3 Husbands, 2 Sons, 1 Woman
Genesis 38 describes the children of Judah, Er, Onan, and Shelah. Tamar was the wife of Er, but Er was evil in the LORD’s eyes. For this reason, the LORD put him to death (it doesn’t really say how his died, or what made him evil in the sight of the Lord, but remember that this comes after the time of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, etc. . . there was a lot of evil in the world again!).
As was custom, Judah presented Onan to Tamar to take the birthright place of eldest son, Er. Onan was to impregnate Tamar in order to continue the bloodline of Er, and essentially Judah. Onan didn’t want to provide children for Er, but wanted his own. So, Onan spilled his semen so Tamar couldn’t become pregnant.
This angered God, “So the LORD put him to death also.” (Genesis 38:10, NIrV).
Now Tamar is left the widow of Er, and the widow of Onan. Two husbands from Judah, but no children.
Judah asked Tamar to go back to her father’s home and live there as a widow until Shelah grows up. LAME! Judah was obligated to provide for his daughter-in-law, but instead asked her to return to her own family, in shame as a widow.
“Judah was thinking, “Shelah might die too, just like his brothers.”” (Genesis 38:11). Judah must have thought that Tamar was cursed. But truly, she wasn’t the reason Er and Onan died, it was because of the Evil they committed in the sight of the LORD.
The account goes on to tell us how Judah’s wife, Shua, died. Tamar tricked Judah into thinking she was a prostitute so he would impregnate her. In verse 26, “Judah recognized [his seal and string and walking stick] and said, “She’s a better person than I am. I should have given her to my son Shelah, but I didn’t.” Judah never had sex with Tamar again.” (Genesis 38:26).
Tamar gave birth to twin sons, Perez and Zerah. It’s hard to know for sure, but I think these two sons are God’s promise fulfilled to Tamar, a son for Er, and a son for Onan. As it is, she became the first woman in the bloodline of Jesus, even in the midst of the sin and shame of her family life. God is always faithful!