Genesis 38:18 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 38:18, NIV: He said, 'What pledge should I give you?' 'Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,' she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him.

Genesis 38:18, ESV: He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him.

Genesis 38:18, KJV: And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.

Genesis 38:18, NASB: He said, 'What pledge shall I give you?' And she said, 'Your seal and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand.' So he gave them to her and had relations with her, and she conceived by him.

Genesis 38:18, NLT: 'What kind of guarantee do you want?' he replied. She answered, 'Leave me your identification seal and its cord and the walking stick you are carrying.' So Judah gave them to her. Then he had intercourse with her, and she became pregnant.

Genesis 38:18, CSB: "What should I give you? " he asked.She answered, "Your signet ring, your cord, and the staff in your hand." So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him.

What does Genesis 38:18 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Tamar, twice widowed by Judah's two oldest sons (Genesis 38:6–10), has disguised herself as a prostitute with a veiled face. She is attempting to trap Judah into taking care of her since he has abandoned his agreement to allow her to marry his third son. Judah, completely unaware that this is Tamar, is attempting to hire her services (Genesis 38:14–17).

She has agreed to the price of a young goat, but only if Judah gives her something of value as collateral until he can send payment. Her choice are items that Judah will certainly want to get back: something uniquely his and clearly irreplaceable. A signet, or "seal," would have been used to stamp his identity on documents. Judah likely carried such an object on a necklace or other cord. Men during this period would also own and carry a staff, likely carved in some unique way.

Tamar's initial plan may have been simply to blackmail Judah: to shame him into caring for her. When he is forced to leave his identification, it's an opportunity to prove what's happened. That she becomes pregnant by this encounter is—from her point of view—the best possible outcome. She now has the children she was promised, as well as leverage to ensure her future.

It's important to note that Scripture doesn't condone Tamar's actions any more than those of Judah. These events are recorded, not endorsed, by their inclusion in this passage.