“The sons of Judah were Er, Onan and Shelah. These three the Canaanite woman Bathshuah bore to him. Now Er, Judah’s first-born, was wicked in the sight of Yahweh. Yahweh put him to death. His daughter-in-law Tamar also bore Judah Perez and Zerah. Judah had five sons in all.”
From now on we will be only concerned with Judah, who had 5 sons, as can be found in Genesis, chapter 38. Judah separated from his other brothers when he went to Adullam, a city southwest of Jerusalem where he had a friend. There he met and married a Canaanite woman named Bathshuah. They had three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. Then the story got more complicated. Judah found Tamar as a wife for his first born son (1) Er, who was wicked in the sight of Yahweh, so that Yahweh put him to death. Then Judah sent (2) Onan, his second son, to produce children for his brother. However, Onan spilled his semen on the ground so that he would not have any children. This also was displeasing to Yahweh, so he put him to death also. Judah then told Tamar to live as a widow in her father’s house until his youngest son Shelah was older and able to marry her. Then Judah’s wife Bathshuah died. After the mourning period had passed, he went out to the shear sheep in Timnah with his friend Hirah. Tamar, in the meantime, saw that (3) Shelah had grown up but was not being offered in marriage to her. She decided to throw off her widow garments, put a veil on, and sit at the entrance to Enaim, on the road from Adullam to Timnah. Now Judah was on this same road and thought that she was a prostitute, because her face was covered. He inquired as to what it would cost to have sex. They settled on a kid from the flock. However, she wanted something right away, his signature ring and the cord with it as a pledge so that he would pay later. They had sex and she conceived by him. Afterwards, she left, went home, and put her widow clothes back on. Now Judah wanted to give the prostitute the animal so that he could get his ring back. He sent his friend Hirah with the kid, but he could not find the prostitute. Judah had thought that she was a temple prostitute. When he could not find her, he decided to let her keep his ring. Three months later, Judah found out that his daughter-in-law Tamar was pregnant as a result of prostitution. He wanted her immediately burned, but she said to Judah that the owner of this ring, cord, and staff made me pregnant. Judah admitted that she was right and he should have given her his son Shelah as a husband. Interesting enough, she would have been put to death, if the pregnancy was not caused by Judah. However, the male is always right so she did not die. In fact, Judah admits that he was wrong, not for using her as a prostitute but for not letting her marry his youngest son. Tamar then had twins from this pregnancy, (4) Perez and (5) Zerah. They too, like Esau and Jacob, disputed about who was the first out of the womb. Interesting enough, the line of Judah would have died out without this Tamar prostitute episode. Thus the sacred lineage of Judah goes through a father-in-law having paid sex with his daughter-in-law, who was a Canaanite. Both of these boys will be important later on, especially Perez. Also both names Tamar and Zerah will appear later.