Joseph and Judah
Let us briefly review what we have gathered from looking at the book of Genesis with a view to the development of the Divine Seed. We recall the promise of the Divine Seed as the only hope of redeeming man from his state position as the regent of God on this planet, expressing, representing, and manifesting His Divine plan and purpose and the ultimate and eventual destruction of Satan and his usurped dominion. We further saw that God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that Satan would oppose resist the development of the Seed, trying on a number of occasions to pollute and destroy the carrier of the Divine Seed. We said that the entire Old Testament is the history of God’s conflict with Satan over this matter, and man is the object of the conflict. God wanted to redeem His beloved man, who was created in His own image and likeness but had lost these due to his fall in unbelief and rebellion, and wanted to exalt him to his original and ultimate destiny. On the other hand, Satan wanted nothing but the absolute destruction of man, being fully aware that God’s promised Seed, who happened to be His very own Son, Jesus Christ, would crush his head and repossess the sovereignty and kingdom that rightfully and only belongs to God.
This conflict spills over into every page of the book of Genesis, sometimes openly, sometimes subtly, but nevertheless, it is always there.
God identifies a group of men, beginning with Abel and all the way to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who were Shemites and the heirs of the promise of God, both through Noah and the direct utterance of the Lord God Himself. Satan, meanwhile, continues to make life difficult for these special and chosen people in order to discredit and disqualify them from being the rightful transmitters of the Seed to the subsequent generations, thus weakening the chain that links God’s promise from ever becoming a reality. They are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Most probably, if they lived in our times, they would have made front-page news of the tabloids with their scandalous lifestyles. Isn’t this the history of the children of the Lord in general throughout all ages who have this special calling and are faithfully standing on His sovereignty and kingdom as their ground of faith, loyalty, and life devotion? Satan pursues only those who know their calling and destiny and persecutes them by various means and incidents that would discredit and disqualify them from being that special vessel. But, praise the Lord, our God doesn’t assess things and men as man does. He knows our weaknesses and shortcomings, and therefore, having made the provision of the blood as the ongoing and everlasting answer to the foul mouthed accuser and the righteous requirements of His own divine nature, He concentrates not on our sins, but on our development as the suitable and compatible vessel of His intention and use! The Bible is filled with men who were all defective and yet when they placed themselves in the Lord’s hands, they became effective! Defective yet effective! Praise God for this principle, because in the end, no one can claim credit and glory for the accomplished work of the Lord but the Lord Himself.
Even those who thought they were something or somebody, once they yielded to the Lord’s doings, realized that they were nothing. God even made them more defective to prove His point. Jacob, with all his shrewdness and outstanding sense of strategy and leadership, was made to limp so he would always remember who and what made him what he ultimately became, Israel! Paul, who perhaps was one of the most intelligent and outstanding religious leaders of all time, was given a thorn in his flesh lest he boast; but should there have been any boasting, it would have been in the Lord as He compensated for Paul’s weakness with His strength.
Jacob is one of the pivotal junctures in the history of the Seed. He has learned through ancestral and direct revelation that he is the one who will form a nation who would corporately be the protector of the Seed and the land where the Seed must be brought forth and ultimately planted. This is an awesome task! How is he going to do this, when he is also faced with hostile forces raised by Satan to nullify his calling? Laban is pursuing him, Esau is after him, and the Canaanite nations are securely lodged in the land! God so wills and permits that he become the husband of four women, and the father of twelve boys. Satan is searching and looking to find the rightful heir to Jacob’s calling in order to once and for all destroy the Seed from being in individual transmissions to becoming a national one. Prior to Jacob and his children, the Seed went from one person to the other. That was relatively easy for Satan to trace and pursue. Now God made the stakes higher. He created a nation through the sons of Jacob who were at least two million strong and who would carry, defend, and stand for God’s promise of the Seed. This made the task of identification much more difficult. There was safety in numbers. So Jacob himself did not know at the outset which one of his sons would ultimately have this honor. Of course, all thoughts and attention were on his firstborn from Leah, namely Reuben. The word Reuben in Hebrew means “See a Son!” The thought behind naming this boy Reuben was the natural expectation and assumption that he would be the son who would be the carrier. “See a son”, was not only a wish that Leah had for Jacob’s affections, but the firstborn who would receive the inheritance, the priesthood of the family, and the transmission of the Seed. Satan feels he has found his target. But God knows better and He does not gamble with the destiny of the Seed by following patterns that are now in danger of destroying His plan. Then Simeon and Levi and Judah are born from Leah. The procreation of Jacob’s line becomes a matter of competition between Leah and Rachel and their concubine maids. Next Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, gives birth to Dan and Naphtali. Leah, not wanting to fall behind in this race, gets her own maid, Zilpah to conceive and give birth to Gad and Asher. Then Leah herself gives birth to two more, Issachar and Zebulun. And finally, Rachel is given grace and brings forth Joseph and on her deathbed, Benjamin. So who is the Seed carrier?
God purposely keeps this secret for a while and completely distracts Satan. Only God Himself knows who the real carrier is. From chapter 30 of Genesis onward, the seemingly “deceptive” and secret plan of God is put into action. In order to completely divert attention from the real person who would be the father of the Seed line, God introduces a decoy in Joseph! Yes, Joseph becomes a decoy so that God could strengthen the line of the Seed once and for all.
Genesis 34 gives us a small insight into this wonderful secret as we read how Dinah was raped by the Shechem son of Hamor, a prince from the Hivite nation. This defilement of Jacob’s daughter arouses the anger of Simeon and Levi, who in a very cruel and deceptive manner, trick the men of the city into a mass circumcision, and immediately murder every one of them in revenge for what was done to Dinah. This causes displeasure to God. God is never in favor of cruelty and unjust actions of men in murdering each other, even if they are not of the same faith and persuasion.
When we read the last will and testament of Jacob, we find that Reuben, Simeon, and Levi were severely reprimanded for their conduct. Reuben had slept with one of Jacob’s concubine maids. This action had defiled his father’s bed according to ancient customs. Genesis 49:3 and 4 reveal this. Simeon and Levi, likewise, were excluded from being the carrier of the Seed because of their bloody hands. We read in Genesis 49:5-7, “Simeon and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place. Let not my soul enter their council; Let not my honor be united to their assembly; for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they hamstrung an ox. Cursed by their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for its cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.”
So the first three sons of Leah lose the opportunity of being the Seed carriers. God gives us small clues like the incident of Dinah’s rape to help us figure out the real man in mind. Let us not forget that as you read the Bible in chronological order you don’t discover who the person is until you come to chapter 49. So in our quest through the pages of Genesis, we see how God is always a step ahead of Satan in protecting the Seed and at this point in Biblical history, He is using a diversionary tactic to safely land the Seed in the nation of Israel.
We read about Joseph and his life starting in chapter 37 of Genesis. Joseph was the firstborn of Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob. Jacob according to Genesis 37:3, “loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age.” Even though Joseph himself and his life are one of the most beautiful types of the Lord Jesus, nevertheless, as we shall later see, and regardless of his father’s extreme affection for him, he was not the Seed carrier. Satan, however, had assumed that Joseph must be the Seed carrier for obvious reasons. First, he was a firstborn and that qualified him for the job. Secondly, he was the son of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel. And finally, he was the beloved of his father, and therefore, he must be next in line to receive the Seed from his father Jacob. So the powers of hell break loose on poor Joseph to destroy him and thus frustrate God’s plan. We read in Genesis chapter 37 that his brothers, out of sheer jealousy and anger for the father’s blind devotion to Joseph, and the arrogant demeanor Joseph displayed on several occasions, decided to kill their brother. Through the intervention of the eldest, Reuben, and later by a strong appeal from Judah, they sold him into slavery to Ishmaelites who in turn took him to Egypt and traded him as a servant to Potiphar, the high ranking officer of Pharaoh’s court. The ploy had worked in God’s divine plan and timetable. While Satan was focused on the matter of Joseph and his destruction, and Jacob was devastated beyond comforting, and while the other brothers went about their business as usual, God was preparing His master plan for the Seed.
Life was not easy for Joseph. He had to endure imprisonment, conspiracy, condemnation and humiliation, further incarceration, and all manner of troubles. Of course, God would not leave him alone, and even though he was innocent of all the charges and accusations brought against him by his brothers and later by his employer’s wife, God strengthened him and used the experience of prison and sufferings as lessons in preparing him for the throne of Egypt. And even as we suffer and experience trial and testing of our faith in our life arena, God uses those experiences to prepare us for the throne of Christ’s coming kingdom. No suffering = No ruling! (Romans 8:17). Don’t expect to sit on Christ’s throne and rule with Him if you have not paid the price for being qualified and worthy of that throne. Jacob had 12 sons who were all born of him. They were all children of Abraham and Isaac through the promise, and favored by God, and yet only Joseph reached the throne. Many are born of God and are the children of God (John 1:12) and yet few become truly worthy and qualified to assume the reins of power in Christ’s kingdom. The throne of Christ is a prize and not a gift. Eternal life is a gift, but to sit on the throne, one must pay the price that is required of him. The disciples of Christ, John and James, asked for this privilege, but Christ not only turned them down, but spelled out the price. Even John and James would have had to demonstrate their faithfulness to their calling and live the life of Christ as it was required of them for the hope of ruling and reigning with Christ. Even Paul, as we read in Philippians 3:10, had to strive for it, although he was beyond any doubt the greatest of all saints ever to walk on the face of the earth. Joseph, even though he had received the calling of the throne much earlier through dreams, had to acquire the maturity and the heart of a priest-king, in an experiential way. God had to empty Joseph and fill him with Himself instead. Only and only then, when we are emptied of the self life, by totally surrendering to the cross and allowing the life of Christ to live out Christ in us, and only when we strive for maturity and full conformity to the image of Christ, by many trials and tests of faith, do we become worthy and qualified to receive the commendation of the Lord at His Judgment Seat and be ushered into His kingdom as true kings and priests. Joseph’s painful experiences were necessary for him, as are ours for us. We need to be tested. We need to be put into furnaces of trial and affliction. We need to be stripped of all of our self-centeredness and self-fullness and be filled with the Lord’s life and His mind. Only then are we ready for the throne, as Joseph became ready and later sat at the right hand of Pharaoh. The life of Joseph is full of principles for victorious living in and by faith, and not by some imaginative and fancied-up theology of success and prosperity void of the cross of Christ which makes such thoughts and ideologies offensive and repugnant to God!
I will not dwell much more on the life of Joseph at this point. Suffice it to say that even though he was not the Seed carrier, the Bible devotes almost 13 chapters to his life, and that for a good reason. Not only do we learn so many important lessons and principles about spiritual victory and maturity though his life, but Joseph also rises to power and prominence for one other good reason. Satan never takes chances and always ensures utter destruction. He not only aimed at Joseph as his primary target, but kept his eyes on the rest of the sons of Jacob to make sure no one would by some “divine” plan become the real recipient of the Seed. He was right! There was another plot unfolding just before Satan’s suspicious eyes: Judah! Joseph was there to one day be the protector of the Seed by his absolute authority, just as Christ protects His church with His authority (Matt. 28:20).
It is interesting to note that chapter 37 of Genesis is the beginning of the narrative of the life of Joseph and all of a sudden, there is an interruption in the story, as if God is trying to draw our attention to another important matter. Once that matter is dealt with, the text of Genesis returns to the story of Joseph in chapter 38. Chapter 38 seems like an odd insertion! It is as if you are watching an important drama on television, and all of sudden, there is an announcement or commercial break with no connection to the previous or succeeding chapters. Many Bible scholars and commentators, in reading chapter 38 have drawn negative conclusions from the incident of Judah’s sexual affair with Tamar. Some Bibles have even used such headings as “Judah’s Sin of Adultery”. And yet this chapter is the most important and pivotal chapter in Genesis after the sacrifice of Isaac.
While Joseph is suffering and sitting in a prison cell, Judah is somehow prompted to leave his brothers and visit an Adullamite by the name of Hirah. Judah marries the daughter of this man and becomes the father of three sons. As these sons reach the age of maturity, he finds the firstborn a wife by the name of Tamar, most likely a young girl herself. Er, Judah’s firstborn, refuses to impregnate Tamar and dies as a result of his rebellious actions toward God’s command of fruitfulness and multiplication. God is against emptiness and barrenness as I previously explained in the introduction to this book. God’s desire and plan is for fullness and fruitfulness. Er refused to comply, even though he knew that the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were responsible for producing offspring from which the Seed would one day appear. He was in direct violation of God’s design for them. So Er died and according to ancient customs, his brother Onan, was supposed to take his place and produce an offspring with Tamar. Onan acts even more wickedly and purposely prevents conception by emitting his semen on the ground and not into the womb of Tamar. This angers God even more, who judges his actions and allows him to die prematurely. Satan had already gained control of the situation. Suspecting that Judah was up to something, he had enticed these half-Hebrew men to prevent Tamar from conceiving. One of the natural outcomes of uniting oneself with non-Christians in relationships such as marriage is barrenness and intentional resistance to fruitfulness and fullness. Satan will use our partner to render us unproductive and useless like Tamar or Judah. Our lives as Christians are governed by certain spiritual principles, and neglecting and violating these principles will cause barrenness, short-sightedness, and unproductiveness, disqualifying us from God’s full intentions and blessings for our lives (2 Peter 1:5-11).
The youngest boy was too young to be given in marriage. Time was ticking away. Judah had failed to obtain an heir for himself and had endangered the continuation of his name and generation among the children of Jacob. One mistake like this can also cause great loss and endangerment to our ministry! But God always knows how to turn a hopelessly negative situation into something positive. Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, those who are the called according to His purpose”. Judah was called and Judah feared God (as demonstrated in the plea for the life of Joseph). God was going to turn the situation that was so desperate into victory. If by now you have not guessed who the real carrier of the Seed was going to be, let me tell you: it was Judah! Judah’s Seed had to be protected at all cost because the Savior and the promised Lord would come from him! Judah was next in line, after Reuben, Simeon, and Levi to receive the inheritance of Jacob. His intercessory plea on two occasions (once for Joseph and once for Benjamin) was proof of his divine calling to be the man who would stand between death and life and spare people, just as our Lord Jesus hung on the cross and stood between heaven and earth, between life and death, between judgment and forgiveness.
God had somehow touched Tamar’s heart to realize that the purpose of her marriage into this Hebrew family was not just for cultural exchange or some form of convenient and secure future. She had come to realize that this family was different from all other families including other Hebrews. There was something special about this family. Perhaps she had heard of the legends of Abraham their great ancestor, and how God had promised all the land of Canaan to this family. Perhaps she had heard that the people of the world would one day be blessed by and through this family. Perhaps she had heard that the Lord God of Heaven had given this family the special task of producing a Seed through whom God would crush the head of His archenemy, Satan and would bring an end to all human misery, pain, and injustice. Perhaps she knew something about this family. So when Judah’s sons acted wickedly, she had to take matters into her own hands. She had to have that Seed in her. Perhaps she was like Judah’s father, Jacob, obsessed with having a part in the history and the blessing of the Seed, even if she were a gentile girl. She could not wait for Judah’s son to be old enough for marriage. She was a very practical girl. There was no guarantee in waiting for the last son. So Tamar made the most controversial and yet right decision of her life: she would sleep with her father-in-law and get the Seed!
Tamar had to act in the only logical and possible manner available to her. How was she going to get Judah to see that his seed was in danger of being destroyed through the wickedness of his sons brought about by the spirit of Satan himself? Perhaps Judah himself was not so much aware of the significance of his call and the purpose of being a son of Jacob and in direct line of ancestral promises made to Abraham and Isaac. Tamar sensed the gravity and unusualness of this situation. Why would two husbands, both sons of one man, prevent conception when it is customary and quite natural that a wife should be the vessel of propagating the seed of her husband? There was a mystery at work and there were other forces behind the sons exerting pressure on this family, she must have reasoned. Judah would never consciously sleep with her because that was a cultural as well as a spiritual taboo. Therefore, she must entice him to sleep with her and pass his seed to her. Enticement was the only possible course of action.
So Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and waits for Judah to pass through the town’s main road. The plan works and Judah shows up. Tamar offers her ‘services’ and in return, as a payment, asks for Judah’s signet, cord or bracelet, and his staff. These personal items represented Judah’s identity and authority, and his ancestral right to the family inheritance. Tamar wanted her sons by Judah to be the heirs to the inheritance Judah would receive later in his life. She also wanted no mistakes or misunderstandings regarding her actions. She was not a prostitute and never acted in the spirit of a prostitute. She merely had to disguise herself as one in order to help Judah accomplish what his sons had intentionally failed to do. In the old times, prostitutes never asked for personal items as payment; they usually asked for coins or precious stones like silver or gold. Her request was very unusual, one that should have aroused Judah’s suspicion. Of course, the Lord somehow allowed Judah to be unaware of Tamar’s schemes and act purely from a physical standpoint and have intercourse with her.
Tamar, by the divine permission of God, receives Judah’s seed and becomes pregnant. Once the news gets to Judah that his daughter-in-law has acted as a harlot and that she is pregnant, Judah is infuriated and orders her to be brought out of her house and burned. Divine providence interferes at the most critical moment. Tamar is about to be wrongfully judged, branded as an immoral woman and destroyed, and with her the heirs to Judah’s inheritance.
She produces the items belonging to the man who had made her pregnant. Lo and behold, they belonged to none other than Judah himself. What an embarrassment! This was terrible. In those days, people were not like in present-day soap operas, where everyone has affairs with everyone else’s wife and every woman has children from the most unexpected men of town! The news of Judah and Tamar would be the talk of town, headline news! Judah is Tamar’s secret lover! Tamar is carrying her father-in-law’s baby! Unheard of! Yet God purposely allows this to happen because through this incident the Seed of the Messiah is to be prepared and developed. In the genealogy of Jesus Christ our Lord, four women are mentioned, women who played historic roles for the sake of the Seed: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. One was a real prostitute who turned to the God of Israel for refuge – Rahab. One was a noble woman who acted as a prostitute and saved the lineage of Judah – Tamar. One was a gentile woman who preserved the Seed of Judah through her exemplary life and faithfulness to the cause of Israel – Ruth. And one was a vulnerable Jewish woman who was seduced by the king of Israel to bear his children – Bathsheba. Four women, three of whom were gentile and all women of highest nobility, perhaps not in the eyes of the world, but indeed in the eyes of God.
Once Judah discovers that he is the father of the child, he makes a statement in Genesis 38:26, “So Judah acknowledged them and said, ‘She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son’”.
What Judah had come to realize and acknowledge was that Tamar acted wisely and according to what was fair and righteous both in the eyes of men and in the eyes of God. Judah should have given his last son to her, but he prevented this from happening either because he thought the son was too young or because he feared the same fate would await his last son if he also acted with wickedness and prevented Tamar’s pregnancy. So Tamar had acted rightly in obtaining a seed from Judah which would ensure the survival of the lineage of Judah and thus the coming of the promised Seed through the line of the tribe of Judah. God’s purpose was fulfilled even when on the surface things did not present themselves just and righteous. God views things in life differently from you and I. God allows events to be acted out with men exercising their free will, but He turns any and every negative event to His own advantage and benefit if it should serve his purpose in the long term. A mystery!
Tamar thus gives birth not to one but to two sons, Perez and Zerah. Can you guess why there were two boys and not one? One more move by God to keep the identity of the next carrier a secret. Satan would not be able to identify the Seed bearer with certainty; hence the mystery would continue.
It is interesting that the name given to the second son of Tamar was Perez which means “Breakthrough”. Spiritually speaking, God desires to give us spiritual breakthrough amidst negative and hopeless situations. Tamar’s life was at one point in great danger. Her name and reputation were at stake. And yet, in her faithfulness to the calling and the purpose of God, the Lord gave her a breakthrough. The barriers were overcome and the purpose of God was attained in and through her. This is what we experience in our Christian life too. Many times we, like Tamar, face uphill challenges and incredibly difficult circumstances, and yet if we are in possession of God’s signet cord and His staff of sovereignty and kingdom, we will be rewarded with a great breakthrough. I am reminded of the church in Philadelphia in the book of Revelation about whom we read, “For you have a little strength, have kept my word, have not denied my name… Indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial [Breakthrough] which shall come upon the whole world…” (Rev. 3:8-10).
The church in Philadelphia remained faithful to her calling despite her weaknesses and lack of resources. She stood on the ground of the sovereignty and the kingdom of God in the midst of severe persecution. In return, the Lord promised her a great breakthrough (Perez) and deliverance from the hour of trial and testing.
We are encouraged to look to and pursue the example of Tamar’s faithfulness to the promised Seed, Jesus Christ, who is already planted in our hearts, waiting to bring forth the abundant harvest of righteousness and reward.
Truly Tamar was more righteous than Judah and the Lord never assessed her negatively. She was truly a noble woman, a woman of faith, a woman of vision, a woman of deep spiritual insight and understanding, a woman who was obsessed with the desire to make her father-in-law fruitful and thus allow the Seed to continue its journey to the destiny it (He) was destined for, and for her to have a part in this eternal and memorable plan of the Almighty God. What a privilege to be in God’s plan and purpose! What an honor to be remembered in the history of the Lord Jesus. What a joy to know that one is in the book of remembrance of the Lord, the book where all those who stood for the Seed and had their part in preserving it and passing it on all the way to the Lord Jesus are remembered.
May we have the same spirit and attitude as Tamar had – jealous and zealous for the Seed.
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