One Night Stand in the Bible – Judah and Tamar-


Have you ever had a “One night stand”, when emotion and passion caused you to have sex with someone you either knew or did not know? How do you think God looks upon the “Politics of passion?” One view into the mind of God is the biblical story of Judah and Tamar. Tamar is the childless daughter in law of Judah. Her husband, Er, died an early death. The ancient Hebrew law required the next of kin to impregnate the childless widow of his relative. The brother of Er does not want to impregnate Tamar because he is afraid he might die like his brother. After a while, Judah, the father in law of Tamar loses his wife to death and becomes a widow.

One day, when Judah goes to visit a friend for a shearing of sheep, Tamar takes off her widow’s garb, puts on bright clothes and presents herself as a prostitute. Her face is covered and Judah makes her an offer to sleep with her. Tamar becomes pregnant by her father in law, Judah. When Judah believes that Tamar is a prostitute and makes her an offer, he has no money, but offers her a sheep. Tamar requires him to leave something tangible, so he gives her his signet ring and cord. These items end up saving the life of Tamar because when Judah and his family threaten to burn her because she is pregnant, her life is spared when she produces the ring and cord and informs her accusers that those items were owned by the man who got her pregnant. Judah admits his indiscretion and Tamar is spared.

This story is one of those crazy examples of how truth can be stranger than fiction. Judah’s condemnation of what he thinks is Tamar’s indiscretion is eclipsed by his own poor judgment, wrapped up in a “One night stand.”

Genesis 38: 15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 He went over to her at the roadside, and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17 He answered, “I will send you a kid from the flock.” And she said, “Only if you give me a pledge, until you send it.” 18 He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord, and the staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19 Then she got up and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood. [1]


Questions for Reflection:

  1. What are your thoughts about the “One night stand” between Judah and Tamar?
  2. What would you do if you were a childless widow like Tamar?
  3. Does Tamar have any other options than to sleep with Judah?
  4. What do you think about the mean and harsh reaction Judah has towards Tamar when he learns she is pregnant?
  5. What are your thoughts about the “Situational ethics” between Judah and his daughter in law?
  6. How do you think God looks at human beings with the tough and sometimes bad choices we make?


Prayer: Lord, help me to be fair in how I treat other people. Teach me to be kind and understanding as I witness the pain in others. Lord, teach me to be sensitive to suffering, humble in the presence of personal hurt and spiritual as I tend to the shame of others. Lord, guide my thoughts, that I might make good choices. Lord, guide my hands that I might make good actions. Lord, help me to feel the pain in others and see something worthwhile in others. Show me the way to a life worthy of your calling. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior I pray. Amen.


Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III

Photo by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III

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[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ge 38:15–19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.