָּא֙ אָב֣וֹא אֵלַ֔יִךְ כִּ֚י לֹ֣א יָדַ֔ע כִּ֥י כַלָּת֖וֹ הִ֑וא וַתֹּ֨אמֶר֙ מַה־תִּתֶּן־לִ֔י כִּ֥י תָב֖וֹא אֵלָֽי: יז וַיֹּ֕אמֶר אָֽנֹכִ֛י אֲשַׁלַּ֥ח גְּדִֽי־עִזִּ֖ים מִן־הַצֹּ֑אן וַתֹּ֕אמֶר אִם־תִּתֵּ֥ן עֵֽרָב֖וֹן עַ֥ד שָׁלְחֶֽךָ: יח וַיֹּ֗אמֶר מָ֣ה הָעֵֽרָבוֹן֘ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶתֶּן־לָךְ֒ וַתֹּ֗אמֶר חֹתָֽמְךָ֙ וּפְתִילֶ֔ךָ וּמַטְּךָ֖ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּיָדֶ֑ךָ וַיִּֽתֶּן־לָ֛הּ וַיָּבֹ֥א אֵלֶ֖יהָ וַתַּ֥הַר לֽוֹ: יט וַתָּ֣קָם וַתֵּ֔לֶךְ וַתָּ֥סַר צְעִיפָ֖הּ מֵֽעָלֶ֑יהָ וַתִּלְבַּ֖שׁ בִּגְדֵ֥י אַלְמְנוּתָֽהּ: כ וַיִּשְׁלַ֨ח יְהוּדָ֜ה אֶת־גְּדִ֣י הָֽעִזִּ֗ים בְּיַד֙ רֵעֵ֣הוּ הָֽעֲדֻלָּמִ֔י לָקַ֥חַת הָעֵֽרָב֖וֹן מִיַּ֣ד הָֽאִשָּׁ֑ה וְלֹ֖א מְצָאָֽהּ: כא וַיִּשְׁאַ֞ל אֶת־אַנְשֵׁ֤י מְקֹמָהּ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר אַיֵּ֧ה הַקְּדֵשָׁ֛ה הִ֥וא בָֽעֵינַ֖יִם עַל־הַדָּ֑רֶךְ וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ לֹֽא־הָֽיְתָ֥ה בָזֶ֖ה קְדֵשָֽׁה: כב וַיָּ֨שָׁב֙ אֶל־יְהוּדָ֔ה וַיֹּ֖אמֶר לֹ֣א מְצָאתִ֑יהָ וְגַ֨ם אַנְשֵׁ֤י הַמָּקוֹם֙ אָֽמְר֔וּ לֹא־הָֽיְתָ֥ה בָזֶ֖ה קְדֵשָֽׁה: כג וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוּדָה֙ תִּֽקַּֽח־לָ֔הּ פֶּ֖ן נִהְיֶ֣ה לָב֑וּז הִנֵּ֤ה שָׁלַ֨חְתִּי֙ הַגְּדִ֣י הַזֶּ֔ה וְאַתָּ֖ה לֹ֥א מְצָאתָֽהּ: כד וַיְהִ֣י ׀ כְּמִשְׁל֣שׁ חֳדָשִׁ֗ים וַיֻּגַּ֨ד לִֽיהוּדָ֤ה לֵאמֹר֙ זָֽנְתָה֙ תָּמָ֣ר כַּלָּתֶ֔ךָ וְגַ֛ם הִנֵּ֥ה הָרָ֖ה לִזְנוּנִ֑ים וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוּדָ֔ה הֽוֹצִיא֖וּהָ וְתִשָּׂרֵֽף: כה הִ֣וא מוּצֵ֗את וְהִ֨יא שָֽׁלְחָ֤ה אֶל־חָמִ֨יהָ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר לְאִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁר־אֵ֣לֶּה לּ֔וֹ אָֽנֹכִ֖י הָרָ֑ה וַתֹּ֨אמֶר֙ הַכֶּר־נָ֔א לְמִ֞י הַֽחֹתֶ֧מֶת וְהַפְּתִילִ֛ים וְהַמַּטֶּ֖ה הָאֵֽלֶּה: כו וַיַּכֵּ֣ר יְהוּדָ֗ה וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ צָֽדְקָ֣ה מִמֶּ֔נִּי כִּֽי־עַל־כֵּ֥ן לֹֽא־נְתַתִּ֖יהָ לְשֵׁלָ֣ה בְנִ֑י וְלֹֽא־יָסַ֥ף ע֖וֹד לְדַעְתָּֽהּ: כז וַיְהִ֖י בְּעֵ֣ת לִדְתָּ֑הּ וְהִנֵּ֥ה תְאוֹמִ֖ים בְּבִטְנָֽהּ: כח וַיְהִ֥י בְלִדְתָּ֖הּ וַיִּתֶּן־יָ֑ד וַתִּקַּ֣ח הַֽמְיַלֶּ֗דֶת וַתִּקְשֹׁ֨ר עַל־יָד֤וֹ שָׁנִי֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר זֶ֖ה יָצָ֥א רִֽאשֹׁנָֽה: כט וַיְהִ֣י ׀ כְּמֵשִׁ֣יב יָד֗וֹ וְהִנֵּה֙ יָצָ֣א אָחִ֔יו וַתֹּ֕אמֶר מַה־פָּרַ֖צְתָּ עָלֶ֣יךָ פָּ֑רֶץ וַיִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ פָּֽרֶץ: ל וְאַחַר֙ יָצָ֣א אָחִ֔יו אֲשֶׁ֥ר עַל־יָד֖וֹ הַשָּׁנִ֑י וַיִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ זָֽרַח: ס

בראשית לח 38

Genesis 38 (Bereshit) בראשית Interlinear Verses

38.1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.

א וַֽיְהִי֙ בָּעֵ֣ת הַהִ֔וא וַיֵּ֥רֶד יְהוּדָ֖ה מֵאֵ֣ת אֶחָ֑יו וַיֵּ֛ט עַד־אִ֥ישׁ עֲדֻלָּמִ֖י וּשְׁמ֥וֹ חִירָֽה

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The Holy Scriptures
According to the Masoretic Text
The Jewish Publication Society translation
[1917] – Public Domain