Notes for Gen 38:1LEB

"went down from."


"and he turned aside unto."


"a man, an Adullamite."


Notes for Gen 38:2LEB

"a man, a Canaanite."


"and his name was Shua."


"and he took her."


"and he went to her." This expression is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.


Notes for Gen 38:3LEB

Or "she conceived" (also in the following verse).


Some mss read this verb as feminine, "she called," to match the pattern of the next two verses. But the MT, "he called," should probably be retained as the more difficult reading.


"and he called his name." The referent (Judah) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


Notes for Gen 38:5LEB

"and she added again and she gave birth." The first verb and the adverb emphasize that she gave birth once more.


Or "and he [i.e., Judah] was in Kezib when she gave birth to him."


Notes for Gen 38:6LEB

"and Judah took."


Notes for Gen 38:8LEB

"go to." The expression is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.


The imperative with the prefixed conjunction here indicates purpose.


Raise up a descendant for your brother. The purpose of this custom, called the levirate system, was to ensure that no line of the family would become extinct. The name of the deceased was to be maintained through this custom of having a child by the nearest relative. See M. Burrows, "Levirate Marriage in Israel," JBL 59 (1940): 23-33.


Notes for Gen 38:9LEB



"would not be his," that is, legally speaking. Under the levirate system the child would be legally considered the child of his deceased brother.


The construction shows that this was a repeated practice and not merely one action.


The text makes it clear that the purpose of the custom was to produce an heir for the deceased brother. Onan had no intention of doing that. But he would have sex with the girl as much as he wished. He was willing to use the law to gratify his desires, but was not willing to do the responsible thing.


"he went to." This expression is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.


"he spoiled [his semen] to the ground." Onan withdrew prematurely and ejaculated on the ground to prevent his brother’s widow from becoming pregnant.


Notes for Gen 38:10LEB

"he"; the referent (the Yahweh) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


Notes for Gen 38:11LEB



"Otherwise he will die, also he, like his brothers."


I don’t want him to die like his brothers. This clause explains that Judah had no intention of giving Shelah to Tamar for the purpose of the levirate marriage. Judah apparently knew the nature of his sons, and feared that Yahweh would be angry with the third son and kill him as well.


Notes for Gen 38:12LEB

After some time. There is not enough information in the narrative to know how long this was.


The text says "the days increased." It was long enough for Shelah to mature and for Tamar to realize she would not have him.


"and he went up to the shearers of his sheep, he and."


Notes for Gen 38:13LEB

"And it was told to Tamar, saying."


The active participle indicates the action was in progress or about to begin.


Notes for Gen 38:14LEB

The Hebrew text simply has "because," connecting this sentence to what precedes. For stylistic reasons the words "she did this" are supplied in the translation and a new sentence begun.


"she saw that Shelah had grown up, but she was not given to him as a wife."


Notes for Gen 38:15LEB

"he reckoned her for a prostitute," which was what Tamar had intended for him to do. She obviously had some idea of his inclinations, or she would not have tried this risky plan.


Notes for Gen 38:16LEB

"I will go to you." The imperfect verbal form probably indicates his desire here. The expression "go to" is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.


"for he did not know that."


"when you come to me." This expression is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.


Notes for Gen 38:17LEB

"until you send."


Notes for Gen 38:18LEB

"and he went to her." This expression is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.


Notes for Gen 38:19LEB

"and she arose and left," the first verb in the pair emphasizing that she wasted no time.


Notes for Gen 38:20LEB

"sent by the hand of his friend." Here the name of the friend ("Hirah") has been included in the translation for clarity.


"to receive the pledge from the woman’s hand."


"he"; the referent (Judah’s friend Hirah the Adullamite) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


Notes for Gen 38:21LEB

"the men of her place," that is, who lived at the place where she had been.


The Hebrew noun translated "cult prostitute" is derived from a verb meaning "to be set apart; to be distinct." Thus the term refers to a woman who did not marry, but was dedicated to temple service as a cult prostitute. The masculine form of this noun is used for male cult prostitutes. Judah thought he had gone to an ordinary prostitute (v. 15); but Hirah went looking for a cult prostitute, perhaps because it had been a sheep-shearing festival. For further discussion see E. M. Yamauchi, "Cultic Prostitution," Orient and Occident (AOAT), 213–23.


Notes for Gen 38:23LEB

The words "the things" have been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.


"we will become contemptible." The Hebrew word בּוּז (buz) describes the contempt that a respectable person would have for someone who is worthless, foolish, or disreputable.


Notes for Gen 38:24LEB

"it was told to Judah, saying."


Or "has been sexually promiscuous." The verb may refer here to loose or promiscuous activity, not necessarily prostitution.


"and also look, she is with child by prostitution."


Notes for Gen 38:25LEB

"she was being brought out and she sent." The juxtaposition of two clauses, both of which place the subject before the predicate, indicates synchronic action.


"who these to him."


Or " recognize; note." This same Hebrew verb (נָכַר, nakhar) is used at the beginning of v. 26, where it is translated "recognized."


Notes for Gen 38:26LEB

Traditionally "more righteous"; cf. NCV, NRSV, NLT "more in the right."


She is more upright than I. Judah had been irresponsible and unfaithful to his duty to see that the family line continued through the levirate marriage of his son Shelah. Tamar fought for her right to be the mother of Judah’s line. When she was not given Shelah and Judah’s wife died, she took action on her own to ensure that the line did not die out. Though deceptive, it was a desperate and courageous act. For Tamar it was within her rights; she did nothing that the law did not entitle her to do. But for Judah it was wrong because he thought he was going to a prostitute. See also Susan Niditch, "The Wronged Woman Righted: An Analysis of Genesis 38, " HTR 72 (1979): 143-48.


"and he did not add again to know her." Here "know" is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.

Notes for Gen 38:28LEB

The word "child" has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.


Notes for Gen 38:29LEB

"Look, his brother came out." By the use of the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, "look"), the narrator invites the reader to view the scene through the midwife’s eyes. The words "before him" are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.


"How you have made a breach for yourself!" The Hebrew verb translated "make a breach" frequently occurs, as here, with a cognate accusative. The event provided the meaningful name Perez, "he who breaks through."


The name Perez means "he who breaks through," referring to Perez reaching out his hand at birth before his brother was born. The naming signified the completion of Tamar’s struggle and also depicted the destiny of the tribe of Perez who later became dominant (Gen 46:12LEB and Num 26:20LEB). Judah and his brothers had sold Joseph into slavery, thinking they could thwart Yahweh’s plan that the elder brothers should serve the younger. Yahweh demonstrated that principle through these births in Judah’s own family, affirming that the elder will serve the younger, and that Joseph’s leadership could not so easily be set aside. See J. Goldin, "The Youngest Son; or, Where Does Genesis 38 Belong?" JBL 96 (1977): 27-44.


Notes for Gen 38:30LEB

Perhaps the child was named Zerah because of the scarlet thread. Though the Hebrew word used for "scarlet thread" in v. 28 is not related to the name Zerah, there is a related root in Babylonian and western Aramaic that means "scarlet" or "scarlet thread." In Hebrew the name appears to be derived from a root meaning "to shine." The name could have originally meant something like "shining one" or "Yahweh has shined." Zerah became the head of a tribe (Num 26:20) from whom Achan descended (Josh 7:1LEB).