Genesis 38:11
Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father's house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father's house.
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(11) For he said, lest he also die.—It is evident from this that Judah, for reasons which, in Genesis 38:26, he acknowledged to be insufficient, wished to evade the duty of giving a third son to Tamar. It does not follow that he blamed her for their deaths; for the loss of two sons in succession might well frighten him. Philippsohn says that it became the rule, that if a woman lost two husbands, the third brother was not bound to marry her, and she was even called Katlannith. the murderess. (But see St. Matthew 22:25-26, where no such custom is acknowledged.)

Genesis 38:11. Remain a widow till Shelah my son be grown — The contract of marriage, it seems, was so understood, even before any positive law was made on the subject, that, if the husband died without any issue, his next brother was to marry his wife, and as long as any of his brethren remained they were bound to marry her, if left a widow. Accordingly Shelah, the third son, was reserved for Tamar, yet with design that he should not marry so young as his brothers had done. For it would seem from Judah’s expression, Lest peradventure he die also, that he thought marrying too young was the cause of their death; though some consider his conduct as an evidence that he never intended to give his son to her.

38:1-30 The profligate conduct of Judah and his family. - This chapter gives an account of Judah and his family, and such an account it is, that it seems a wonder that of all Jacob's sons, our Lord should spring out of Judah, Heb 7:14. But God will show that his choice is of grace and not of merit, and that Christ came into the world to save sinners, even the chief. Also, that the worthiness of Christ is of himself, and not from his ancestors. How little reason had the Jews, who were so called from this Judah, to boast as they did, Joh 8:41. What awful examples the Lord proclaims in his punishments, of his utter displeasure at sin! Let us seek grace from God to avoid every appearance of sin. And let that state of humbleness to which Jesus submitted, when he came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, in appointing such characters as those here recorded, to be his ancestors, endear the Redeemer to our hearts.Judah marries and has three sons. "Went down from brethren." This seems to have been an act of willful indiscretion in Judah. His separation from his brethren, however, extends only to the matter of his new connection. In regard to property and employment there seems to have been no long or entire separation until they went down into Egypt. He went down from the high grounds about Shekem to the lowlands in which Adullam was situated Joshua 15:33-35. "A certain Adullamite." He may have become acquainted with this Hirah, when visiting his grandfather, or in some of the caravans which were constantly passing Shekem, or even in the ordinary wanderings of the pastoral life. Adullam was in the Shephelah or lowland of Judah bordering on Philistia proper. "A certain Kenaanite." This connection with Shua's daughter was contrary to the will of God and the example of his fathers. Onan was born, we conceive, in Judah's fifteenth year, and Shelah in his sixteenth.

At Kezib. - This appears the same as Akzib, which is associated with Keilah and Mareshah Joshua 15:44, and therefore, lay in the south of the lowland of Judah. This note of place indicates a change of residence since her other children were born. In the year after this birth the dishonor of Dinah takes place. "Took a wife for Er." Judah chose a wife for himself at an early age, and now he chooses for his first-born at the same age. "Was evil in the eyes of the Lord." The God of covenant is obliged to cut off Er for his wickedness in the prime of life. We are not made acquainted with his crime; but it could scarcely be more vile and unnatural than that for which his brother Onan is also visited with death. "And be a husband to her." The original word means to act as a husband to the widow of a deceased brother who has left no issue. Onan seems to have been prompted to commit his crime by the low motive of turning the whole inheritance to his own house. At the time of Er's death Judah must have been in his twenty-seventh year; Joseph was consequently in his twenty-third, and Jacob had for ten years past had his headquarters at Hebron. Hence, the contact with Timnah, Adullam, and Enaim was easy.

8. Judah said unto Onan … marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother—The first instance of a custom, which was afterwards incorporated among the laws of Moses, that when a husband died leaving a widow, his brother next of age was to marry her, and the issue, if any, was to be served heir to the deceased (compare De 25:5). At thy father’s house, whither he sent her from his house, that Shelah might not be insnared by her presence and conversation. So he dismissed her with a pretence of kindness, and a tacit promise of marriage to her, which he never intended to keep, as the following words imply; for he said; or rather, but he said; for the Hebrew chi oft signifies but, as Genesis 45:8 Psalm 37:20 Ecclesiastes 2:10 6:2. So here is an opposition between what he said to Tamar, and what he said to himself, or in his own heart, as that word said is oft used: he intimated to her that he would give Shelah to her, but he meant otherwise, and said in himself, I will not do it,

lest peradventure he die also as his brethren did; imputing the death of his two sons either to her fault, or to her unluckiness, rather than to his own or his son’s miscarriages.

Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law,.... After the death of his two sons, who had successively married her:

remain a widow at thy father's house till Shelah my son be grown: who was his third and youngest son, though perhaps not more than a year younger than Onan; but he might not choose he should marry so soon as his brethren had done, for a reason following: according to the custom and law of marrying a brother's wife, who died without issue, she in course was to be the wife of Shelah; since if there were ever so many brothers, they all married such an one in turn, until there was issue by one of them, see Matthew 22:25; as Judah knew this, he pretended at least to give her to his son for wife, only would have it put off till he was at age of maturity, or was more grown; and therefore desires her to keep herself unmarried to any other person until that time; and advises her to go to her father's house, and continue there, which he did to prevent any intrigues between them, lest his son should be tempted to marry her sooner than it was his will, and she should solicit him to it:

for he said; not to Tamar, but within himself:

lest peradventure he die also as his brethren did; by which it seems, that he was ignorant of the true cause of their death, but thought it was either owing to their marrying too young, or to something in the woman unfortunate and unhappy; and he might not really intend he should marry her at all, only made use of an excuse for the present:

and Tamar went and dwelt in her father's house; she had dwelt in Judah's house in the time of her two husbands, but now by his advice she removed to her own father's house; which very probably was in the same place, and her father yet living, who received her, and with whom she continued, see Leviticus 22:13.

Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, {d} Remain a widow at thy father's house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father's house.

(d) For she could not marry in any other family so long as Judah would retain her in his.

11. in thy father’s house] A widow without children went back to her father’s family; cf. Leviticus 22:13; Ruth 1:8. A widow with children remained in the family of her husband, and under its protection. Judah evidently believes that the deaths of Er and Onan are somehow due to Tamar. Rather, then, than subject his youngest son Shelah to the risk of a similar fate, he sends Tamar back to her own people, on the pretext that Shelah is too young at present to perform the levirate duty. Compare the story in Tobit 3, where Sarah’s seven husbands are cut off in succession.

Verse 11. - Then said Judah to Tamer his daughter-in-law, Remain a widow - alma-nah, from alam, to be solitary, forsaken, signifies one bereft of a husband, hence a widow (cf. Exodus 22:21) - at thy father's house (cf. Leviticus 22:13), till Shelah my son be grown. It is implied that this was merely a pretext on the part of Judah, and that he did not really intend to give his third son to Tamar, considering her an unlucky woman (Delitzsch, Keil, Kalisch), or, at least, not at present, under the impression that the deaths of Er and Onan had been occasioned by their too early marriages (Lange). The reason of his failure to release Tamar from her widowhood is added in the ensuing clause. For he said (sc. in his heart), Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamer went and dwelt in her father's house. Genesis 38:11The sudden death of his two sons so soon after their marriage with Thamar made Judah hesitate to give her the third as a husband also, thinking, very likely, according to a superstition which we find in Tobit 3:7ff., that either she herself, or marriage with her, had been the cause of her husbands' deaths. He therefore sent her away to her father's house, with the promise that he would give her his youngest son as soon as he had grown up; though he never intended it seriously, "for he thought lest (פּן אמר, i.e., he was afraid that) he also might die like his brethren."
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