Category: Casual Commentary

January 15, 2020

Jesus’ Ancestors (1:1-17) Part 7

Judah married Er to a young Canaanite woman named Tamar. Their marriage was short-lived. Er died. So Judah ordered his n ext son, Onan to have sex with Tamar in order “to raise up offspring for your brother.” This was what we know as “levirate marriage” (more on that later). Onan complied with his father’s command but not fully. Whenever he ejaculated he withdrew (“coitus interruptus”) and “spilled his semen on the ground.” He “knew the child would not be his.” We’re told, “what he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight”, and so God is credited with his death.

So the patriarch consigns Tamar to widowhood — a fate worse than death in that culture — and tells her to wait until Shelah is old enough to father children. Tamar submits to Judah’s instruction and goes home, disgraced, to live with her parents.

Shortly thereafter Judah himself is widowed. Then, after the mourning period, he sets out to find his workers who are shearing his sheep. Tamar hears that her father-in-law is on the road. She quickly discards her widow’s garments, dresses as a prostitute, and intercepts him. He propositions her. She accepts, but demands a “pledge” or “IOU” that will guarantee Judah’s compliance in sending her a “goat” for payment. He gives her this “seal and its cord”, and the “staff in his hand”. This was quite extravagant — It would be like surrendering your driver’s license and credit cards. Judah was already awash in guilt, apparently.

A few months later Judah is told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution and as a result she is now pregnant.” Judah responds angrily, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” When she is confronted she coolly replies, “I am pregnant by the man who owns these” and she produces the seal and staff of Judah. Judah embarrassed, replies, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t giver her my son Shelah.” Tamar, exonerated, gives birth to twins Perez and Zerah. Perez becomes a progenitor of the kings of Judah. Truly, “God moves in mysterious ways.”

January 8, 2020

Jesus’ Ancestors (1:1-17) Part 6

In Ge. 38:1-3 the narrative of Judah and Tamar is written. Judah was the fourth-born to Jacob’s first wife Leah. He was the “father” of the future Isrealites who later took on his name to describe their territory — the southern kingdom of Judah — and their national/ethnic designation: “Jews”. As you read the Genesis account you realize that this story summarizes events over the course of 15-20 years. It reads like a soap-opera.

Judah’s era was what modern Israelis refer to as “meyode primitivi” (very primitive). It was a raw time of battles between ethnic clans, ongoing struggles with health and nature, short life-spans, and more sorrow than joy. Rape and pillage were common, as was the vie view of women as sex-objects and wombs for sons. They had the status of prized animals in many cases. Sexual morality had faint profile. It was a man’s world, and it was the strong man who prevailed.

Judah was such a man. He ruled his household with inviolable authority. What he wanted he got. What he commanded was obeyed. His word was his will. In this account we read about his marriage to a Canaanite woman, daughter of a man named Shua. She gave Juda three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. There appears to have a gap of several years between the last two.

January 1, 2020

Jesus ‘ Ancestors (1:1-17) Part 5

But before moving on, there is something powerfully ironic in this genealogy. In contradistinction to almost all other Jewish records, Matthew’s includes women! Here are their stories. In Ge. 19:30-38 we read about Lot’s daughters. Lot, Abraham’s nephew had settled in Sodom which at that time was a fertile valley. The moral climate of Sodom was sexually out of control, and there was a decided hedonism characterized by pride, gluttony, laziness, and the neglect of the poor (Ez. 16:49). God decided to destroy it, but gave Lot and his family angelic warning. He, his wife, and daughters fled. While camping in a cave in the mountains outside of a small town called Zoar something happened that greatly offends modern sensibilities. Lot’s daughters slept with their father.

Why? Well, for one thing women in that day found their value in their capacity to bear and raise children (sons especially). Here Lot’s daughters were, stuck in a cave, with the whole world (as they thought it) destroyed. They did not want the human race to end with them. So, since their father was the only living male, they chose a deliberate and “practical” course of action. This had nothing to do with sexual pleasure. It was all about keeping the race alive.

As it turned out, both became pregnant, and bore two future enemies of Israel–Moab (Moabites) and Ben-Ammi (Ammonites).

December 25, 2019

Jesus’ Ancestors (1:1-17) Part Four

But the common people, those illiterate, impressionable labourers, farmers, and shop-keepers, also had their say:

“Could this be the Son of David?” (Mt. 12: 23)

“A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy o me!'” (Mt. 15:22)

Perhaps the ultimate declaration, albeit not from the apostles, nor the people, was the voice of the demonic spirits, no better illustrated than by Luke 4:33, 34:

“In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, ‘Go away! What do you want with us Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”

This is what Matthew wants to stress–Jesus is Son of Abraham, Son of David, Son of Man, Son of God. He ‘is’ the Messiah. Thus the genealogy.