Gems from Genesis: Chapter 38

It’s hard to find gems in hard stories, and like many messy family dramas, we find the beauty in the baby, so I’m going right to the baby for this one today as well. First, however, I do have to start with some background on the mess.

Though God’s plan was for Abraham and his descendants to be a people set apart from the peoples of the land, even at this early stage of their history, the sons of Israel took wives from among the Canaanites and other nations. Judah was one of the first, taking the daughter of a Canaanite, named Shua, who bore him his first son, Er. Unfortunately, this firstborn son was not obedient to the ways of the God of his father. Due to his wickedness, the Lord put him to death, leaving his widow, Tamar without a child.

To make a long story short, her brother-in-law, Onan, also died after avoiding his duty for the sake of his brother Er. Having lost two sons, Judah, held his third son back in fear that he too would die. Tamar was shamefully returned to her father’s home.

After some time, using intrigue and disguise, Tamar got her wish for a son through her own father-in-law. We arrive here at our gem just after Judah realizes he’s been caught as the father of Tamar’s child:

Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again. When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb. And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Perez. Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah.

Genesis 38:26-30 ESV

The child, Perez, breaks out, as per his name, to be the firstborn of Tamar and Judah. It is this child of Judah’s disgrace which the Lord chooses to be part of the line of the Christ. Judah, Tamar, Perez—three unlikely souls to carry the honor of lineage for the Lord Jesus, but it’s not about them; it’s about God and his grace.

We first see it in the book of Ruth—another unlikely choice:

Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.

Ruth 4:18-22 (Emphasis mine)

Then Matthew, chooses, not just to mention Perez, but his father and mother as well:

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.

Matthew 1:1-3 (Emphasis mine)

Luke, in his reverse genealogy also remembers Perez:

David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah.

Luke 3:32-33 (Emphasis mine)

Nehemiah, in listing those who lived in Jerusalem after the exile, provides one note about the descendants of Perez which shows a differing character from other sons of Judah:

And in Jerusalem lived certain of the sons of Judah and of the sons of Benjamin. Of the sons of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, son of Zechariah, son of Amariah, son of Shephatiah, son of Mahalalel, of the sons of Perez; and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, son of Col-hozeh, son of Hazaiah, son of Adaiah, son of Joiarib, son of Zechariah, son of the Shilonite. All the sons of Perez who lived in Jerusalem were 468 valiant men.

Nehemiah 11:4-6 (Emphasis mine)

Perez, the one who would break out and stand apart from those before and after him—a gem chosen by God, despite his backstory and shame, chosen by grace.

Grace and Peace

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