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Tamar

TAMAR

TAMAR (Heb. תָּמָר; "date palm"), the name of three biblical figures.

(1) Judah's daughter-in-law, the wife of his firstborn son, Er (Gen. 38:6; II Chron. 2:3–4). After *Er's early death, Tamar became the wife of his brother, *Onan, in accordance with the custom of levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5ff.). But because the firstborn son of such a marriage would not count as his (Deut. 25:6), Onan, when cohabiting with her took measures to prevent her from becoming pregnant (Gen. 38:9). When Onan also died young, Judah, fearing now that marriage to Tamar was unlucky, told her to go and live in her father's house until his third son, Shelah, grew to manhood, but did not give her to Shelah even when he had grown up. Tamar therefore laid aside her widow's weeds and sat, veiled so as not to be recognized by Judah, in the gate of a town that she knew Judah would have to pass. A woman sitting in the city gate was bound to be taken for a prostitute, and Tamar supposed that Judah, who had recently been widowed, would probably be attracted. He was, and he offered her a kid for her favors. As pledge of payment, he left with her his seal, cord, and staff. Tamar became pregnant by Judah, but he, thinking that she had become pregnant through harlotry, ordered her to be burned to death. Tamar thereupon sent the seal, cord, and staff to Judah with the message that she was pregnant by the man to whom they belonged. Judah thereupon declared "She is more in the right than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah" (Gen. 38:26). Tamar duly gave birth to twin boys, *Perez and *Zerah. According to Ruth 4:1822, *David was descended from Perez.

[Harold Louis Ginsberg.]

In the Aggadah

Tamar was the daughter of Shem (Gen. R. 85:10). Endowed with the gift of prophecy, Tamar knew that she was destined to be the ancestress of David and of the Messiah, and therefore determined to ensure the fulfillment of her destiny (Zohar, Gen. 188a–b). Judah failed to recognize her because in her modesty she always kept her face covered in his household (Sot. 10b). As a reward for this she became the mother of the royal line of David and the ancestress of Isaiah (ibid.). When she became pregnant she boasted to all that she would be the mother of kings and redeemers (Gen. R. 85:10). Charged with unchastity before a tribunal made up of Isaac, Jacob, and Judah (Tanḥ. B, Va-Yeshev 17), she refused to reveal the name of Judah in order not to humiliate him, preferring to die rather than incriminate him publicly (Ber. 43b). She was condemned to be burned to death as her father Shem was a priest (Gen. R. 85:11). Only at the moment of ultimate danger to her life did she try to save herself. However, when she searched for Judah's pledges, she could not find them, as the evil angel *Samael had taken them away in order to prevent the birth of David, but the angel *Gabriel restored them (Sot. 10b). Judah subsequently married her.

(2) A daughter of David and Maacah, and full sister of *Absalom (ii Sam. 13). Her half-brother *Amnon conceived a passion for Tamar and by a ruse got her to come to his room and forced her to lie with him. Then his love turned to loathing and he drove her from his house (ii Sam. 13:15). She was later avenged by Absalom, who had Amnon murdered (ibid. 13:23–29).

(3) The daughter of Absalom, famed for her beauty (ii Sam. 14:27). In the Septuagint version (ibid.), Tamar was given in marriage to *Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, to whom she bore *Abijah (but cf. i Kings 15:2; ii Chron. 13:2).

[bustanay Oded]

bibliography:

tamar (1): E.A. Speiser, Genesis (1964), 297–300. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, 2 (1910), 32–36; 5 (1925), 333–5.

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