Old Testament

The Pentateuch

What happened to Tamar?

Judah promised Tamar that she could marry Shelah when he got old enough. Shelah grew up, and no wedding came to pass. Tamar, intent on having a son, dressed as a prostitute, and tricked Judah into sleeping with her. In payment, he gave her his signet, cord, and staff to keep until he could send her the agreed-upon goat. Judah sent a friend back with the goat, but Tamar was nowhere to be found. Still unaware that the prostitute was Tamar in disguise, Judah decided it was best to let her keep his seal and staff, and hoped the matter would die. The Bible goes on to explain: “About three months later, Judah was told, ‘Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the whore; moreover, she is pregnant as a result of whoredom.’ And Judah said, ‘Bring her out, and let her be burned.’ As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, ‘It was the owner of these who made me pregnant.’ And she said, ‘Take note, please, whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.’ Judah, astonished and humbled, acknowledged that he owned the items. He said, “She is more right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.’” (NRSV, Genesis 38:24–26)


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