Genesis 38:1-5 Judah married a Canaanite woman who was the daughter of a man named Shua. They had three sons. They were Er, Onan, and Shelah.
Notes: Judah may have left the family because of his guilt over the Joseph episode. Being away from the family and mixing with the Canaanite people causes him to backslide in doing wrong things.
Genesis 38:6-11 Judah’s first-born, Er, marries Tamar. Er was wicked and the Lord put him to death. They produced no children. Judah made his second-born, Onan, marry Tamar to produce offspring for his dead brother, Er. Onan was wicked and the Lord put him to death. They produced no children either, so Judah promised Tamar that he would give her his last son, Shelah, as a husband as soon as he was old enough.
Notes: It was important that Er would have children to continue the first-born tradition. Any children born to Tamar via Onan would actually be considered Er’s, and not Onan’s. This was also important to Judah for he most likely believed that he would get the privileges of the first-born, for Reuben, the true first-born forfeited his right by sleeping with Bilhah, Jacob’s concubine. Simeon and Levi forfeited their rights to the privileges of the first-born by killing all the men in Shechem. And Joseph, Jacob’s choice was gone to Egypt and out of the way.
Genesis 38:12-19 Judah’s wife died. Time passed by and Judah forgot his promise to give Tamar his last son, Shelah, for a husband. Tamar disguises herself and tricks Judah into conceiving a child by him. Tamar did this to produce an offspring for her dead husband, Er, but because Judah failed to give her Shelah, she resorted to subterfuge to get a child by her father-in-law, which was actually an evil Canaanite practice.
Notes: Kinda resembles the shameful Lot and his daughters episode.
Genesis 38:24-26 Three months later, someone discovered that Tamar was pregnant and got pregnant immorally, for she was still a widow. This was told to Judah. Seeing that she was still considered part of Judah’s family, he ordered that she be put to death. In her defense, Tamar revealed that the child was Judah’s. Judah did not put Tamar to death.
Notes: Judah more and likely refused secretly to give Tamar his son Shelah fearing that she was cursed somehow and Shelah would end up dying also. Judah was ignorant to the fact that Er and Onan died because of their own wickedness.
Genesis 38:27:30 Tamar gave birth to twins, Perez and Zerah. Zerah was coming out of the womb first, but Perez pushed past and came out first.
Notes: Perez will carry the seed to the Messiah, Jesus.
Notes: Although this chapter shows Judah at his worst, it also accounts for a remarkable transformation in his life, which comes through in the remaining episodes of the Joseph story.