READ: Genesis 38-39
BACKGROUND: These 2 chapters tell stories about 2 brothers, Judah & Joseph, whose lives and faith both stand in stark contrast with one another. Chapter 38 is, frankly, a weird and creepy story. Chapter 39 is an inspiring one.
38:9 – The practice of a younger brother marrying the widow of his older brother was called levirate marriage. It was culturally common and it was incorporated into the law in Deuteronomy. The reason Onan didn’t want to get her pregnant was this: the inheritance belonged to the firstborn. If Tamar had a son, even if it was Onan’s son, it would have counted as Er’s son and that kid would have gotten the inheritance. If he didn’t get her pregnant, he was next in line as the firstborn. The cultural situation is complicated and difficult to understand, but this much is clear: Onan was a selfish jerk.
14 – At this point, though Tamar shouldn’t have done what she did, she did so because it was clear that Judah wasn’t dealing fairly or honestly with her. He hadn’t followed through and given her in marriage to his next son.
18 – These things that she asked for were easily identifiable as belonging to Judah and nobody else.
24 – Pretty hypocritical move by Judah.
26 – Judah shouldn’t have committed adultery with her, and he shouldn’t have avoided giving his youngest son to her either.
39:1 – Back to the story of Joseph, who’d been sold into slavery by his brothers.
4 – In just over a decade Joseph had risen to the absolute top of the heap. He was in charge of everything.
9 – Joseph fled from temptation and refused to dishonor Potiphar and, more importantly, God.
15 – Ironically, this is the 2nd time a garment of Joseph’s is used to spread a lie about him.
21 – Incredibly, almost unbelievably, God honors and blesses Joseph – and never leaves his side – even in the darkest of circumstances.
THINK: I don’t even know if they still make Highlights magazine for kids anymore, but I know that I used to love getting Highlights when I was younger. They were always full of interesting things to learn and fun games to play, but my absolute favorite part of the magazine was always the Goofus & Galant cartoon. This feature always told the story of 2 brothers who – when faced with similar situations – reacted very differently. Goofus was the idiot brother who always make the wrong choice, and Gallant was the smart, brave, perfect brother who always made the right choice. I’m not sure what I found so compelling about these cartoons, especially since I was more like Goofus and my brother was more like Gallant, but I know that it was powerful for me as a young kid to see that our choices make a difference and that we have multiple choices available to us in any situation.
It is no accident that the 2 stories in Genesis 38 & 39 are placed back to back in the book of Genesis. Judah, was working far from home and he was tempted to commit adultery with a young lady. He gave in to that temptation and it caused him and his family a great deal of pain and shame. His brother Joseph was also far from home – because he had been sold into slavery in Egypt by his own brothers. And he was tempted by the wife of his master. The temptation was no less real – in fact it might have even been worse. Judah was lonely. Joseph was lonelier. Yet, the way that each brother reacted to that temptation was completely different.
I think there is something important to be learned from these stories. It’s clear that temptation itself is not the problem. Everybody faces temptation in its many forms – even Jesus was tempted! It is how we react to temptation that makes all the difference. Do we give in? Or do we flee from it like Joseph did and stand on the truths of the Bible and the trustworthiness of God like Jesus did? It’s easy to do the former. It is so much better to do the latter.
ASK: What is my inclination, to give in to temptation or to run from it?
PRAY: Ask God to give you the strength to avoid temptation and run from it whenever it occurs in your life. Thank him for the blessing of his faithfulness and his love.