Personally I consider Tamar, the wife of Judah, to be one of the great women of Bible -- the Mother of most Jews and the foremother of Jesus. However, her story is a troubling one. She is most famous for disguising herself as a harlot (or sacred prostitute) in order to receive Judah's seed after he refused to give his last surviving son to her.

When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” she put off her widow’s garments, put on a veil, wrapped herself up, and sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. She saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him in marriage. When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face. He went over to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law...

About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has prostituted herself; moreover, she is pregnant as a result of prostitution.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “It was the owner of these who made me pregnant.” And she said, “Take note, please, whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” Then Judah acknowledged them and said, “She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” (Gen. 38)

I know that Tamar is listed in the NT as one of Jesus' ancestors in Matthew 1:

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.

However, I have noticed that Tamar is not much discussed by Christian pastors or my Jewish friends. I'd be interested to know more about how she is seen in these traditions.

  • I agree she was more righteous than he... but the text is clear that she sat in a public place and accepted items of value in exchange for sex. Would it satisfy you objection if I point that out in the question? Sep 23, 2022 at 17:26
  • Tamar wisely documented the exchange (by pledge) and it saved her life that she did so. Again, you are neither clear nor detailed regarding this question. You have one thing in view and that is obscuring all else from your vision.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 24, 2022 at 17:54
  • I am still uncertain what you refer to. If you mean whether she presented herself as a prostitute, that is not the issue. The question is 'How is Tamar Viewed in Judeo-Christian tradition?' How does my viewpoint [as you understand it] prevent the question from being answered adequately? Sep 24, 2022 at 18:07
  • You accuse her of 'disguising herself as a prostitute' - which I dispute. If your accusation is irrelevant to your question then I suggest you edit it out of the question and limit your question to an historic inquiry.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 24, 2022 at 18:36

1 Answer 1


I can’t comment on how this incident between Judah and Tamar is perceived within Judaism, other than to direct you to this question https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/97351/why-is-it-important-to-stress-the-prostitute-part-of-tamars-plan-regarding-ye

The answer and comments provided by Sabbahillel suggest that it was important to understand that Yehudah (Judah) was acting in a way that was permitted at the time. He believed the woman was a prostitute and so he promised to give her a goat in payment. “Torah has to give the details of the story so we can see what happened. We need to see that it was not just a random woman and that Yehudah had to leave a pledge for payment.”

With regard to one particular Christian view I am aware of, the events as described in Genesis chapter 38 shows that God uses imperfect and flawed humans in the outworking of His divine plans. Nothing is left to chance. The fact that Judah had failed to give Tamar his son Shelah as a husband after she had been widowed meant that she was driven to desperate measures if she was ever to conceive and carry on the family line. Pretending to be a prostitute in order to way-lay Judah had the desired effect, and Tamar became pregnant by Judah and bore twin sons, Perez and Zerah.

The story is recorded in Genesis 38 and provides historical and spiritual information about the Messianic line. Why is this unpleasant story included in Scripture, and why was Tamar granted the privilege of being included in the Messianic line? It may be simply to show us that God’s purpose is accomplished despite man’s unrighteousness. In Hebrews 11 there is a long list of Old Testament people who are commended for their faith, and among them are many sinful people who did dreadful things. But, because they believed God, their faith was credited to them as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). https://www.gotquestions.org/Tamar-Bible.html

More detailed information is contained here, part of which says this:

Judah married a Canaanite woman who gave Judah three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. When Er grew up, Judah gave him a wife named Tamar. But Er was an evil man, so the Lord put him to death (verse 7). Following the custom of levirate marriage, Tamar was then given to Onan, who selfishly refused to give Tamar children (verse 9); he was also put to death by the Lord for his actions. Shelah was too young to take a wife, so Judah ordered Tamar to live as a widow in her father’s house (verse 11).

After several years Judah’s own wife died, and he grieved. When he recovered, he travelled to Timnah to oversee to the shearing of his sheep. Tamar, still a widow in spite of the fact that Shelah had grown up, heard that her father-in-law was coming, and she devised a plan. Tamar put on a veil and pretended to be a prostitute on the road to Timnah (Genesis 38:14). The veil hid her identity from Judah, and Judah slept with her. Tamar became pregnant, which had been her goal all along. Three months later, when Judah found out that his supposedly chaste daughter-in-law was pregnant, he was filled with rage: “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” he demanded (verse 24). As she was being brought out for punishment as a harlot, Tamar produced evidence that her pregnancy was due to Judah’s own immorality. Judah saw his hypocrisy and repented, saying, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah” (verse 26). Judah did not have sexual relations with Tamar after that. She later gave birth to twins, two boys named Perez and Zerah (verses 29–30)...

In spite of all Judah’s faults, his blessing from Jacob was both rich and wonderful; in it, Jacob foretold that Judah’s house would be the greatest, and the scepter, or rule, would not depart from his descendants (see Genesis 49:8–12 for the full blessing). Jacob’s words held true, for, many years later, Judah’s line produced King David and his dynasty and, eventually, through the line of Perez, came the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). https://www.gotquestions.org/Judah-in-the-Bible.html

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .