38:18 He said, “What pledge should I give you?” She replied, “Your seal, your cord, and the staff that’s in your hand.” So he gave them to her and had sex with her. 1 She became pregnant by him. 38:19 She left immediately, 2 removed her veil, and put on her widow’s clothes.
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 “and he went to her.” This expression is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.
2 tn Heb “and she arose and left,” the first verb in the pair emphasizing that she wasted no time.
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.