When a woman circa 2000 B.C. felt denigrated, she was on her own.
A woman of yore not only faced laws that did not protect her, she faced a life without mentors to teach her how to be rebelliously brave. Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai had yet to take their monumental anti-establishment stands.
And yet, around page 20 in most Bibles, we find Tamar.
Tamar was a young woman, married, and her husband died, so she married his brother, who also died. Her father-in-law promised her marriage to a third brother, but he lied. This left Tamar adrift, alone, scared and without options, except one: she knew this system was messed up.
Tamar, like women warriors who would follow her in years to come, had a rare self-possession that ignored society’s abysmal assessment of her worth. She fought back, with whatever undignified tools she had.
She faked prostitution. Then, through an embroiled plot played out with her father-in-law, she scored a safe place in his household thanks to a dramatic flash of a seal and a staff and these words from her father-in-law: “She is more righteous than I.”
Her father-in-law, a dominating, unbending man, humbly admitted that she was right, he was wrong. That is a pretty incredible turnabout.
Tamar’s stand not only saved her from destitution, it was also a first crack that began changing her father-in-law from jerk status to…not so much of a jerk after all. That is a lot to accomplish when you have no power over anything, except your own mind and its discernment of truth.
What a powerful sentiment! Any one of us should discuss and embrace that idea in practical ways. However, this is a story from the Bible. So before we get to the discussing and embracing bits, Tamar’s story begs the question: who wrote this stuff?
A woman faking prostitution brought the great-grandson of Abraham to a life-altering revelation of his deplorable behavior? That is just the kind of story that reinforces approximately zero patriarchal assumptions dominating churches today. It further does not serve any political agenda in the history of ever.
So. Who would write this story? And why?
Throughout the Bible, the main character, God, claims credit for authorship of the Bible. He says that people wrote it, but only through His guidance, and as such He accepts blame, confusion, ire and something else that is a recurring theme from page one to page 700 plus. He hopes with seemingly unlimited optimism that this literary tome will introduce to people His main feeling for them: love.
Like Tamar. He loves Tamar. He obviously loves her moxy, her strength of character and her ironclad sense of right and wrong. Why else would He use the word “righteous” to summarize her? Those were the days when righteous was a big, big word. Strong’s Concordance says its Hebrew meaning is “to be used of God.”
This was not a story about a woman standing her ground. Well, yes it was, in part.
In full, it was a story about a woman standing her ground, and an Author endorsing it.
What kind of author does that? One who supports strong women. One who utilizes said strength to act as a lynchpin that changes the course of not just one person, not just a few people, but whole chapters of people to come.
The story of Tamar began early in the Bible, but doesn’t wrap until hundreds of pages later when Tamar’s name is logged in the lineage of Jesus Christ – a move uncommon for authors of that time, since nobody named moms in family trees back then.
But this Author did.
That’s an Author who might deserve a fresh look. Some Bible stories get more play than others, but digging into the lesser-tolds gives us a richer understanding of the whole story. After all, Someone went to a lot of bother to include it all.