Genesis 38:7
And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.
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Genesis 38:7-8. Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord — That is, in defiance of God, and his law. And the Lord slew him — Cut him off by an untimely death, before he had any children by Tamar. As long life among the Jews was generally reckoned a blessing from God; so an untimely death was accounted a punishment. The next brother, Onan, was, according to the ancient usage, married to the widow, to preserve the name of his deceased brother that died childless. This custom of marrying the brother’s widow was afterward made one of the laws of Moses, Deuteronomy 25:5. Onan, though he consented to marry the widow, yet, to the great abuse of his own body, and of the wife he had married, and to the dishonour of the memory of his brother that was gone, refused to raise up seed unto his brother. And this story seems to be recorded by the Holy Ghost purposely to condemn, not only his malignant and envious disposition with respect to his deceased brother, but also and especially that vile pollution of his body of which he was guilty. For, observe, The thing which he did displeased the Lord, and brought upon him the Lord’s vengeance. And it is to be feared that thousands, especially of single persons, still displease the Lord in a similar way, and destroy their own bodies and souls. All such sins, at the same time that they dishonour the body, evidence the power of vile affections, and are not only condemned in the Scriptures, but by the light of nature, and were held even by the heathen moralists to be peculiarly criminal, and by the Jewish doctors to be a degree of murder. See Universal History.38:1-30 The profligate conduct of Judah and his family. - This chapter gives an account of Judah and his family, and such an account it is, that it seems a wonder that of all Jacob's sons, our Lord should spring out of Judah, Heb 7:14. But God will show that his choice is of grace and not of merit, and that Christ came into the world to save sinners, even the chief. Also, that the worthiness of Christ is of himself, and not from his ancestors. How little reason had the Jews, who were so called from this Judah, to boast as they did, Joh 8:41. What awful examples the Lord proclaims in his punishments, of his utter displeasure at sin! Let us seek grace from God to avoid every appearance of sin. And let that state of humbleness to which Jesus submitted, when he came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, in appointing such characters as those here recorded, to be his ancestors, endear the Redeemer to our hearts.Judah marries and has three sons. "Went down from brethren." This seems to have been an act of willful indiscretion in Judah. His separation from his brethren, however, extends only to the matter of his new connection. In regard to property and employment there seems to have been no long or entire separation until they went down into Egypt. He went down from the high grounds about Shekem to the lowlands in which Adullam was situated Joshua 15:33-35. "A certain Adullamite." He may have become acquainted with this Hirah, when visiting his grandfather, or in some of the caravans which were constantly passing Shekem, or even in the ordinary wanderings of the pastoral life. Adullam was in the Shephelah or lowland of Judah bordering on Philistia proper. "A certain Kenaanite." This connection with Shua's daughter was contrary to the will of God and the example of his fathers. Onan was born, we conceive, in Judah's fifteenth year, and Shelah in his sixteenth.

At Kezib. - This appears the same as Akzib, which is associated with Keilah and Mareshah Joshua 15:44, and therefore, lay in the south of the lowland of Judah. This note of place indicates a change of residence since her other children were born. In the year after this birth the dishonor of Dinah takes place. "Took a wife for Er." Judah chose a wife for himself at an early age, and now he chooses for his first-born at the same age. "Was evil in the eyes of the Lord." The God of covenant is obliged to cut off Er for his wickedness in the prime of life. We are not made acquainted with his crime; but it could scarcely be more vile and unnatural than that for which his brother Onan is also visited with death. "And be a husband to her." The original word means to act as a husband to the widow of a deceased brother who has left no issue. Onan seems to have been prompted to commit his crime by the low motive of turning the whole inheritance to his own house. At the time of Er's death Judah must have been in his twenty-seventh year; Joseph was consequently in his twenty-third, and Jacob had for ten years past had his headquarters at Hebron. Hence, the contact with Timnah, Adullam, and Enaim was easy.

2. And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite—Like Esau [Ge 26:34], this son of Jacob, casting off the restraints of religion, married into a Canaanite family; and it is not surprising that the family which sprang from such an unsuitable connection should be infamous for bold and unblushing wickedness. Wicked in the sight of the Lord, i.e. notoriously wicked. Compare Genesis 10:9 13:13.

The Lord slew him, in some extraordinary and remarkable manner, as Genesis 38:10. And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord,.... That is, exceedingly wicked, as this phrase signifies, Genesis 13:13, was guilty of some very heinous sin, but what is not mentioned; according to the Targum of Jonathan and Jarchi, it was the same with his brother Onan's, Genesis 38:9, which it is suggested he committed, lest his wife should prove with child, and lose her beauty; but if it had been the same with his, it would have been expressed as well as his. An Arabic writer (p) says, that he cohabited with his wife not according to the course of nature, but in the "sodomitical" way:

and the Lord slew him; by his immediate hand, striking him dead at once, as Ananias and Sapphira were stricken, Acts 5:5; or by sending some distemper, which quickly carried him off, as a token of his displeasure at his sin.

(p) Abulpharag. Hist. Dynast. p. 16.

And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.
Verse 7. - And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord. The connection between Er's name (עֵר) and Er's character (רַע) is noticeable. The special form which his wickedness assumed is not stated; but the accompanying phrase suggests that, as in the case of the Sodomites (Genesis 13:13; Genesis 19:5), it was some unnatural abomination. And the Lord slew him - literally, caused him to die; not necessarily by direct visitation; perhaps simply by allowing him to reap the fruits of his youthful indulgence in premature and childless death, which yet was so rapid and so evidently entailed by his evil courses as immediately to suggest the punitive hand of God. About this time, i.e., after the sale of Joseph, while still feeding the flocks of Jacob along with his brethren (Genesis 37:26),

(Note: As the expression "at that time" does not compel us to place Judah's marriage after the sale of Joseph, many have followed Augustine (qusaet. 123), and placed it some years earlier. But this assumption is rendered extremely improbable, if not impossible, by the fact that Judah was not merely accidentally present when Joseph was sold, but was evidently living with his brethren, and had not yet set up an establishment of his own; whereas he had settled at Adullam previous to his marriage, and seems to have lived there up to the time of the birth of the twins by Thamar. Moreover, the 23 years which intervened between the taking of Joseph into Egypt and the migration of Jacob thither, furnish space enough for all the events recorded in this chapter. If we suppose that Judah, who was 20 years old when Joseph was sold, went to Adullam soon afterwards and married there, is three sons might have been born four or five years after Joseph's captivity. And if his eldest son was born about a year and a half after the sale of Joseph, and he married him to Thamar when he was 15 years old, and gave her to his second son a year after that, Onan's death would occur at least five years before Jacob's removal to Egypt; time enough, therefore, both for the generation and birth of the twin-sons of Judah by Thamar, and for Judah's two journeys into Egypt with his brethren to buy corn. (See Genesis 46:8.))

Judah separated from them, and went down (from Hebron, Genesis 37:14, or the mountains) to Adullam, in the lowland (Joshua 15:35), into the neighbourhood of a man named Hirah. "He pitched (his tent, Genesis 26:25) up to a man of Adullam," i.e., in his neighbourhood, so as to enter into friendly intercourse with him.

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