Dysfunctional Family of Grace


Today’s passage is the conclusion of a long, unfolding story. Tamar was married to Judah’s oldest son, who died because of his immorality in the sight of God (Genesis 38:7). As was the custom, Tamar was wed to her dead husband’s brother. (This was how women were protected and provided for in that culture). Tamar’s second husband also died because of his immorality before God (Genesis 38:10). Judah’s third son, however, was not allowed to fulfill his duty to marry and provide for Tamar. It was a faithless and immoral act on Judah’s part. Next, he eagerly slept with Tamar, who posed as a prostitute and secured some of Judah’s personal items as future proof. Now, that’s what I call dysfunctional!

  • Would you entrust this family with your most important plans and purposes?


24 About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” 25 As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” 26 Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.

27 When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb. 28 And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29 But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Perez. 30 Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. What does Judah’s sentencing of Tamar indicate about his sense of responsibility and care for her? In light of his own behavior, what does his response indicate about his understanding of true righteousness?
  2. Describe how Judah became exposed.  What must that have been like?
  3. What specific sin did Judah confess? What does “he did not know her again” indicate about his newfound concern for repentance and purity?
  4. What do we learn about God—that he chose a family like Judah, Tamar, and their twins to be the family through which Jesus would come into the world?
  5. How has God worked out his plan for redemption in your life despite the dysfunction in you and those around you?


Tamar is part of a family stuck in immorality and delusion, but God never gave up on them. Judah had gotten connected to a group that historically opposed God, the Canaanites. He and his sons were badly influenced, and they made terrible choices. Yet, God used Tamar as an instrument to help bring Judah, God’s chosen, back to God and God’s plan. Despite his folly and unfaithfulness, Judah and his family—through Tamar—remained part of God’s purposes to bless the nations of the earth. Perez, Tamar’s son, becomes part of the genealogy of Jesus himself. God’s willingness to use a dysfunctional family like Judah’s is indeed an amazing grace. There was nothing to merit God’s presence, God’s purposes and God’s love, yet it all remained.

  • Spend some time thanking God that, while we are unfaithful, he always remains faithful and lavishes his love on those who could so obviously never deserve it.