Genesis 38:1 – part of the reading for January 17 for The Daily Bible.
No reason is stated for Judah’s separation from his brothers to take up residence with the Adullamite Hirah. It may be that the time marker, “at that time,” connects us with the previous narrative. If so, Judah is a principal player in it, for it is he who proposes to sell their brother Joseph to the traders.
Reuben’s strong reaction when he discovers their action may signal a later conflict between the brothers after the inconsolable grief of their father. Recriminations would likely have flown between the brothers, and it is not a stretch of the imagination to see Judah removing himself from the family because of it.
It is a defensiveness over his previous action and a lack of humility and repentance, likely, that puts Judah in pagan territory and sets him up for this debacle through marriage to a daughter of a Canaanite.
His third son Shelah is born at Kezib (Gen 38:5), the root of the word meaning “deception.” It is Judah’s participation in the deception of his father and his later attempt to deceive Tamar that lands him in the midst of the sordid tale of chapter 38, a story that provides a strong contrast to Joseph’s actions in the following chapter.
Though God in his providence will later use Judah and Perez’s lineage, it is Joseph and not Judah who is the first to fulfill the Abraamic promise that all nations would be blessed through the patriarch’s seed.