Monday, March 23, 2009

Judah and Tamar

Tamar was the widow of the two eldest sons of the patriarch Judah. Both had "spilt their seed" practising coitus interruptus and had been killed by God because of that. Tamar stayed childless what meaned without any impotance in that kind of society. So she demanded from Judah the marriage to the brother of her dead husband, which was her good right. But Judah who believed she was cursed wouldn't give her another one of his sons. To become pregnant she disguised herself as a prostitute and waited at the road for Judah. She accepted his tribal leader's staff, his personal seal and cord as a pledge for the later payment of a goat.

Some months later when it became obvious that she was pregnant, Judah condemned her to be burnt to death as a whore. But then Tamar sent him his staff, seal and cord, proving that he himself was the father of her child. So Judah accepted the children (she got twins) and took Tamar in his house.

This painting from 1840 is by the French artist Emile Jean Horace Vernet (1789-1863) . Vernet was a battle and history painter and shows how Tamar uses the only weapons she had to outsmart the old hypocrite patriarch, who would condemn to death a poor prostitute but in spite of that would buy her services.

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