Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Judah’s Meanderings - Genesis 38:1-5

And it came about at that time, that Judah departed from his brothers, and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in to her. So she conceived and bore a son and he named him Er. Then she conceived and bore a son and he named him Onan. And she bore still another son and named him Shelah; and it was at Chezib that she bore him.

This chapter starts with the very general phrase “And it came about at that time”. We have no way of really knowing exactly how much time elapsed between the time Jacob was shown his son’s blood-stained coat, the time Joseph was actually sold to Potiphar, and the time that Judah “departed from his brothers”.

The text could have simply recorded that Judah visited some Adullamite named Hirah. Instead, it specifically states first that he “departed from his brothers” in so doing. This was all about finding a wife. He did not follow the custom of going to one’s father and arranging for a dowry. Judah wasn’t going to go through all that. Instead he leaves home at a young age (some calculate at 15 or 16) and heads out to get a wife himself. He meets up with an Adullamite called Hirah. Adullamites were inhabitants of Adullam, a city of Canaan. It was situated west of Hebron. The name “Hirah” means “a noble family”. We are told he “visited” Hirah although it is not certain as to whether or not he knew him beforehand or simply got to know him on this little trek of his away from his family.

Somehow, perhaps through Hirah, perhaps otherwise, he sees the daughter of another man called Shua that means “wealth”. Here is a beautiful woman who comes from a rich family supposedly and here is Judah who is trying on his own to establish himself. What more could he ask for?

We are not given all the details with respect to meeting her family, if he did, or asking her father for permission to marry, if he did. All we know is that he took this woman (and at this point we do not even know her name) and has sex with her. There is no account of a wedding and associated feast. It is likely that they just decided to live together. How quaint. Through this unconventional, absent of his family’s support, absent of God’s blessing, and rather unwise marriage, Judah fathers three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah, by this Canaanite woman.

What is happening here? The actual writing reminds us of a previous passage we have studied. You will remember Jacob’s daughter going off into town to find out what the rest of the world was all about (Genesis 34) and what ensued from that little trip. Well, in many respects, this is much the same. One could easily see that their Canaanite neighbors were influencing the family of Israel (Jacob) and not for the better. I believe God too was very aware of this.

It is likely that Judah did continue to worship God to a certain extent, as he had been taught. It is also possible that his wife did too; again at least she went through the motions. But there is no doubt that Judah had acted without God’s blessings for his marriage, doing it his way and in his timing. There were bound to be some consequences.

What are the lessons for us today? Simply these: Relationships matter. Good relationships are to be valued; wrong relationships to be avoided. Totally disregarding traditions and the wishes of our God-arranged and God-ordained family is not a wise idea. Doing our own thing totally (without the support of family and more importantly God) is not a good idea.

If we change our friends, we are bound to change our behaviors. We need to know, and somehow convey to our children, that we often imitate those with whom we associate and go totally against the advice of those we no longer respect. Society has been very good at marketing evil to us. Our children have been taught that parents and anyone over thirty is old-fashioned, narrow-minded, ignorant, and so on. For more on this, read The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian, an excellent read. Worse still, we often define our value by our friends’ values. That alone, could be a most costly error.

There may also be a lesson here with respect to marriage. Many are getting into marriages that are not wise simply because they have ignored both God and family. However, simply us saying so here will not change their mind if they are headstrong about taking such an action. The lesson is not for them, it is for us. We have a responsibility to do all we can to nurture an environment for our children where they, while willing to make their own decisions, will not ignore the advice and the role of both God and family in those decisions. What are you and I doing in that regard? It is never too late. Never too late for anyone who has made an unwise decision with respect to marriage and never too late for a parent whose child may have done likewise. I believe in that in some small way, all relationships and family circumstances can be improved, even those where divorce has taken place, if we allow God to guide all of us in doing our part. May it be so with you today.

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