I have a theory. In Genesis 38 Judah, the fourth oldest son of Jacob is deceived by Tamar his daughter in law. Pretending to be a prostitute, she entices Judah to lay with her and she conceives. Her careful plan counted on what must have been a well known habit of Judah’s to visit such women at the sheep shearing festival. He was a single man. What harm could there be in it? Plenty as it turned out. Second she was aware that he had a self righteous streak and would condemn her if she became pregnant so she asked for his signet ring, the cord to which it was attached and his staff. Then when he went to the nearby ATM to collect his goat so as to pay her, she made off with his stuff. It was a clever scheme and it worked to perfection. If it hadn’t resulted in pregnancy, perhaps she would have returned again the next year.
The interesting part comes when she offers proof to him that he was the father of her unborn twins. He immediately repents. This is one of the brothers who betrayed Joseph and lied to his father for 13 years. How sensitive was his conscience?
Genesis 38: 25 It was while she was being brought out that she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “I am with child by the man to whom these things belong.” And she said, “ Please examine and see, whose signet ring and cords and staff are these?” 26 Judah recognized them, and said, “ She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.”: (NASB)
I have a suspicion, a theory, that Judah was confronted at that moment with something even more significant than his immorality. I think he stared deep in to his dark heart and saw something he had avoided, that he did not want to see. I believe it is universal that there are black places in all of us that we do not wish to see. What did Jacob find peering back at him at the bottom of the abyss? A lie that he had told some years ago.
Genesis 37: 32 and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, “We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not.” (NASB)
The same two Hebrew words are used in each sentence (examine, to see) and had to ring in Judah’s ears as said by Tamar. He possibly thought to himself, I told a lie to my father to cover up a sin I committed against him. Tamar deceived me to expose a sin I committed against her. At the moment he examined his soul. Eventually he would become the leader of the tribes of Israel and I think it was because he faced the truth about himself at that moment. It was nothing noble or righteous in Judah. It was the Lord.
As Paul said,
I Corinthians 4:4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.
We should pray daily that the Lord examine us. It will not be pleasant but it will be powerful.