Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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GENESIS - Chapter 38

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Genesis xxxviii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. At that time Juda, twenty years old, marries the daughter of Sue, and has three sons by her during the three following years. The first takes Thamar to wife, when he was seventeen. Onan marries her the next year; after which, she remains a widow about three years, when she bears twins to Juda. Phares goes down with him into Egypt, and has children there during Jacob's life. On this account, they are numbered among those who went down with Jacob, (chap. xlvi. 12,) as the children of Benjamin seem to be likewise. Thus all these events might happen during the twenty-three years that Jacob dwelt in Chanaan, and the seventeen that he sojourned in Egypt. Some have thought the time too short, and have concluded that Juda had been married long before Joseph's slavery. He was, however, only four years older. (Calmet)

Ver. 5. Sela. Juda gave the name of Her to his first-born, as the Hebrew shews. His wife gave names to the two latter. --- Ceased; Hebrew casbi: "she died in bearing him," as Aquila has it. Most commentators take the word for the name of a place mentioned, Josue xv. 44. "He (Juda) was at Casbi when she bare him."

Ver. 7. Wicked; without shame or remorse, sinning against nature, in order, if we may believe the Jews, that the beauty of his wife might not be impaired by having children. Onan was actuated by envy. (Menochius)

Ver. 8. Wife. This was then customary among the Chanaanites, as Philo insinuates. It also continued to be practised in Egypt, till the year of Christ 491 at least, when the marriage had not been consummated. Moses established it as a law, when no issue had sprung from the deceased brother. (Calmet) (Deuteronomy xxv. 5.) The eldest son bore his name; the rest were called after their own father. This law is now abrogated; and the prohibition, which has been issued by the Church, can be dispensed with only by herself, (Worthington) as was the case in the marriage of Henry VIII, with Catherine, the virgin relict of his brother Arthur. (Haydock)

Ver. 10. Slew him, perhaps by the hand of evil angels, Psalm lxxvii. 49. Asmodeus, &c., who slew the libidinous husbands of Sara. (Tobias iii. 7.) (Menochius)

Ver. 11. Till. Juda had no design to give her to Sela, as the custom of that age required. (Calmet) --- She waited patiently for a time; when, perceiving that she was neglected, she devised a wicked scheme to punish Juda, even at the hazard of her own life. (Haydock)

Ver. 14. Veil; (theristrum) a long robe, covering the whole body, except the eyes. Thus she was disguised; or, as it were, masked, as Aquila translates. Harlots herein imitated modest women, chap. xxiv. 65. --- Cross way. Hebrew Henayim, which the Septuagint and Syriac take for a proper name. Others translate "at the gate of the eyes," which means two roads, where a person must open his eyes to judge which is the right one---or "at the gate of the two fountains leading to Thamnas," Judges xiv. 1. Prostitutes formerly infested the high roads. (Jeremias iii. 2; Ezechiel xvi. 25.) Chrysippus says, "at first harlots remained out of the city, and covered their faces; but afterwards growing more hardened, they laid aside the mask," &c.

Ver. 18. Staff. These were all marks of dignity. "Kings made use of spears, or sceptres, before they wore a diadem." (Trogus. 43.) (Calmet) --- Juda might blame himself for exposing these valuable things, and divesting himself of all his dignity, to gratify his unjustifiable passion. If some have excused both the parties concerned, the Scripture at least sufficiently shews in what light we ought to consider their conduct. Juda himself thought her worthy of death; though in some sense, she was juster than himself, ver. 24, 26. (Haydock) --- She was guilty of a sort of adultery, being engaged to Sela; and also of incest, &c.; whereas the fault of Juda, through ignorance of her person, was simply fornication; which is, however, always contrary to the law of nature, as the pagans themselves confessed. (Grotius in Matthew v.) (Calmet) --- From Christ's choosing to be born of such progenitors, we may learn to adore his humility and tender regard for sinners. (Haydock)

Ver. 21. Harlot. Hebrew Kedesha a person consecrated to good or evil. Many nations esteemed prostitution, in honour of Venus, as a laudable action, 2 Kings[4 Kings?] xvii. 30. (Calmet)

Ver. 23. A lie. Hebrew, "lest we be exposed to shame," by making any farther search. (Menochius)

Ver. 25. Execution. The Rabbin say she was to be marked with a hot iron. If she was to die, before she was delivered, God prevented the cruel sentence from taking effect. (Haydock) --- Many nations have punished adultery with fire. Macrinus, the Roman emperor, ordered the culprits to be tied together and thrown into the flames. (Capitolin.) --- Moses commanded the daughters of priests, who should be detected in this crime, to be given to the flames, (Leviticus xxi. 9,) and others to be stoned; (Leviticus xx. 10,) whence the Rabbin have concluded, that Thamar was a priest's daughter. (Calmet)

Ver. 26. Juster. For Juda had been guilty of injustice; and had thus exposed her to the danger of following a life of lewdness. (Haydock) --- She remained a widow afterwards, as she was now rendered unfit to be married either to Juda or Sela. The latter married another woman, Numbers xxvi. 19. (Calmet) --- While Juda was engaged in this unlawful commerce, and yielded to the temptation, Joseph was triumphing over a much greater temptation, in rejecting the solicitations of his master's wife. (Haydock)

Ver. 29. Partition; the secundinĉ. The midwife was apprehensive of danger. (Menochius) --- Phares. That is, a breach or division. (Challoner)

Ver. 30. Zara. "Orient, or rising;" in whose hand the red ribband denoted, that the blood of Christ is the source of all our merits and happiness. These two brothers were a type of the vocation of the Gentiles, and of the reprobation of the Jews, who lost the privileges to which they thought themselves entitled. (St. Irenĉus iv. 42; St. Chrysostom; &c.) (Calmet) --- Phares was the ancestor of Jesus Christ, St. Matthew i. 3.


Bible Text & Cross-references:

The sons of Juda: the death of Her and Onan: the birth of Phares and Zara.

1 At that time Juda went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Odollamite, named Hiras.

2 *And he saw there the daughter of a man of Chanaan, called Sue: and taking her to wife, he went in unto her.

3 And she conceived, and bore a son, and called his name Her.

4 *And conceiving again, she bore a son, and called him Onan.

5 She bore also a third: whom she called Sela. After whose birth, she ceased to bear any more.

6 And Juda took a wife for Her, his first-born, whose name was Thamar.

7 *And Her, the firstborn of Juda, was wicked in the sight of the Lord: and was slain by him.

8 Juda, therefore said to Onan his son: Go in to thy brother's wife and marry her, that thou mayst raise seed to thy brother.

9 He knowing that the children should not be his, when he went in to his brother's wife, spilled his seed upon the ground, lest children should be born in his brother's name.

10 And therefore the Lord slew him, because he did a detestable thing:

11 Wherefore Juda said to Thamar his daughter- in-law: Remain a widow in thy father's house, till Sela my son grow up: for he was afraid lest he also might die, as his brethren did. She went her way, and dwelt in her father's house.

12 And after many days were past, the daughter of Sue the wife of Juda died: and when he had taken comfort after his mourning, he went up to Thamnas, to the shearers of his sheep, he and Hiras the Odollamite, the shepherd of his flock.

13 And it was told Thamar that her father-in-law was come up to Thamnas to shear his sheep.

14 And she put off the garments of her widowhood, and took a veil: and changing her dress, sat in the cross way, that leadeth to Thamnas: because Sela was grown up, and she had not been married to him.

15 When Juda saw her, he thought she was a harlot: for she had covered her face, lest she should be known.

16 And going to her, he said: Suffer me to lie with thee: for he knew her not to be his daughter-in-law. And she answered: What wilt thou give me to enjoy my company?

17 He said: I will send thee a kid out of the flock. And when she said again: I will suffer what thou wilt, if thou give a pledge, till thou send what thou promisest.

18 Juda said: What wilt thou have for a pledge? She answered: Thy ring and bracelet, and the staff which thou holdest in thy hand. The woman therefore at one copulation conceived.

19 And she arose and went her way: and putting off the apparel which she had taken, put on the garments of her widowhood.

20 And Juda sent a kid by his shepherd, the Odollamite, that he might receive the pledge again, which he had given to the woman: but he, not finding her,

21 Asked the men of that place : Where is the woman that sat in the cross way? And when they all made answer: There was no harlot in this place,

22 He returned to Juda, and said to him: I have not found her; moreover the men of that place said to me, that there never sat a harlot there.

23 Juda said : Let her take it to herself; surely she cannot charge us with a lie, I sent the kid which I promised: and thou didst not find her.

24 And behold, after three months, they told Juda, saying: Thamar, thy daughter-in-law hath played the harlot, and she appeareth to have a big belly. And Juda said : Bring her out that she may be burnt.

25 But when she was led to execution, she sent to her father-in-law, saying: By the man, to whom these things belong, I am with child. See whose ring, and bracelet, and staff this is.

26 But he acknowledging the gifts, said: She is juster than I: because I did not give her to Sela, my son. However, he knew her no more.

27 *And when she was ready to be brought to bed, there appeared twins in her womb: and in the very delivery of the infants, one put forth a hand, whereon the midwife tied a scarlet thread, saying:

28 This shall come forth the first.

29 But he drawing back his hand, the other came forth: and the woman said: Why is the partition divided for thee? and therefore called his name Phares.

30 *Afterwards his brother came out, on whose hand was the scarlet thread: and she called him Zara.



2: 1 Paralipomenon ii. 1.

4: Numbers xxvi. 19.

7: Numbers xxvi. 19.

27: Matthew i. 3.

30: 1 Paralipomenon ii. 4.