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The story of Tamar is one of those overlooked corners of the bible...because it is a story about a very strong woman. Essentially, Tamar was a proto-Ruth, but more edgy. She was a Canaanite woman who nonetheless became an ancestor of Jesus Christ and the mother of an heir of the Blessing.

Tamar was married to Er, the firstborn son of Judah, who was the fourth-born son of Jacob. But Er pissed off the Lord somehow, and God had him whacked. Then by Hebrew law, the second son Onan was required to marry her, which he did. But he wasn't pleased with the thought of just being a stud for Tamar, so at the height of his passion he withdrew from her and let his seed spill on the ground. Somehow this part of the story has been mangled to the point where "Onanism" is a word meaning masturbation, but it was coitus interuptus instead.

The Lord didn't like that either, so he in turn whacked Onan. Judah told Tamar to hang out for a few years until his third son, Shelah, was old enough to give it another go. But when the time came, Judah balked, probably because he thought Tamar was really jinxed.

But Tamar was not to be denied. She dressed like a whore and seduced Judah himself, for the price of one sheep. He didn't exactly have the sheep with him at the time, she he gave her his bracelet and signet ring and staff as collateral until he could go get the animal. Then they went to it. Judah did not know he was making love to his own daughter-in-law.

Later when he tried to send the sheep to her, she could not be found. Tamar had removed her hooker clothing and put on the clothing of a grieving widow.

Nine months later she had twin boys, Peretz and Zerah. But a report made its way back to Judah that Tamar had played the harlot, and even conceived a child through her prostitution. Judah said bring her out to be burned alive. Tamar, in her own defense, said the father of her children left only these tokens on the bedstand: A bracelet, a signet ring, and a staff.

Judah cleared his throat, hemmed and hawed, and quietly acknowledged her sons as her own. Peretz was numbered in the line of Messiah.

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