Wesley's Notes on the Bible
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.
38:1 Judah went down from his brethren - Withdrew for a time from his father's family, and got intimately acquainted with one Hirah an Adullamite. When young people that have been well educated begin to change their company, they will soon change their manners, and lose their good education. They that go down from their brethren, that forsake the society of the seed of Israel, and pick up Canaanites for their companions, are going down the hill apace.
And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.
38:2 He took her - To wife. His father, it should seem, was not consulted, but by his new friend Hirah.
And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.
And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.
And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.
And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.
And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.
38:7 And Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord - That is, in defiance of God and his law. And what came of it? Why God cut him off presently, The Lord slew him. The next brother Onan was, according to the ancient usage, married to the widow, to preserve the name of his deceased brother that died childless. This custom of marrying the brother's widow was afterward made one of the laws of Moses, Deu 25:5. Onan, though he consented to marry the widow, yet to the great abuse of his own body, of the wife he had married, and the memory of his brother that was gone, he refused to raise up seed unto his brother. Those sins that dishonour the body are very displeasing to God, and the evidence of vile actions. Observe, the thing which he did displeased the Lord - And it is to be feared, thousands, especially of single persons, by this very thing, still displeased the Lord, and destroy their own souls.
And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.
And Onan knew that the seed should 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 that he should give seed to his brother.
And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.
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.
38:11 Shelah the third son was reserved for the widow, yet with design that he should not marry so young as his brothers had done, lest he die also. Some think that Judah never intended to marry Shelah to Tamar, but unjustly suspected her to have been the death of her two former husbands, (whereas it was their own wickedness that slew them) and then sent her to her father's house, with a charge to remain a widow. If so, it was an inexcusable piece of prevarication; however Tamar acquiesced, and waited for the issue.
And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah's wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.
And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep.
And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.
38:14 Some excuse this by suggesting that she believed the promise made to Abraham and his seed, particularly that of the Messiah, and that she was therefore desirous to have a child by one of that family, that she might have the honour, or at least stand fair for the honour of being the mother of the Messiah. She covered her with a veil - It was the custom of harlots in those times to cover their faces, that tho' they were not ashamed, yet they might seem to be so: the sin of uncleanness did not then go so bare - faced as it now doth.
When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.
And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, 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?
And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?
38:17 A kid from the flock - A goodly price at which her chastity and honour were valued! Had the consideration been thousands of rams, and ten thousand rivers of oil, it had not been a valuable consideration. The favour of God, the purity of the soul, the peace of the conscience, and the hope of heaven: are too precious to be exposed to sale at any such rates. He lost his Jewels by the bargain: He sent the kid according to his promise, to redeem his pawn, but the supposed harlot could not be found. He sent it by his friend, (who was indeed his back - friend, because he was aiding and abetting in his evil deeds) the Adullamite; who came back without the pledge. 'Tis a good account, if it be but true, of any place that which they here gave, that there is no harlot in this place, for such sinners are the scandals and plagues of any place. Judah sits down content to lose his signet and his bracelets, and forbids his friend to make any farther enquiry.
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.
And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.
And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman's hand: but he found her not.
Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place.
And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place.
And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.
38:23 Lest we be shamed - Either, Lest his sin should come to be known publicly, Or Lest he should be laughed at as a fool for trusting a whore with his signet and his bracelets. He expresses no concern about the sin, only about the shame. There are many who are more solicitous to preserve their reputation with men, than to secure the savour of God, lest we be shamed goes farther with them than lest we be damned.
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 also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.
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 bracelets, and staff.
And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.
And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb.
And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first.
38:28 It should seem the birth was hard to the mother, by which she was corrected for her sin: the children also, like Jacob and Esau, struggled for the birth - right, and Pharez who got it, is ever named first, and from him Christ descended. He had his name from his breaking forth before his brother; this breach be upon thee - The Jews, as Zarah, bid fair for the birth - right, and were marked with a scarlet thread, as those that come out first; but the Gentiles, like Pharez, or a son of violence got the start of them, by that violence which the kingdom of heaven suffers, and attained to the righteousness which the Jews came short of: yet when the fulness of time is come, all Israel shall be saved. Both these sons are named in the genealogy of our Saviour, Mt 1:3, to perpetuate the story, as an instance of the humiliation of our Lord Jesus.
And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez.
And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.