38:5 Then she had 1 yet another son, whom she named Shelah. She gave birth to him in Kezib. 2
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, 3 “I don’t want him to die like his brothers.” 4 So Tamar went and lived in her father’s house.
38:14 So she removed her widow’s clothes and covered herself with a veil. She wrapped herself and sat at the entrance to Enaim which is on the way to Timnah. (She did this because 5 she saw that she had not been given to Shelah as a wife, even though he had now grown up.) 6
38:26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more upright 7 than I am, because I wouldn’t give her to Shelah my son.” He did not have sexual relations with her 8 again.
38:27 When it was time for her to give birth, there were twins in her womb. 38:28 While she was giving birth, one child 9 put out his hand, and the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 38:29 But then he drew back his hand, and his brother came out before him. 10 She said, “How you have broken out of the womb!” 11 So he was named Perez. 12 38:30 Afterward his brother came out – the one who had the scarlet thread on his hand – and he was named Zerah. 13
1 tn Heb “and she added again and she gave birth.” The first verb and the adverb emphasize that she gave birth once more.
2 tn Or “and he [i.e., Judah] was in Kezib when she gave birth to him.”
3 tn Heb “said.”
4 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.
5 tn The Hebrew text simply has “because,” connecting this sentence to what precedes. For stylistic reasons the words “she did this” are supplied in the translation and a new sentence begun.
6 tn Heb “she saw that Shelah had grown up, but she was not given to him as a wife.”
7 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.
8 tn Heb “and he did not add again to know her.” Here “know” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.
9 tn The word “child” has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
10 tn Heb “Look, his brother came out.” By the use of the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”), the narrator invites the reader to view the scene through the midwife’s eyes. The words “before him” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
11 tn Heb “How you have made a breach for yourself!” The Hebrew verb translated “make a breach” frequently occurs, as here, with a cognate accusative. The event provided the meaningful name Perez, “he who breaks through.”
12 sn The name Perez means “he who breaks through,” referring to Perez reaching out his hand at birth before his brother was born. The naming signified the completion of Tamar’s struggle and also depicted the destiny of the tribe of Perez who later became dominant (Gen 46:12 and Num 26:20). Judah and his brothers had sold Joseph into slavery, thinking they could thwart God’s plan that the elder brothers should serve the younger. God demonstrated that principle through these births in Judah’s own family, affirming that the elder will serve the younger, and that Joseph’s leadership could not so easily be set aside. See J. Goldin, “The Youngest Son; or, Where Does Genesis 38 Belong?” JBL 96 (1977): 27-44.
13 sn Perhaps the child was named Zerah because of the scarlet thread. Though the Hebrew word used for “scarlet thread” in v. 28 is not related to the name Zerah, there is a related root in Babylonian and western Aramaic that means “scarlet” or “scarlet thread.” In Hebrew the name appears to be derived from a root meaning “to shine.” The name could have originally meant something like “shining one” or “God has shined.” Zerah became the head of a tribe (Num 26:20) from whom Achan descended (Josh 7:1).