Really Terrible Bible Inspirations: Happy Harlot’s Edition

Have I mentioned that Tamar in Genesis is one of my favorite Bible characters so far?

I tell the full story in Really Terrible Bible Stories vol. I: Genesis. But I’ll sum up for ye: Here’s this woman in a patriarchal society, where your value as a female is measured by motherhood. Her first husband gets murdered by God. So, based on the traditions of the time, her father-in-law Judah orders her brother-in-law to step up, do his duty, and knock her up. Only, any resulting children would be considered his dead brother’s, not his, so while he’s happy to use her as a masturbation device, he pulls out so he won’t get her pregnant. God’s quite irate over the wasting sperm thing, so he strikes that dude dead. Now all that’s left is a really young third bro-in-law, so Judah tells Tamar she’s just gonna have to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

When it becomes clear that Judah’s never going to marry her to his son like he promised, Tamar takes matters into her own hands. She waits until Judah’s gone off to deal with his flocks, then cosplays a prostitute and waits by the road.

Image shows a beautiful sunset that ranges from deep blue to bright orange, with a dark forest at the bottom. On it is printed Genesis 38:15-16. "When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.  And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?"

Now, Tamar is savy, and when he promises her a baby goat, she demands collateral. He gives her his staff and signet. They do the deed, he scarpers to get the goat, and she zips off home, puts her widow outfit back on, and hides his stuff.

A few months later….

Image is another sunset, this one with the sky all orange and red. Over the dark forest at bottom is printed Genesis 38:24. "And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt."

Cuz, y’know, dudes get to sex it up with all the harlots they want, but one mistake gets a woman burned to death.

This is Tamar we’re talking about, and she’s bloody genius, so she turns the tables on him by making him claim his staff and signet. He’s forced to admit to everyone in town that he’s the one who fucked up by not keeping his promise and forcing her to use desperate measures. Tamar is victorious.

I love that woman.

If you want any of today’s Really Terrible Bible Inspirations, which include gorgeous sunsets from Marys Peak with your Biblical naughtiness, they’re available on a variety of stuffage at Red Bubble.

Feel free to share the images around as long as my identifying info stays on – they’re copyrighted, but I certainly don’t mind non-commercial use with attribution. Have fun with them! Do tell me if you get any Christianist heads to explode.


Really Terrible Bible Stories vol. I: Genesis is now available at Amazon! Worldwide, even! To order outside the United States, visit your country’s Amazon website and search for “Really Terrible Bible Stories” by Dana Hunter. Thanks for reading!

Really Terrible Bible Inspirations: Happy Harlot’s Edition

7 thoughts on “Really Terrible Bible Inspirations: Happy Harlot’s Edition

  1. rq

    Ah, Judah. Never let your dick make your decisions for you. And way to go, Tamar – I think this actually qualifies as a feminist story in the bible (or about as close as one can get to a feminist story in the bible…)… except, what happened to Tamar afterward? I bet she was punished for everything anyway. :(

  2. 2

    She gave birth to twins, one of whom became the ancestor of king David and thus Jesus. There is no further mention of her, so we don’t know if she died, was driven away after outliving her usefulness as the one to continue Judah’s line or lived somewhat happily ever after caring for her sons within Jacob’s clan. Judah had no more sons after those two (though he may have had any number of unmentioned daughters).

  3. 3

    Great story and Tamar is a great character indeed! I find this bit :

    When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.

    Particularly interesting given how face coverings have become the supposedly modest thing later eg. nuns habits, hijabs and burkas.

    Also mildly amusing she was promised a kid and got one (okay two with having twins, thanks anat) – maybe two three if Judah gave her the baby goat as well!

  4. 4

    Tamar is one of the four women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy, with Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. One of his genealogies, anyway. Mentioning women in a genealogy is odd enough anyway, but all four of these women had engaged in “questionable” behavior, but then been forgiven by god. This may point to earlier versions of Jesus’ birth where Mary had a questionable past, ie was a harlot, raped by a Roman soldier, etc.

  5. 5

    It’s always fun to hear about someone who’s able to game the system successfully.

    What’s surprising is that this story ever made it into the torah. You’d think the rabbis would have been concerned about giving the wimmens ideas, amirite?

  6. 6

    I vaguely recall reading somewhere that the (real) explanation for the “virgin birth” and Jesus’s mysterious father was that Mary was raped by a temple guard or priest and thus that’s where Jesus came from which makes a certain degree of sense. Afraid I can’t recall where that’s from but still.

  7. rq

    Thanks for that information! I wonder if she lived the rest of her life out in relative peace, if no punishment is mentioned – as there is no biblically-appropriate misogyny-centred lesson to be learned for standing up for yourself, so no point in pointing this out?

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