Genesis 38

I have often wondered why Genesis 38 exists in the Bible. It seems to interrupt the great story of Joseph, which begins in Genesis 37 and continues again in Genesis 39-50. Without the chapter, the chapter, the story of Joseph flows so much easier. But, as with all of God’s word, there is certainly a reason. Could it be that it forms a contrast between Joseph and his brothers?

Genesis 38 tells the story of Judah’s sinful behavior toward Tamar, his daughter in law. After the death of Tamar’s husband, Judah promised to give her his son, Shelah, when he came of age. Yet, Judah’s promise fell by the wayside. Eventually, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and solicited Judah to lie with her. When she became pregnant, Judah was outraged at her. Only later did he discover that he was the father of the children. What a mess!

Contrast this with Joseph. He was taken captive as a slave to Egypt. He was serving in Potiphar’s house as a slave. Potiphar’s wife sought to seduce him on multiple occasions, but Joseph always refused. One day, she was coming on to him so strongly, that he ran in haste, leaving Potiphar clutching his garment in his hand. Potiphar’s wife twisted the story and Joseph was spent to many years in prison.

Joseph was righteous and Judah was not. Is Genesis 38 written to demonstrate the moral difference between Joseph and his brothers?

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