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Women in the Bible: Tamar

A Women Takes Extreme Action to Get What Is Due Her

Tamar is a victim who takes extreme action to vindicate herself. She’s the daughter-in-law of Judah. She suffers at his hand, responds with guile, and has twins with him. Later she is one of four women mentioned in Jesus’s family tree. Talk about a messed-up situation. Here’s her story:

Tamar marries Judah’s oldest son. He’s evil and dies. She’s passed on to his brother to produce offspring in his stead. The brother doesn’t cooperate, and God kills him. Judah promises Tamar his third son when he’s old enough and sends her back to live with her parents to wait.

He has no intention of following through. He lies to her.

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Once she realizes this, she dresses like a hooker, and waits where she knows Judah will be. Not knowing who she is, he sleeps with her, and she gets pregnant. He uses her.

When Judah finds out his daughter-in-law is pregnant, he condemns her to die.

Then she reveals who the father is. Judah confesses his role, and he professes his daughter-in-law as righteous. They, along with their son Perez, are part of Jesus’ genealogy.

Tamar’s drastic steps ensure she will have a family and be cared for; God ensures she has a legacy.

The story of Tamar concludes in Matthew 1:3. She’s also celebrated when the elders bless Ruth in Ruth 4:12.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 36-38 and today’s post is on Genesis 38:24-26.]


Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Five Confusing Verses About Tamar

I blogged about Tamar and her lustful half-brother who raped her. I spent three weeks reading and re-reading this story, meditating on it and trying to make sense of it. Despite that, five perplexing verses still mystify me.

Surely there’s some historical context I don’t comprehend, still I’m left with the feeling there’s more to this story. Consider:

  • “Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her,” (2 Samuel 13:2). First, she’s his sister. Second, what difference does it make if she’s a virgin; it’s still wrong? Third, what acceptable thing could he do if she wasn’t?
  • When solicited, Tamar said, “‘Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you,’” (2 Samuel 13:13). Again, they’re brother and sister; they can’t get married. Is this a ploy to escape or is she open to marriage?
  • After he raped her, “Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her,” (2 Samuel 13:15). True love cannot immediately turn to intense hate, perhaps lust can, but not love.
  • Tamar’s response: “‘No!’ she said to him. ‘Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me,’” (2 Samuel 13:16). After he rapes her, she wants to stay with him. Why? Is she trying to make the best of a bad situation?
  • “Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you?’” (2 Samuel 13:20) Absalom doesn’t ask, “What happened?” He assumes the perpetrator is Amnon. If he suspected Amnon’s intent, why didn’t he protect his sister?

Like these five verses, the Bible contains many passages that perplex us. We need to accept that we can’t comprehend all of the Bible’s nuances and embrace what we can understand; that should keep us busy the rest of our life.

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Women in the Bible: Tamar, sister of Absalom

The story of Tamar is a tragic one. The beautiful daughter of King David caught the eye of her half-brother, Amnon, who lusted for her. At the advice of his cousin, Amnon feigned illness and manipulated Tamar into his bedroom.

Once alone, he grabbed and solicited her. Three times Tamar refused. When her pleading wasn’t enough to stop him, she talked about the implications: her disgrace and him appearing as foolish and wicked.

In desperation, she even suggested they ask dad for his permission to marry. But Amnon refused to listen to her. He raped her.

Then his supposed love for Tamar immediately turned to an even more intense hate. When he told her to leave, Tamar refused, saying that him kicking her out would be an even greater insult. Amnon had her forcibly removed from his presence.

Tamar then went to live with Absalom, her full-brother, in desolation. It’s a sad and confusing situation.

(Absalom later killed Amnon because of what he did to Tamar. Absalom also named one of his daughters Tamar, perhaps in honor of his sister. Also, read about another woman named Tamar.)

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Samuel 13-15 and today’s post is on 2 Samuel 13:1-21.]

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.