Genesis 38:18
And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.
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(18) Thy bracelets.—Heb., thy cord. The art of engraving was probably not advanced enough among these nomads to permit them to engrave gems small enough to wear in a ring. Judah evidently suspended his signet round his neck by a cord; and this custom still exists among the Arabs, of whom some wear signet rings, while others hang them round their necks. Probably each man of distinction had his emblem, and in Genesis 49 Jacob seems to refer to them. Thus Judah’s emblem was a lion, Zebulun’s a ship, Issachar’s an ass, &c.

Thy staff.—The staff in ancient times was elaborately adorned. Herodotus (i. 195) describes the staves carried by the Babylonians, as having on them carvings of fruit, or of some flower or bird; and Homer perpetually makes mention of the “sceptres,” that is, walking-sticks, of the kings, as carved so magnificently as to be worthy of being ascribed to Hephaestus, and handed down as emblems of authority from father to son. (See Iliad, ii. 101-107.) It is from these staves that the sceptres of kings, and the batons of field-marshals, &c, are derived.

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 now comes into criminal, and, though unknown to him, incestuous sexual intercourse with Tamar. "And many were the days," a year or somewhat more. "To Timnah." This town is about twenty miles northwest of Hebron. There is another, however, in the hills about seven miles south of Hebron. "Put on a veil;" to conceal her face from Judah, or any other beholder. "The qate of Enaim." This is supposed to be the same as Enam Joshua 15:34. "And thy lace." This is the cord by which the signet was suspended round his neck. "Courtesan." The original word קדשׁה qedêshâh means one consecrated to the worship of Ashtoreth, in which chastity is sacrificed.18. signet, &c.—Bracelets, including armlets, were worn by men as well as women among the Hebrews. But the Hebrew word here rendered "bracelets," is everywhere else translated "lace" or "ribbon"; so that as the signet alone was probably more than an equivalent for the kid, it is not easy to conjecture why the other things were given in addition, except by supposing the perforated seal was attached by a ribbon to the staff. Thy bracelets, or handkerchief, or girdle, or any other ornament made of twisted thread, which the Hebrew word signifies. God so ordering things by his providence, that his sin might be discovered. And this and other such horrid crimes committed sometimes by the patriarchs, and other eminent persons, it hath pleased God for divers wise and holy reasons to leave upon record, partly, to discover how great and deep the corruption of man’s nature is, and that even in the best; partly, to oblige all men to a humble sense of their own infirmity, and to a diligent application of themselves to God for his gracious succours, and to a greater circumspection and watchfulness to prevent those evils in themselves; partly, to encourage even the greatest sinners to repentance and the hope of pardon; and partly, for the just punishment and obduration of incorrigible sinners, who make such sad examples matter of their delight and imitation.

And he said, what pledge shall I give thee?.... Being willing to part with anything for the gratification of his lust:

and she said, thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand; she asks all these, that if one should be lost, or fail of being sufficient proof, the other might: the first of these the Septuagint version renders, "thy ring"; the ring upon his finger, which had a seal on it, and was the signet of his right hand; so Onkelos and Ben Melech: the second word seems not so well rendered, since "bracelets" were wore by women and not men: Jarchi takes it to be a garment with which he was covered; so Ben Melech and the Targum, a cloak, which is not likely, that she should desire him to strip off his clothes: it seems to be either a covering of his head, a wrap of linen such as the Turks wear, or else a handkerchief he had in his pocket; and the staff in his hand was either his walking staff or a shepherd's crook or staff:

and he gave it her, all the above things as a pledge:

and came in unto her; not on the public road, but in some private place at some distance, to which they retired. Maimonides (c) says, before the law was given, if a man met a woman in the street, and he and she agreed, he gave her hire, and he lay with her, and went away, and such an one was called "Kedeshah", a harlot, the word used afterwards for Tamar:

and she conceived by him; she proved with child upon it.

(c) Hilchot lshot, c. 1. sect. 4.

And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.
18. signet … cord … staff] The signet ring is frequently worn by Arabs on a cord fastened round the neck. Cf. Song of Solomon 8:6, “set me as a seal upon thine heart.” The signet ring and the staff, which was often carved and highly ornamented, would be the most personal possessions of a Sheikh, and, as pledges, a most certain means of identification. This astute manoeuvre is the turning-point of the whole story.

Verse 18. - And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, - the chotham, or signet, was either worn on the finger, δακτυλίον (LXX.) or suspended round the neck by a pithil, or silk string. Its impression was a sign of property and a means of security (cf. Matthew 27:66; John 3:33; Ephesians 1:13, &c.). Among the ancient Babylonians it was customary for every one to wear such a ring (Herod., 1:195); and modern Arabians in towns wear a seal-ring on the finger, or fastened by a cord round the neck, the impression of which serves as a signature (Robinson, 1:52). The seals and signets that have been brought to light by the excavations in Assyria and Babylon (Layard, 'Nin. and Bab.,' 152-159, 602-608) are of various forms and materials. They show the art of engraving to have been of great antiquity; but whether Judah's signet was marked with alphabetical characters cannot be determined, though it may have been, since alphabetical writing was as old at least as the time of Abraham (vide Keil, 'Introd.,' Part I. sect. 1. Genesis 1. § 4) - and thy bracelets (rather, thy chain, pithil, ut supra), and thy staff (the mateh, or rod, was so called from the idea of stretching out, the root being natah, to stretch out or extend) that is in thine hand. This too every Baby-Ionian carried (Herod., 1:195). "It was necessarily adorned with some device carved upon it, and consisting in a flower or a fruit, a bird, or some other animal" (Kalisch). And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him. Genesis 38:18When Judah saw her here and took her for a harlot, he made her an offer, and gave her his signet-ring, with the band (פּתיל) by which it was hung round his neck, and his staff, as a pledge of the young buck-goat which he offered her. They were both objects of value, and were regarded as ornaments in the East, as Herodotus (i. 195) has shown with regard to the Babylonians (see my Bibl. Arch. 2, 48). He then lay with her, and she became pregnant by him.
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