Judah and Tamar

For tonight’s blog, I am posting an excerpt of Judah and Tamar. If you’ve been following my Six Sentence Sunday blogs, you know I’ve been posting parts of the story for the past few weeks, six sentences at a time.

Judah and Tamar tells the story of Tamar, a young widow who, under Levirate law, must marry the next male relative to ensure the dead are not forgotten. She is resigned to her fate, but Judah, her father-in-law, is determined not to lose anymore sons to her and deals with her deviously, forcing her to extreme measures to get what is rightfully hers. The scene below takes place after Tamar has been home for a while. She is waiting for Judah to call her back to wed Shelah, the youngest son, but not everything goes as she thought it would.

Please remember, this is a rough draft.

* * *

Over and over she reminds herself, ‘a husband to serve and a child to care for’. This is what she would have when Judah called her back so that Shelah could take her as his wife. It wouldn’t be the full house she wanted, but one child would prove sufficient. It would certainly justify everything she had been through. And certainly Shelah wouldn’t be happy about having to marry her, but the situation would never be as bad as it was with Onan. Besides, Shelah was still young, still soft. Perhaps he would understand. Perhaps he would treat her as Er should have.

Day after day, Tamar reminds herself what she is waiting for: ‘a husband to serve and a child to care for’. She had been faithful to her husbands and to their memories. She deserved this.

Day after day, it is the reason she gets up in the morning and is able to face the women who gossip about her, the children who laugh at her, the men who leer at her. 

Day after day, it gets her beyond the thoughts about what her life might have been had she not asked her father to get Er as a husband for her.

Day after day…until the days become months and the months become years, until time blurs completely.

Then one day she sees a young man while she’s in the market in the town square. He is tall and lean, with broad shoulders and a smooth gait. His hair is curly brown and he has light brown eyes. He is handsome and she isn’t the only woman to notice – indeed a lot of the other young women at the square stop to flirt with him. And he flirts with them, paying her no attention, as if she wasn’t there.

It is Shelah and he is no longer a boy. Day after day had added up to ten years and now he was a grown man, old enough to wed and flirt with other women and act like he had no betrothed, no responsibilities. Except he wasn’t acting – he had no betrothed, no responsibilities, because his father still directed his life…a life that did not include her.  

Her face grows hot at the realization. Judah had no intention of giving Shelah to her. She was a ruined woman because of his sons, living in shame in her father’s house and this is what he did to her? No, no, no! No!

Tamar drops her basket and rushes home, paying no heed to her father as he inquires about her purchase.

No, this isn’t true, she tells herself. 

Behind the locked door, her father demands she face him.

No, she argues to herself, teetering between rage and tears.

No, she cries out and falls to her knees.

No, she had done everything right and this was her reward?

But she can’t mourn long. There are chores to be done, work to do. Her father doesn’t ask her what’s wrong, only tells her to fulfill her duty. She prepares dinner in silence, listening to her brothers, to her father talk. The wives run after their children, without a word for her. She was cursed after all, why should they talk to her? She had been used until she had nothing left to offer anyone, except shame and disgrace. Then she had been sent back to her father’s house under false pretenses. And she fell for it.

Maybe then this was her fault. She was the one who was stupid enough to fall in love. She was the one who stuck around, trying to do right, while Judah lied and manipulated her. She could argue to the town elders that he had withheld Shelah from her, but Judah was a man of wealth and influence – who would believe her? No, she deserved this. Ten years waiting and she got what she deserved…

A husband to serve and a child to care for.

Her heart breaks as she remembers the words that kept her going for so long. At one time, they signified family, purpose; now they meant nothing, because there was no kinsman-redeemer.

Tamar pauses. There was yet one redeemer left if Shelah was not going to fulfill his duty – Judah. He required someone to hold him accountable and she was more than happy to do so.  

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