A desperate woman can do some crazy stuff. Like tricking your father-in-law to sleep with you to get pregnant.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever been that desperate, but let me introduce you to someone who was.
Tamar was stuck . . . desperate. (Genesis 38). Tamar was a Canaanite who married into Judah’s family, a family who belonged to the God of Israel. But, when Tamar’s husband died as a judgment for his evil behavior, she was left without a secure future. Thankfully, God provided a practice for widows stuck in this position. The next son in line was to marry the widow and father an heir for the dead brother and his widow, thus ensuring the dead husband a line as well as provision for the widow. Judah, as head of a God-fearing family, told his second son Onan to do the honors. But Onan didn’t like the idea of his son being considered his brother’s, and Onan weaseled out of his duty at the last minute. God judged him as well. Judah’s second son died.
And although their deaths were not her fault, Tamar got the blame. Tamar became a “bad luck bride.”
By this point Judah probably felt desperate, too. He was down to his third and last son. What about his dreams for an heir, a name, a future? Judah decided to buy some time. He sent her back to her parents’ tent with the promise of his youngest son once he grew up. Maybe he hoped she would just recede back into her Canaanite tribe, taking her bad luck streak with her.
But Tamar was patient, and she must have valued belonging to this family (and perhaps their God?) enough to wait. However, when she saw Judah’s last son had become a man and yet not given to her as promised, she took matters into her own hands. She disguised herself as a prostitute, waited for Judah on the side of a road, and let him hire her services. Three months later, Judah heard his daughter-in-law had “played the harlot” and was pregnant. How dare she! Judah judged Tamar and declared she should be punished by fire. Thankfully, Tamar was as smart as she was desperate. She produced Judah’s identifying cord, staff, and signet she’d kept as a deposit for his sex payment. Convicted of his wrong, he admitted Tamar was “more righteous than I.”
Her desperate – and to our way of thinking, plain out crazy – plan forever put Tamar in Judah’s family tree. But I doubt Tamar realized just how much a part of God’s family she’d become. Not only did Tamar get pregnant, she had twin boys. Their birth was so legendary, generations later Tamar’s daring story became an Israelite blessing when Boaz marries Ruth, another Canaanite who married an Israelite…