Genesis 37:1 – 40:23; Haftarah: Amos 2:6 – 3:8   

Synopsis –

This week we make another step in the revelation of the “Seed of the woman” (Gn 3:15) and – in this feast day of the Immaculate Conception – we study Jacob and Rachel coming together in expectation and in suffering over their son Joseph (Gn 37:34-35). We learn how Joseph is the very image of Jacob – his “icon” as one of the Aramaic translations has it – and in him as well as in Judah the s/Seed continues. We study both of these protagonists: Joseph’s mission to “see the peace” of his brothers – his life’s mission for the next 22 years – and Judah bearing the physical seed receiving a lesson in salvation history from Tamar – in so doing we also study how Gn 38 is a preview of the book of Ruth.  Finally, we skip over all the dreams that begin and end our parasha since we will devote most of next week’s study to the study of dream-interpretation.


Scripture references from the episode

The sons of Shelah the son of Judah: Er the father of Lecah, Laadah the father of Mareshah, and the clans of the house of linen workers at Beth-ashbea; and Jokim, and the men of Cozeba, and Joash, and Saraph, who ruled in Moab and returned to Lehem (now the records are ancient). (1 Ch 4:21–22)


“Thus says the LORD: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” (Je 31:15)

External Sources


(Gn 38:15) Talmud – b. Meg. 1:13, I.2.F

[This follows what we have learned] according to what Rav Samuel bar Nahmani said, said R. Jonathan [M: Yohanan]: Every bride who is modest in her father-in-law’s house merits that kings and prophets will descend from her.

  1. From where do we know this?
  2. From Tamar, as is written, “And Judah saw her, and he thought her to be a prostitute, because she covered her face” (Gen. 38:15).
  3. Did he think she was a prostitute because she covered her face? Rather, because she covered her face [when she lived] in her father-in-law’s house, and he did not recognize her, she merited that kings and prophets descended from her.


(Ge 38:18) Cyril of Alexandria – Glaphyra on Genesis, 6.1.

The purpose and intention of the divinely inspired Scripture is to describe to us the mystery of Christ through countless facts. And with good reason some have compared it with a magnificent and illustrious city that does not have a single statue of its king or imperator but many statues placed in a most frequented spot, where everybody can admire them. See how Scripture does not omit any fact that refers to such mystery but rather describes at length any and all of them. Even though sometimes the text of the story does not seem to be very suitable, this does not prevent Scripture at all from rightly constructing and accomplishing its proposed demonstration. Its purpose is not to relate the lives of saints (this is not the case at all) but rather to instruct us in the knowledge of the mystery of Christ through facts, which can make our speech about him true and manifest. Therefore it cannot be criticized as if it were wandering from the truth. And in Judah and Tamar the mystery of the incarnation of our Savior is again described to us.


(Gn 39:12) Caesarius of Arles –

When Joseph was accused by his master’s wife, he could be held by his clothing but was unable to be captivated in soul. He did not even tolerate her words for a long time, considering it a dangerous influence if he delayed any longer, lest through the hands of the adulteress the attractions of lust penetrate his soul. Therefore by removing his garments he shook off all accusation; leaving the clothes with which he was held he fled, robbed indeed but not naked, for he was covered still more with the clothing of purity. No one is naked except the man whom guilt has exposed. In earlier times too we have the fact that after Adam had disregarded God’s command by his transgression and contracted the debt of serious sin, he was naked; for this reason he himself said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid.”27 Adam asserts he is naked because he has lost the adornment of divine protection; and he hid himself because he did not have the garment of faith, which he had laid aside by his transgression. You see an important fact: Adam was naked, although he did not lose his tunic; Joseph, who was stripped of his clothing, which he left in the hands of the adulteress, was not naked. The same Scripture asserts that the former was naked and the latter was not. Therefore Joseph despoiled himself rather than become naked when he preserved the garments of virtue incorrupt. He stripped himself of the old man with its actions, in order to put on the new man who is renewed unto knowledge according to the image of the Creator. Adam, however, remained naked because he could not clothe himself again after he was stripped of his singularly privileged virtue. For this reason he took a tunic made of skins, since as a sinner he could not have a spiritual one.28 Sermon 92.3.


(Gn 40:22) Quodvultdeus – Book of Promises and Predictions of God 1.28.40.

Joseph was imprisoned. Our Joseph, that is, Christ, as Isaiah says, “was numbered with the transgressors.” (Is 53:12) The innocent man is led among the guilty by the wisdom of God, who “went down with him”—as was written—”into the pit, and did not leave him in bonds.” (Wis 10:13–14) This Joseph of ours, Christ, claims, “I became as a man without help, free among the dead.” (Ps 88:4–5) What followed had to happen, that is, the fact that Joseph found in the commander of the prison the grace of which he was full and that all the keys and the entire surveillance were given to him.(Gen 39:21–23) This occurred in order that to the one before whom heaven prostrated in the figure of the sun, the moon and the stars, and the earth in that of its crops, also the subterranean creatures of the prison might submit. And therefore before our Joseph, that is, Christ, “every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Phil 2:10) I also think that the fact that two eunuchs of Pharaoh were imprisoned together with him (Gen 40:2–3) is not incompatible with the mystery of the passion. In fact, it was completed in this manner by the number of the three crucified, of whom our Joseph, that is, Christ, by unveiling the mysteries, had to punish one with a deserved chastisement and had to save the other with a free grace. (Gen 40:21–22; Lk 23:33, 39–43.) These holy actions were accomplished then under the veil of allegory, so that their full revelation might be reserved to us.

About the author, NCIC


  1. Christine Ricks on 12/08/2017 at 5:37 PM

    “Did he think she was a prostitute because she covered her face? Rather, because she covered her face [when she lived] in her father-in-law’s house, and he did not recognize her, she merited that kings and prophets descended from her.”
    She may have been modest while she lived in her father-in-law’s house, but can you explain to me what is modest about her actions in impersonating a prostitute? How do you seduce a man and be modest at the same time? You can’t – she wasn’t always modest. Trickery isn’t modest either. So how exactly did this woman “merit that kings and prophets descended from her” after considering exactly what playing the prostitute entails? Did she have compassion on what her sordid plan might do to his reputation? Lastly, did she try praying to God about the issue of how the seed would be passed along? Did she hear God’s answer as “why don’t you act the prostitute in the town hall ? Otherwise, how could you get pregnant with the seed? I can’t do miracles or anything” Somehow that doesn’t seem like what God’s answer might be.

    • NCIC on 12/20/2017 at 9:29 AM

      Hi Christine –
      Great question.. Scripture just says that “sat at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah” (Ge 38:14) and then that “When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute” (Ge 38:15). It is never said that she actively presented herself as such. However, as we said and studied in class, the story of the Seed *has* to pass through seeming immorality – being that this is the Seed/Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world – and this reality has been taught to us consistently throughout Genesis. Therefore, Tamar – knowing this truth, and expecting to bear the promised Seed – she places herself in a place where she knows that Judah might consider her to be a prostitute. This isn’t “trickery” – the place is called “the entrance to Enaim” which means “the opening of the eyes” – i.e. God “opened the eyes” of Judah and made him see Tamar as a prostitute – precisely because the Seed is to take upon Himself the sins of the world (including Judah’s), and therefore this seed was ultimately blessed and from it came king David and eventually Christ according to the flesh. So, to answer your question: Tamar placed herself in the line of the Seed bearers before her who all passed by *seeming* immorality.

Leave a Comment