Genesis Chapter 38  The Birth of Twins

            Gen. 38:27 “And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. 28 And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first. 29 And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez. 30 And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.”

            The birth of the twins had a strange occurrence because the hand of the youngest came out first and then was drawn back into the womb.  Pharez was born first and is in the blood line leading up to the birth of Jesus (See Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 3).  Zarah was called first, but was in actuality last.  There are some New Testament passages dealing with first being last and last first:

                        1.  Matt. 19:30 “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.”

                        2.  1 Cor. 15:45 “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”

            The context, in reference 1, above, refers to the discipleship of the saints.  When we promote ourselves first then we are last in the approval of the Lord.  When we humble ourselves and consider others first and ourselves last, then we are first in the approval of the Lord.

            The context, in reference 2, above, refers to our covenant standing before the Lord.  The first Adam above was of course the man Adam.  The second Adam above is the Lord Jesus Christ.  The contrast is that Christ, though the last Adam, was the first in importance to us and our eternal standing before God.  Next, we who are children of God have two natures.  We have the earthly nature that we received from Adam and we have the spiritual nature that we received from God.  Moreover, in the resurrection we who have borne the image of the earthly shall in our bodies bear the image of the heavenly.

The Sin of Onan

            Gen. 38:7 “And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. 8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. 9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. 10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.”

            Some have thought that because the Lord slew Onan for spilling his seed upon the ground that the Lord was expressing his displeasure at birth control and therefore we should not practice birth control today.  However, a closer examination of the above shows that the cause of God’s displeasure is not just the act of Onan spilling his seed upon the ground, but rather because of his refusal to raise up seed unto his brother.  Onan had been commanded of his father to take his dead brother Er’s wife to be his wife and to raise up seed to his brother.  Therefore, Onan rebelled against the commandment of his father and put out the name of his brother by refusing to give seed to his dead brother’s wife. 

            Under the law a brother was to take his dead brother’s wife and marry her and the first born would be in the name of the dead brother: Deu. 25:5 “If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. 6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. 7 And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother. 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; 9 Then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house. 10 And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.” 

            We see that it was not birth-control in general that the Lord was displeased with Onan about, but his refusal to raise up seed in the name of his brother. 

            I do not find any teaching from the Lord in the scriptures that deals with birth control to show that the Lord is either for it or against it. 

The Sins of Judah

            This chapter is set in contrast to the surrounding chapters that detail the faithfulness and upright living of Joseph.  Just as Judah and his sins are set in contrast to Joseph, so the wickedness of Judas is set in contrast to the righteousness of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. 

            The chapter begins in Judah going down to sojourn with an Adullamite named Hirah.  While sojourning with Hirah, Judah, took a daughter of a Canaanite to wife named Shuah.  We know that Jacob had been instructed by Isaac and Rebekah not to take a wife of the Canaanites.  Obviously, Judah rebelled against such instruction. 

            Next, Judah had three sons by Shuah: Er, Onan, and Shelah.  Judah took a wife for his firstborn son, Er, whose name was Tamar.  As Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord, the Lord slew him.  At this point, Judah instructed Onan to marry Tamar and raise up a son in the name of his elder brother.  Onan rebelled against raising up a son in the name of Er, so the Lord slew him.  At this Judah instructed Tamar to wait for the youngest son to grow up and then he would be given to Tamar for a husband.  To this, Tamar, agreed and put on the garments of her widowhood and waited for Shelah to grow up. 

            However, Judah did not keep his promise to Tamar and gave her not Shelah for a husband.  The Lord expressed his displeasure against oath breakers in Zec 8:17 “And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.”

            Tamar reacted to the broken promise by disguising herself as a harlot and waiting by the wayside while Judah passed by.  Gen. 38:15 “When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. 16 And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? 17 And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it? 18 And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.”  Thus, we see that Judah willingly participated in the sin of harlotry along with his disguised daughter-in-law Tamar. 

            When it became known that Tamar was expecting through harlotry, Judah gave sentence upon her that she should be burned because she was with child by harlotry.  When Tamar made her plea she produced the evidence that the children were by her father-in-law: Gen. 38:25 “When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. 26 And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.”  Thus Judah in his self-righteousness sought to slay Tamar, but when he became aware that he was the guilty party, he said nothing about himself being burned for engaging in harlotry.