Genesis 38

Talks for Growing Christians

Judah’s Sin with Tamar

Genesis 38

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Lesson Number 84

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. The story of Judah with Tamar magnifies the faith of Joseph.
  2. The story of Judah with Tamar magnifies the grace of God.

Practical Application

  1. Don't be too quick to point the finger at other sinners.
  2. Do you keep your promises?


  1. What did the Leverite Law of Marriage state?
  2. Who were Judah’s three sons, and what happened to them?
  3. What is a possible reason for God to interrupt the story of Joseph to ell us about Judah’s sin with Tamar?
  4. Joseph’s faith and moral character is enhanced by the contrast of Judah’s lack of faith and character. How is this structural motif used throughout Genesis?
  5. When Judah failed to keep his promise to Tamar, what did she do?
  6. How does the story of Judah with Tamar magnify the grace of God?
  7. How was Judah identified as the one who went into Tamar?


  1. It stated that if a married man died without an heir, his next in line eligible brother was to marry the widow and raise up an heir to his brother’s inheritance and carry on his brother’s name.
  2. Er married Tamar, but the Lord took him because he was wicked. Onan also was taken by the Lord because he did not take his responsibility seriously as Tamar’s husband. Shelah, a younger son, was supposed to be given to Tamar as her husband, but wasn’t.
  3. To show why God allowed the bondage of Israel in Egypt. If God had not brought Israel down into Egypt, Judah’s actions would have been repeated many times, and the faith of the fathers would have been contaminated with the idolatry and immorality of the Canaanites. In Egypt, there was little intermarriage because the Egyptians detested the Hebrews. So Egypt was a shelter from contamination.
  4. Abel’s faith is highlighted by the contrast of Cain’s lack of faith; Abraham’s faith is contrasted with Lot’s lack faith; Jacob’s faith is contrasted with Esau’s lack of faith.
  5. She took matters into her own hands. Although her desire to preserve the line of Judah was proper, she went about it in the wrong way, by seducing Judah.
  6. Through Perez, one of the twins born of the relationship between Judah and Tamar, the Messianic lineage is traced. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded the more.” (Romans 5:20). Tamar is one of the four women mentioned in Matthew 1 in the genealogy of Christ.
  7. Judah had given Tamar a pledge - his signet and cord and staff.


  1. Judah failed to keep his promise to Tamar. What were some of the long-term, negative results of his failure? Recall a time when you failed to keep a promise. Were there negative results?
  2. How can sin magnify the grace of God? Review Romans 5:20. Does this mean that we should sin?


  1. Judah pointed the finger at Tamar for her wrong-doing, but he soon learned that he was the greater sinner. Beware of pointing your finger at others.

Key Verses

  • “Judah said, ‘She has been more righteous than I.’“ Genesis 38:26

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