5 comments Written on May 29th, 2014     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
My name is Drusilla (Dru) McLeland and I serve as the Central Conference Liaison to the Board of the Advocates for Covenant Clergy Women.  My husband, Paul, and I have been married 27 years and we have one daughter, Katie.  In response to God’s call to pastoral ministry, I am pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at Northern Theological Seminary.  I am currently in Clinical Pastoral Education with the Adventist Midwest Health System.  I want to be a gracious woman, who becomes more and more like my Heavenly Father who is Home to all prodigal daughters and sons.

Sometimes I overlook people who are marginalized. This disturbs me.  It goes against my core belief in the value of every person.  I want my actions reflect my core beliefs and it bothers me they are incongruous.  There are some Old Testament characters I’ve overlooked.  One of these is Tamar the wife of Er (Gen. 38).

Jacob’s son, Judah, moves and marries Shua, a Canaanite woman.  They have three sons; Er, Onan and Shelah.  Er marries Tamar.  He is wicked, so God kills him.  There is no male hair carry on Er’s legacy and Judah tells Onan to go to Tamar, perform his duty as a brother-in-law and produce an heir.  Onan knows the child won’t be his so he spills his semen on the ground.  The Lord is not pleased with this and puts Onan to death.  Judah sends Tamar to go back to her father to wait until Shelah is old enough to marry.  But really he has no intention of giving Shelah in marriage to her.  He’s afraid Shelah will die if he is associated with Tamar.

Judah’s wife dies.  At the end of his time of mourning, he goes to Timnah to party with his sheepshearers.  Tamar hears about this, dresses like a prostitute, and waits by the road.  Judah sees her and propositions her.  They agree on a price of a goat.  Tamar requests a pledge and Judah gives her his signet, cord and staff to keep until he sends the goat.  They have sexual relations and she conceives.  After this she re-dresses in her widow’s clothes and goes back home.

Judah sends the goat to her via his friend, Adullamite who doesn’t find her so Judah decides to let her keep the pledge items and stops looking for her.  Eventually Judah hears that Tamar is expecting.  He demands that she be brought out and burned.  However, she speaks up and says that the owner of the signet, cord and staff is the father of her child.  Judah is caught!  He acknowledges he is wrong and she is right.  She delivers twins, Perez and Zerah.

Not one of your top ten Sunday school stories!

At first reading, Tamar is a story about a woman who is used by the men in her life, acts as a prostitute and deceives her father-in-law.  I am tempted to overlook Tamar because I disapprove of her behavior.  Upon further study, I see a brave woman who stands up for what is rightfully hers.  Levirate Marriage, requiring a dead husband’s brothers to produce a male heir, was a Canaanite practice.  Stipulations concerning it are found in the Middle Assyrian Laws, Hittite Law Code (HC #193) and later in the Law of Moses (Deut. 25:5-10).  It was practiced in order to keep the memory of the deceased alive giving him immortality, to keep land in the family, and, oddly enough, to care for the widow.  Tamar goes to great lengths to do what is required and her name is remembered with honor (Ruth 4:11-13).  She is one of only four women included in Matthew’s record of Jesus’ family tree (Matt. 1:1-17).  What an amazing honor for a woman I have overlooked!

I am aware there are those who disapprove of a woman called to pastoral ministry…

and the story of Tamar encourages me to stay strong in God’s call.

I am aware that there are times when women are overlooked, simply because of their gender…

and I am inspired by Tamar to speak up.

I am aware that there are those who are overlooked because of poor choices they have made…

and I am inspired by Tamar to listen to their stories with compassion.

I am aware that there are those who suffer under injustice…

and I am inspired by Tamar to stand with them.

I am aware that there are those who are abused and have lost their true identity…

and I am inspired by Tamar to lift their heads and speak God’s loving truth to them.

I am aware that I overlook people but God does not…

and I am inspired by Tamar to look again and see what God sees.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

5 comments “Overlooked”

Thank you for new insights into Tamar and how her life speaks into today. My “Journey Through Genesis” class recently studied this story and struggled with her actions. We also struggled with Judah’s actions – or failure to act. We looked at double standards. We also looked at how we marginalize those who make poor choices, and not just in society but also within our own families. One of the commentaries I read said there are some who think this story serves no purpose. Others point out several purposes, and you have surely added another. Thank you.

Report This Comment

Dru – What a powerful reminder of how pain teaches us powerful lessons. Thank you for this call to see, listen and stand with women who are hurting under oppressive and abusive treatment. Women who are called to proclaim good news that God cares about their abuse and their oppression already have a brokenness in these areas. May God use us in powerful ways to heal. In light of Maya Angelou’s recent death, this post really spoke to me. I am also reminded once again of how pain, her rape at age eight, and her silence, not uttering a word for 5 years afterwords, can be a life changing witness. Look at how this healed voice literally changed the world as she told us how she knew why the caged bird sings. 

Report This Comment

Dru, thank you for having the courage to speak out on behalf of many who are overlooked. As you have been inspired by Tamar, might your story help others to stand up boldly, trusting that they are always seen and valued by our God who dearly loves us. 

Report This Comment

I think you have written an excellent post that has opened my eyes to ways that I have overlooked. I have never really understood the whole passage regarding Tamar and always focused on Judah’s typical male response to his own poor judgement and behavior, and then to find fault with Tamar for getting pregnant “outside of the law”…sheesh! Talk about double standards….
Thank you

Report This Comment

Excellent exposition! The point of biblical stories is how they inspire us with truth. Bravo!

Report This Comment

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog