Sometimes we have to do hard things. Sometimes those things don’t make any sense to us or to those around us.
For my final project for my Biblical Interpretation class last semester I had the opportunity to do a creative project of my choice. Which, for me, meant settling on a female character in the Bible and writing a monologue from her perspective. After many suggestions and much prayer, I settled on Tamar in Genesis 38 (there are 3 Tamar’s in the Old Testament). Her story has always intrigued me (well, always since I read it many years ago, not so much before I knew it existed!). And the common person’s reaction has always frustrated me. We make judgments so quickly; judgments made from how we see culture, God, and history. But what if we lived in a different time and place, and our view points were different? We would still make judgments about people, but we might come to a very different conclusion. Our experiences and culture influence our judgment in ways we don’t even fully recognize.
ANYWAY, Tamar intrigues me. SO, I studied her. I read her story multiple times in multiple translations (not in the original Hebrew because I’m not that boss). I studied the laws and culture of her time (I’m a nerd – I loved this part!). And I prayed a lot. And read the Joseph story that her story is stuck dead in the middle of. And I learned a lot about her.
And I learned that sometimes, in order to fulfill God’s will, we have to do hard things. Or things that don’t make sense. Or things that sometimes, others theologically don’t agree with (this one is tricky, if you’re the only thinking God told you to do something, chances are it wasn’t God, but sometimes….well, have your listening-to-God ears turned on!).
Anyway, here’s what I came up with for her. Go read Genesis 38 first. If you don’t have a Bible handy, go read it here, and then read my monologue. I’d love feedback!
You know, Judah, if you had just done your manly duty, we wouldn’t be in this mess. You would have ended up looking like a man of honor, a man who trusted God, and I wouldn’t carry around the label of “prostitute”. Which, by the way isn’t overly honoring for you, your now-dead sons, or the rest of our family either.
But no, you didn’t do that. Your boys were wicked. God killed my husband, Er, your eldest son, because of his wickedness, before I could give him a son, and God killed his younger brother, Onan, because of his wicked actions toward me. Onan would not fulfill his brotherly duty. He didn’t mind using me, no Sir, but when it came to planting his seed in me…well…he wasn’t such a big fan of that. Did you know that Judah? Did you know Onan was defiling me that way? Was mocking God in that way? I get it, he didn’t want his suddenly doubled inheritance to be taken from him by Er’s son…that HE fathered. But that doesn’t make it right.
And then, you send me away from your house. Afraid that if you gave me to Shelah, your youngest, he’d die too. Even you shirked from your duty. By law, you were just as responsible as your sons. I’m not saying it was a wonderful option; that either of us would have preferred it, but it was an option.
But instead you sent me away, saying your youngest son Shelah was still too immature to do a man’s job. Promising to send for me when he was a man.
So I went back to my father’s house, in shame, my future (and yours) still insecure.
Time passed. And more time passed. And Shelah grew up. And still you didn’t call for me. Your wife died, and still you didn’t call for me.
Perhaps you were afraid of losing your only family. I can understand that. But Judah, your God is a powerful God. Why didn’t you trust him?
As I waited, I heard rumor of you going to a sheep-shearing festival with your friend. And I knew this was my only chance, perhaps to right all the wrongs – whether or not I had inflicted them. And, forgive me, I knew that, with your wife having died earlier, that you would be desirous of time spent with a female.
So, I did what the women in our area did, in worship of their god. What was acceptable for them to do – even if not acceptable in the eyes of your god Judah. I had to stoop to heathen practices to help you do the duty you were supposed to do, years before. I played the prostitute.
For the first time since you sent me away, I took off my widow’s clothes and put on the soft, seductive ones of a prostitute. I covered my face, as prostitutes do, and went to meet you on the road, on your way to the festival.
And you did as I expected. You asked me to let you come in to me. I could see the desire in your eyes but I needed proof, for later on. So I asked what you would pay. The kid goat you offered was not with you, so I asked for your staff, your cord and seal as a pledge. I didn’t expect to get all three. Your staff, your cord, your seal…those three together are your identity. And yet, at the asking of a prostitute, you give them freely away, for a few minutes of pleasure.
When you were done with me, I quickly left that place. I put my widow’s garb back on, and waited, and prayed. And three months later, my father found out what I had done. He was furious, and he sent you word.
And then it was your turn to be furious, though you had no right to be. But I had thought ahead. I knew this moment was coming. I was not sure what you would do in it, confronted with what you had done, with what I had been forced to do. But that was the chance I took. One final chance.
And so I sent them to you, your seal, your staff, your cord, with the words, “It is by the owner of these that I am pregnant”.
It seemed an eternity in that moment. Waiting to hear if you would still burn me alive. Waiting to hear if you would finally call me back into your house.
And you did, to God be the glory, you asked me back. It was overheard that you said I was more righteous than you, for you had not given me to your son Shelah.
So now, Judah, now as you hold your twin sons I have given you, you have a choice. How will you raise them? Raise them not as you raised my husband Er, and as his brother Onan. Raise them instead to be men of God, righteous as their mother…and righteous as their father tries to be.