Today, I want to bring to you a word from the end of Genesis. The final chapters of Genesis focus on the life of Joseph. But tucked inside that story is another story: Judah fathering twins with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Why is this in the Bible? Even if it's part of the great fabric of redemption history that God is weaving, why is it here? Why place it directly after the story of Jacob and Esau? Judah is, after all, Joseph's older brother. Shouldn't Judah's story come first?
Joseph's inspiring life story
The story of Joseph begins in chapter 37. Joseph tells his father and brothers his dreams. The brothers become jealous of him. They don't like him or his coat of many colors. When he visits his brothers at a little place called Dothan, they see him coming and begin to plot his death. Rueben has a secret plan to make sure they don't kill him, but Judah speaks up, not out of brotherly affection but for a profit. He says, "Why shouldn't we profit from this guy. We get nothing out of killing him. But if we sell him we'll get something." So they sell Joseph into slavery.
The story of Joseph is one of the most inspiring narratives in the Bible. Joseph is heroic. He is faithful to the Lord in the face of oppression and false accusation. Whatever task he's given he does to the best of his ability and to the glory of God. In fact, there's no mark against his character in Scripture. He might show a little arrogance when he tells his dreams, but even that is debatable. He is exemplary in every way.
Judah's sordid life story
Then Genesis 38 describes Judah, an older brother. He's one of the four sons of Leah. Leah was Jacob's first wife as a result of his uncle Laban's trickery. Jacob, himself a trickster, was deceived and ...
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Hershael York is pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky, as well as Professor of Christian Preaching and Associate Dean of Ministry and Proclamation in the School of Theology of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.