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SundayWord: Tamar dressed to seduce Judah

Tamar was married to the first son of Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. Her husband, Er, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord slew him.

There is a story in the scriptures whose background is based on a particular directive from the Lord our God, which reads: “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no sons, the wife of the dead shall not be married outside the family to a stranger; her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his brother who is dead, that his name may not be blotted out of the land. And if a man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in the land; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me?’ Then the elders of the city shall call him, and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her’, then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot, and spit in his face; and she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house’. And the name of his house shall be called in the land; the house of him that had his sandals were pulled off.” (Deuteronomy 25:5-10)

This tradition, although done differently nowadays, is practiced in some parts of the world, including Africa. In our Shona culture it is referred to as ‘kugara nhaka’. Due to the advent of Christianity and the prevalence of some deadly sexual diseases, it is now subdued.

Tamar was married to the first son of Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. Her husband, Er, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord slew him. Then Judah said to Oman, the younger brother of the deceased, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother?” Genesis 38:9-26 proceeds with the story: “But Oman knew that the offspring would not be his (according to the statute); so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and He slew him also”.

Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house, till Shelah my third son grows up”. So Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.

In the course of time the wife of Judah, Shu’as’ daughter, died; and when Judah was comforted, he decided to go to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” she put off her widow’s garments, and put on a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah; for she saw that even though Shelah the third son of Judah was now grown up, she still had not been given to him in marriage. When Judah saw her he thought she was a harlot, 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 (young goat/sheep) from the flock”. And she said, “Will you give me a pledge (surerity), till you send it?” He said, “What pledge shall I give you” She replied, “Your signet and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand”. So he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. Then she arose and went away, and took off the veil and put on the garments of her widowhood.

When Judah sent the ‘kid’ by his friend Hirah, to get back the pledge from the woman’s hand, he could not find her. And he asked the men of the place, “Where is the harlot who was at Enaim by the wayside?” And they said, “No harlot has been here’”. So Hirah returned to Judah and said, “I have not found her; and also the men of the place said, ‘No harlot has been here’”. And Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, lest we be laughed at”.

About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot, and moreover she is with child by harlotry”. 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, “By the man to whom these belong, I am with child.” And she said, “Find, I pray you, whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff”. Then Judah knew they were his and acknowledged them and said, “She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not lie with her again.

Judah had no intention at all to sleep with any woman when he set out on his journey. What then attracted him out was the way the woman at the roadside was dressed. He was seduced by how Tamar was dressed. The type of clothes a woman puts on is a reflection of both her character and of the desired reaction from the man around her. It is common knowledge that most women of loose morals tend to wear seductive clothing. They dress to “kill” men by temptation.

During their lifetime together as a father-in-law, Judah had never been sexually attracted to Tamar. It is how her daughter-in-law was dressed on that particular day that attracted him. He thought she was a prostitute by the way she was dressed. His journey to the sheepshearers turned out to be a journey to prostitution, because of a temptress dressed as a harlot.

Dressed as a widow, Tamar never slept with any man, nor sought to attract any man. But when she decided she wanted a man, she removed her garments of widowhood and put on clothes of temptation. She was on a mission to seduce. She dressed as a seductress.  Most women would want to argue that the way a woman dresses is not important, rather it’s her ‘heart’ that is significant. While that could be true, is leaving most parts of a woman’s anatomy exposed of no relevance?

When a woman attracts the attention of all types of men through the way she is dressed, isn’t there something amiss with what she is putting on? Rotten meat normally attracts a lot of flies. When a lot of men whistle or chase after you, does that not show you that there is something “rotten” in the way you are dressed?

There are many Tamars in our society who make it a trade to lure men for different kinds of benefits. Some men likewise dress in particular fashions to align themselves with some of their habits. You can likewise deduce a man’s character by the type of clothes he favours to wear, or even his hairstyle.


  • Prosper Tingini is the Scribe of the Children of God Missionary Assembly — God’s messengers. Contact details: Mobile & WhatApp: 0771 260 195. Email address: ptingini@gmail.com

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