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Strong Biblical Women Part 5 -- Tamar, Mother of Kings

Updated on July 2, 2014

How did a modest woman become the mother of Kings?

When her father-in-law broke his promise to her, Tamar took matters into her own hands and, in the process, became the mother of kings.

While the story is often glossed over because of the sexual nature, the story of Yehuda and Tamar is a very important one from the standpoint of strong women. Tamar stood up for herself and in the process gained the respect of her father-in-law and also gained a place for herself and her descendants in the annuls of Jewish history.

The Mother of Kings


Yehuda (Judah) was the fourth son of Yaakov (Jacob). He married and had three sons. The oldest son, Er, married a woman named Tamar. But Er died without having any children (the commentaries say he didn't want to "ruin her beauty" by making her pregnant, so he "spilled his seed").

So Yehuda told his next son, Onan to marry her (this is called a Leverite Marriage or Yibum in Hebrew -- a man marries his brother's childless widow to give her -- and his dead brother -- a child). According to the commentaries, Onan didn't want a child of his to be credited to his brother, so he "spilled his seed". Because of his selfishness, he died also.

Yehuda didn't want to lose another son, so he told Tamar that Sheila (Shay-luh), his third son, wasn't old enough to get married. But even after Tamar waited for Sheila to grow up, Yehuda came up with some excuse why Tamar couldn't marry his son.

This put Tamar in the position of not being permitted to get married to anyone and, therefore, she wouldn't have children. And she really wanted children.

So she dressed in clothes that the prostitutes wore and she stood where the prostitutes stand until Yehuda, her Father-in-law, who she believed owed her a child, came by. Because she normally dressed modestly, Yehuda didn't recognize her. He approached her and, thinking she was a prostitute, asked her what her "price" was and she said that all she wanted was his walking staff, his cloak and his signet ring.

After this, Tamar put on her modest widow's clothes and went back to her normal life. But soon after this, people started noticing that she was pregnant and they told Yehuda and asked him if he wanted them to bring her to them for punishment.

When Tamar heard that the people wanted to put her to death for adultery, she sent a messenger to Yehuda with his staff, cloak and ring and asked him if he, perchance, knew who those items belonged to.

Yehuda saw the items and right away realized that he was the father of Tamar's child. Yehuda told the people not to kill Tamar and that she was more righteous than he.

It turned out that Tamar had twins. She named them Peretz and Zerah.

In the book of Ruth (This original story was in B'reishit -- Genesis), it lists the descendants of Peretz -- Peretz had a son named Hetzron, who had a son named Ram, who had a son named Aminadav, who had a son named Nahshon (who was the Nasi -- Prince -- of the Tribe of Yehuda in the time when the Children of Israel wandered 40 years in the Desert).

Nahshon had a son named Shalma (or Shalmon), who had a son named Boaz, who married Ruth. They had a son named Oved, who had a son named Yishai (Jesse), who had a son named David. David was the second king of Israel and the founder of the Davidic Dynasty of kings of Israel and Judea and from whom the Moshiah (Messiah) will one day come.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      In Christianity we also take note of the courage of Tamar and what she did at great peril to her life, to right a wrong and preserve the lineage through which a king would be born. She did not know what the future held, but she did understand there would be no future if she did not take any action at all. True historical accounts of real life women like Tamar are inspiring.

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      emp-couture 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your story!! Interesting to know about the name Tamar. Check out a line of clothing for modest women,

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      resabi 6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this story; it's one I wasn't familiar with and it's a great one. Blessed and featured in my Winging It lens.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 9 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      My daughter's name is Tamar. Welcome to Judaism, Jewish Holidays, and Jewish Culture.