Messy Trees

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In your Bible reading, do you ever come across passages that are seemingly irrelevant? Like the endless genealogies in Numbers or the painstakingly detailed rules in Leviticus? Following my Five Day Bible Reading Plan, I arrived at Genesis 38, one of those irrelevant passages.

In it, we read about Judah and his daughter-in-law, Tamar, whose husband God killed for some unknown sin. About her husband’s brother not fulfilling his Levirate marriage duties to provide an heir for the deceased (what?) and thus also being killed by God. About Judah promising her his third son eventually but not following through; leading Tamar to disguise herself as a cult prostitute (okay…), wait for Judah to come along and take her (how did she know??), resulting in incest. Yikes. Talk about messy. To add to the confusion, in the previous chapter Joseph gets sold into slavery by his brothers, and the following chapter picks up Joseph’s story again. So what’s the deal with chapter 38? Seems like a random addition. Is it some oddity in the textual transmission of the book? What was the writer/editor thinking?

As time permits, I try to supplement my reading with a commentary. It often points out connections that I have missed, which I find very helpful. So here. This weird messy incestuous relationship produced twins, Zerah and Perez. In Ruth, the line of Perez is traced down to King David! And, you guessed it, reading through the genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, we find the same line going to Jesus the Messiah, the Lion of Judah. Wow. The family tree of Messiah sure wasn’t clean and pure. There is sin and there are Gentiles, yet it pleased God to use this line to bring about the incarnation of the Son. What humility and mercy!

Photo by Eilis Garvey on Unsplash