Genesis 38:1-26; 43:8-9; 44:18-45:3; 49:8-12; Matt. 1:3.
Genesis 38:1 - 26
ESV - 1 It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and turned aside to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. 2 There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua. He took her and went in to her.
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Judah was the fourth of Jacob's sons, and was born of Jacob's less-favored wife Leah. On the positive side, Judah persuaded his brothers not to kill their brother/half-brother Joseph because of their jealousy of him, but influenced them instead to have Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt. This ultimately led to the survival of Jacob's family during a time of famine, as recounted in Genesis 39-50. However, perhaps the partiality shown by Jacob toward his other wife (Rachel) had an adverse effect on Judah's own subsequent parenting, since God slew Judah's two eldest sons (Er and Onan) for their wickedness. Judah then defied normal custom by delaying giving his next-oldest son (Shelah) to their widow (Tamar) to marry, because Judah was afraid that God would kill Shelah also. This led to Tamar tricking Judah by disguising herself as a harlot, causing Judah not to recognize her when he committed adultery with her, as a result of which she became pregnant. When her pregnancy was revealed, Judah was then hypocritical by saying that she should be burned, until Tamar proved that Judah himself had been the father, and had further sinned by not giving Shelah to her as her husband after Onan's death. As a result of her pregnancy, Tamar gave birth to twins (Perez and Zerah), with Perez becoming an ancestor of King David, and therefore also of both Jesus' mother Mary and His earthly father, Joseph. (Jacob prophesied this messianic connection in his dying blessing of Judah, as indicated in Genesis 49:8-12.) All of this shows that God can take even very sinful people or actions, as well as the most twisted set of circumstances or behaviors, and use them for ultimate good (although that does not excuse or justify the deliberate commission of sin). Also, on two occasions (Genesis 43:8-9 and Genesis 44:33-34), Judah (even though he was not the eldest of Jacob's sons) offered himself as a ransom or guarantee that a promise that they were making would be fulfilled. This foreshadowed the way in which Jesus would later give His life for the salvation of humanity, and of how He intercedes for the redeemed before God the Father.
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