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Gather around, children, for a bible story about Tamar. It has everything in the title and lessons for progressives and liberals, too! Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn; her name was Tamar. What he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also.
She saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him in marriage. When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face. Then she got up and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood. When Judah sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite, to recover the pledge from the woman, he could not find her.
Why did Onan begrudge his brother this duty and yes, this is the story that gives rise to "onanism"? Onan didn't want competing heirs for his father's estate - sheer selfishness, not rampant sensuality, was Onan's real sin. Any other application of the story is misguided. Nifty point about Tamar: she is one of the three women mentioned in Jesus' genealogy. The other two are Rahab, the prostitute, and Ruth, the Moabite - all three irregular in one way or another.
Some biblical scholars think their inclusion is an indirect reference to something "irregular" about Jesus' background too.
And before you get too snooty about levirate marriage which had some beneficial outcomes consider that in colonial America something very similar happened. It was not uncommon for a man to marry his brother's widow, and for similar reasons - it provided for her welfare and support. Sex, death, money and a whore. Wee Mama.