38:11 Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s house until Shelah my son grows up.” For he thought, 1 “I don’t want him to die like his brothers.” 2 So Tamar went and lived in her father’s house.
38:26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more upright 3 than I am, because I wouldn’t give her to Shelah my son.” He did not have sexual relations with her 4 again.
1 tn Heb “said.”
2 tn Heb “Otherwise he will die, also he, like his brothers.”
sn I don’t want him to die like his brothers. This clause explains that Judah had no intention of giving Shelah to Tamar for the purpose of the levirate marriage. Judah apparently knew the nature of his sons, and feared that God would be angry with the third son and kill him as well.
3 tn Traditionally “more righteous”; cf. NCV, NRSV, NLT “more in the right.”
sn She is more upright than I. Judah had been irresponsible and unfaithful to his duty to see that the family line continued through the levirate marriage of his son Shelah. Tamar fought for her right to be the mother of Judah’s line. When she was not given Shelah and Judah’s wife died, she took action on her own to ensure that the line did not die out. Though deceptive, it was a desperate and courageous act. For Tamar it was within her rights; she did nothing that the law did not entitle her to do. But for Judah it was wrong because he thought he was going to a prostitute. See also Susan Niditch, “The Wronged Woman Righted: An Analysis of Genesis 38,” HTR 72 (1979): 143-48.
4 tn Heb “and he did not add again to know her.” Here “know” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.