Genesis 38:9
And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.
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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.

8. Judah said unto Onan … marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother—The first instance of a custom, which was afterwards incorporated among the laws of Moses, that when a husband died leaving a widow, his brother next of age was to marry her, and the issue, if any, was to be served heir to the deceased (compare De 25:5). Two things are here noted:

1. The sin itself, which is here particularly described by the Holy Ghost, that men might be instructed concerning the nature and the great evil of this sin of self-pollution, which is such that it brought upon the actor of it the extraordinary vengeance of God, and which is condemned not only by Scripture, but even by the light of nature, and the judgment of heathens, who have expressly censured it as a great sin, and as a kind of murder. Of which see my Latin Synopsis. Whereby we may sufficiently understand how wicked and abominable a practice this is amongst Christians, and in the light of the gospel, which lays greater and stricter obligations upon us to purity, and severely forbids all pollution both of flesh and spirit.

2. The cause of this wickedness; which seems to have been either hatred of his brother, or envy at his brother’s name and honour, springing from the pride of his own heart. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his,.... Should not be called a son of his, but a son of his brother Er; this is to be understood only of the firstborn; all the rest of the children born afterwards were reckoned the children of the real parent of them; this shows this was a custom in use in those times, and well known, and was not a peculiar case:

and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife; to cohabit with her, as man and wife, he having married her according to his father's direction:

that he spilled it on the ground, lest he should give his seed to his brother: lest his brother's wife he had married should conceive by him, and bear a son that should be called his brother's, and inherit his estate; and this is the sin, which from him is called Onania, a sin condemned by the light of nature, as well as by the word of God, and very prejudicial to mankind, as well as displeasing to God, as follows:

And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.
Verses 9, 10. - And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when - literally, and it was if, i.e. whenever (cf. Ewald, Hebrews Synt., § 3456) - he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground (literally, destroyed to the ground), lest that he should (or, so as not to) give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased (literally, was evil in the eyes of) the Lord: - the word Jehovah is employed not because the writer was a late interpolator, but because the sin of Onan was an offence against the sanctity and prosperity of the theocratic family (Hengstenberg) - wherefore he (i.e. Jehovah) slew him also (vide supra). There Judah married the daughter of Shuah, a Canaanite, and had three sons by her: Ger (ער), Onan, and Shelah. The name of the place is mentioned when the last is born, viz., Chezib or Achzib (Joshua 15:44; Micah 1:14), in the southern portion of the lowland of Judah, that the descendants of Shelah might know the birth-place of their ancestor. This was unnecessary in the case of the others, who died childless.
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