And Judah begat Perez and Zerah of Tamar; and Perez begat Hezron and Hezron begat Ram;
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Theophylact of Ochrid
. Tamar was the daughter-in-law of Judah, the wife of his son Er (Gen. 38:6-30). When Er died childless, Judah married her to another of his sons, Onan. But when he, too, was cut down from among the living on account of his wickedness, Judah did not marry her to any other of his sons. But she desired to have a child of the seed of Abraham, and so she put off the garments of a widow, dressed as a harlot, came together with her father-in-law, and from him conceived twin boys. As she was giving birth to them, the first child reached its hand out from her womb, as if it would be born first, and at once the mid-wife marked the extended hand of the child with a scarlet thread so as to distinguish the firstborn. But the child drew its hand back into the womb and the other one was born first, followed by the one who had reached out its hand. So the one who was born first was named "Pharez" which means "interruption," for it had interrupted the natural order; and the child which withdrew its hand was named "Zarah." This account indicates a certain mystery. For just as Zarah first showed his hand and then withdrew it, so, too, the life in Christ appeared in those holy ones who lived before the law and circumcision. For all these were not counted as righteous by the observances of the law and the commandments, but by living the evangelic life of the Gospel. Consider Abraham who left his father and his home for God’s sake and even denied the order of nature by his willingness to sacrifice Isaac. Consider Job, and Melchizedek. But when the law came, this manner of life receded. Just as in the story, Pharez was born and then Zarah came forth again, so too, when the law had been given, the evangelic life later shone forth again, marked with the scarlet thread, that is, sealed with the blood of Christ. The reason why the evangelist mentioned these two children, therefore, is that their birth revealed something mysterious. But there is another reason why he mentions Tamar, who does not appear to be praiseworthy on account of her physical relations with her father-in-law; and that was to show that Christ Who accepted all things for our sake, accepted even to have such forbears as these. It was moreover for this very reason that He was born from them, that He might sanctify them; for He came not to call the righteous, but the sinners.