Submitted by Visitor (not verified) on Mon, 07/12/2009 – 13:18
Bible Book: Genesis
Chapter: 38
Verse: 1 – 31

When BUVTON’s sermon calendar suggests preaching about Genesis 38 (a chapter not used in the RCL on Sundays), it would be a good thing to withstand the temptation of letting this ‘uncomfortable’ chapter be and trying to find another text.

I mention but a few (there will be more) reasons why Genesis 38 deserves our serious attention and why it is necessary to address this specific chapter honestly and openly in this time of HIV and aids:

* There are several misunderstandings surrounding Onan’s sexual behaviour (verse 9). (For example: That sexual intercourse that is not aimed at the fathering of children is sin. That the issue here is masturbation.) These needn’t necessarily be discussed in a sermon on this chapter.

* In spite of the fact that Judah himself acknowledges that Tamar is innocent and he is to blame (verse 26), people still see Tamar as the prostitute. Despite the information the story gives, she is the one who is made out as the guilty party. A sermon on Genesis 38 should rectify this wrong perception.

* The light of Genesis 38 falls directly on the wrong that is done to Tamar. In the first instance she, as childless widow (who has no security for her future/old age) is prevented from having children by her brother-in-law, and then kept from marrying again by her father-in-law. When she ‘takes the law into her own hands’ she is condemned as a prostitute to be burned to death (verse 24).

In the context of the AIDS pandemic where stories of abuse against women are often brought to the fore, the wrong done to Tamar deserves our serious consideration.

The challenge that Genesis 38 is presenting to us is to read (and preach) this story in such a way that we really notice the face of the woman (Tamar). In a speech he made Stephen Lewis (UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa) agrees with the familiar statement, “AIDS has a woman’s face”, and he continues, “HIV/AIDS is the worst plague this world is facing; it wreaks havoc on women and girls … Let me be clear: what we have here is the most ferocious assault ever made by a communicable disease on women’s health.” (

The (well-known) Joseph story tells how God chooses Joseph – wronged by his brothers, Mr and Mrs Potiphar and the cupbearer – as instrument to save Jacob (Israel) and his family (God’s people) from starvation. In the same way (the lesser known) Genesis 38 tells how God chooses Tamar – wronged by her brother-in-law and father-in-law – to bring forth a generation (descendant) that would ensure Jacob’s (Israel’s) and his family’s (God’s family’s) survival.

Indeed, God has noticed this woman’s face in a wonderful way!

Author: N du Toit (Ds)
Language: English