(I was not able to attend today.) this is the story of Judah and the fact that he became part of the Canaanite culture. He married a Canaanite woman and appeared to be part of her culture. This illustrates the continued disintegration of Jacob’s family. Reuben and Levi avenged Dinah at Shecham. The brothers kidnapped and sold Joseph. Judah even had sex with his daughter-in-because he thought she was a prostitute. I guess that excuses him a little, but really a prostitute! Then she blackmailed him. Good for her, not the deception but it served him right. It is like a Shakespeare play with confusion between twins that he wouldn’t know his daughter-in-law. Jacob must have been very upset to see his family straying from God in this way. Jacob must have wondered who would carry on the tradition
On Nov 28, 2012, at 8:51 AM, John Grundstad wrote the following report about our study on Tuesday. Thanks so much to John for his excellent commentary.
Today, on “sexy Tuesday,” we read Genesis Chapters 38 and 39. Chapter 38 recounts the masturbation of Judah’s son Onan to circumvent his father’s orders to send up seed to Tamar, the wife of his deceased brother Er (who had been killed by God for his wicked ways). For this detestable act, Onan was then also put to death by God. (Note: the obscure English term “onanism” refers to masturbation). Chapter 38 also contains the story of how Judah himself, after his wife died, had a sexual encounter with Tamar, who had disguised herself as a harlot. In fact, he even agrees to pay her for her favors. Upon being discovered with child, Tamar avoids being burned for harlotry by revealing who the father was. The issue of this unseemly episode were Perez and Zerah, with the former being in the direct line of genealogy of Joseph, husband of Mary. Finally, in chapter 39, we have the story of Joseph in Egypt. Joseph was much blessed by the Lord, including being very handsome. So much so, in fact, that Pharaoh’s wife does her best to seduce him, even tearing his garment off in the process. She explains the left-behind garment with a vindictive canard about a Hebrew servant (presumably identifiable through circumcision) who tried to defile her. Pharoah throws Joseph in prison, but he is protected there by God?
The reading gave rise to a discussion of sexual mores, past and present. The actions of Judah in particular are interesting because there seems to be no particular stigma or censure attached to Judah’s use of what he believes to be a prostitute. If anything, there is embarrassment over the fact that the woman turns out to be his own daughter-in-law. It is also interesting that, if one accepts the genealogy accounts in the Bible, Jesus is descended from a woman who has prostituted herself. Quite a contrast to his eventual miraculous birth by a woman who was sexually pure. But then there is the question of whether the genealogy of Jesus is accurate in the first place, and not a contrivance of the biblical authors to document the dominance of the male in Jesus’ lineage. The latter would be consistent with a pervasive theme throughout the OT that women had little worth independent of their husbands.
The Genesis stories can be troubling to the modern reader and give rise to questions about God’s actions in the world, his “will,” his devotion to a morally challenged tribe of people, etc. But then morality is a matter of time and place and cultural circumstances and perhaps it is inappropriate to judge one era from the perspective of another. The question was raised as to whether morality today is generally in decline, for instance in regard to sex outside of marriage. There are many examples of the tragedy of wayward sexuality in our lives. Pastor noted the reality and the challenge of ministering to couples according to the teaching of the church, while recognizing that in most cases they are not celibate when they come to the sacrament. But of over-riding importance is the idea of community in the context of marriage, that marriages are not only blessed by God, but by the community that passes its blessings on to couples along with a pledge to support them in their lives together, in the process maintaining and perpetuating itself.