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29 August 2009 @ 03:46 am
More in the Right Than I  
Title: More in the Right Than I
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Tamar, Judah
Pairing: Tamar/Judah
Warnings: Violence, Religious fanfic
Summary: My interpretation of Genesis 38. Written for by Religious Studies paper (got an A+ :D)


Whoredom
She’s never acted like this before.

She’s managed to fend off any unwanted interest, but there are also the men who sneer and cross to the other side of the road to avoid her as though she were some sort of disease. Thankful she has a veil to cover her face, she feels her cheeks burn with shame.

But what if Judah simply reacted in the same way? In her time under his roof she had never once thought he took pleasure with another woman other than Shua’s daughter.

She’s inexperienced and innocent in these matters and she suspects he is too.


Prayer
She’s never prayed like this before.

In two ways actually. She’s never prayed like this to a God who doesn’t demand anything except obedience in return for her wishes. She has also never prayed as fervently as she does now.

“I do not know if this thing is pleasing to you or not.” she whispers franticly amidst the pounding of her heart. “Grant that an invitation to lie with him might be found in his mouth, so that I may know that it is acceptable to you that the treasure might be transmitted even though a daughter of the uncircumcised.”1

Even as the utterances leave her lips, Judah and his party come along the road towards her. She’s unable to say anything, only keep her eyes firmly locked on her prize.


Proposition
She’s never looked at him like she does now.

The cruelty had been unexpected. She could have put up with Er’s wickedness had she had a child. But that was the one thing he denied her. Another act of cruelty, she guessed. Er had told her it was because she was too beautiful to be ruined by childbirth. Onan had sneered and stated he had no intention of being the downfall of his own birthright.2

Er and Onan were the scrawny kids in the flock. Not suited for anything but meat to be eaten. Tamar had been the sacrificial lamb, given over to the hands of Er and Onan as passively as the kid to the butcher. Judah was the ram; powerful and dominant.

He crosses the road over to her and she stares at him, in the eyes, like a challenge. Only it’s never a challenge and she knows it because he’s Judah and powerful and brighter than the sun.

“Come, let me sleep with you.”

“What will you give me that you may come in to me?” she asks, trying to mask her voice behind the veil.
His face flushes and he gives a quick glance to his friends behind him, laughing.
“I will send you a kid from the flock.” he replies hastily.

She explains she needs insurance and he’s only too happy to hand over his signet, cord and staff, as nervous as a lamb, and follow her away from prying eyes.

Definitely a first time for everything.


Happiness
She’s never felt so happy in her life.

She’s loved It since the moment she knew It, sleeping with her hand on her stomach; dreams of terror and discovery but waking up with a smile.


Realisation
She’s never felt so terrified in her life.

She’s looking after her father’s flock when she’s sick behind a bush. The goats are bleating behind her and she can’t hear anything.

So dizzy. So stressed. So hot in the sun. Her head is spinning and it doesn’t seem to stop as her brother -- when did he return? -- grabs her hand and looks at her anxiously. Her vision is still blurred by the harsh sun as she sees his face change from anxiety to anger.

So much trouble.

The sound is rushing and she says nothing. Her father’s voice is a muffled clamour. Her mother’s wails hardly reach her ears. Nothing but the roar inside her head until the messenger returns and everything becomes crystal clear again.

“Judah says to burn her.”

There comes a chocked wail from her mother and her father turns to face her.

Perhaps it’s the knowledge that her death is imminent that forces her to remember every detail of the next few minutes. Or the desire to protect the life of her unborn child. The blood tastes metallic in her mouth. Her voice is hoarse as she begs her servant to take the staff and cord and take them to Judah. Her arm is screaming with pain from the cuts and bruises blossoming on her arms and legs soon forgotten as her hair is harshly yanked and she is dragged across her own home.

“You have shamed us all Tamar!”


Trial
She’s never fought so hard in her life.

She beats at her father’s hands and claws at his arms in a futile attempt to be free as she’s led like a lamb to the slaughter. She can vaguely hear her mother’s grief-stricken sobs and her brothers’ insults and curses.

She is taken outside the walls by her hair. Her eyes widen at the sight before her. Her brothers have stacked the wood to prepare for her pyre. Her movements become frantic as her father shoves her into the hands of her own kindred.

Her gaze lifts to meet her father’s.
“I only hope the gods will be pleased with your death.” he says.

Her eyes turn heavenward.


Salvation
She’s never asked for anything more from anyone.

Two lives. Please spare my life and that of my child.

Stop this.

“STOP!”

Please. Stop this.

She’s so immersed in prayer she almost doesn’t hear her salvation.

“Stop!”

“Judah.” she hears her father exclaim, surprised at her father-in-law’s sudden presence. “It was you who determined she would die like this.”

“She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.”

There’s a pause.

He looks at her brothers. “Let her go. I am the child’s father.”

They drop her arms and Tamar falls to the ground. Judah rushes forward and kneels in front of her. Peripherally, she knows her family has left, but she’s focused on the figure before her.


Redemption
She’s always known he was a good man at heart.

Oddly, he is the one with tears forging rivulets down his dusty cheeks. He doesn’t look her in the eye, only bows his head with his hands on his thighs. She extends her hand -- is that really her blood? -- and touches his cheek.

Like a lost lamb that’s found his home, his own hand quickly rises to meet hers before bringing it down in front of him and clasping the other. He raises both to his lips.

“My redeemer.” he whispers.

Tamar is puzzled. In this backwards situation he is her kinsman redeemer, if anything; even if he didn’t know it.

“Thank you, Tamar.” he finally says. “You’ve shown me... you’ve helped...” he breathes in raggedly. “Forgive me.”

“All is forgiven.” she says.

“No. It isn’t.”
He doesn’t elaborate, but Tamar senses something behind his eyes. Something haunting him.

She doesn’t ask; if she’s meant to know, he’ll tell her in time.

He raises his eyes to hers and smiles. “We’ll take our child to my father’s tents. I know my responsibilities now, and there are things I need to atone for.”

It’s a breach of convention for a woman to forgive a man, but she doesn’t care. After all, it’s a breach of convention for a man to recognise his fault.

There really is a first time for everything.

fin

1 from Ephram the Syrian’s “Commentary on Genesis 34.3”
2 Dershowitz presents this interpretation according to Rashi in “The Genesis of Justice”

Bibliography
Sheridan, M. (Ed.). (2002). Ancient history commentary on scripture (Vol. 2, pp. 242-247). Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Menn, E. M. (1997). Judah and tamar (genesis 38) in ancient jewish exegeses: Studies in literary form and hermeneutics (pp. 1-64). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
Dershowitz, A. M. (2000). The genesis of justice (pp. 165-182). New York: Warner Books.