Tamar’s Twins – Perez and Zerah
Categories: Family, Men in the Old Testament
- Judah picks Tamar as a wife for his first son, Er.
- After Er dies, Judah gives Tamar to his second son through levirate marriage.
- Any son from that union would be Er’s heir.
- The second son also dies.
- Judah reneges on his promise to Tamar to give her to his third son through levirate marriage.
- Wanting an heir for Er, Tamar tricks Judah into lying with her.
- Tamar immediately gets pregnant with twins.
- Judah acknowledges he is the father and proclaims her innocent of all wrongdoing.
- Judah performs the duty of levirate marriage.
- He does not have additional relations with her.
- When Tamar is in labor, one of the babies puts out his hand.
- The midwife ties a crimson thread on his hand, identifying him as firstborn.
- But then he pulls his hand back.
- The other baby breaks forth (though physiologically it is difficult to imagine).
- Tamar names him Perez.
- The first baby is named Zerah.
- The name, Perez, means “to break.” It can mean breaking out of an enclosure (like a womb) or a breaking into pieces.
- The image is quite violent.
- The rule of primogeniture is voided again. Neither Isaac, Jacob, Judah, nor Perez are recognized as the firstborn, yet God’s promises are carried through them.
- Perez has two sons, Hezron and Hamul.
- According to the Book of Ruth, there are nine generations between Perez and King David. Matthew’s genealogy conforms to this, but Luke’s includes an extra generation.
- Perez is also an ancestor of Jesus.
- His descendants are recognized in Judah following the captivity in Babylon.
- According to 1 Chronicles 468, descendants come back with Zerubbabel.
- Zerubbabel, one of the leaders during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, is a notable descendant.
- Zerah is the second twin.
- His name comes from a verb meaning, “to rise or shine.”
- Yet, in this case the meaning is generally thought to derive from the scarlet cord wrapped around his wrist. The scarlet color is bright, reminiscent of sunrise.
- Zerah has five sons: Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Dara.
- Because Zerah is no longer the firstborn, little is written about his sons.
- Scholars think that because they lost their birthright, many of them left the area.
- Zerah is included in the group that makes their way to Egypt with Jacob’s family. But there is no mention of any of his sons going along.
- One notable story about Zerah’s sons involves Zimri.
- Joshua 6 describes the fall of Jericho. Afterwards Joshua cautions against taking any of the goods from the city.
- Achan takes “some of the devoted things.” Joshua and company lose their next battle and this deception is determined to be the cause. Achan pays for the items he stole with his life.
- Depending on the verse, Zerah was his grandfather or perhaps he was a few more generations removed.
- It also states that Zerah’s son, Ethan, is the father of Azariah, but there are many by such name, and there seems to be no connection between any of them.
- The more interesting theory, however, involves Zerah’s son, Darda.
- Scholars think Darda founded Dardania on Mount Ida in Turkey.
- Greek mythology attributes the founding to a son of Zeus. Since the name Zerah (oftentimes written as Zara) is similar to Zeus, some have melded these versions.
- In a discussion of Solomon’s wisdom, it states Solomon is wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, children of Mahol. These names match four of Zerah’s sons. Mahol means “supreme god or dance,” lending more credence to Zerah’s connection with Zeus mythology (see 1 Kings 4:23).
- Scholars have long wondered why Zerah is mentioned alongside Perez in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus.
- One explanation might be that after the fall of Troy, scholars think Zerah’s descendants migrated to Britain and Ireland.
- By the time of David, the Zerahites have become the royal family in Ireland.
- Around the time of the fall of Jerusalem, one of Zedekiah’s daughters (descendant of Judah through Perez) marries one of Ireland’s princes (descendant of Judah through Zerah).
- When Zedekiah and his sons are killed in the conquest, this marriage endures, fulfilling the prophecy stated in Genesis 49:10: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah…”
- Scholars debate whether this also fulfills God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:16, “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.”
- There is no information regarding the death of either twin.