Genesis 38:1-10: Not unequally yoked.

“At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfil your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to avoid providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.” NIV


Remember that all the bad stuff you read in this chapter starts with Judah’s intermarriage with a Canaanite. That was not supposed to happen.

‘Though Jacob’s family had grown and prospered, they were still a tiny number compared with the Canaanites around them. How was God going to preserve His chosen covenant people as a distinct and holy nation in the midst of the ungodly Canaanites? God had a plan: He would send Jacob’s family to Egypt. There they would not be inclined to mix with the Egyptians, because the Egyptians would soon begin to despise them; instead they would remain separate, free to grow into a distinct nation. Seventy members of Jacob’s family would go into Egypt; four hundred years later they would be a great multitude (Exodus 1:6-7). And the means of their entering Egypt and prospering there would be a seventeen-year-old slave boy named Joseph, second youngest son of Jacob!’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.185.

These verses also show that we live and move ‘’in the LORD’s sight’’ (7, 10). All our ways are observed. Although there is a day of judgment to come, there can be mini days of judgment which fall in this life. According to ancient custom, if an older brother died childless, his younger brother was supposed to marry the widow and produce a son to carry on the deceased’s line. This is the so-called ‘levirate marriage’, and it was later incorporated into the Jewish law (Deuteronomy 25:5,6). It was the responsibility of the father (Judah in this case) to see that the younger son carried out the obligation, but Onan failed to fulfill his duty and this was considered wicked in God’s sight.

It’s scary to think that this all flows down from a wrong decision on Judah’s part – and he had not made his last bad decision, as we will see.