Then he said, “What pledge shall I give you?” So she said, “Your signet and cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” Then he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. So she arose and went away, and laid aside her veil and put on the garments of her widowhood. (Genesis 38:18-19)
The Bible tells us that Judah had taken a wife for his eldest son whose name was Tamar. Her name means a “date palm” coming from a root that signifies “rising to heights.” This seems appropriate on one hand considering her descendants would be kings including the Messiah. However, how she came to be the mother of kings is quite unconventional. She did not have children by her first husband and Judah’s second son, called upon to “raise up seed to your brother,” did evil by Tamar and did not fulfill his duties. He died as well. With the death of two of his sons, Judah delayed, or refused to allow another son to be married to her.
But Tamar was very determined to have children from Judah – directly or indirectly. To resort to the methods she employed, on one hand, seems repugnant. But it could be argued that, to some degree, Judah forced this upon her because he was not true to his word. Therein lies a thought for us to consider; what happens when we do not keep our word? What could happen if we do not do right by another? Solomon said:
Whoever causes the upright to go astray in an evil way, he himself will fall into his own pit; but the blameless will inherit good (Proverbs 28:10)
As it turns out, this is exactly what happened to Judah. Because he refused to keep his original pledge to Tamar — to give his other son to her as husband — he unwittingly gave her another pledge that exposed his lack of integrity in a very compromising situation. Thus we learn that it is always better to keep our word once we have given it. No matter that the circumstances change, we must always keep our word — to our family, our friends and acquaintances. As we see, delaying to do so can be costly to our family and our reputation. As followers of the Messiah, it is expected of us to be men and women of integrity and so let us strive to be so as He gives us the strength to do so.
Blessings and Shalom,