One of the things I often wonder about when I read a book is how a character or a scene is developed and why? How did the author come to the conclusions he or she did (especially if it’s biblical fiction)? In today’s post, I’ll show you how I developed Er’s character and where the story goes from there.
In the previous scene, Er was introduced and Tamar was smitten. The Bible writes it like this:
Genesis 38: 6 Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.
So…what happened between the wedding and Er’s death? There’s not much written to go on, so what kind of conclusions can we draw? Am I just to make up a personality for this man and hope it fits the story? On the contrary – everything we need to know is there, in the text.
To find our answer, let’s start with who Er was. As Judah’s firstborn, he would have been placed in a position of honor, destined to inherit a double portion of his father’s estate. Did that make him cocky? Or responsible? His name means Watchful – did that mean he was observant? Did he sees things in other people that maybe they missed? His mother, Alit, would have named him thus – so what was going on in her life that she chose the name Er for her firstborn? Lastly, he was his father’s son. Judah chose a life in Adullam, surrounded by heathen gods and pagan practices of worship. Did this affect Judah’s marriage? His children? What would Er choose?
What about Er’s marriage to Tamar? Is this important enough to consider? I think so; after all, as goes the man, so goes his wife. Before we look at that though, we need to understand what it was Er did that was so evil that God himself killed him. For that, we need to look ahead at his brother Onan (if you’ve read the story before, there’re no spoilers here; if you’re new, let this pique your interest):
Genesis 38:8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.
In this short passage, we find that Onan had an attitude (he didn’t want to produce an heir for his brother), he was selfish (he used Tamar’s body for sex without consideration of what that did to her) and he was abusive (he did it repeatedly – i.e. rape). He seemed to be the opposite of his brother. Then we read that that God killed him. Why?
He spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother.
Onan was flippant with his seed and his stature. You see, Judah was the heir of Abraham and God’s promises to Abraham. Through him the Messiah would be sired. If Onan was throwing away his precious seed and blatantly turning his back on his family and calling (like Judah did), then God had to put a stop to it.
What about Er? Was he guilty of the same? We know that in the time he was married to Tamar, she didn’t become pregnant. And we know she was very fertile (as she became pregnant after only one union with Judah). So what was Er doing with his seed?
Here’s a picture of who I believe Er was and where this scene/story is going:
As the firstborn of Judah, Er was set to inherit not just his father’s fortune, but also his grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s. Because of this, he was treated with a respect he didn’t earn. He was handsome, charming and arrogant, doing as he pleased; and since sex was cheap and readily available, he indulged in it. Er married Tamar out of obedience to his father, but he couldn’t stay monogamous. He visited with prostitutes; and like his brother, spread his seed around, with no regard to his calling. Tamar remained loyal to him, as we shall see, but it wasn’t enough to change his attitude; and so God struck him down.
This is Er’s story in a nutshell and the direction the book is going. I know this post is longer than normal, but I am a strong believer in the process, not just the end result, especially when it comes to stories as timeless as Judah and Tamar. In my next installment of The Pledge, Er and Tamar get married and Tamar begins to see her husband’s true nature. Thanks for stopping by my blog.