Tamar. Watercolor on paper, 18×24″


Genesis 38; Matthew 1:3

Tamar married into Judah’s family. Her first husband, Er, died. Judah then told Er’s brother, Onan to marry Tamar. After Onan died, Judah blamed her and sent her away back home; childless, widowed, and humiliated. Judah had promised to give her in marriage to his third son but never intended to for fear his third son would also die.

With justice in mind, Tamar devises a risky and dangerous plan that God uses to make things right.

She disguised herself as a prostitute, and as the story goes, Judah realizes he’s been trapped when she reveals she is pregnant by him. She then shows his own seal, cord, and staff that he’d given her as a guarantee, and he declares “She is more righteous than I…” recognizing his own failure, and implying Tamar acted more in the spirit of the law than he.

I’ve always found this a difficult story. Tamar was widowed twice, mistreated and humiliated. But God gives her children and honor. Her name also appears in Jesus’ genealogy (Matt 1:3). And as the story shows, God took what was cruel and wrong, and made it into good.

In the painting I just wanted her eyes to show, as she was disguised at the pivotal part of the story. I also included Judah’s staff, cord, and seal as these were important for her guaranteed safety.