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"Judah and Tamar" by School of Rembrandt (c. 1650-1660)
Light iron-age reading
The Bible
Icon bible.svg
Gabbin' with God

Tamar was the widow of both Er and Onan, the latter of whom gave his name to Onanism.

As both of her previous husbands had been killed by god, and she wanted a male heir she was in a bit of a quandary. In order to resolve things she disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law and — at last — became pregnant. He, still not knowing who she was, promised to pay her a young goat. As he didn't have any young goats on him at the time, he left her his staff and seal as security. When he tried to redeem his security, the prostitute was not to be found.

Exactly how much of this was "pretend" prostitution is not clear.

Anyway, when it became clear that she was pregnant, kind and righteous people told Judah that she was pregnant and a prostitute. Being a kind, righteous man himself, his response was immediate. "What! My daughter-in-law a prostitute?! Bring her out and have her burned to death!"

However, as she was being brought out to be burned she sent his staff and seal to him saying that he was the father. So that made it all right, and "he did not sleep with her again".

It's not quite clear what moral we should draw from this story. Perhaps it's "If you do something bad, it's always a good idea to have something to blackmail people in power with."

It's also a little bit odd that her father in law wasn't struck down by God. Having sex with your daughter-in-law was death penalty time in the Gible, and God had had no qualms about doing in both Er and Onan.

See also[edit]