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A New Proposal for Reading the Story of Judah and Tamar

Dohyung Kim 1

1서울기독대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

From a patriarchal narrative viewpoint, the main characters, Judah and Tamar, both play pivotal roles in Genesis 38 and also in the wider story. Judah’s character in Genesis 38 at a micro level represents him as the reluctant and despotic father of his family who is brought to accept his own failings. On the meso level, that is within Genesis 37-50, this transformation of Judah’s character allows for his role to become that of family spokesman and leader of his brothers. While Joseph seems to be more powerful as the governor in Egypt, Judah ultimately has the more significant role as the deputy of Jacob’s family in Canaan. Judah’s character develops through the sequence ‘Departure-Transition-Return’ in the final patriarchal narrative. In the end, Jacob’s blessing of Judah (Gen. 49:8-12) is the most favourable he gives to any of his twelve sons. In retrospect, this creates for Judah the status of a fourth patriarch succeeding his father Jacob in relation to the Kingdom of the South Judah in light of the Primary Narrative (Genesis - Kings) as a whole. Tamar, the sparring partner of her father-in-law Judah, shows her role as a meaningful mother and as one of family builders along with Judah in her story in Genesis 38. Surviving a period of trial as a childless widow, she finally succeeds in giving birth to the heirs of Judah by means of a plan that she herself devices. Tamar embodies all the key features of the role of the previous four matriarchs (Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel) and becomes a remarkable male ancestor of Davidic line (Ruth 4:12-22). This means that Tamar can thus be presented as the fifth matriarch and is the crucial link in the wider context of the Primary Narrative.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.