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Tamar: The Soliciting Prostitute In the Genealogy of Jesus

Updated on December 12, 2017
MsDora profile image

MsDora, Certified Christian Counselor, has spent over 20 years empowering young and adult women to pursue positive, productive womanhood.

Tamar’s story is all about sex and intrigue, at least the way it is reported (Genesis 38). That makes it difficult to tell, especially for those who are looking for a moral.

We have to read her story of seduction (exciting enough for a blockbuster movie) and then push back the details in our search for her redeeming qualities.

If we succeed, we will discover the appealing story of an unmentionable woman who receives honorable mention in the illustrious genealogy of Jesus.

Tamar Dressed as a Prostitute

As is customary for the prostitute, Tamar will cover her face (notice her veil), but will expose her leg and breast, so that Judah has no doubt concerning her intentions.   Artist: Herman van der Mijn (1684-1741)
As is customary for the prostitute, Tamar will cover her face (notice her veil), but will expose her leg and breast, so that Judah has no doubt concerning her intentions. Artist: Herman van der Mijn (1684-1741) | Source

Women in the Genealogy of Jesus

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron . . . Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse . . . and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba),

Solomon the father of Rehoboam . . . and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Tamar is the only one of the five women mentioned in this ancestry (Matthew 1) who forces her way in.

  1. Rahab is approached by Israelite spies who rescue her family when they destroy Jericho, facilitating her marriage to Salmon, resulting in the birth of Boaz who gets into the lineage.
  2. Ruth is guided into marriage with Boaz by Naomi, the Hebrew woman who is her former mother-in-law.
  3. Bathsheba is accepted by King David, great grandson of Boaz (after incidents of adultery and murder).
  4. Mary is selected by God Himself.
  5. Tamar, the soliciting prostitute is the only one who forces her way into the genealogy of Jesus.

Tamar's Story

Tamar is set up to have children with outstanding Hebrew pedigree.

  • She is the wife of Er--the first son of Judah;
  • Judah is the fourth son of Jacob;
  • Jacob is the father of the tribes of Israel.

However, her husband Er is too wicked to live, and he dies leaving her childless. Now what?

Judah allows his second son, Onan, to marry Tamar. According to their custom, a man is obligated to provide the widow of his dead brother with a child, who would be considered the heir of the deceased. Onan is unwilling to perform his duty, and he makes sure that his semen never enters Tamar’s body. His rebellion is offensive to God, and he also dies. What next?

Tamar Gets Even

Tamar disguises herself and poses as a prostitute on Judah’s route to Timnah.

It is a devious plot. Judah's wife is now dead. Who knows how long since he has been with a woman? He solicits the pretending prostitute and offers to pay with a goat. Tamar asks for his shepherd’s staff, his signet and its cord as collateral until he sends the goat. Wise woman!

Judah does not know that the woman is Tamar, but he leaves her pregnant with twin boys. When the news of her pregnancy spread, Judah calls for her immoral action to be punished by death. She presents his staff, signet and cord as proof that he is her partner in crime. He confesses to his wrongdoing and rescinds her death sentence.

Tamar's Sons

The story of their birth is as gripping as the event of their conception.

The midwife grabs the first hand that she sees, and ties a red cord around it to mark the firstborn; then, Zerah (meaning sunshine) to whom the hand belongs pulls back.

Perez whose name means bursting forth exits his mother’s womb ahead of his brother, and makes his way into the genealogy of Jesus.

Tamar's Legacy

The other women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus have other important parts to the story of their lives.

  1. Rahab is mentioned in the Faith Hall Fame (Hebrews 11) for her contribution to the Israelite’s capture of Jericho.
  2. Ruth’s expression of devotion (1:16) to Naomi, her mother in law is still sung at weddings.
  3. Bathsheba’s political influence on the life of King David and her son, King Solomon is well established (2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Kings 1-2).
  4. Mary is venered as a saint.
  5. Tamar has no such story. Her only title is soliciting prostitute.

To find her real legacy, we have to raise our focus from the unmentionable Tamar to the God who selects her for mention; not because of her redeeming qualities, but because of the power of His redemption. He rewards her quest for significance with a son who becomes an ancestor to the Savior, who brings love and grace to forgive and redeem all the Tamars who receive Him.

Tamar's life is a series of mishaps interwoven with God's control and ending with a message of hope for all men and women who have mismanaged the circumstances in their lives. God has a place within His will for everyone.

Tamar’s legacy is grace illustrated!

Try This Tamar Trivia

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    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for your interest, Mary. Tamar is important, being in the lineage of Jesus. We need to know her.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Interesting story. I am not too familiar with the names in the Bible but am really interested. Tamar is one interesting person often overshadowed.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks Dream On. They're so many and I really like this one. Glad you read it.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 

      2 years ago

      Interesting story from the Bible. Thank you for sharing.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Jodah, your name is unique; never heard it before. Tamar is an interesting character. She is a good example of a woman who does what she thinks she has to do. God looks beyond their faults and sees their needs. Thank you for your encouragement.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very interesting story from the Bible that may not be as well known as many. Thank you for telling us about Tamar, MsDora. I also notice my name is close to Judah.....hmmm. Voted up.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 years ago from The Caribbean

      DDE, I love telling Bible stories, especially those which feature women. We can learn lots from them. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Tamar: The Soliciting Prostitute In The Genealogy of Jesus is a very interesting story of which I learned more about from your special way of writing.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Tamarajo, thanks for your well-written input. Your summary introduces a very pertinent outcome for godly, determined women.

    • Tamarajo profile image

      Tamarajo 

      5 years ago

      I loved your presentation and application of this story of Tamar. Inspiring in the sense of determination to pursue the God who cares for all and is willing to redeem and hear our requests.

      I am always intrigued as well by women in the Bible and their determination to produce and maintain a namesake for their husbands. This might be seen as an example to us of how maybe we might be determined as well to produce fruit for our God and His kingdom that His name would endure forever in the hearts of men for all generations.

      Well written and thought provoking article.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Joan, shofarcall is precious. Thanks to her for the introduction; and thanks for your comment. Of course, I'm looking forward to our meeting.

    • Joanmaynard profile image

      Joan 

      5 years ago from St Kitts

      Hi MsDora! I was introduced to you by another fellow hubber 'shoforcall'. Glad to have another Kittitian in the house. I am also from St Kitts. We should meet some time, don't you think?

      I was impacted by this article on so many levels that it is amazing. My Gosh, i really never saw the story of Tamar in this light before, but you are so right. God has a place in his will for everyone. All because of his redemptive qualities. I am so glad that he does not view us by what our past has been BUT INSTEAD by what our future Can Be.

      I love this article once again. I am off to read another.

      We should really meet up some time... :)

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      That's right Dave. What an awesome God we serve!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for your explanation, Persypcacious, including the affirmation that Tamar is only a "pretending" prostitute. Great encouragement coming from a male.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 

      6 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      This story shows us to what lengths God will go to ensure His plans are completed once put into motion.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, teacherjoe. I appreciate your comment.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      6 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      A prostitute is looking to proselyte sin, and does so when she sells herself. The shared sin is apparently considered more severe on the part of the one who commenced the sin by its promotion for gain. In our modern day "culture" which talks about both participants in the sin, we rightly consider that both are guilty, especially if the man and the woman are both acting as adulterers. In Tamar's case it is pointed out that Judah had a moral/theological obligation to fulfill Tamar's right to a pregnancy and was ignoring or refusing that obligation, lessening the severity of Tamar's proselyting Judah. She was, in fact, the "pretending" prostitute, not a full fledged one. There are many tenets of God's law which are no longer honored in many of today's man's law (supposedly applied to both sexes equally.) Many of us would be in severe trouble, for example, if the former laws for violating the Sabbath were still enforced. If Christ came not to change "one jot or tittle of the law" perhaps we still are! Great Hub.

    • teacherjoe52 profile image

      teacherjoe52 

      6 years ago

      Very interesting hub.

      Great work and insight.

      Thank you.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Michele, I hear you. God doesn't treat women with the injustice that even men who profess to represent Him would have us believe. He put great value in us and He honors that value despite of ourselves. That is the message in stories like Tamar's and Rahab's. Hopefully, one day society will come to grips with the error or their prejudice against women. Thanks for voicing the confusion we all feel; thanks for commenting.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 

      6 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      I hope more read this hub. God loves us and forgives our sins. What confuses me however, is that many women are blamed when it comes to the sin of prostitution in the bible. The men are not. The women can be put to death, but nothing happens to the men, no matter who they are. Even today, this happens. Sometimes the police arrest the men who buy sex, but for the most part, the prostetutes are considered more sinful. Even in what is called Sharia law, the women can be put to death, but nothing happens to the men. That I do not understand. God loves all of us.

      Wonderful post. Thank you.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      I receive that also. Thanks again, and have a great day!

    • liftandsoar profile image

      Frank P. Crane 

      6 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Wow, and it's only 6 a.m. God has good things in store for you.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      You made my day, liftandsoar, accepting me as Sis. Thanks for your kind comments affirming the message of grace in the story of Tamar.

    • liftandsoar profile image

      Frank P. Crane 

      6 years ago from Richmond, VA

      MsDora, a wonderful telling of the Tamar story showing how it's far more than a human interest tale. It shouts out the message of grace without which all morality becomes self-serving righteousness. Thanks, Sis.

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