I’m happy to have Carolyn Custis James as my guest today. In Vindicating the Vixens, she contributed the chapter on Tamar. In November she served on a panel of contributors who talked about narrative analysis at the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Providence, Rhode Island. Here are some quotes from her remarks:
[In the Genesis narrative] just as the Joseph story reaches a fever pitch and readers are on the edge of their seats, instead of following Joseph into Egypt, the narrator follows Judah away from his family into Canaanite territory and into a salacious R-rated story involving prostitution with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. From a literary perspective, the narrator’s choice seems counterproductive. From a pastoral perspective, this sordid story is problematic, unsuitable for a G audience and devoid of any spiritual value. Pastors often skip it….
Far from being a literary gaffe, the narrator’s decision to include this “enigmatic” episode is strategic; Genesis 38 is actually the hinge that holds the Joseph story together. It bridges Jacob’s destructive favoritism and the searing father-wound Judah suffers with the climactic meeting between Judah and Joseph in Egypt, where warring brothers finally make peace.
Here are a few suggestions for teachers to connect this ancient story with twenty-first century congregants:
• God’s love for the unloved and his power to rescue, redeem, and radically transform prodigals
• The power of wounds to destroy or make us
• God’s calling of his daughters to be bold agents for his purposes
• The self-sacrificing brand of masculinity the gospel produces and Judah ultimately embodies
• In the current #MeToo epidemic, Tamar’s story gives pastors a call to courageously engage domestic abuse, human trafficking, sexual assault, and violence against women. This is a #MeToo chapter.
Listen to Carolyn talk about this story on KCBI radio with host Rebecca Carrell: