20 Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her. 21 He asked the men who lived there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?”
“There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said.
22 So he went back to Judah and said, “I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.'”
23 Then Judah said, “Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn’t find her.”
24 About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.”
Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”
25 As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”
26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again. Genesis 38:20-26
In the end, Judah knew what this blackmail was about: his son Shelah. He knew that he had wronged Tamar. It’s interesting that he didn’t repent of his actions, only stated that Tamar must be better than him.
This entire chapter has been one of those stories where it would have been better to just leave it out of the Bible. After all, it’s embarrassing, sheds a nasty light on the Patriarch and his family, and is just painful to read.
It provides us with some insight on the character of God. He knew that Abraham and the generations that followed wouldn’t be – couldn’t be – angels in the least. They would be complete sinners, and often the worst of sinners. Each of Jacob’s sons has proven again the need for a Messiah, one that would rescue them from their own sin.
Nothing surprised the Lord about Judah and Tamar’s erratic behavior. He knew they would be the way they would be.
Extracting that to the larger scenario. Nothing in all the world surprises God. Geopolitical upheaval and social unrest don’t surprise Him. Dictators don’t surprise Him. He is not caught off guard by the actions of ordinary men and women, or world leaders. No, today’s a day to be thankful that He is still in control.