Genesis 38:11 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 38:11, NIV: Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, 'Live as a widow in your father's household until my son Shelah grows up.' For he thought, 'He may die too, just like his brothers.' So Tamar went to live in her father's household.

Genesis 38:11, ESV: Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house, till Shelah my son grows up”—for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained in her father’s house.

Genesis 38:11, KJV: Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father's house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father's house.

Genesis 38:11, NASB: Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, 'Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up'; for he thought, 'I am afraid that he too may die like his brothers.' So Tamar went and lived in her father’s house.

Genesis 38:11, NLT: Then Judah said to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, 'Go back to your parents' home and remain a widow until my son Shelah is old enough to marry you.' (But Judah didn't really intend to do this because he was afraid Shelah would also die, like his two brothers.) So Tamar went back to live in her father's home.

Genesis 38:11, CSB: Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, "Remain a widow in your father's house until my son Shelah grows up." For he thought, "He might die too, like his brothers." So Tamar went to live in her father's house.

What does Genesis 38:11 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Two of Judah's three sons with his Canaanite wife (Genesis 38:2–5) have been put to death by God for their wickedness (Genesis 38:7–10). When Er, the oldest, died, his brother Onan was forced to marry Er's wife Tamar. Now Onan has also been put to death by the Lord, leaving Tamar a widow once more. Neither situation was Tamar's fault, yet she is now childless and unmarried, with little hope of finding a husband.

The same tradition that applied when Tamar married Onan would indicate that Shelah, Judah's next—and last—son would take on the role of husband to provide Tamar with children. Scripture does not say how old Shelah is. Apparently, he's young enough that Judah's excuse seems plausible.

Claiming Shelah is too young is, however, just that: a temporary excuse. In truth, Judah seems to blame Tamar for the deaths of his two oldest sons. He might see her as bad luck, or think she was responsible for his sons' poor decisions. For now, he tells her to go back home to her own father—taking responsibility for her out of Judah's family—and wait for Shelah to mature. The following verses reveal that Judah never intended to complete the marriage between Tamar and Shelah (Genesis 38:14).