The Women

There are only four women in Christ’s legal genealogy as mentioned in the first six verses of Matthew: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Tamar was incestuously adulterous. Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute. Ruth was a foreigner from Moab. And Bathsheba was an adulteress. While the men weren’t saints by any measure, why these four?

Tamar was daughter-in-law to Judah, one of Israel’s twelve sons, married to Judah’s son Er, who himself was born of a Canaanite woman. We’re told, “Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.” [Gen. 38:7].

It was custom in Israel then that if the eldest born son died, the next son would take his brother’s place to continue the family. Therefore, Judah sent Onan, his next born son to go into Tamar. Realizing the seed produced would count for his brother, he “spilled his seed on the ground.” God was angry with this and slew Onan too.

After Onan’s death, Judah told Tamar to remain a widow, and go live in her father’s house until Judah’s other son, Shelah was grown. She did. But, it was going to be a while before Shelah was grown, producing offspring that would count for her husband’s inheritance.

It came to pass that Tamar was told that her father-in-law was going to shear his sheep. Tamar ditched her widow’s clothing, covered herself with a veil and sat in the way that Judah would pass to shear his sheep. As Tamar sat by the side of the road, Judah came along, supposing her to be a harlot because she had covered her face.

Not knowing this was his daughter-in-law, he negotiated with her to “let me come into you.” Judah promised to pay her “a kid from the flock.” Tamar got a pledge from Judah until the kid was delivered. She got a signet, bracelets and Judah’s staff, no pun intended. The deal was struck, and the deed was done. The next day Judah sent a friend with the kid to make good on his promise, but was told there was no harlot in that place. So, he returned to Judah and told him he couldn’t find her, as there was no harlot there.

About three months later, it became obvious that Tamar “was with child by whoredom.” Judah heard of it and was angry, not knowing of course that he was the father. He sent for her because she had played the harlot and got pregnant, not waiting for his son Shelah to take his rightful place. We’re told Judah was going to “let her be burnt.”

When she was brought to Judah, she produced the signet, bracelets and staff, saying “By the man who these are, I am with child.” Ouch. Judah acknowledged that they were his saying, “She has been more righteous than I because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her no more.”

Tamar gave birth to twins, Pharez and Zarah. Christ’s genealogy comes through Pharez.

The story of Rahab is associated with Jericho. When Israel, led by Joshua, was going to destroy Jericho according to the word of God, he sent spies into the city. Rahab, a harlot in Jericho, hid the two messengers. Before God destroyed Jericho, Joshua was told to send the two messengers back to Rahab and to take her, her father and mother, and her brethren of her house and all her goods, and they took them from Jericho and set them outside the camp of Israel. At the time of the writing of the book of Joshua, it was written that she dwelled in Israel even until that day.

The book of Ruth contains the story of Ruth the Moabitess. She was the daughter-in-law of Naomi. Naomi had moved from Israel with her husband and two sons. Her sons had married two women of Moab, Orpah and Ruth. Naomi’s husband and sons both died leaving the Moabitess women husbandless. But as Naomi was not going to bear any more children to become future husbands, she gave them leave to return to live their lives with family. Orpah returned, but Ruth refused to leave her mother-in-law alone and went with her to Bethlehem-judah.

Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz. Boaz was impressed with Ruth and told her to glean only in his fields. When Ruth inquired why Boaz granted her this favor, he said, “It has fully been shown to me all that you have done for your mother-in-law, how you have left your mother and father, the death of your husband, and come to a people that you didn’t know. The LORD recompense your work and a full reward given to you by the LORD God of Israel under whose wings you have come to trust.” [Ruth 2:12].

Eventually, Boaz bought Ruth to be his wife, “to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance that the name of the dead not be cut off from his brethren.” This refers to Ruth’s Israelite husband. Boaz continued saying, “The LORD make the woman … like Rachel and Leah [sisters, two of Israel’s wives] … which did build the house of Israel.” [Ruth 4:11]. Ruth gave birth to Obed, David’s grandfather.

The story of David and Bathsheba, Urias’ wife, is well known. Pregnant by David, and to cover his adulterous deed, David sent Urias, captain of David’s army into battle knowing full well he would be killed. Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon.

Perhaps the message here is that while Christ physically was descended from King David, he was the product of sinners as well as the Savior of sinners. “… God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” [Rom. 8:23]. As Christ told the Pharisees, “Those who are whole do not need a physician. But go and learn what is meant ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice, for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” [Mat. 9:10-13].

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