Now that we have inkling into what a sin could be (or what it is not). We might ask ourselves: was it all necessary? Did Adam and Eve (real or metaphoric) really need to sin?
To explore this subject I will reach into the doctrine of Justification and use it to pull my proverbial rabbit out of it. For those who are unfamiliar with this concept, let me refresh your memory:
Justification or more specifically Christian Justification is the concept that God forgives us, and proclaims us to be righteous because of Christ’s righteousness (Rom 3:24-26; 4:25; 5:15-21).
Basically if we go back to my previous post Part Three: Sin as “Missing the Mark” we see that Christ paid off our debt. This act made us eligible to ‘hit the mark’ in our relation with the Divine, while He got imputed with our sin.
Imputation “is used to designate any action or word or thing as reckoned to a person. Thus in doctrinal language (1) the sin of Adam is imputed to all his descendants, i.e., it is reckoned as theirs, and they are dealt with therefore as guilty; (2) the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them that believe in him, or so attributed to them as to be considered their own; and (3) our sins are imputed to Christ, i.e., he assumed our ‘law-place,’ undertook to answer the demands of justice for our sins. In all these cases the nature of imputation is the same (Rom. 5:12-19; comp. Philemon 1:18, 19).”
It is interesting that the Bible shows us the example of this through the story of Tamar. In this very complex and multifaceted account, we can dig out multiple moral lessons, yet I have not seen anyone make the following interpretation: Tamara stands for a metaphor of Christian redemption with God/judge at fault yet reproachable only by his own sense of righteousness.
Let’s see how it work starting with the background from Genesis 38 (MEV):
Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord killed him.
8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Go have relations with your brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up descendants for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the descendant would not be his, so when he had relations with his brother’s wife, he let his semen go on the ground, so that he would not give a descendant to his brother. 10 What he did displeased the Lord; therefore He killed him also.
11 Then Judah said to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow at your father’s house until Shelah my son grows up.” For he thought, “He may die also, just as his brothers did.” So Tamar went and lived in her father’s house.
So we have here Judah, one of Josephs brothers, who in his own household, as per Judaic tradition, is the patriarch an absolute ruler. Yet there is a law or tradition demanding that the widow of his first born son must be allowed to raise descendants by the remaining brother if the first one dies without an heir. This law is a bit strange to us in modern times, especially with our knowledge of genetics, but then again, the genes of each of the sons are of the paternal lineage. From the father’s perspective it does not matter which son produced the heir. This strange law however imbibes the woman with some rights that she acquired by marrying the oldest son. Since the oldest son receives the greatest share or possibly the entire inheritance, his wife as result is placed in a socially advantageous position. Albeit archaic, this law protects women’s interests and is in fact a right step in the direction of women’s rights and the recognition of maternal lineage in ancient Hebrew society. But enough about the particulars. Suffice to say they had a law that was sacred to them and Judah had to abide by it. Unfortunately, he did not. He lost two sons to this woman and now he had the third one (notice the symbolism of three) the youngest one whom he wanted to protect. He was fearful for this boy and possibly jealous. He had no intention of giving him up. Thus Tamar, by no fault of her own (she was never seen as the culprit in the previous two husbands demise) resorted to a trick. A trick that in fact could have gotten her killed. She pretended to be a temple prostitute when Judah came to town. Again from the book of Genesis 38 Modern English Version:
15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.”
“And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked.
17 “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said.
“Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked.
18 He said, “What pledge should I give you?”
“Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him. 19 After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.
Now we off course know what had to happen later:
24 About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.”
Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”
What an interesting turn of events. The woman who was wronged by him in refusing to give her due, is now a law breaker and as such can be disposed of. Notice that no one mentions the man. There is no repercussion for Judah sleeping around with a prostitute. In fact, his behavior seems normal. He just saw a woman who sells her body on the street and it was no surprise to him. He quickly approached her and negotiated the price. Ever wonder how many other times he did it? Apparently there in no sin in that, but her…. Oh the harlot! Burn her to ashes and forget she ever existed!
Lucky for Tamar, she had planned all that and at the critical moment she whipps out the seal, cord and staff.
26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.
How nice of him to figure out that it was him at fault in this situation. But notice the last words:” And he did not sleep with her again.”
So here is how I see this story as a metaphor for humanity and God:
Tamar is the creation of God who is given something from Him, but it does not work out the way it was intended. So God sets humanity up by withholding something.
From Genesis 2:
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
It seems a terrible thing until we learn that there is a remedy with a twist:
The devil or serpent says to Eve in Genesis 3:
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So this vile creature contradicts what God said or does he? We see later in Genesis 3 after God caught man stealing his fruit of knowledge:
22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
So let’s skip for a moment that the serpent was not 100% wrong and that God did not tell100% truth, for man “has become like one of us.” But there was a remedy: The tree of Life. Apparently the man was able to eat from it before, but now he was no longer welcome.
Tamar was partaker of the inheritance of Judah, but now that she committed the sin of adultery, she no longer was welcome to the inheritance. But her plan was well laid out. She had with her objects that justified her actions. And those objects were given to her by no other than Judah. She still slept with a man that was not her husband (by no fault of her own) just like men sinned without knowledge by no fault of their own. And just like Judah in the Tamar story, God gives men something that will justify men’s actions: Jesus Christ in whom we are justified.
In some Christian circles the sin of Adam is known as a happy fault, for it gave us such a great redeemer. This whole set up into sin had to be necessary for us to come into inheritance of God’s promise with full awareness of its value. Adam and Eve, could never appreciate the tree of life until they had tasted death.
Next time we will tackle the issue of prayer, what is it and what should it be. So don’t’ miss the ride next week. Until then, Blessed Be