Judah and Tamar, Genesis 38, 18th century Bible. Photograph of an original engraving from the Taferelen der voornaamste geschiedenissen van het oude en nieuwe testament Bible published in 1728.

by Pastor Ben Heath |

A study relating to The Serpent Seed Doctrine, aka The Two Seedline Doctrine.

In Genesis Chapter 37 we read the tragic story of Joseph getting sold into slavery by his brothers, and in this chapter we’re going to see the drama continue. His brother Judah is going to marry a Canaanite woman, and father children through her. Something that was strictly prohibited by his forefathers.

No doubt Satan was behind the scenes managing this whole set up using the sexual vices of Judah in an attempt to pollute the seed line of the Messiah, to MIX the holy seed with unholy seed, thus carrying on the same old struggle between The Seed of the Woman and The Seed of the Serpent (Gen. 3:15) that will wages on to this day.

Though Judah will fall for Satan’s scheme, Satan will get outmaneuvered by a righteous woman named Tamar, who also plays on Judah’s sexual vices, but this time not to damage but rather to PRESERVE the integrity of the seed line of the Messiah. But how can this be? How can playing on someone’s weakness actually be used for a good thing? Would God allow such a thing?

Let’s get into the Word and figure this out:


Genesis 38:1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.

Who is this Hirah guy? It seems he was Judah’s worldly pal that got him in a lot of trouble. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed”. Judah isn’t following this advice and it is going to cost him greatly.

Genesis 38:2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.

Shuah – (rich, noble) The father of Judah’s Canaanite wife.

Saw there – Judah was driven to this Canaanite woman by “what he saw”, i.e. the lust of his eyes. No doubt she was probably dressed very seductively just like all of the other Canaanite women. That was normal for them. Sort of like how it’s becoming normal today. This was a relationship built off of lust, and it isn’t going to end good for him. Let that be a warning to us. Relationships built off of lust almost always end in tragedy.

Certain Canaanite – It was forbidden for the Israelites to marry the Canaanites. Judah should have known this. His great grandfather Abraham went through great lengths to make sure grandpa Isaac didn’t marry a Canaanite. When Abraham commissioned his servant to find a wife for Isaac he strictly said, “thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites” (Gen. 24:3). When Isaac blessed Jacob, he warned him saying, “Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan” (Gen. 28:6). And in Deuteronomy 7 God himself prohibited the Israelites from marrying Canaanites because He says: “they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods” (Deut. 7:4). So true. Marry a worldly woman, or man, and you’ll be in an almost impossible struggle to stay true to God. Don’t kid yourself if you’re flirting with that idea. It’s not worth it.

Constantin Hansen – Christ and the Canaanite woman, 1834.

(Matthew 15:21-26 Jesus ignores, insults Canaanite woman. “And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon. But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, Send her away, for she is crying out after us. He answered, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But she came and knelt before him, saying, Lord, help me. And he answered, It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”)

Then there was Esau who didn’t heed Abraham’s warning either, he married two Canaanite wives and an Ishmaelite, causing great grief to his family (Gen. 27:46, Gen. 28:8).

Why? Why can’t they marry Canaanite women? Because the Canaanites were pagans. They worshiped false Gods. They were people of the “world”. But that’s not the only reason. The Canaanites were the Serpent Seed – a cursed people going all the way back to Ham (Gen. 9:22-27). For Judah to marry into the cursed Canaanite line and intermix it with the blessed line of Abraham completely disregards the Word of God, shows his lack of self-control, and displays very shallow spiritual awareness.

As it is written:

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” – 1 John 2:16-17

Oh, I’m sure Judah justified this in his mind by saying something like, “These Canaanite women are the only women around for miles, besides, maybe I can be a good influence upon her. She’s hot! I don’t want to let this opportunity pass. Besides, if I marry her, there is a chance I can convert her away from paganism.”

That’s sort of like saying, “I’m going to a strip club, or a whore house because I like to see beautiful women naked, but I’m really there to do the Lord’s work. Who knows, I might be able to convert one of the women there.” Now it’s wonderful if you can convert a prostitute to the Lord. The Lord loves converted sinners. But you don’t have to go inside a whorehouse to taste of the guilty pleasures in order to preach the gospel to a harlot. There are plenty of other opportunities and places to do that. You could stand outside and catch them going to work, before they take off all of their clothes. Covering over your lust with so-called good intentions is wrong, and it is highly hypocritical. And it will only bring pain and sorrow. “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? (Prov. 6:27).

DEADLY CHOICES: Judah married a worldly woman, a Canaanite, purely because of her outward beauty. This was a tragic mistake because her worldliness passed down to at least two of Judah’s sons that God later killed because of their wickedness. Lesson. Don’t marry a worldly woman! Don’t marry someone purely by their outward appearance thinking you can shape them later while you gratify your flesh now. If the relationship is founded by the lusts of the flesh it is likely going to end tragically for the same reasons it began.


Genesis 38:3 And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.

Genesis 38:4 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.

Genesis 38:5 And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.

Er – (watcher) Judah now has a Canaanite son. He has mingled the holy seed with unholy seed.

Onan – (strong) Judah’s second Canaanite son.

Shelah – (a petition) The third son by this Canaanite woman! Born in the town of Chezib…

Chezib – (false) Interesting meaning of the place – Chezib. Indeed these children of the Canaanite represented the false seed.

Genesis 38:6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.

Tamar – (Palm Tree) It doesn’t say where Tamar was from, but since we are going to find out later that she is in the birth line of the Messiah, it is impossibley that she was a Canaanite. No doubt she was of another family line probably related to Abraham, like Sarah and Rebekah were. I bring this up now, because it will be important to understand later on in this chapter.

Genesis 38:7 And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.

Was wicked – No surprise here. After all Er is the product of a cursed line intermixing with the holy line chosen by God. It doesn’t say how God killed him, but just that He did. It could have been a plague, some kind of accident, you name it. All throughout the Bible the Lord kills or judges some people because of their wickedness. There are examples of this in both the old and new testaments. Some new testament examples can be found in Acts 5:1-11; Acts 12:23; and Revelation 2:22. Now God doesn’t just go around and kill wicked people, otherwise there wouldn’t be any wicked people left on earth. But at times, God does kill people who pose a danger to His covenant people or because He wants to send some kind of message.


Genesis 38:8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

Unto thy brother’s wife – Evidently it was customary for the living brother to conceive a child with his dead brother’s widowed wife, if she had no children. Otherwise the dead brother would have no means of passing down his inheritance. Not only was it customary, it was later commanded by God in Deuteronomy 25:5.

Genesis 38:9 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.

Spilled it on the ground- What Onan did here was equal to rape. He enjoyed the physical interaction with his brother’s widowed wife but refused to provide seed for her. This was the only reason he was supposed to go in unto her in the first place. What’s even worse, by doing so Onan defrauded Tamar so that he would receive his older brother’s inheritance, not her or her children. Onan was the kind of guy who only cared about himself.

Genesis 38:10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

Slew him also – Two Canaanite boys down now. You know this example should put the fear of God in us. At times, God severely judges wickedness, here and now. Not just on judgment day.

But I do wonder, perhaps God knew Onan would not provide seed for his brother. I’m sure He did. Because, had Onan provided seed, it too would have been Canaanite seed, unholy seed. Unacceptable to God.

Genesis 38:11 Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.

Shelah my son – The youngest and only survivor of Judah’s Canaanite sons.


Genesis 38:12 And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

Judah was comforted – I’m unsure of what this means. Was Judah comforted because he was no longer bound to that Canaanite woman, or was he going to hit the town in an attempt to comfort himself in the arms of another woman, for a night?

Genesis 38:13 And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep.

Genesis 38:14 And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.

Shelah was grown – Judah had not followed through with his word. First Onan defrauded Tamar of children and now Judah defrauds her too by not giving her to Shelah to produce seed for her. But Tamar is a bright woman and she comes up with a plan to make this right.

Genesis 38:15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.

Genesis 38:16 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?

Genesis 38:17 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?

Genesis 38:18 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.

Signet, bracelets, staff – These items carry a very important symbolic meaning. Judah, like other wealthy men, used signets or seals to stamp letters, contracts, and other such important documents. The signet proved who they were. It was a symbol of Judah’s identity. The word ‘bracelet’ would have been better translated ‘cord’. This cord was likely attached to the signet to keep it from getting lost or having his identity stolen. And the staff represented Judah’s authority. Later on in Genesis we find out this staff represents Judah’s right of kingship. His descendants were destined to be Israel’s rulers. For “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come” (Gen. 49:10).

Now think of this. Judah was willing to give up all these spiritual things for a few moments of pleasure! He was willing to give up his identity, his integrity, and his authority (signet, cord, & staff). In other words, all that makes a man a true man he was willing to throw away just to gratify the pleasures of his flesh. How stupid can we be at times, trading away everlasting things for temporary pleasures.

Proverbs 7:25-27 warns us against this very thing. Concerning the harlot, it says, “Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.”

She conceived by him – Now this all sounds strange, but this was her plan. Perhaps God even put it in her heart. Think of this. If Tamar was not a Canaanite, like we full-heartedly believe, this child would then be of uncontaminated seed. Not mixed with a cursed seedline like Canaan, rendering Judah’s poor choice of having Canaanite children null and void. Now, as we will find out, the chosen line will go through Tamar and not Judah’s Canaanite wife or sons.

Stepping back, we can see that though Satan used Judah’s sexual lust to get him to marry a Canaanite, God in turn allowed another woman, Tamar, to use Judah’s sexual lust in an attempt to acquire children and preserve the integrity of the “seed line of the woman” (Gen. 3:15).

Genesis 38:19 And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.

Genesis 38:20 And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not.

Friend the Adullamite – Judah using his worldly pal to do his dirty work. Trying keep a distance from his own sins.

Genesis 38:21 Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place.

Genesis 38:22 And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place.

Genesis 38:23 And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.

Lest we be shamed – Judah basically says, just forget about it. Let her have my staff, cord and signet. If we keep trying to find her, everyone will know what we did. He wants to hide his sin, but little does he realize his sins would be brought to the light anyway and that we would still be reading about them thousands of years after his death. Keep that in mind. As much as we may desperately try, we can never hide our sins. Everything we do in secret will eventually be known. There is no such thing as a ‘secret sin’. Jesus says, “For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad” (Mark 4:22).

SOBERING THOUGHT ON SECRET SINS: Little did Judah know that his efforts to hide his sexual sins would not only be discovered by all in his lifetime (Gen. 38), but that we would still be reading about them thousands of years later. Jesus says, “For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested” (Mark 4:22).


Genesis 38:24 And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.

Let her be burnt – What a hypocrite! Can you believe this. He just slept with her thinking she was a prostitute, and now he wants her burnt? Don’t worry, God has a plan to expose his hypocrisy and to restore to him the things that he was willing to throw away.

Genesis 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.

Whose these are – She’s got him now! I bet Judah never thought he would get his signet, cord, and staff back in a manner like this.

Genesis 38:26 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.

More righteous than I – Judah openly acknowledges his sin. And repents. He did the right thing here and even continued to do the right thing by not continuing unlawful sexual relations with Tamar. Judah’s repentance will cause God’s mercy to fall on him and save him from the destruction he was bringing upon himself.


Genesis 38:27 And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb.

These two boys replaced the two dead Canaanite boys of Judah.

Genesis 38:28 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.

Genesis 38:29 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.

It would be through Pharez that the Messiah would be born (Luke 3:33). His hand came out first. It seems this is what Satan was trying to prevent all along.

Genesis 38:30 And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.


God could have just allowed Judah to throw away everything, but through His grace and mercy He spared him, restoring unto him the scepter and providing another way for him to still be progenitor of the Messiah. However, a word of caution. Though he was forgiven, Judah still payed a heavy price for his sin. Two of his sons were killed by God, he was shamed in front of everyone, and his reputation was severely damaged.

Let us never forget that.

Let us never forget the serious consequences that sin brings with it. There are some things that can be forgiven, but there are other things that can’t be completely erased or undone. Once they are done, they are done. And we have to live with them. I hope the lessons from this chapter helps us make better decisions. I hope it helps us live in the spirit rather than for temporary pleasures of the flesh.

With that said, let’s step back and look at the big picture.

Genesis 3:15 tells us that there would be an ongoing war between the Woman’s Seed and the Serpent’s Seed until finally the head of the serpent is crushed. In this chapter we saw a mighty spiritual struggle take place involving these Two Seed Lines. Judah’s sin of marrying a Canaanite woman was a mighty victory for Satan. However, when it seemed that Satan’s seed would be victorious, God outwitted him by the strategery of Tamar. A righteous woman indeed, deserving the honor of being the mother of a line of people that the Messiah would come through.