This chapter is an odd, and quite explicit, intermission of the story of Joseph. But every story has a purpose in the Bible. Here we see a greater contrast between Joseph, one of purity, and Judah, one filled with lust.
At this point Judah was a teenager who began hanging with wrong crowd. It was only a matter of time before he became one of them. Oh, how many times have we seen children raised in a good home, only to fall quickly into darkness with “friends.” How many times do we find ourselves gradually being influenced by those around us? 1 Corinthians 15:33 says it best ‘Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”’ But wait, Jesus hung out with sinners! Here’s the catch. He didn’t hang around to try out their ways, as Jesus knew those were against the Lord’s will. Our purpose should be that of Jesus’. We hangout with non-believers to bring them to God’s word and lead them to love the Lord and everything He has done for us! Everyone should hear about how awesome God is, the amazing sacrifice He has made to save us, and the awesome eternal life that awaits!
“He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it… Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith.” – Titus 1:9, 13
Now, it’s time to sort out some of this Old Testament stuff. Back in the day it was customary for a widow to marry her brother-in-law. In fact, it was put into the law of Moses in Deut. 25:5 (gasp!). But this represented a duty to family. Onan’s refusal to impregnate his late brother’s wife and carry on the family name was in fact a punishment for both Er and Onan. Er’s life was taken for his wickedness, and his family line ended. Onan, through his disobedience, missed out on being part of the family line of the Messiah, as Jesus was to be part of Judah’s family line.
Then we have Judah. Without diving too much into his more obvious, self-created mess, it is interesting to note his immediate condemnation of Tamar. We are so quick to call out the faults of others, when often times we are sinning in the same manner, or even more. And only shame results.
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” – Romans 2:1