The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once said, “Sin is in itself separation from the good.” He captured one of the consequences of sin: It separates us from God and often from others as well.
Our Scripture passage focuses on Judah. As we will see throughout this month, the lives of the two brothers—Joseph and Judah—are closely intertwined. At the end of Genesis 37, Judah callously suggested selling Joseph into slavery (37:27). In the opening verse of today’s passage, we are told that Judah had left his father and brothers and gone to live with a Canaanite (v. 1). Like Joseph, Judah also is separated from his family and living among a foreign people. Some have speculated that Judah’s secret of what had been done to Joseph made him want to leave his family. Scripture doesn’t tell us Judah’s motives, but it is true that sin often has a way of alienating us from loved ones.
Judah did not seem to change much. When his first two sons died, the text makes no mention of his grief, in contrast to his father’s mourning of Joseph (37:35). He treated Tamar with deceit. Custom (and later Mosaic Law) required that when a family member died leaving behind a widow without children, the brother of the deceased was to marry the widow and provide children in his brother’s name (Deut. 25:5–10). This was a way to provide for vulnerable widows as well as preserving the name and inheritance of a deceased family member.
After Judah’s second son died, Judah strung Tamar along, allowing her to think that he would provide his youngest son for her—all the while never intending to actually follow through. His deceit and treachery would have condemned Tamar to a life of childlessness and shame.
Sin often causes division and alienation in relationships, whether in a family, a church, or a workplace. Pray today about that situation, and ask the Lord for reconciliation to take place. One of the benefits of the gospel is that it has the power to restore relationships because of what Christ has done (2 Cor. 5:11–21).