Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, "Live as a widow in your father's house until my son Shelah grows up." For he thought, "He may die too, just like his brothers." So Tamar went to live in her father's house. Genesis 38:11
Tamar was an interesting woman of the Old Testament to study as she planned a way to establish her family line according to the law. She appears without a background within a prearranged marriage for Judahís son Er. The bible does not reveal the length of her marriage to Er, but only that Erís marriage to Tamar did not produce a family line. The time while she was married must have been rough as Er was found to be so wicked that the Lord put him to death.
Judah brought his son Onan to Tamar after what was considered a reasonable time of bereavement. He instructed Onan to lie with his brother's wife and fulfill your duty to her to produce offspring for your brother. The idea that any child born to Tamar would be a child raised as if it were not his, did not appeal to Onan. So whenever he lay with his brother's wife, he spilled his semen on the ground. This was wickedness in Godís eyes and he also was put to death.
Judah had another son, perhaps too young and at that time not ready for marriage. On the other hand his two oldest sons died while being married to Tamar and Judah considered the same fate could be awaiting his youngest. Therefore, Judah spoke kind words by inviting Tamar to live in his house until his youngest could produce offspring for her family line.
Tamar, probably didnít have much choice in the matter, but being a widow chose Judahís suggestion as a practical solution to survive. Over time Judahís wife passed away and shortly after Judah had recovered from his grief, Tamar learned Judah had made new friends and habits. She learned of one habit in particular that could work to her advantage to build her family. And she began to ponder her ideas into a plan a way whereby she could do expedite the matter.
Its evident Tamar knew of Judahís habits of making sleeping arrangements with the prostitutes in one particular city when visiting Hirah the Adullamite. Perhaps Tamar was impatient by not wanting to wait for Judahís son to grow up or didnít want to raise a child while she was old. She wanted a family to raise and broke a number of Jewish customs and laws established by God.
When it was all said and done Tamar did some research to acquire specific types of clothing well in advance of carrying out her plan. She had to plan the route to the city and know how to locate the temple prostitutes and successfully present herself as a prostitute to those passing by.
In addition she had to do this with out Judah knowing what she had planned and be ready when the time was right. The day came when again she was informed that Judah was visiting his friend Hirah the Adullamite. She gathered everything she needed to successfully carry out her plan and headed for the city that Judah found the comfort of a temple prostitute.
Once there she put on prostituteís clothing she had acquired and disguise herself by covering her face with a veil. Then she stationed herself near the city gate where Judah could easily find her. Just as she had planned Judah was on his way into the city looking for a prostitute. Everything in Judahís sight clicked when he saw what looked like a temple prostitute sitting by the roadside. Going to her he said let me sleep with you.
Apparently Tamar lived in another part of his house as he did not recognize her appearance or voice. Like other prostitutes, she began to haggle over the price for her services and settled on a price. She wanted a secured promise of payment until she received the payment agreed upon and Judah surrendered his cord, staff and seal as collateral.
In the mourning, with an skip in his gate and uplifted spirit from pondering the fresh memory of last night, Judah went home. Back to the humdrum routine of every day life where one day was like the next. He sent the agreed price but the prostitute he hired could not be found. After a couple of feeble attempts to recover his staff, cord and seal he came to the conclusion that he tried to pay the agreed price but oh well, she could not be found.
Tamar became pregnant and faced yet another problem. Everything so far had gone according to plan, but how does she hide her pregnancy from the world? Hindsight tells us that Tamar had thought out the possible contingencies. The day had come when someone noticed that Tamar was pregnant and told Judah.
In Judahís mind, actively soliciting prostitutes was permissible for him, but his daughter in law was guilty of prostitution and the law required that she be burned to death. With out a trial Judah sentenced Tamar to be burned. The sounds outside her room prepared her for what to do next and she went to the hiding spot where she kept Judahís cord, staff and seal. She sent them to Judah with the message I am pregnant by the man who owns these.
The sudden appearance of his staff, cord and seal turned the tide of the story. The condemned was justified and Tamar was considered more righteous than Judah. Still the story shows the risks that Tamar took to have what belonged to her. And being a prudent woman planned a way to have a family line. On the other hand Judah had to deal with his double standard. Intimacy with a prostitute was justified in his mind but the law prevailed when it involved prostitution by another person.