Formations 11.27.2022: Tamar, Seeker of Justice

Matthew 1:1-3; Genesis 38:11, 13-18, 24-26

Tamar’s story is the story of so many women over the centuries. In spite of the fact that God “created humans in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27), women have long endured subjugation, oppression, second-class status, limitations, misogyny, abuse, and unfair pay in comparison to men. While the past few decades have brought revolutions in the treatment and perception of women—especially in industrialized nations—there is still so far to go.

As just one example, the “glass ceiling” is real in spite of advancements. Greg Iacurci cites a US Census Bureau report with shocking findings: “In 2020, women made 83 cents for every dollar earned by men. …Put differently: It would take some 40 extra days of work for women to earn a comparable wage.” Why? Iacurci gives three main reasons for this discrepancy: “job type, discrimination, and shouldering caregiving duties.” But no matter the job type, he adds, women are still paid less than men for the same job. It’s maddening.

Tamar lived long before any advancements. Her plight was more like those of today’s women in some Third World countries. She was totally dependent on the men in her life in order to survive. When her first husband was so wicked that God killed him (Gen 38:7) and her second also died by God’s hand (v. 9), Tamar’s father-in-law Judah told her to stay with her own father until another of Judah’s sons grew old enough for her to marry.

The years passed and Judah did not fulfill his promise. This is when Tamar took the course of her life into her own hands. What she did with her father-in-law sounds disgusting to us: she deceived him by pretending to be a prostitute, slept with him, and got pregnant by him. But it was probably the best route she could take in her situation. She used the corrupt system to her own advantage. Judah’s hypocrisy was evident when he threatened to have Tamar burned for her sins—not realizing that her act of “prostitution” was committed with him. She turned the tables on him and revealed his own sinful actions, and he had no choice but to provide for her and their twin sons.

When the world gets tough, women get tougher. That has always been true. When we read Tamar’s story, may we not judge her harshly for her distasteful actions but laud her for her courage in finding a way through a terribly abusive system. And may we work today to help women in all areas of the world where they are still treated as second-class citizens. They are, after all, created in God’s image.

Source: Greg Iacurci, “Women are still paid 83 cents for every dollar men earn,” CNBC: Empowered Investor, May 19, 2022,


• What are some examples from your own life of the ways women are still treated as unequal to men?
• Why do you think the subjugation of women began? What would the world look like if men had been the ones who were subjugated over the centuries?
• What does it mean to you that “God created humans in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27)? How should this knowledge affect the way we view and treat women?
• How can you help women today who are facing circumstances caused by their unequal treatment in relation to men? What would God have you do?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


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