Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day

Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy: “We support biblical families.”

Today’s Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day: Judah & Tamar (Genesis 38:1-26)

It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and settled near a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah. There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; he married her and went in to her. She conceived and bore a son; and he named him Er. Again she conceived and bore a son whom she named Onan. Yet again she bore a son, and she named him Shelah. She was in Chezib when she bore him. Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn; her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her; raise up offspring for your brother.” But since Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in to his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother. What he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up” — for he feared that he too would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.

In course of time the wife of Judah, Shua’s daughter, died; when Judah’s time of mourning was over, he went up to Timnah to his sheep-shearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” she put off her widow’s garments, put on a veil, wrapped herself up, and sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. She saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him in marriage. When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face. He went over to her at the roadside, and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” He answered, “I will send you a kid from the flock.” And she said, “Only if you give me a pledge, until you send it.” He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord, and the staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. Then she got up and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.

When Judah sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite, to recover the pledge from the woman, he could not find her. He asked the townspeople, “Where is the temple prostitute who was at Enaim by the wayside?” But they said, “No prostitute has been here.” So he returned to Judah, and said, “I have not found her; moreover, the townspeople said, ‘No prostitute has been here.'” Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, otherwise we will be laughed at; you see, I sent this kid, and you could not find her.”

About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the whore; moreover she is pregnant as a result of whoredom.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “It was the owner of these who made me pregnant.” And she said, “Take note, please, whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” Then Judah acknowledged them and said, “She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not lie with her again.

"This is not fair criticism.He gave the quote on the understanding it was for publication. ..."

Unspoken testimony
"Have American presidents ever faced prosecution for their crimes against humanity? It's not a precedent ..."

Romans 13 and the Gettysburg Address
"That's not "irony". It's JUSTICE."

Romans 13 and the Gettysburg Address
"They barely have a basic understanding of words that appear in dictionaries."

Romans 13 and the Gettysburg Address

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Otrame

    Ah, yes. One of my favorite Bible stories. I remember reading that when I was 16 (for some reason, that one never made it into Sunday School) and thinking WTF??

  • PandaRosa

    I’m just musing on the firstborn, named Er. Where are Bud and Wise?
    Opinions will vary, but sounds to me like Tamar is making sure she’s provided for. Now I’m seeing this as an episode on Law & Order, chung-chung…

  • Ursula L

    The custom of having the younger sons father heirs for their deceased older brothers seems to be an economic trap, from the perspective of younger sons. 

    It seems that the oldest son inherits the largest part of the family property.  If he died unmarried and without children, the next-oldest son inherits, and controls the property for his own use and the use of his heirs.

    But if the older son was married, the younger son is expected to father a child who  will be not his child, but his nebling, from a legal/property perspective.  And that child will inherit the family property.  Shutting out the younger son, and the younger son’s legal/economic heirs.  

    For Onan, he wanted to inherit as the oldest surviving son, and have the resources to marry and have his own children, rather  than having his son/legal-nephew inherit while he’s relegated to the economic position of non-inheriting younger son.  

  • Regarding the Bible in general; over the decades at various sermons, televangelists and numerous books I have read covering the Bible I have NEVER heard/read about the supposed once-dead folks rising from the grave immediately after Jesus died on that cross.

    Why is that supposedly true event never mentioned? Because that it just too unbelievable and past experience indicates it is best left out when attempting to indoctrinate those who are not adherents of the cult of Christianity?

  • PandaRosa

    Once heard of a parrot named Onan, so called because he was always spilling his seed…

  • Wednesday

    So, sodomy was not the actual sin of Sodom, onanism was not the actual sin of Onan… are there any other terms that come from the bible that don’t match the actual scripture?

  • thatotherjean

     Obbop–Geds, a fairly frequent commenter on Fred’s blog, has written a multi-part story about this subject on his own blog, “Accidental Historian,” which is listed second on the blogroll just under the SLACKTIVIST title.  It’s called “Horror in the Holy Land,” and can be found under “Categories” on Ged’s blog.  It doesn’t exactly answer your question about why nobody mentions this supposedly true incident, but it’s all kinds of worth reading.

  • are there any other terms that come from the bible that don’t match the actual scripture?


  • Yeah, it was Dorothy Parker’s parrot, I think. :D

  • SisterCoyote

     …I honestly forgot about the details of this one; I was just remembering that somebody lay with their father-in-law. The full details are just so much more fucked up.

  • sodomy was not the actual sin of Sodom, onanism was not the actual sin of Onan… are there any other terms that come from the bible that don’t match the actual scripture?

    To the extent that “samaritan” has entered the language as referring to a decent, helpful person, it’s kind of an example of this; one point of that story is precisely that the samaritans were considered bad people, and yet it was the samaritan who helped when nobody else would.

  • caryjamesbond

    “Pharisees” weren’t really assholes, but closer to judges.  The Torah was the Law of the Land, quite literally, and they were the ones who had to enforce it.  Most of the times they’re portrayed as screwing with Jesus, they’re just doing their jobs according to the rules his dad laid down.

    “Philistines” were probably more culturally advanced than the Israelites.

    Solomon ended up turning away from the lord and screwing over his people. 

    The Egyptians didn’t keep Jews as slaves, but they were hired guns (or spears, I guess) who quit without notice and scarpered, leaving Egypt’s northern border unsecured, and hastening the downfall of one of the largest most advanced civilizations around.
    Eve didn’t eat an apple, apples didn’t show up in the Middle East until well after that story was written.

    The bit of Leviticus interpreted as being about homosexuality is actual referring to temple prostitutes. 

    Thats off the top of my head. 

  • Now I am wondering if Onan killed Er.

    If Onan was so obsessed with becoming the inheritor of his father’s property that he was willing to consign his widowed sister-in-law to poverty to do it, why not bump off his elder brother and say “God did it”?

  • Dan Cathy would love a country in which being a whore was a capital offense. Not being a john or a pimp, mind you. Just being a whore. And a country in which any woman who was accused of whoredom would have to prove that she was not a whore in order to save her life.

  • JustoneK

    I’ve had it explained to me that the Pharisees were the conservative Republicans and the Sadducees were the marginally more liberal Democrats of the day.  In the political as well as religious sense.

  • Saffi

    Given that his tag is ” I came, I saw, I left”, I think you’re giving the guy more non-troll credit than he deserves.

  • Ursula L

    Now I am wondering if Onan killed Er.If Onan was so obsessed with becoming the inheritor of his father’s property that he was willing to consign his widowed sister-in-law to poverty to do it, why not bump off his elder brother and say “God did it”?

    Was she consigned to poverty?  After Onan died, Judah sent Tamar to live at her father’s house.  This seems to have given her both security and a limited amount of freedom.  As a woman in that society, she would always have a life of very limited freedom, security and self determination.  But your father is someone you know, as opposed to an arranged marriage where you’re put under the control of a complete stranger.  

    Onan not wanting to have sex when no one had considered his consent is not an unreasonable thing.  Neither is it unreasonable for him to want to avoid sex with Tamar, when they’re being told to do it and no one has considered her consent, either.  He’s not being given the option of considering Tamar’s consent, he’s being told to go and raise sons for his brother, because it’s his duty, and her duty, and therefore required rather than forbidden.  

    And Tamar, in wanting this (or seeming to want it, or wanting to go through with it because it made better economic and social sense than being a childless widow) isn’t considering Onan’s consent, or Judah’s consent.  It’s their obligation to father sons for her late husband.  Even if Onan didn’t want to and didn’t consent to, and even if Judah was consenting to anonymous sex with a prostitute for the price of a goat, rather than an heir to disrupt whatever he and his family have done to adapt to the loss of two of his sons.  

    The whole situation is a mess, with no one having any  good option, and no one option being least-bad for everyone involved.  

  • vsm

    I think you have them mixed. The Sadducees were largely drawn from the upper crusts of society and oversaw much of the administration, while the Pharisees were more egalitarian and had the support of the commoners. Jesus may actually have been one of them, or at least a fellow traveller, as Terry Eagleton put it.

  • banancat

    It’s hard to understand how someone could read all that and come away with a message about masturbation, especially since there is no masturbation in the story. I guess some people really hate complexity and prefer a simple lesson, and/or they have not actually read the story.

  • JustoneK

    The main thing I recall is how they opposed, like our current system.  It made me very tired of history repeating, mainly.
    Jesus and most carpenters of the time were comfortably middle class types yesno?

  • EllieMurasaki

    How does ‘middle class’ map to income back then?

  • thatotherjean

     You’re probably right, but how often do you get to say “I know where there’s a great story about that”?

  • rm

    When I read Game of Thrones and its sequels, I felt guilty because it seems so completely anti-idealistic. It lacks that sense of immanent divine presence that Middle Earth and Narnia and Hogwarts and Earthsea have; it is not a symbolic narrative about spirituality like those are. It’s filled with not only war, but rape and incest and torture and burning people alive. So I felt like I was reading an un-christian narrative world that wallows in cruelty and perversion.

    But now . . .

    . . . this series has made me realize that George R. R. Martin’s got nothing on the Bible.

  • Curatenik

     That was Dorothy Parker’s parakeet. As I heard it, anyway.

  • In the world of conservative Catholic sexual ethics, any sex act that isn’t “procreative” is considered immoral, so pulling out before ejaculation and masturbation are both in the same category as “not going to lead to a possible pregnancy” and therefore sinful.

    I think it’s also fun to point out to Bible literalists that if “spilling seed” is synonymous with masturbation, it would follow that it’s not a sin for women to masturbate, as they typically do not spill seed when they do so.  

  • George R. R. Martin does wallow in cruelty and perversion, and also in that completely ridiculous idea that a woman is sexually liberated so long as she’s on top, even when she’s 11 years old. 

    I’ve never read anything anywhere near as rapey as the first book in that series, and from everything I’ve heard, they actually get worse and even more rape cheerleady as time goes on. As bad as the Bible often is, even it is better than that.

  • banancat

     Oh, I understand that the Catholic and (some) fundie position perfectly well.  I just think it’s ridiculous that they got that lesson from this particular story.  They have completely missed the point, and the story of Onan never even suggests that wasting sperm in general is a bad thing.

  • Wednesday

     I knew about the apple and Leviticus (Although… my understanding of the whole Exodus thing was that the Jewish people were never in Egypt, full stop, let alone as slaves?); I was looking more for single words like samaritan and philistine. So thanks!

  • Joshua

    Well, yeah, but you’ve got this sin you need to condemn, and quoting passages from the Bible is how you condemn things, and what else are you going to do? It’s the most on-topic thing in the Bible, therefore you have to run with it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Which invites the question of how they got the idea that it’s a sin.

  • Joshua

    Yes. The Sadducees were the party for the Temple and animal sacrifice, as per the books of Moses. They had links to the temple priesthood and were economically privileged. They read to me as the conservative end of the spectrum.

    The Pharisees, presumably as an adaptation to the exile in Babylon and the later diaspora, had replaced the Temple with synagogues and animal sacrifice with scholarship of the Torah and commentaries. They read to me as progressive on the topics with which they disagreed with the Sadducees.

    Jesus’ views seem more aligned to the Pharisees, he quotes from them, and some of his followers are identified as being Pharisees or former Pharisees.

    When the Temple was destroyed in 70CE, the Sadducees were hosed and the Pharisees took off and became the predominant form of Judaism.

  • Joshua

    Yes, it does, doesn’t it?

    A lot of Christian authorities throughout history have not exactly preached a body-positive attitude to genitals. Yeah, surprising, I know.

  •  My understanding is that the reason that Jesus came into conflict with the Pharisees is, basically, that he was presenting a competing position within the same domain. They were, in essence, competing for the same audience. The Sadducees were, essentially, not looking to win any arguments because they weren’t looking for converts, because they were a people apart, while both Jesus and the Pharisees were both addressing the matter of “What’s the path to righteousness for people who aren’t members of the temple elite?” in different (but less different in retrospect than it seemed at the time) ways

  • Joshua

    Yeah, sounds right.

  • StillCraig

    I hereby nominate the Patriarch, Lot,  as Chick-Fil-A’s Father of the Year (Genesis Chapter 19). After attempting to hand his teenage daughters over to a mob of crazed rapists, he lost his wife in that dreadful pillar-of-salt incident while his home was being destroyed. Despite this adversity he acted as both husband and father to his two daughters and fathered his own Grandchildren… who gave rise to the Moabites and Ammonites.

  • vsm

    In the first case, he was bound by sacred hospitality, which is a perfectly admirable concept, even if modern Western culture doesn’t share it. Offering your own daughters instead of your guests to the mob is presumably this idea taken as far as possible, the same as when Abraham is told to sacrifice Isaac. As for fathering his own grandchildren, the text says his daughters raped him.

  • Tapetum

     *ahem* Gee! I can’t imagine where Lot’s daughters could have gotten the idea that rape in pursuit of an admirable concept (like repopulating the Earth, since they think everyone is dead), might be an acceptable thing to do. Where could they ever have gotten that notion?

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Artisans, presumably.  They tended to be a bit better off than the farmers, in part because they typically did work for money, rather than merely being able to keep some portion of their harvest/herd/whatever.

  • LoneWolf343

    At least he admitted he was in the wrong, which is more than you’ll find from your standard Republican politician.

  • LoneWolf343

     I think it might be because it was mentioned off-hand in the Bible. I did remember reading that, and it is never mentioned again.

  • Ben English

     I’m still not sure why she was supposed to be ‘burned’ for being a prostitute in the first place. Judah didn’t seem to have any qualms with visiting one and it is not presented as illegal–he assumes the local temple has them.

    Or was she to be burned for pretending to be a prostitute? I really don’t get what she did that warranted punishment even in terms of first millennium BC gender politics.

  • LoneWolf343

     It’s like a GOP senator who opposes gay marriage, than goes visit male prostitutes.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not even that. It’s a straight parallel to modern-day treatment of sex workers. Being one is shameful and ought to be punished in any way possible. Visiting one? Man’s got needs. Let’s not tarnish someone’s reputation over a single minor mistake.

    (Mind, if one actually wants to be rid of sex work–I don’t, but I still think points one, three, and four on this list need to happen–it’d be much more effective to make it legal to accept money for sex, illegal to give or offer money for sex, very illegal and harshly punished to compel anyone to accept money for sex with added bonus punishment if the money goes to the compeller instead of the compellee, and address the economic and social structures that put people in situations where sex work is the best available option. But we can’t have that, now can we.)

  • @obbop:disqus, @LoneWolf343:disqus   The easiest way to find it for me was, of course, to look at the Brick Testament version of the crucifixion, since there’s no way they could pass up the opportunity to depict that in Lego form.  Matthew 27:51-53 is where it’s told.