Posted by: Esther | December 8, 2007

Grace Conceived Through Sin

When a jeweler displays a diamond, he does so against a black background in order to show the purity of the jewel. So we can also look at Genesis chapter 38 as the black back drop for the pure qualities that are seen in the life of Joseph. This is a story of the immorality that existed among the sons of Israel, esp. in Judah, yet it is also a picture of the reason for our need of a savior and our need for His grace.

Judah’s Immorality

The story of Judah’s immorality, Genesis chapter 38, takes place during the time that Joseph is in Egypt. The first step of Judah’s dive into immorality was when he sought friendship in the world.

Genesis 38:1 And it came about at that time, that Judah departed from his brothers and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.

Continuing in his flesh, he takes a woman from there and has children with her.

Genesis 38:2-5 Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in to her. So she conceived and bore a son and he named him Er. Then she conceived again and bore a son and named him Onan. She bore still another son and named him Shelah; and it was at Chezib that she bore him.

Judah finds a wife for his firstborn and it isn’t a wonder that his firstborn is wicked in the sight of the Lord. I can’t imagine that he was teaching his children about the God of his fathers.

Genesis 38:6-7 Now Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name {was} Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD took his life.

After the Lord takes Er’s life, Judah tells his second born to have a child with Tamar in order to carry on the firstborn’s lineage. Well the second second son is just as bad as the first. Onan selfishly pulls out so the firstborn’s lineage could not continue. The Lord hated this and takes his life as well. (Gen. 38:8-10)

Now the youngest son is not yet old enough to marry Tamar (well he may be old enough, but Judah is afraid that he will die like his brothers), so Judah tells her to go back to her family and wait for him to be old enough to marry. When Shelah, Judah’s youngest, had grown, Judah’s wife dies. After mourning, Judah is again found hanging out with his pagan friend Hirah.

Genesis 38:12 Now after a considerable time Shua’s daughter, the wife of Judah, died; and when the time of mourning was ended, Judah went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

At this time Tamar realizes that Judah is not keeping his promise so she dresses as a temple prostitute, covers her face with a veil, and sits in an open place on the way to Timnath.

And Judah falls for the bait. Hook, line and sinker…

Genesis 38:15-18 When Judah saw her, he thought she {was} a harlot, for she had covered her face. So he turned aside to her by the road, and said, “Here now, let me come in to you”; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. And she said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” He said, therefore, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” She said, moreover, “Will you give a pledge until you send {it?}” He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” And she said, “Your seal and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave {them} to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him.

So Judah gives up his identity (seal), wealth (cord/bracelets) and position (staff) to commit this act of immorality. And it all started when Judah sought friendship with the world.

Contrast this to Joseph and you will find that seeking friendship with the world only leads to disgrace, but seeking the will of the Father always brings success.

Romans 10:11, 13 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Remember that in Genesis chapter 37, Joseph did the will of his father even though his brothers hated him for it. And Joseph’s dreams came true. Judah, however, sought friendship with the world and he lost everything he owned.

But wait… conceived from Judah’s sin is a picture of God’s grace.

Genesis 38:27-30 It came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb. Moreover, it took place while she was giving birth, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet {thread} on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” But it came about as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out. Then she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” So he was named Perez. Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet {thread} on his hand; and he was named Zerah.

This is a picture of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The scarlet thread on Zarah’s wrist is a picture of Jesus’ blood stained wrists at His crucification. Zarah appeared first, just as Jesus was the firstfruits of those who are raised from the dead. Zarah remained in the womb, just as Jesus was placed in the tomb and finally, Zarah was seen in totality, just as the resurrected Jesus was seen in His full deity (JC 2005).

And so we are reminded that it is because of our sin that we are in need of a savior.

Through sin, grace is born.

It is through this immorality that Jesus is born. Read the lineage of Jesus in the Book of Matthew (1:3) and you will read these names. How gracious and merciful that Jesus chose a completely dysfunctional lineage to be born from.

Romans 5:15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1-2

Romans 6:10-12 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts.

This was Judah’s big mistake. He obeyed the lust of his flesh first by seeking friendship in the world. His friend probably had no problem with Judah committing this act of immorality with a harlot. This was common practice among them. So we must look at the common immoralities among the people in the world: going to bars, one night stands, gossip, etc. Our friends should not be of the world, but should be fellow believers in Christ. We should only know people in the world in order to be the barer of good news, the salt, the light, but never for friendship, lest we fall into the same trap as Judah.

So we have a choice to follow the way of Judah and die, or the way of Joseph and live.

John 8:24 “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am {He,} you will die in your sins.”

Praise God for His Grace!



  1. Interesting – I fail to see and plan to study : )

  2. Fail to see what?

  3. I am referencing Judah’s sin/a picture of God’s grace. The implication of God’s grace as taken from Judah’s sin and told in Genesis 38:27-30. How does it relate that because of our sin we are in need of a savior from that passage? More specifically, the message about the breach.
    I agree that through sin grace is born in your conclusion, but I am missing the correlation above. I know you can help me understand. I look forward to your response : )

  4. The chapter is about Judah’s sin. Judah slept with his daughter in law thinking that she was a prostitute. And from this sin, Tamar (his daughter in law) gave birth to twins, Perez and Zerah. This is the lineage that Jesus chose to be born through. He could have chose Joseph’s line; Joseph being more righteous, but He didn’t. He chose horrible, sinful Judah (Matthew 1:3). Grace (Jesus) being conceived through sin (Judah’s immorality). We are all sinners like Judah, and like Judah, we all need a savior. It is because of our sin that Jesus had to be born. Jesus is the gift of grace (Romans 5).

    Out of time at this moment. I’ll be back to explain more if needed. The twins birth, especially Zerah and the scarlet thread, is a picture of Jesus. And Jesus is the gift of grace. I hope this explains the connection.

  5. During Jesus’ life, these passages are referenced which point to the messiah as the savior for mankind to break the barrier of sin. My little knowledge, reminds me of reading that sin comes from Adam and Eve and because of them, a barrier (sin) is upon us preventing spiritual understanding. I could not have connected the dots – good message and much more to unfold I am sure : )

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