Two Coats Two Tamars And Three Deceptions

After hearing a good sermon recently, by my pastor, I began reconsidering more closely the very surprising and strange similarities between three Bible characters who had a lot in common. The characters were two women named Tamar, and a man named Joseph. In the many examples below, two will often share a similarity, but not the third. Sometimes the third person actually even ends up being the exact opposite of the other two. In some cases all three have something in common.

Before we get started I’d just like to point out that these stories are recounted for us to learn from, although they contain horrible circumstances.

However, God doesn’t shrink away from telling us the cold hard truth of what man is willing to do to one another. He does have to witness it all, since He’s the judge of the universe. So, this is just a good reminder that you’d do well to be ready someday when it’s your turn to give an account. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Hebrews 9:27, 28

The crux of Joseph’s life is from Genesis 37 until the end of the book. Tamar 1’s story is in Genesis chapter 38. Tamar 2 lived hundreds, if not thousands, of years later, and most of what we know about her life is in 2nd Samuel 13.

The Two Tamars

I’ll be referring to them as Tamar 1 and 2, based on chronological order, so it makes for an easier read. They were related, but only as closely as hundreds of years can make two people.

Well, in comparing these three characters, there’s obviously a couple of quick things we can point out and then quickly move onto much more interesting things. For example, the two women had, in common that they were women, while Joseph was the only man. Also, two of them were named Tamar, while Joseph wasn’t.

Now’s when the similarities start getting less probable, and very interesting. Both Tamar’s lived as widows for a large part of their life. Both Tamar’s also had the tragedy and confusion of experiencing relations with a male family member.

The two coats

Two of these three characters, Joseph and Tamar 2, had in common that they wore a garment of various colors. It was a gift in both cases, specifically from their father. The garment was specifically torn, and ruined as well. In both of these cases the two characters were propositioned for an illicit affair, which they turned down, yet were punished anyway; not by God but by wicked man.

Joseph was given a “coat of many colors” by his father, Israel. Gen 37:3. This is the coat that later, his brothers tore, and soaked in the blood of a kid of the goats to make it appear that he had been killed by lions. In Tamar 2’s case Verse 18 of 2nd Sam says that all the king’s daughters who were virgins wore “a garment of divers colors.” In her case as well, it was a garment that was associated with, and provided by, her father. Not only that, but the garment was ruined, and not just ruined but torn, specifically. Those details from two separate stories didn’t have to overlap the way they did. Altogether it’s highly improbable.

You could also say they were both punished, not by God but by wicked man. Joseph was thrown into prison, because Potiphar’s wife lied on him. Tamar 2 wasn’t strong enough to get away, and was raped by Amnon. She never married or had a family afterward. So, here’s two cases of good and decent people having their coat of many colors ruined, as well as their life for a substantial part.

Now, on the opposite end of the spectrum, it might also be argued that Tamar 1 had two coats as well, her widow’s garb, and her um…um… “colorful or less modest attire,” we might say. Well, if she resembled a prostitute “honey, she weren’t wearin’ nun’s robes.” However, scripture never says anything regarding the color of her apparel, which differs from the other two.

Also, remarkably, she got out of being punished (burnt for harlotry) by producing what Judah had pledged, as surety. Basically, she proved who the father was and he didn’t want to play judge anymore because he’d have to judge himself.

This is very remarkable, because unlike the other two, she actually did go through with an illicit affair and was not punished. Also, hers ended up being publicly broadcast. The other two were private matters that went swept under the rug so as not to cause shame.

Children And Supplanters

Two of the characters, Joseph and Tamar 1, had children, and one of them, Tamar 2, didn’t. The two who did have children, had two boys each. In both cases their younger son became eldest in the hierarchy.

Tamar 1 had twins. Zarah, the one who’s hand came out first had a scarlet cord placed around his wrist to designate him as firstborn. However, his brother Pharez ended up being born first.

Joseph’s two boys were not twins, but were named Manasseh and Ephraim. However, when Israel, on his deathbed, would bless them, crossed his arms. He placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head to symbolize that the older would serve the younger. Like Tamar 1’s case, the younger supplanted the elder in the hierarchy. This happened, occasionally, but was highly unusual.

Three deceptions

All three characters had deception and family trouble in life.

In the two narratives of Joseph and Tamar 1, a kid, specifically, was the cost of covering the misdeeds. In Joseph’s story, a kid was killed to dip his garment in blood with, to deceive their father into thinking it was Joseph’s blood.

In Tamar 1’s story she asked for a pledge from Judah, to make sure he would pay her for her “service.” He sent a kid, later. She actually tricked him though, and didn’t wait for it. She wanted Judah’s pledges as evidence of who the father was, because later, she must have known Judah would try to punish her for being with child.

Interestingly, and different than the others, in Tamar 2’s tale, she was revenged by Amnon being murdered during the sheep shearing season. It seemingly had nothing to do with sheep. It was just a convenient pretext to throw a party so Absalom could lure Amnon into his trap. It’s just remarkable that this story had some connection to sheep, since they’re often associated with goats.

But, back to deception. Joseph’s life contained more than one deception actually, so it isn’t cookie cutter perfect, as we’ve said. So much for western sentiment.

Also, Tamar 1 had more than one deception in her life as well. Her 2nd husband said he’d raise up children in his deceased brother’s name, but didn’t go through with it so God slew him. That could be considered deception regarding Tamar 1, as well as when she deceived her father in law, Judah.

Tamar 2 faced the deception of her half-brother Amnon. He pretended to be sick, and asked for her to cook for him, so he could take advantage of her.

In two of the stories a servant was involved, and in one the character became a servant. With Tamar 1, Judah’s servant was instructed to go deliver the prostitute her payment. With Tamar 2, Amnon’s servant was told to send her out, because he no longer wanted anything to do with her. In Joseph’s case, he actually became the servant. He was sold as a slave and became servant to Potiphar, captain of pharaoh’s guard. Later, he was servant to pharaoh, or a public servant, you might say. He also had servants in his household.

What they all have in common

All of them were let down by their family in some way.

all were connected in the dichotomy of self-control and lust in one way or another.

If Joseph hadn’t been sold into slavery, more than likely he would have never met Potiphar’s wife; but he was, and was placed in that situation, and was framed by her.

Concerning Tamar 1, Judah’s lust got the best of him, and he ended up sleeping with his own daughter in law by accident. (She dressed as a prostitute wearing a veil.)

In Tamar 2’s case, she was forced by her half-brother, who didn’t control himself and think rationally. He had deceived her into a private meeting with him, by pretending to be sick. All three of these people had to deal with lust in one way or another.

A father was deceived in each story.

Joseph’s father, Israel was tricked into thinking his son was dead. Tamar had to trick her father in law into obtaining a child. Tamar’s father, David, was deceived by his son Amnon, into letting Tamar prepare food privately for him while he feigned sickness. David was deceived again, later, when Absalom lured Amnon to his death.


These are some truly pitiful stories. On the other hand, I don’t think anyone besides God could weave the details in such a way that they share so many similarities. Like we said, Genesis and 2nd Samuel are historical accounts that are separated by hundreds if not thousands of years, and were certainly penned by different scribes.

I think it’s quite obvious we’re not dealing with several different people making up fairy tales for entertainment. This is an intricate masterpiece. It may not be what you or I might want, and certainly wasn’t what these characters wanted, but God took what man meant for evil to show His intervention in human affairs. He involved Himself to use evil for good, and I think we can’t help but see His fingerprint left there, in the pattern.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store