Genesis 38/Judah's Repentance?

John Ronning ronning at
Sat Aug 14 16:56:31 EDT 1999


I don't think we see any evidence of Judah's repentance in Genesis 38 -
just his guilt feelings (a likely reason for leaving the family so he
wouldn't have to see his father mourning for Joseph every day).

There is a great contrast between righteous Joseph spurning the advances
of Potiphar's wife, and Judah who simply sees a prostitute (so he
thinks) on the road and buys her services, later confessing "she is more
righteous than me."

Joseph continues to suffer for his righteousness, going from slavery to
prison for doing the right thing, while Judah remains free and suffers
no external consequences except embarrassment - not very good support
for the view that the OT teaches total and immediate divine recompense
for good and bad behavior in this lifetime.

Genesis 38 also highlights the grace of God towards Judah.  He has
committed what would be later a capital crime under the law of Moses (He
who steals his brother Israelite and sells him into slavery shall be put
to death; you shall purge the evil from among you); yet his life is
spared.  But Judah's son, who commits an offense which did not become a
capital offense under the law of Moses (refusing to raise up offspring
for his brother, for which you only got spit on in the face under the
law), is put to death because what he did was evil in the sight of the
Lord.  Think about all this if you were growing up in Israel descended
from Judah - pretty humbling I would think.

If trends of the previous generations of patriarchs were continued, all
of Joseph's older brothers would have been excluded from the people of
God, and their children would have grown up like the Edomites,
Ishmaelites, Midianites, etc., enemies of God and of his people; so the
rest of the book tells us why it didn't turn out that way - because
Joseph led his brothers to the place of repentance and transformation
from men like Esau into "servants of the God of your father" (Gen
50:17).  You are quite correct I think that Judah leads the way in this
repentance - from the time he determines to save Benjamin by sacrificing
himself the sons of Jacob are called "Judah and his brothers."

A coralary lesson, of course, is that each new generation faces the same
choice - whether to go the way of Ishmael, Esau, etc., or the way of
Isaac, Joseph, etc.

At least that's how I see it.

John Ronning

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