Picture is of a young Bedouin man from Jordan. I imagine a young Hirah looking like this.
Reference: Genesis chapter 38
Heart of the Story: Hirah was Judah’s friend. He played a role in Judah marrying a Canaanite woman and Judah getting his daughter-in-law pregnant.
Fleeing the inconsolable grief of Jacob over the loss of Joseph, Judah left Hebron and went south to stay with his friend Hirah. Hirah was a Canaanite who lived in Adullam. In 1900 B.C. the size of Adullum is not known; however, 450 years later when Joshua conquered Canaan, Adullam had a king who the Israelites defeated. “Hirah” meant ” splendor” which suggests that Hirah was part of the ruling class of Adullam. Possibly Judah was flattered to be his friend and to stay in his home.
While living with Hirah, Judah married a Canaanite woman. Judah’s wife was not named; she was simply called the daughter of Shua. Judah’s wife bore him three sons – Er, Onan, and Shelah. Shelah was born at Kezib (also known as Chezib and Aczib) located west southwest of Adullam and even further distance from Hebron. Possibly Judah did not return and live with Jacob during these married years.
When Er grew to adulthood, Judah obtained a Canaanite wife for him; her named was Tamar. Er died and following ancient marriage customs, Tamar became the wife of Onan. Their first son was to secure the deceased Er’s inheritance. Onan also died before Tamar became pregnant. The Bible recorded that both Er and Onan died because they were wicked; however, Judah feared that Tamar was some type of “black widow.” He sent Tamar back to her father’s home saying that when Selah grew up Tamar could become his wife; however, when Shelah became an adult, Judah did not contact Tamar to marry him. Tamar’s childless state left her helpless and socially disadvantaged in the ancient Near East where sons cared for mothers after the father’s death.
After a long while, Judah’s wife died and Judah grieved her passing. When he recovered, he went to Timnah where his sheep were being sheared. Hirah, who remained Jacob’s friend through all of these years, went with Jacob. On the outskirts Enaim, Judah and Hirah came upon a veiled woman. Believing she was a shrine prostitute, Judah propositioned her and agreed to give her a young goat for her services. Because Judah had no goat with him, he left his seal, cord, and staff with the woman, declaring that the next day he would send the goat and redeem his identifying items.
Judah and Tamar, image by Horace Vernet obtained from Wikipedia.org.
The next day Hirah took a goat to Enaim to redeem Judah’s pledges; however, he could not find the prostitute. When Hirah inquired of the townsmen, he learned that Enaim never had a shrine prostitute. Hirah went back to Judah and told him the full story. Afraid that he would be laughed at if he continued his search for the prostitute, Judah decided to let the woman retain his seal, cord, and staff.
From that time forward, the Bible provides no information about Hirah; however, we read that the shrine prostitute was Tamar. Tamar became pregnant from her encounter with Judah. She had twins, Perez and Zerah. Judah and Tamar and their son Perez are identified as ancestors of Christ.
Hirah remained a friend of Judah for over 20 years. At first read, we may think that a friendship that spanned that many years was admirable; however, the friendship was not beneficial to Judah, a son of Jacob who worshiped the true God. Hirah worshiped a false god and was a negative influence on Judah’s life.
Hirah did not act outside the society norms that he lived in; but, through his influence Judah’s behavior devolved. First he was friends with a pagan, then he married one. Later he found a pagan woman for his sons to marry. Finally he engaged in pagan immorality with a shrine prostitute. Judah became more concerned with being laughed at than retrieving the symbols of his individual and clan identity. Reading the story makes me wonder if Hirah was not secretly laugh or gloating at Judah’s falling away from his father’s faith and standards.
God promised Abraham that through his descendants would come the world’s redeemer. Hirah was an instrument of Satan first to turn Judah from the true God and second to attempt to sever Judah’s central place in the ancestry of the Messiah. Judah’s friendship with Hirah and its influence on Judah’s life is a reminder to have friends who hold the same Christian beliefs as we hold. It is also a reminder not to cut ourselves off from our church family as Judah cut himself off from Jacob and his brothers.
Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 12/13.