38 12 After many days passed, the daughter of Shua, Judah’s wife, died. After the mourning period, Judah went up to his sheepshearers, he and Hirah the Adullamite, his friend, to Timnah.
13 Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14 So Tamar took off her widow’s garb, covered herself with a veil, covered herself, and sat down at the entrance to Enaim/Two-Wells on the road to Timnah. She had seen that Shelah had already grown up and had not been given to him as a wife.
15 Judah saw her and took her for a whore, for she had covered her face. 16 He turned aside to her by the road and said, “Let me come in to you,” for he didn’t know she was his daughter-in-law.
She said, “What will you give me for coming in to me?”
17 He said, “I personally will send you a goat kid from the flock.”
She said, “Only if you give me a pledge until you send it.”
18 He said, “What pledge shall I give you?”
And she said, “Your seal, your cord, and your staff that is in your hand.”
He gave them to her, went in to her, and she became pregnant by him.
19 Then she arose, left, took off her veil, and dressed in her widow’s garments.
20 Judah sent the goat kid by the hand of his friend, the Adullamite, to take back the pledge from the woman’s hand, but he could not find her. 21 He asked the men of that place, “Where’s the holy-prostitute, the one who was at Enaim by the road?”
But they said, “There has been no cult-harlot here.”
22 He went back to Judah and said, “I could not find her and the men said, ‘There’s no holy-harlot here.’”
23 Judah said, “Let her take them, lest we become a laughingstock. I did send this goat kid, and you could not find her.”
After a long while, Judah’s unnamed wife died. After the prescribed time of mourning, Judah is “consoled,” unlike Jacob, at the end of the previous chapter. And he is off to the festivities around sheep-shearing time.
In theory, Judah has not had sexual intercourse during his time of mourning and is likely anticipating lively goings-on in Timnah.
At this same time, Tamar hears of Judah’s itinerary and took off her widow’s clothes to put on a veil and other attractants.
All of Tamar’s activity is based on her having seen that Shelah was grown, and Judah had not called her to return as Shelah’s wife or to otherwise have him impregnate her on behalf of Er and Onan. Tamar will not let this situation rest—her reputation and future security depend on bearing a son.
Tamar’s plan includes sitting at Enaim, which means Twin Wells. From past stories, readers know wells to be places of betrothment—a starting place for sons.
Judah only recognizes veiled Tamar as a temple prostitute. Anticipating a good time, Judah advances his timeline. With no beating around the bush, Judah says, “Let me come in to you.”
Bargaining ensues over the whore-price. Not having a goat kid on him, Judah leaves promissory tokens of his seal, its cord, and his walking stick.
Judah did enter Tamar, and she conceived. Afterward, Tamar took off her veil and was regarbed as a widow. Still later, Judah sent a kid back to the well to retrieve his goods, but the temple prostitute was nowhere to be found.
Judah let it go and didn’t pursue it, lest he be accused of poor dealing—giving his ID, its holder, his staff, and his seed for a fleeting moment of pleasure.