Tamar’s Journey Through Biblical History

Tamar is a significant figure in the Bible, with her story appearing in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. As we delve into Scripture, we come across two distinct women named Tamar, each with their own unique stories and challenges they faced. Understanding their narratives is essential for grasping the wider context of biblical history and the lessons that can be drawn from their experiences.

Unraveling Her Intriguing Story
Unraveling Her Intriguing Story

In the Old Testament, the first Tamar we encounter is a widow who made a bold move to secure her future by tricking her father-in-law, Judah, into fathering her children. This ultimately led to the birth of her twin sons, Perez and Zerah, both of whom would later be included in Jesus’ genealogy as mentioned in the book of Matthew. The other Tamar in Scripture is the unfortunate victim of a violent crime, assaulted by her half-brother Amnon. The subsequent actions of these characters sparked a civil war and shed light on the darker aspects of human nature that can be found even within the context of a sacred text.

As we explore the stories of Tamar in the Bible, it becomes evident that their lives bear profound significance and offer valuable insights into human behavior and the role of women in biblical times. By examining the tales of these two women, we can better appreciate their impact and the lessons they can teach us today.

Historical Context of Tamar’s Story

Family Lineage and Connections

Tamar’s story involves key figures such as Er, Judah, Jacob, and Shelah. We find Tamar’s story in the Old Testament, particularly in the narrative of Genesis. Tamar was first married to Er, who was the son of Judah and a Canaanite woman. Judah was one of Jacob’s twelve sons, making Jacob Tamar’s father-in-law. According to the Bible, Er was described as wicked and was subsequently put to death by God.

After the death of her husband, Tamar married Onan, her brother-in-law, as per the cultural and legal custom of Levirate marriage. However, Onan seized his responsibility, which led to his untimely death as well. This left Tamar once again widowed, and upon the anticipation of marrying Shelah, Judah’s youngest son, she was forced to wait until he came of age.

Cultural and Legal Customs

Levirate marriage, also known as Yibbum, is an ancient custom practiced in the Old Testament and Israel. This law required a brother-in-law to marry his deceased brother’s widow to perpetuate his brother’s lineage if the widow was childless. If the brother-in-law refused, the widow would perform a ritual called halitzah and he would then be released from this obligation.

In Tamar’s case, her husband Er died without an heir, which led her to enter a Levirate marriage with Onan, her brother-in-law. However, Onan refused to fulfill his duty, resulting in his death. As a widow waiting for Shelah to come of age, Tamar decided to take matters into her own hands to ensure her future and the perpetuation of her husband’s lineage.

By understanding the family lineage and the cultural and legal customs of the time, we can better appreciate the context in which Tamar’s story unfolds. Her perseverance and determination to secure her place and the continuation of her husband’s family showcase her strength as a woman in the biblical narrative.

Tamar in Genesis: The Judah Narrative

Marriage to Er and Onan

In the biblical story found in Genesis chapter 38, Tamar is introduced as the wife of Judah’s eldest son, Er. Er is described as wicked in the Lord’s sight, leading to his untimely death. Following the customs of that time, Judah asks his second son, Onan, to enter into a levirate union with Tamar in order to continue the family line.

A levirate union is an arrangement in which a brother-in-law marries his deceased brother’s widow to provide offspring for his brother and continue the family name. Sadly, Onan refuses to fulfill this responsibility, and he too is struck down by the Lord.

Deception of Judah

Faced with the tragic loss of both her husbands, Tamar finds herself in a difficult situation. Judah, fearing further misfortune, decides not to give his youngest son Shelah to Tamar in marriage. This leaves Tamar without a husband and without any prospect of producing heirs for her deceased husbands. In response, Tamar devises a plan to ensure the continuation of the family line.

One day, when Judah is traveling, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and waits for Judah to pass by. Judah, not recognizing Tamar, readily engages with her. As a pledge for payment, she requests his seal, cord, and staff. Later, when Judah sends payment to the “prostitute,” she is nowhere to be found. However, the seal, cord, and staff now in Tamar’s possession prove to be crucial evidence in the unfolding narrative.

Soon after, Tamar is discovered to be pregnant, and Judah accuses her of prostitution. In response, Tamar presents Judah’s own seal, cord, and staff to prove that he is the father of her unborn child. Acknowledging his previous misconduct, Judah admits his responsibility and declares Tamar more righteous than him.

As the story concludes, Tamar gives birth to twin boys, Perez and Zerah. The boys become direct ancestors of King David and, ultimately, Jesus Christ. Despite the unconventional circumstances surrounding their birth, Perez and Zerah are considered important figures in the lineage of the tribe of Judah.

Tamar’s Role in the Davidic Lineage

who was tamar in the bible
Tamar’s Role in the Davidic Lineage

Lineage of Perez to King David

Tamar was a key figure in the lineage of King David and eventually Jesus Christ. She bore twin sons, Perez and Zerah, after a complex story involving her father-in-law, Judah1. We find the lineage of Perez to King David in the book of Ruth. This genealogy connects Tamar to David through her son Perez, with significant figures such as Boaz and Obed in between.

Here are the descendants from Perez to King David:

  1. Perez
  2. Hezron
  3. Ram
  4. Amminadab
  5. Nahshon
  6. Salmon
  7. Boaz
  8. Obed
  9. Jesse
  10. David

Through the story of Ruth and Boaz, we see that Ruth, a Moabite woman, married Boaz, a descendant of Perez2, thus incorporating her into the lineage leading to King David and eventually the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Symbolism in Jesus’ Genealogy

Tamar’s presence in the genealogy of Jesus, detailed in the Gospel of Matthew, shows the significance of her role in the biblical narrative. In fact, Tamar is one of only five women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy3, emphasizing her unique contribution to the Davidic lineage.

By including Tamar and the other women in Jesus’ genealogy, we see an important lesson in faith, perseverance, and the extraordinary way God works through ordinary people. Despite facing challenging situations, Tamar demonstrated great faith and determination, which ultimately led to her being part of the Messianic line. Tamar’s story reminds us that God’s plan of salvation reaches across social, cultural, and gender boundaries, and that through faith and obedience, we can all play a part in His unfolding plan.


  1. Who was Tamar in the Bible? – Christianity
  2. Ruth, Book of
  3. Who were the women in Matthew’s genealogy?

The Narrative of Tamar, Daughter of David

The Narrative of Tamar, Daughter of David
The Narrative of Tamar, Daughter of David

The Incident of Amnon and Tamar

Tamar, the daughter of King David and Maacah, was a beautiful young woman who suffered a great injustice. Her half-brother Amnon, son of David and Ahinoam, became obsessed with her. Amnon’s cousin, Jonadab, cunningly suggested a plan that allowed Amnon to be alone with Tamar. It was under the pretense of being sick and needing Tamar to prepare food for him that Amnon lured her into his room.

During this encounter, Amnon forcibly raped Tamar, disregarding her pleas. She even offered to marry him if he would refrain from this act of violence, but he would not listen. Sadly, once Amnon had violated Tamar, his lust turned into hate, and he rejected her, further shaming her (2 Samuel 13:1-19).

Aftermath and Justice

Tamar, now disgraced, sought refuge with her brother Absalom who took her into his home, recognizing the injustice she had suffered. Meanwhile, King David learned of the incident and was furious. However, he did not take any immediate action against Amnon. Absalom grew increasingly bitter towards his half-brother for violating Tamar and waited for two years before seeking justice.

Eventually, Absalom orchestrated a banquet and invited all of his siblings, including Amnon. During the feast, Absalom had his servants murder Amnon as an act of vengeance for his sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:20-29). This act of violence led to significant strife within David’s family, eventually culminating in Absalom’s rebellion against his father.

In the end, though Tamar’s voice and suffering were initially silenced, her story remains as a potent reminder that even those in power are not immune to grave acts of injustice, and that the pursuit of justice, however delayed, is vital for a society to thrive.

Tamar’s Legacy in Scripture and Society

Tamar as a Model of Righteousness

Tamar is a unique figure in the Bible, as she appears in two different stories in the Old Testament. The first Tamar was the widow of Er and Onan, sons of Judah, Jacob’s fourth-born son 1. The second Tamar was the sister of Absalom and daughter of King David, who was raped by her half-brother Amnon2.

In both cases, Tamar exhibited qualities such as love, loyalty, and a quest for justice. As the widow of Er and Onan, Tamar faced the challenge of following the Levirate Marriage law, which required her to marry her deceased husband’s brother to continue his lineage3. When faced with injustices by her family, Tamar sought justice by cunningly exposing their hypocrisy, ultimately securing her place in the genealogy of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of Matthew4.

The second Tamar, as King David’s daughter, demonstrated strength and resilience in the face of abuse and misogyny. While she was wronged by her own family members and forced into the position of an outcast, her story is now used as a literary-feminist reading to understand themes of power dynamics and social justice in the Bible5.

Influence on Modern Interpretations

The stories of both Tamars have influenced modern interpretations of biblical texts and themes. The first Tamar has been hailed as a model of righteousness in upholding the law and seeking justice6. She has also been depicted as a figure of loyalty and love, as she fought fiercely for her rights within the patriarchal society of her time.

In contrast, the second Tamar serves as an example of the way women were mistreated in biblical times, inspiring modern scholars to reexamine the Bible through a feminist lens. By analyzing her story and experiences, we can better understand the impacts of the patriarchal power structure on women during this historical period7.

To better illustrate these interpretations, we have compiled the following list of key themes in Tamar’s life:

  • Widow: Both Tamars experience the challenges of widowhood, one through her husband’s death and the other through her victimization.
  • Law: The first Tamar follows the Levirate Marriage law to secure her place in the family lineage.
  • Levirate Marriage: This ancient custom plays a significant role in Tamar’s story as she navigates her duty as a widow.
  • Justice: Both Tamars seek justice and righteousness, either by enforcing the law or demanding retribution for their mistreatment.
  • Old Testament: The stories of Tamar are found within the Old Testament, highlighting her impact on the overall biblical narrative.
  • Love: Love and loyalty are evident in both Tamars’ lives, as they persevere through hardships to protect their rights and lineage.
  • Loyalty: Both women are models of loyalty, demonstrating allegiance to their families despite personal suffering.
  • Outcast: Tamar’s experiences as an outcast serve as a reminder of the marginalization faced by women in biblical times.
  • Literary-Feminist Readings: The second Tamar’s story, in particular, has led to feminist interpretations of the Bible to better understand women’s experiences in the text.


  1. Christianity.com – Who Was Tamar in the Bible?
  2. GotQuestions.org – Who was Tamar in the Bible?
  3. Crosswalk.com – Tamar in the Bible – Her Story & Significance
  4. The Holy Script – Who Was Tamar In The Bible
  5. FaithGiant.com – Who was Tamar in the Bible? – Story and Importance
  6. The Holy Script – Who Was Tamar In The Bible
  7. FaithGiant.com – Who was Tamar in the Bible? – Story and Importance

Frequently Asked Questions

What significant actions did Tamar take in the biblical narrative?

Tamar is known for taking bold actions to secure her rights in spite of challenging circumstances. In the story of Judah and Tamar, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute in order to trick her father-in-law, Judah. This led to the birth of Perez and Zerah, who played important roles in biblical history. In the case of the second Tamar, she courageously exposed the injustice done to her when she was raped by her half-brother Amnon.

What lessons can be learned from the story of Tamar in Scripture?

The story of Tamar teaches us the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity and showcases the redemptive and compassionate nature of God. Furthermore, her relentless pursuit of justice and righteousness serves as a powerful example for both men and women.

In what ways is Tamar’s story important to biblical history?

Tamar’s story is significant in illustrating God’s grace and redemption in seemingly hopeless situations. She is also an important figure in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, as mentioned in Matthew 1:3.

How is Tamar related to King David in the Bible?

The first Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law, is an ancestor of King David through the lineage of Perez, her son with Judah. The second Tamar, who was raped by her half-brother Amnon, is David’s daughter and Absalom’s sister.

What is the meaning behind the name Tamar as mentioned in the Bible?

The name Tamar in Hebrew means “date palm tree,” symbolizing fruitfulness and prosperity.

How does the portrayal of Tamar differ in various biblical accounts?

While the first Tamar in Genesis 38 is portrayed as a determined woman who fought for her rights and eventually triumphed, the second Tamar in 2 Samuel 13 is depicted as a victim of sexual violence who suffered greatly. The suffering of the second Tamar, however, showcases God’s care for the oppressed and His ability to bring healing in painful situations.

Who are the two women named Tamar in the Bible, and in which books are their stories told?

The first Tamar is found in the book of Genesis (Genesis 38) and is known for her actions with Judah and her significant role in the family line of Jesus Christ. The second Tamar, found in the book of 2 Samuel (2 Samuel 13), is the daughter of King David and sister of Absalom, who was raped by her half-brother Amnon.

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