Jacob: 20. Sons of Jacob Contrasted

Genesis 38; 39  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 7
As the chapters henceforth till much later refer rather to Jacob's sons than to himself, there is the less reason for dwelling on them now; they may, at least most of them, come for more particular notice under the proper head. But as they furnished not a little for the experience of Jacob, also under divine government, we may survey them by the way.
“And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a man of Adullam whose name was Hirah. And Judah saw there the daughter of a Canaanitish man whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in to her. And she conceived and bare a son; and he called his name Er; and she again conceived and bore a son; and she called his name Onan. And again she bore a son, and she called his name Shelah; and he was at Chezib when she bore him. And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of Jehovah, and Jehovah slew him. And Judah said to Onan, Go in to thy brother's wife, and fulfill to her the brother-in-law's duty, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed would not be his; and it came to pass when he went in to his brother's wife, that he spilled [it] on the ground, lest he should give seed to his brother. And what he did was evil in the eyes of Jehovah; and he slew him also. And Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, Remain a widow in thy father's house, until Shelah my son is grown; for he said, Lest he die also as his brothers. And Tamar went and remained in her father's house. And the days were multiplied when the daughter of Shua, Judah's wife, died.
And Judah was comforted, and went up to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah, the Adullamite, to Timnah. And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold, thy father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep. And she put off from her the garments of her widowhood, and covered herself with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in the gate of Enaim, which is by the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given to him as wife,” &c.
The chapter needs few words to impress its proofs of Judah's low state morally, as the next does for displaying Joseph blessed and a blessing. The name of “Jehovah,” not “God” merely, is marked in both: in chap. 38 judging the manifest violation of His will, in chap. 39 causing him to prosper who sought to please Jehovah, and this in the most adverse circumstances, first as a slave, secondly as a prisoner, through the wickedness of Jew and Gentile. And we may notice that it is not Reuben or any other of the tribal heads, but Judah that proposed the sale of Joseph, and now evinced in his house the evil which drew down curse on curse, till its chief had to own the sad shame of Tamar, more righteous than himself who adjudged her to die by fire. Yet by this guilty Judah, and by Tamar came He who cleanses from all sin by His blood and will reign over the universe to God's glory, far beyond all that Joseph prefigured, as He went far lower in humiliation and suffering.” And Joseph was brought down into Egypt; and Potiphar, a chamberlain of Pharaoh, captain of the life-guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hand of the Ishmaelites that brought him down thither.
And Jehovah was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that Jehovah was with him, and that Jehovah made all which he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found favor in his eyes, and he served him; and he made him overseer over his house; and all he had he put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time he had made him overseer in his house and over all that was his, that Jehovah blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of Jehovah was upon all that was his in house and in field,” &c.
It is as lovely a picture in the simple fact of grace moving under Jehovah's guidance in purity and integrity where man and woman had dealt villainously, as Judah and his house, passing from one shame to another under His chastising hand, are a serious and humbling lesson.