Matthew 1: Tamar, Halibut and the Plans of God

If you start reading the Bible in Matthew chapter 1, you are going to be smacked with a list of names. Not names that you would probably find in your city’s maternity wing either. Some of these names are long, confusing and can make us really frustrated when we start reading the Bible.




Or, my favorite, Salmon and his brother Halibut.

(Bible disclosure. What you just read was a joke. Salmon does exist, however there is no Halibut in the family. Aunt Tuna wouldn’t let it happen.)

But, what we have to realize is that every name has a story and that story can mean something profound to us. When we read the name and know the story… a greater understanding of the hope and peace and grace of God comes into our lives.

For example, there is a phrase that is thrown into verse three. We read:

“Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar)…” Matthew 1:3a

What’s the point? We don’t hear the name of everyone’s mom… so why would the Bible include Tamar?

I would encourage you to read the story in Genesis 38. It is a tale of ejaculation, prostitution and all the stuff you don’t hear preached about on a Sunday morning. You hear the dark side of a patriarch named Judah (whose name I still think is awesome, even though his character might have been slightly askew).

Here it is in a nutshell:

Judah’s son Er gets a wife and her name is Tamar. He was wicked so God killed him. (see 38:7)

Judah tells the younger brother to marry her, have sex with her and make a baby. For some reason, this doesn’t seem like the life plan that Onan has for himself, so he pulls out just in time (before his ejaculation) and the Bible tells us that he “spilled it on the ground”. (see 38:9) Because of this… God killed him. (see 38:10)

I can’t make this stuff up.

This left the third son who was too young to get married (and probably scared to death of the “black widow” that was killing off his family), so Judah tells her to go back to her family’s home until he grew up.

She does.

He grows up.

Judah just forgets about his promise to Tamar. Life goes on and she is left without husband and without child.

This was a big deal.

To be married and have children were the purposes that drove this culture. It was disgraceful not to have children and to be a widow and not have children was just shameful.

She had trusted in her husband… that didn’t work out. She had trusted in the integrity of her father in law… and he failed her. She had hoped her life would turn out different… it didn’t. So, she took matters into her own hands.

She dressed up like a prostitute.

Maybe you didn’t see that coming. I know I didn’t when I first read it.

“I’m frustrated. I’m upset. But, I’m also single and ready to mingle! Let’s go on down to the sheep barbershop and see what I can get into.”

Judah sees her, but she has on a veil. He thinks, “There’s a prostitute and then says…”

“Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee.” This must be the normal King James talk between a “John” and a lady of the night.

Long story short… she gets a staff from him, gets a baby by him, gets accused by him, schooled him and then gets married to him. (For full story, please read your Bible!)

The baby (or should I say ‘babies’) are born… twins… named Perez and Zerah (NLT).

These babies are found in the lineage of Jesus. They are part of His story… Tamar is part of His story… and YOU are part of His story.

Maybe you understand how Tamar felt. Let down by people. Alone. Forgotten. Maybe you, like her, have tried to take matters into your hands. For some of us, that has worked. For others, it has blown up in your face. However… for all of us… whether we sit with smiles or singed eyebrows from a recent life explosion, God can work in that.

He does. He works in our mistakes. He works in our victories. He sees our pain and comforts us through it. He is guiding the steps of your life and has a perfect plan for you. The only question is… “Will you respond to Him? Will you give Him control over the chaos today?”

Tamar was far from a perfect person. Many things she did were wrong. However, God still used her in His story. I want to encourage you to believe this simple fact today:

God wants to use you in His story. Will you let Him?


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