Generations

This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Gen 5:1, ESV

Generations – The Hebrew word for generations is tol’dot. This word appears at least 15 times in the book of Genesis alone, and many more throughout the Tanakh (what we know as the “Old Testament”) and shows the lineage of key figures in the Bible narrative.


There is an interesting thing about this word that is only visible in the Hebrew text though; it has two possible spellings – one complete, and one “defective”:

Complete spelling – tav-vav-lamed-dalet-vav-tav

Defective spelling -tav-vav-lamed-dalet-tav

The vav’s in this word have a dot above and to the left; this is known as a “cholam vav” and has the long “O” sound (it masquerades as a a vowel).

Note that in the defective spelling, the second cholam vav is missing from the word.

OK, so what? The first time that this word appears in the Bible is in Genesis 2:4.

“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created…”

Here the complete spelling is used but the next occurrence in Genesis 5:1 uses the defective spelling ;in fact, the only other occurrence of the complete spelling is in Ruth 4:18:

“Now these are the generations of Perez…”

What does this mean?

Let’s briefly remind ourselves of the story of Perez.

38:1 It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and turned aside to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua. He took her and went in to her, and she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er. She conceived again and bore a son, and she called his name Onan. Yet again she bore a son, and she called his name Shelah. Judah was in Chezib when she bore him.

And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother's wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother's wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. 10 And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. 11 Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father's house, till Shelah my son grows up”—for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained in her father's house.

12 In the course of time the wife of Judah, Shua's daughter, died. When Judah was comforted, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13 And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she took off her widow's garments and covered herself with a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she had not been given to him in marriage. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17 He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—” 18 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. 19 Then she arose and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.

20 When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite to take back the pledge from the woman's hand, he did not find her. 21 And he asked the men of the place, “Where is the cult prostitute who was at Enaim at the roadside?” And they said, “No cult prostitute has been here.” 22 So he returned to Judah and said, “I have not found her. Also, the men of the place said, ‘No cult prostitute has been here.’” 23 And Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, or we shall be laughed at. You see, I sent this young goat, and you did not find her.”

24 About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” 25 As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” 26 Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.

27 When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb. 28 And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29 But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Perez. 30 Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah. (ESV)

Perez was the son of Judah by Tamar. Tamar’s husband, Er, was Judah’s oldest son, but he sinned so badly that God put him to death. Since he died without an heir, Onan, his younger brother, was required to take Tamar as his wife and provide an heir for Er (this is known as a levirite marriage). With Er having no heir, Onan stood next in line (as the next eldest) as Judah’s heir, with the right to the double portion, however if Tamar became pregnant and gave birth as a result of him performing his duty under the levirite provisions, Tamar’s son would be reckoned as Er’s son, and would thus replace Onan as the one who would inherit the double portion. Greed got the better of Onan and he, too, was put to death by the judgement of God.

Judah’s youngest son, Shelah, was then promised to Tamar but was too young to fulfill his duty, so Tamar was made to wait. When Shelah came of age, Judah forgot his promise to Tamar, so in order to conceive an heir she seduced Judah by disguising herself as a prostitute. Judah, upon being confronted with the reality of the situation, recognised his error and declared that Tamar had acted more righteously than he had.

Tamar was pregnant with twins; during the birth the first twin put out a hand but withdrew it, and the other was born first; he was called Perez (peh-resh-tsade) which means “breach”. Pictographically, Resh is a picture of the head of a man; peh is a mouth and means to speak, vocalise, breath; tzade is a fish hook and is from the root tzod, meaning to hunt, capture or catch but also is associated with tzaddik, the righteous. Perez could therefore be translated as “one who speaks of the righteous head” i.e. one who speaks of Messiah (who is the one who repairs the breach).

Now let’s look at Ruth chapter 4:

4:1 Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”

Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. 10 Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” 11 Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, 12 and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”

13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. (ESV)

You’ll recall that Naomi had moved with her husband and 2 sons from Israel to Moab due to a famine in Israel. Whilst living in Moab, Naomi’s sons both married Moabite girls, Ruth and Orpah. Noami’s husband and 2 sons died whilst in Moab, leaving Naomi, Ruth and Orpah as widows with no heirs. This would have effectively rendered them peniless in Israel as there was no-one to inherit their family estate.

Orpah returned to her people, but Ruth insisted on moving to Israel with Naomi, and joined herself to the people of Israel and became a follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Eventually Boaz did what Onan did not do in the case of Tamar – he fulfilled his levirite duty as the kinsman redeemer and provided an heir for Naomi and Ruth. That heir became the grandfather of King David.

17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (ESV)

How does this tie in with the story of Perez?

The descendants (generations) of Perez are listed in Ruth 4:

18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David. (ESV)

Boaz was a direct descendant of Perez, and through his line came King David, from whose line came Yeshua (Jesus), the promised Messiah.

Remember that we said that in this passage, tol’dot is again spelled complete? The rabbis tell it this way: when God created the heavens and the earth, He created them perfect. After the fall of man, when sin entered the world, that perfection was lost and from that point on all “generations” were “defective”, corrupted by sin. The passage in Ruth, though, indicates that restoration (the return to completion) would come through the family line of Perez – from him would be descended the promised Messiah who would do the work of redemption (at the cross) and restoration (at his return). The letter “vav” is a picture of a tent peg or nail. The addition of the vav, the nail, to the tol’dot (generations) of Perez also indicates how that redemption was to take place – a descendant of Perez was to be pierced with a nail.

There is one more verse that we need to take note of in this story, which spoke directly of Obed but also speaks prophetically of our Messiah:

14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! (ESV)

Truly, my redeemer lives!

Shalom.

Rodney posted at ל׳ בניסן ה׳תש״ע (April 14, 2010) Category: Messianic Prophecy