1 It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. 2 There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; he married her and went in to her, 3 and she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er. 4 Again she conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Onan. 5 Yet again she bore a son, and she called his name Shelah. She was in Chezib when she bore him. 6 And Judah took a wife for Er his first-born, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s first-born, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. 8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. 10 And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD, and he slew him also. 11 Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house, till Shelah my son grows up” — for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house. Gen. 38:1-11
Of all the passages in the Bible that get the label erotic, this is the one most often referred to. Now I don’t think this bit of Biblical history is particularly erotic, maybe weird to our culture, but certainly not erotic. Unless of course you have come in contact with those celibate ascetics who never miss a chance to chastise others for their private lives. Lives that for some reason they have denied themselves. They also find the strangest lessons in the oddest places. To them, the point of this sad bit of history is that masturbation and or birth control are forbidden. Neither of which are here in the text.
What we do have here is an odd bit of cultural strangest thought. In our culture and judicial system we have insurance pay outs, and government programs to take care of widows and orphans. But 2500 years before Messiah there were no insurance companies or governments. Someone had to take care of the widows and orphans. Their solution was that the next brother in line would raised up children who would then be there to take care of their mother in her old age. Not so long ago our culture did something very similar. My own great grandparents were homesteaders out on the plains of South Dakota, in one winter they both lost their spouses. My Great-grandmother could not begin to run the farm, and my Great-grandfather was not up to raising his children, so they got married the next spring. Together they raise two more girls, one of whom was my grandmother.
So what was Onan’s problem? As the eldest Er would have inherited a double portion, or twice what Onan and Shelah were to receive. But with Er dead, Onan is now the oldest. Unless Er has children. The children of Er would be the ones to receive Er’s double portion. Onan’s sin is not masturbating or birth control, it is coveting. He selfishly wanted the wealth but not the responsibility for the woman and her future children. This all stands in stark contrast to the passage in its whole context. For it stands in the middle of the history of Joseph. In fact it seems that Genesis is a little out of order because of it.
Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob was sold by is own brothers, one of whom was Judah, into slavery in Egypt. His first master was Poti-phar. It was under Poti-phar that he first showed his knack for making things run really well, for he made Poti-phar’s house hold prosper. On false charges he was then sent to prison. Where he ran the prison well. He explained the Butler’s dream and ask that the Butler remember him to Pharaoh. Yet he was forgotten for two more years. Only when Pharaoh had a dream was he told of poor suffering Joseph. But in the end, faithful Joseph ruled all Egypt, and was in a position to save his whole family, even though they had treated him so very disrespectfully all those years before. [Gen 37-46]
Where Onan had shown selfishness and greed, Joseph had trusted in God. Joseph always did his duty, and even when it looked as though all had forgotten him, God always saw him. God always had a plan. Joseph remained true to his God. Onan loved money more than responsibility.
For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs. 1 Tim. 6:10
At this time in our culture it has become quite the acceptable practice to covet what the rich have. Oh we have cloaked it, in all kinds of political speech. Make the rich pay, is the motto of these people. This is plain and simple coveting, and the Law of God strictly forbids this attitude.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbors.” Ex. 20:17
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never fail you nor forsake you.” Heb. 13:5
If you want something, you must go earn it. If you think the oil companies make too much money, go buy their stock. These days you don’t even need a broker, just an account at any of the brokerage houses on line. If you don’t know how to make money, the library and the internet are both full of all kinds of investment information. Avail yourselves of it. If you can’t make enough money at your chosen trade, learn a new trade. Because the reality is, no matter how much money the politicians take from the rich, they will never give it to you. They will spend it on what they think is best for their reelection.
For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. 2Th. 3:10
If you are listening to preachers, priests, teachers, union leaders, family and friends that are encouraging you in this evil pointless pursuit of envy, you must separate yourself from there teachings.
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 1Cor. 15:33
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. Gal. 5:22-23