(Calvin, Genesis 2. part 16)

were hastening to shed his blood, by whose care Joseph was preserved. 
Reuben doubtless, in one affair, was the most wicked of them all, when 
he defiled his father's couch; and that unbridled lust, involving other 
vices, was the sign of a depraved nature: now suddenly, he alone, having 
a regard to piety, and being mindful of fraternal duty, dissolves the 
impious conspiracy. It is uncertain whether he was now seeking the means 
of making some compensation, for the sake of which he might be restored 
to his father's favour. Moses declares that it was his intention to 
restore the boy in safety to his father: whence the conjecture which I 
have stated is probable, that he thought the life of his brother would 
be a sufficient price by which he might reconcile his father's mind to 
himself. However this may be, yet the humanity which he showed in 
attempting to liberate his brother, is a proof that he was not abandoned 
to every kind of wickedness. And perhaps God, by this testimony of his 
penitence, designed in some degree to lessen his former disgrace. Whence 
we are taught that the characters of men are not to be estimated by a 
single act, however atrocious, so as to cause us to despair of their 
  22. "Cast him into this pit". The pious fallacy to which Reuben 
descended, sufficiently proves with what vehemence the rage of his 
brethren was burning. For he neither dares openly to oppose them, nor to 
dissuade them from their crime; because he saw that no reasons would 
avail to soften them. Nor does it extenuate their cruelty, that they 
consent to his proposal, as if they were disposed to clemency; for if 
either one course or the other were necessary, it would have been better 
for him immediately to die by their hands, than to perish by slow hunger 
in the pit, which is the most cruel kind of punishment. Their gross 
hypocrisy is rather to be noticed; because they think that they shall be 
free from crime, if only they do not stain their hands with their 
brother's blood. As if, indeed, it made any difference, whether they ran 
their brother through with a sword, or put him to death by suffocation. 
For the Lord, when he accuses the Jews by Isaiah, of having hands full 
of blood, does not mean that they were assassins, but he calls them 
bloody, because they did not spare their suffering brethren. Therefore, 
the sons of Jacob are nothing better, in casting their brother alive 
under ground, that, as one buried, he might in vain contend with death, 
and perish after protracted torments; and in choosing a pit in the 
desert, from which no mortal could hear his dying cry, though his 
sighing would ascend even to heaven. It was a barbarous thought, that 
they should not touch his life, if they did not imbrue their hands in 
his blood; since it was a kind of death, not less violent, which they 
wished to inflict by hunger. Reuben, however, accommodating his language 
to their brutal conceptions, deemed it sufficient to repress, by any 
kind of artifice, their impetuosity for the present. 
  23. "They stripped Joseph out of his coat." We see that these men are 
full of fictions and lies. They carelessly strip their brother; they 
feel no dread at casting him with their own hands into the pit, where 
hunger worse than ten swords might consume him; because they hope their 
crime will be concealed; and in taking home his clothes, no suspicion of 
his murder would be excited; because, truly, their father would believe 
that he had been torn by a wild beast. Thus Satan infatuates wicked 
minds, so that they entangle themselves by frivolous evasions. 
Conscience is indeed the fountain of modesty; but Satan so soothes by 
his allurements those whom he has entangled in his snares, that 
conscience itself, which ought to have cited them as guilty before the 
bar of God, only hardens them the more. For, having found out 
subterfuges, they break forth far more audaciously into sin, as if they 
might commit with impunity whatever escapes the eyes of men. Surely it 
is a reprobate sense, a spirit of frenzy and of stupor, which is 
withheld from any daring attempt, only by a fear of the shame of men; 
while the fear of divine judgment is trodden under foot. And although 
all are not carried thus far, yet the fault of paying more honour to men 
than to God, is too common. The repetition of the word "coat" in the 
sentence of Moses is emphatical, showing that this mark of the father's 
love could not mollify their minds. 
  25. "And they sat down to eat bread." This was an astonishing 
barbarity, that they could quietly feast, while, in intention, they were 
guilty of their brother's death: for, had there been one drop of 
humanity in their souls, they would at least have felt some inward 
compunctions; yea, commonly, the very worst men are afraid after the 
commission of a crime. Since the patriarchs fell into such a state of 
insensibility, let us learn, from their example, to fear lest, by the 
righteous anger of God, the same lethargy should seize upon our senses. 
Meanwhile, it is proper to consider the admirable progress of God's 
counsel. Joseph had already passed through a double death: and now, as 
if by a third death, he is, beyond all expectation, rescued from the 
grave. For what was it less than death, to be sold as a slave to 
foreigners? Indeed his condition was rendered worse by the chance; 
because Reuben, secretly drawing him out of the pit, would have brought 
him back to his father: whereas now he is dragged to a distant part of 
the earth, without hope of return. But this was a secret turn, by which 
God had determined to raise him on high. And at length, he shows by the 
event, how much better it was that Joseph should be led far away from 
his own family, than that he should remain in safety at home. Moreover, 
the speech of Judah, by which he persuades his brethren to sell Joseph, 
has somewhat more reason. For he ingenuously confesses that they would 
be guilty of homicide, if they suffered him to perish in the pit. What 
gain shall we make, he says, if his blood be covered; for our hands will 
nevertheless be polluted with blood. By this time their fury was in some 
degree abated, so that they listened to more humane counsel; for though 
it was outrageous perfidy to sell their brother to strangers; yet it was 
something to send him away alive, that, at least, he might be nourished 
as a slave. We see, therefore, that the diabolical flame of madness, 
with which they had all burned, was abating, when they acknowledged that 
they could profit nothing by hiding their crime from the eyes of men; 
because homicide must of necessity come into view before God. For at 
first, they absolved themselves from guilt, as if no Judge sat in 
heaven. But now the sense of nature, which the cruelty of hatred had 
before benumbed, begins to exert its power. And certainly, even in the 
reprobate, who seem entirely to have cast off humanity, time shows that 
some residue of it remains. When wicked and violent affections rage, 
their tumultuous fervor hinders nature from acting its part. But no 
minds are so stupid, that a consideration of their own wickedness will 
not sometimes fill them with remorse: for, in order that men may come 
inexcusable to the judgment-seat of God, it is necessary that they 
should first be condemned by themselves. They who are capable of cure, 
and whom the Lord leads to repentance, differ from the reprobates in 
this, that while the latter obstinately conceal the knowledge of their 
crimes, the former gradually return from the indulgence of sin, to obey 
the voice of reason. Moreover, what Judah here declares concerning his 
brother, the Lord, by the prophet, extends to the whole human race. 
Whenever, therefore, depraved lust impels to unjust violence, or any 
other injury, let us remember this sacred bond by which the whole of 
society is bound together, in order that it may restrain us from evil 
doings. For man cannot injure men, but he becomes an enemy to his own 
flesh, and violates and perverts the whole order of nature. 
  28. "Then there passed by Midianites." Some think that Joseph was 
twice sold in the same place. For it is certain, since Median was the 
son of Abraham and Keturah, that his sons were distinct from the sons of 
Ishmael: and Moses has not thoughtlessly put down these different names. 
But I thus interpret the passage: that Joseph was exposed for sale to 
any one who chose, and seeing the purchase of him was declined by the 
Midianites, he was sold to the Ishmaelites. Moreover, though they might 
justly suspect the sellers of having stolen him, yet the desire of gain 
prevents them from making inquiry. We may also add, what is probable, 
that, on the journey, they inquired who Joseph was. But they did not set 
such a value on their common origin as to prevent them from eagerly 
making gain. This passage, however, teaches us how far the sons of 
Abraham, after the flesh, were preferred to the elect offspring, in 
which, nevertheless, the hope of the future Church was included. We see 
that, of the two sons of Abraham, a posterity so great was propagated, 
that from both proceeded merchants in various places: while that part of 
his seed which the Lord had chosen to himself was yet small. But so the 
children of this world, like premature fruit, quickly arrive at the 
greatest wealth and at the summit of happiness; whereas the Church, 
slowly creeping through the greatest difficulties, scarcely attains, 
during a long period, to the condition of mediocrity. 
  30. "And he returned." We may hence gather that Reuben, under pretence 
of some other business, stole away from his brethren, that, unknown to 
them all, he might restore his brother, drawn out of the pit, to his 
father; and that therefore he was absent at the time when Joseph was 
sold. And there is no wonder that he was anticipated, when he had taken 
his course in a different direction from theirs, intending to reach the 
pit by a circuitous path. But now at length Reuben having lost all hope, 
unfolds to his brethren the intention which before he dared not confess, 
lest the boy should be immediately murdered. 
  31. "And they took Joseph's coat." They now return to their first 
scheme. In order that their father may have no suspicion of their crime, 
they send the bloody coat, from which he might conjecture that Joseph 
had been torn by some wild beast. Although Moses alludes to this 
briefly, I yet think that they rather sent some of their servants, who 
were not accessory to the crime, than any of their number. For he says 
soon afterwards, that his sons and daughters came to offer some 
consolation to him in his grief. And although in the words they use, 
there lurks some appearance of insult, it seems to me more probable that 
they gave this command to avert suspicion from themselves. For they 
feign themselves to be of confused mind, as is usual in affairs of 
perplexity. Yet whatever they intend, their wickedness drives them to 
this point, that they inflict a deadly wound upon the mind of their 
father. This is the profit which hypocrites gain by their disguises, 
that in wishing to escape the consequences of one fault, they add sin to 
sin. With respect to Jacob, it is a wonder that after he had been tried 
in so many ways, and always come forth a conqueror, he should now sink 
under grief. Certainly it was very absurd that the death of his son 
should occasion him greater sorrow than the incestuous pollution of his 
wife, the slaughter of the Shechemites, and the defilement of his 
daughter. Where was that invincible strength, by which he had even 
prevailed over the angel? Where the many lessons of patience with which 
God had exercised him, in order that he might never fail? This 
disposition to mourn, teaches us that no one is endued with such heroic 
virtues, as to be exempt from that infirmity of the flesh, which betrays 
itself sometimes even in little things; whence also it happens, that 
they who have long been accustomed to the cross, and who like veteran 
soldiers ought bravely to bear up against every kind of attack, fall 
like young recruits in some slight skirmish. Who then among us may not 
fear for himself, when we see holy Jacob faint, after having given so 
many proofs of patience? 
  35. "And all his sons and daughters rose up." The burden of his grief 
is more clearly expressed by the circumstance that all his sons and 
daughters meet together to comfort him. For by the term "rose up," is 
implied a common deliberation, they having agreed to come together, 
because necessity urged them. But hence it appears how vast is the 
innate dissimulation of men. The sons of Jacob assume a character by no 
means suitable to them; and perform an office of piety, from which their 
minds are most alien. If they had had respect unto God, they would have 
acknowledged their fault, and though no remedy might have been found for 
their evil, yet repentance would have brought forth some fruit; but now 
they are satisfied with a vanity as empty as the wind. By this example 
we are taught how carefully we ought to avoid dissimulation, which 
continually implicates men in new snares. 
  "But he refused to be comforted." It may be asked, whether Jacob had 
entirely cast off the virtue of patience: for so much the language seems 
to mean. Besides, he sins more grievously, because he, knowingly and 
voluntarily, indulges in grief: for this is as if he would purposely 
augment his sorrow, which is to rebel against God. But I suppose his 
refusal to be restricted to that alleviation of grief which man might 
offer. For nothing is more unreasonable than that a holy man, who, all 
his life had borne the yoke of God with such meekness of disposition, 
should now, like an unbroken horse, bite his bridle; in order that, by 
nourishing his grief, he might confirm himself in unsubdued impetuosity. 
I therefore do not doubt that he was willing now to submit himself unto 
the Lord, though he rejects human consolations. He seems also angrily to 
chide his sons, whose envy and malevolence towards Joseph he knew, as if 
he would upbraid them by declaring that he esteemed this one son more 
than all the rest: since he rather desires to be with him, dead in the 
grave, than to enjoy the society of ten living sons whom he had yet 
remaining; for I except little Benjamin. I do not, however, here excuse 
that excess of grief which I have lately condemned. And certainly he 
proves himself to be overwhelmed with sadness, in speaking of the grave, 
as if the sons of God did not pass through death to a better life. And 
hence we learn the blindness of immoderate grief, which almost quenches 
the light of faith in the saints; so much the more diligent, then, ought 
we to be in our endeavor to restrain it. Job greatly excelled in piety; 
yet we see, after he had been oppressed by the magnitude of his grief, 
in what a profane manner he mixes men with beasts in death. If the 
angelic minds of holy men were thus darkened by sadness, how much deeper 
gloom will rest upon us, unless God, by the shining of his word and 
Spirit, should scatter it, and we also, with suitable anxiety, meet the 
temptation, before it overwhelms us? The principal mitigation of sorrow 
is the consolation of the future life; to which whosoever applies 
himself, need not fear lest he should be absorbed by excess of grief. 
Now though the immoderate sorrow of Jacob is not to be approved; yet the 
special design of Moses was, to set a mark of infamy on that iron 
hardness which cruelly reigned in the hearts of his sons. They saw that, 
if their father should miserably perish, consumed with grief, they would 
be the cause of it; in short, they saw that he was already dying through 
their wickedness. If they are not able to heal the wound, why, at least, 
do they not attempt to alleviate his pain? Therefore they are 
exceedingly cruel, seeing that they have not sufficient care of their 
father's life, to cause them to drop a single word in mitigation of his 
sorrow, when it was in their power to do so. 
  36. "And the Midianites sold him into Egypt." It was a sad spectacle, 
that Joseph should be thus driven from one hand to another. For it added 
no small indignity to his former suffering, that he is set to sale as a 
slave. The Lord, however, ceased not to care for him. He even suffered 
him to be transferred from hand to hand, in order that, at length, it 
might indeed appear, that he had come, by celestial guidance, to that 
very dominion which had been promised him in his dreams. Potiphar is 
called a eunuch, not because he was one really; but because, among the 
Orientals, it was usual to denote the satraps and princes of the court 
by that name. The Hebrews are not agreed respecting the dignity which 
Moses ascribes to him; for some explain it as the "chief of the 
slaughterers," whom the Greek interpreters follow. But I rather agree 
with others, who say that he was "the prefect of the soldiers;" not that 
he had the command of the whole army, but because he had the royal 
troops under his hand and authority: such are now the captains of the 
guard, if you join with it another office which the prefects of the 
prison exercise. For this may be gathered from the thirty-ninth chapter. 
Chapter XXXVIII. 
1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his 
brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name [was] Hirah. 
2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name 
[was] Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her. 
3 And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er. 
4 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan. 
5 And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name 
Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him. 
6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name [was] Tamar. 
7 And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and 
the LORD slew him. 
8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry 
her, and raise up seed to thy brother. 
9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, 
when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled [it] on the 
ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. 
10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him 
11 Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy 
father's house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest 
peradventure he die also, as his brethren [did]. And Tamar went and 
dwelt in her father's house. 
12 And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah's wife died; and 
Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he 
and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 
13 And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to 
Timnath to shear his sheep. 
14 And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a 
vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which [is] by the 
way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given 
unto him to wife. 
15 When Judah saw her, he thought her [to be] an harlot; because she had 
covered her face. 
16 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? 
17 And he said, I will send [thee] a kid from the flock. And she said, 
Wilt thou give [me] a pledge, till thou send [it]? 
18 And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, 
and thy bracelets, and thy staff that [is] in thine hand. And he gave 
[it] her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him. 
19 And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put 
on the garments of her widowhood. 
20 And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to 
receive [his] pledge from the woman's hand: but he found her not. 
21 Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where [is] the harlot, 
that [was] openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in 
this [place]. 
22 And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the 
men of the place said, [that] there was no harlot in this [place]. 
23 And Judah said, Let her take [it] to her, lest we be shamed: behold, 
I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her. 
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. 
25 When she [was] brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, 
By the man, whose these [are, am] I with child: and she said, Discern, I 
pray thee, whose [are] these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. 
26 And Judah acknowledged [them], and said, She hath been more righteous 
than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her 
again no more. 
27 And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins 
[were] in her womb. 
28 And it came to pass, when she travailed, that [the one] put out [his] 
hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, 
saying, This came out first. 
29 And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his 
brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? [this] 
breach [be] upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez. 
30 And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon 
his hand: and his name was called Zarah. 
  1. "And it came to pass at that time, that Judah." Before Moses 
proceeds in relating the history of Joseph, he inserts the genealogy of 
Judah, to which he devotes more labour, because the Redeemer was thence 
to derive his origin; for the continuous history of that tribe, from 
which salvation was to be bought, could not remain unknown, without 
loss. And yet its glorious nobility is not here celebrated, but the 
greatest disgrace of the family is exposed. What is here related, so far 
from inflating the minds of the sons of Judah, ought rather to cover 
them with shame. Now although, at first sight, the dignity of Christ 
seems to be somewhat tarnished by such dishonor: yet since here also is 
seen that "emptying" of which St. Paul speaks, it rather redounds to his 
glory, than, in the least degree, detracts from it. First, we wrong 
Christ, unless we deem him alone sufficient to blot out any ignominy 
arising from the misconduct of his progenitors, which offer to 
unbelievers occasion of offense. Secondly, we know that the riches of 
God's grace shines chiefly in this, that Christ clothed himself in our 
flesh, with the design of making himself of no reputation. Lastly, it 
was fitting that the race from which he sprang should be dishonored by 
reproaches, that we, being content with him alone, might seek nothing 
besides him; yea, that we might not seek earthly splendor in him, seeing 
that carnal ambition is always too much inclined to such a course. These 
two things, then, we may notice; first, that peculiar honour was given 
to the tribe of Judah, which had been divinely elected as the source 
whence the salvation of the world should flow; and secondly, that the 
narration of Moses is by no means honorable to the persons of whom he 
speaks; so that the Jews have no right to arrogate anything to 
themselves or to their fathers. Meanwhile, let us remember that Christ 
derives no glory from his ancestors; and even, that he himself has no 
glory in the flesh, but that his chief and most illustrious triumph was 
on the cross. Moreover, that we may not be offended at the stains with 
which his ancestry was defiled, let us know that, by his infinite 
purity, they were all cleansed; just as the sun, by absorbing whatever 
impurities are in the earth and air, purges the world. 
  2. "And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite." I am not 
satisfied with the interpretation which some give of "merchant" to the 
word Canaanite. For Moses charges Judah with perverse lust, because he 
took a wife out of that nation with which the children of Abraham were 
divinely commanded to be at perpetual strife. For neither he nor his 
other brethren were ignorant that they sojourned in the land of Canaan, 
under the stipulation, that afterwards their enemies were to be cut off 
and destroyed, in order that they might possess the promised dominion 
over it. Moses, therefore, justly regards it as a fault, that Judah 
should entangle himself in a forbidden alliance; and the Lord, at 
length, cursed the offspring thus accruing to Judah, that the prince and 
head of the tribe of Judah might not be born, nor Christ himself 
descend, from this connection. This also ought to be numbered among the 
exercises of Jacob's patience, that a wicked grandson was born to him 
through Judah, of whose sin he was not ignorant. Moses says, that the 
youth was cut off by the vengeance of God. The same thing is not said of 
others whom a sudden death has swept away in the flower of their age. I 
doubt not, therefore, that the wickedness, of which death was the 
immediate punishment, was extraordinary, and known to all men. And 
although this trial was in itself severe to the holy patriarch; yet 
nothing tormented his mind more than the thought, that he could scarcely 
hope for the promise of God to be so ratified that the inheritance of 
grace should remain in the possession of wicked and abandoned men. It is 
true that a large family of children is regarded as a source of human 
happiness. But this was the peculiar condition of the holy patriarch, 
that, though God had promised him an elect and blessed seed, he now sees 
an accursed progeny increase and shoot forth together with his 
offspring, which might destroy the expected grace. It is said, that Er 
was wicked in the sight of the Lord, (verse 7.) Notwithstanding, his 
iniquity was not hidden from men. Moses, however, means that he was not 
merely infected with common vices, but rather was so addicted to crimes, 
that he was intolerable in the sight of God. 
  7. "And the Lord slew him." We know that long life is reckoned among 
the gifts of God; and justly: for since it is by no means a despicable 
honour that we are created after the image of God, the longer any one 
lives in the world, and daily experiences God's care over him, it is 
certain that he is the more bountifully dealt with by the Lord. Even 
amidst the many miseries with which life is filled, this divine goodness 
still shines forth, that God invites us to himself, and exercises us in 
the knowledge of himself; while at the same time he adorns us with such 
dignity, that he subjects to our authority whatever is in the world. 
Wherefore it is no wonder that God, as an act of kindness, prolongs the 
life of man. Whence it follows, that when the wicked are taken away by a 
premature death, a punishment for their wickedness is inflicted upon 
them: for it is as if the Lord should pronounce judgment from heaven, 
that they are unworthy to be sustained by the earth, unworthy to enjoy 
the common light of heaven. Let us therefore learn, as long as God keeps 
us in the world, to meditate on his benefits, to the end that every one 
may the more cheerfully endeavor to give praise to God for the life 
received from him. And although, at the present day also, sudden death 
is to be reckoned among the scourges of God; since that doctrine is 
always true, "Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their 
days," (Ps. 55: 23;) yet God executed this judgment more fully under the 
law, when the knowledge of a future life was comparatively obscure; for 
now, since the resurrection is clearly manifested to us in Christ, it is 
not right that death should be so greatly dreaded. And this difference 
between us and the ancient people of God is elsewhere noted. 
Nevertheless, it can never be laid down as a general rule, that they who 
had a long life were thereby proved to be pleasing and acceptable to the 
Lord, whereas God has sometimes lengthened the life of reprobates, in 
aggravation of their punishment. We know that Cain survived his brother 
Abel many centuries. But as God does not always, and to all persons, 
cause his temporal benefits manifestly to flow in a perpetual and 
equable course; so neither, on the other hand, does he always execute 
temporal punishments by the same rule. It is enough that, as far as the 
present life is concerned, certain examples of punishments and rewards 
are set before us. Moreover, as the miseries of the present life, which 
spring from the corruption of nature, do not extinguish the first and 
special grace of God; so, on the other hand, death, which is in itself 
the curse of God, is so far from doing any injury, that it tends, by a 
supernatural remedy, to the salvation of the elect. Especially now, from 
the time that the first-fruits of the resurrection in Christ have been 
offered, the condition of those who are quickly taken out of life is in 
no way deteriorated; because Christ himself is gain both for life and 
death. But the vengeance of God was so clear and remarkable in the death 
of Er, that the earth might plainly appear to have been purged as from 
its filthiness. 
  8. "Go in unto thy brother's wife." Although no law had hitherto been 
prescribed concerning brother's marriages, that the surviving brother 
should raise up seed to one who was dead; it is, nevertheless, not 
wonderful that, by the mere instinct of nature, men should have been 
inclined to this course. For since each man is born for the preservation 
of the whole race, if any one dies without children, there seems to be 
here some defect of nature. It was deemed therefore an act of humanity 
to acquire some name for the dead, from which it might appear that they 
had lived. Now, the only reason why the children born to the surviving 
brother, should be reckoned to him who had died, was, that there might 
be no dry branch in the family; and in this manner they took away the 
reproach of barrenness. Besides, since the woman is given as a help to 
the man, when any woman married into a family, she was, in a certain 
sense, given up to the name of that family. According to this reasoning, 
Tamar was not altogether free, but was held under an obligation to the 
house of Judah, to procreate some seed. Now, though this does not 
proceed from any rule of piety, yet the Lord had impressed it upon the 
hearts of man as a duty of humanity; as he afterwards commanded it to 
the Jews in their polity. Hence we infer the malignity of Onan, who 
envied his brother this honour, and would not allow him, when dead, to 
obtain the title of father; and this redounds to the dishonor of the 
whole family. We see that many grant their own sons to their friends for 
adoption: it was, therefore, an outrageous act of barbarity to deny to 
his own brother what is given even to strangers. Moreover he has not 
only shortened his brother concerning the right due to him, but he 
rather spilled seed on the ground than to raise a son in his brother's 
  10. "And the thing which he did displeased the LORD." Less neatly the 
Jews speak about this matter. I will contend myself with briefly 
mentioning this, as far as the sense of shame allows to discuss it. It 
is a horrible thing to pour out seed besides the intercourse of man and 
woman. Deliberately avoiding the intercourse, so that the seed drops on 
the ground, is double horrible. For this means that one quenches the 
hope of his family, and kills the son, which could be expected, before 
he is born. This wickedness is now as severely as is possible condemned 
by the Spirit, through Moses, that Onan, as it were, through a violent 
and untimely birth, tore away the seed of his brother out the womb, and 
as cruel as shamefully has thrown on the earth. Moreover he thus has, as 
much as was in his power, tried to destroy a part of the human race. 
When a woman in some way drives away the seed out the womb, through 
aids, then this is rightly seen as an unforgivable crime. Onan was 
guilty of a similar crime, by defiling the earth with his seed, so that 
Tamar would not receive a future inheritor. 
  11. "Then said Judah to Tamar." Moses intimates that Tamar was not at 
liberty to marry into another family, so long as Judah wished to retain 
her under his own authority. It is possible that she voluntarily 
submitted herself to the will of her father-in-law, when she might have 
refused: but the language seems to mean, that it was according to a 
received practice, that Tamar should not pass over to another family, 
except at the will of her father-in-law, as long as there was a 
successor who might raise up seed by her. However this may be, Judah 
acted very unjustly in keeping one bound, whom he intended to defraud. 
For truly there was no cause why he should be unwilling to allow her to 
depart free from his house, unless he dreaded the charge of inconstancy. 
But he should not have allowed this ambitious sense of shame to render 
him perfidious and cruel to his daughter-in-law. Besides, this injury 
sprung from a wrong judgment: because, without considering the causes of 
the death of his sons, he falsely and unjustly transfers the blame to an 
innocent woman. He believes the marriage with Tamar to have been an 
unhappy one; why therefore does he not, for his own sake, permit her to 
seek a husband elsewhere? But in this also he does wrong, that whereas 
the cause of his sons' destruction was their own wickedness, he judges 
unfavorably of Tamar herself, to whom no evil could be imputed. Let us 
then learn from this example, whenever anything adverse happens to us, 
not to transfer the blame to another, nor to gather from all quarters 
doubtful suspicions, but to shake off our own sins. We must also beware 
lest a foolish shame should so prevail over us, that while we endeavor 
to preserve our reputation uninjured among men, we should not be equally 
careful to maintain a good conscience before God. 
  13. "And it was told Tamar." Moses relates how Tamer avenged herself 
for the injury done her. She did not at first perceive the fraud, but 
discovered it after a long course of time. When Shelah had grown up, 
finding herself deceived, she turned her thoughts to revenge. And it is 
not to be doubted that she had long meditated, and, as it were, hatched 
this design. For the message respecting Judah's departure was not 
brought to her accidentally; but, because she was intent upon her 
purpose, she had set spies who should bring her an account of all his 
doings. Now, although she formed a plan which was base, and unworthy of 
a modest woman, yet this circumstance is some alleviation of her crime, 
that she did not desire a connection with Judah, except while in a state 
of celibacy. In the meantime, she is hurried, by a blind error of mind, 
into another crime, not less detestable than adultery. For, by adultery, 
conjugal fidelity would have been violated; but, by this incestuous 
intercourse, the whole dignity of nature is subverted. This ought 
carefully to be observed, that they who are injured should not hastily 
rush to unlawful remedies. It was not lust which impelled Tamar to 
prostitute herself. She grieved, indeed, that she had been forbidden to 
marry, that she might remain barren at home: but she had no other 
purpose than to reproach her father-in-law with the fraud by which he 
had deceived her: at the same time, we see that she committed an 
atrocious crime. This is wont to happen, even in good causes, when any 
one indulges his carnal affections more than is right. What Moses 
alludes to respecting garments of widowhood, pertains to the law of 
modesty. For elegant clothing which may attract the eyes of men, does 
not become widows. And therefore, Paul concedes more to wives than to 
them; as having husbands whom they should wish to please. 
  14. "And sat in an open place." Interpreters expound this passage 
variously. Literally, it is "in the door of fountains, or of eyes." Some 
suppose there was a fountain which branched into two streams; others 
think that a broad place is indicated, in which the eyes may look around 
in all directions. But a third exposition is more worthy of reception; 
namely, that by this expression is meant a way which is forked and 
divided into two; because then, as it were, a door is opened before the 

(continued in part 17...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: cvgn2-16.txt