The Revenge of Tamar

Why is the story of a woman justly getting revenge on people who caused harm and pain to her almost completely ignored by Christians?

What? You didn’t know such a terrific tale existed in Holy Scripture? It does, as do many such tale of family dysfunction other comedies of error. This story is also one of my favorites, because it is one of female empowerment, and a woman using one of the few tools available to her to ensure her future, while getting those who hurt her to pay for it.

It’s of Tamar, the daughter in law of one Judah, Son of Jacob, grandson of Abraham, the founder of one of the most screwed up families in mythology, and apparently a religion or three.

Tamar was married Er, a marriage arranged by her father-in-law for his oldest son.

A brief aside. Er? I can imagine the conversation in naming this poor guy. Wife. “What shall we name him?” Judah, fidgeting,  “Errr…” Midwife, “Er it is. Congratulations.”

According the story, he of the misfortune name didn’t live long after the nuptials. So instead of letting the widow Tamar have the choice of going home and finding a new husband, or keeping a place of honor in the family, Judah immediately passed her off to the next youngest son. The next son, Onan, knowing that any child Tamar would birth, would be the heir of Er, thus forcing Onan down the food chain of the family tree. So as a good dutiful husband, he used Tamar to the point of coitus interuptus, also known as birth control. This kept Tamar from the rights of mother to an heir, and Onan as the next in line after daddy died.  The scheme failed, as Onan died as well.  The Bible mentions that both men died, because God killed them. Er for some unnamed evil, Onan, for practicing birth control.

Judah, then sent Tamar home to her parents with the promise of her getting to try to be a brood mare again, once son number three was old enough to make the attempt to impregnate her. In reality, he was terrified that sleeping with Tamar was a death wish he didn’t want to fall on his youngest son.

Time passes, the youngest son grows up, and Judah has forgotten about his daughter in law. She hasn’t though. Tamar has been stuck in a contract she didn’t make to await a husband she didn’t want or ask for, unable to remarry, or live independently. So when Judah comes to the town where she is at, she disguises herself as a prostitute, seduces Judah, and makes sure he does the job right. As payment, she demands some personal items of Judah, in lieu of the goat he promised as collateral. Once the deed is done, she disappears. Judah’s people can’t find the “prostitute” to pay her and get his things back, and Judah really doesn’t want word out that he was tricked out of his valuable items.

A few months later, word gets out that Tamar was pregnant. Because she was still trapped in that contract, Judah called for her death…until she revealed that it was him who had done the deed. So Judah had to use his youngest sons as the wheirs to his oldest,  and Tamar got the place of honor she was supposed to have received all along. She never had to have sex with another member of that family ever again.

The moral lessons of this wonderful myth are many. 1. Dont treat women like brood mares or objects for your penis to play with. 2. Respect woman, or else it may come back to haunt you in the nads. and 3. Women are resourceful, creative and capable human beings. it’s ignored because 1. It really paints the men in the family in a really poor light. 2. A woman is the hero of the story, and the only with any hint of integrity. 3. She uses her sexuality to get her way, and to win the day.

So why is this story essentially ignored? I think it is possibly because the of thought of women using sex to get ahead in life and be the figure of moral fiber in doing so. To destroy that myth means risking destroying much of the dogma, dishonest dogma built up about our gender. Maybe it long past doing a bit of myth busting.



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