Question:

I have a question about Genesis 38:24-27. When Tamar informed Judah that she was the harlot he went into at Timnah, did Tamar tell Judah privately or was Judah publicly humiliated? In verses 24-25, it appears that Tamar was going to be burned in public for her harlotry. But reading on in verse 25, Tamar summons Judah and shows him his ring, cord and staff. In verse 26, Judah, realizing that the items Tamar has shown him are his possessions says that Tamar is "more righteous" because he did not give her his son Shelah to produce offspring after Er and Onan had died. The verses are not clear enough to indicate if Judah was privately told that he was the father of her soon to be born twins or if he was outed in front of others.  


Answer:

"And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, "Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry." So Judah said, "Bring her out and let her be burned!" When she was brought out, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, "By the man to whom these belong, I am with child." And she said, "Please determine whose these are -the signet and cord, and staff." So Judah acknowledged them and said, "She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son." And he never knew her again" (Genesis 38:24-26).

Here is a classic illustration of Jesus' warning, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:1-5). Without realizing it, he condemns his daughter-in-law for what he himself had done.

Judah pronounced a judgment against Tamar's sin before hearing her side of the story. Notice that Tamar did not confront Judah directly. She sent them to her father-in-law with a message that they belonged to the man who got her pregnant. Since Judah had called for her death and since he acknowledged that the signet, cord, and staff belonged to him, the conclusion is that there were other people present.

What Tamar had done was wrong but Judah realized that her sin was no greater than his own. Neither can he fault her reason for doing this evil because Judah had not fulfilled his obligations by giving Tamar to Shelah for a wife. The fault of this sin laid with him. She plotted fornication to gain a child, he committed fornication to slate a desire. By declaring Tamar righteous, Judah is not saying she was without fault, but rather he saw his own sins were worse than hers. However, notice that Judah does not take Tamar as his own wife; though, her children are counted as his own. It wasn't proper for him to marry his sons' widow as that would be incestuous.

No further children are mentioned for either Judah or Tamar, so it appears that both in acknowledging their wrong gave up sexual relations.