A Tale of Two Digressions

There’s an interesting parallel I’d like to draw attention to in Genesis. They involve two different digressions that happen within the two major stories of Genesis.

Story 1 – Abraham

  1. Story of Abraham begins (chapters 12-18)
  2. Digression about Lot and his daughters (chapter 19)
  3. Story of Abraham continues (chapters 20-24)

Story 2 – Joseph

  1. Story of Joseph begins (chapter 37)
  2. Digression about Judah and Tamar (chapter 38)
  3. Story of Joseph continues (chapters 39-50)

These digressions parallel each other like so:

Lot & Daughters Judah & Tamar
Focus on main character – a brother’s son Focus on main character – a brother
A seduction story A seduction story
Women seduce their father A woman seduces a father-in-law
Women trick a man b/c they fear he won’t go along with it Woman tricks man b/c she fears he won’t go along with it
Women’s motive: Trying to make sure human race isn’t wiped out Woman’s motive: Trying to make sure her husband’s legacy isn’t wiped out
Man’s motives are less pure Man’s motives are less pure
Two children born: Amon & Mo’av Two children born: Peretz & Zerach
Descendant of Mo’av = Ruth Descendant of Peretz = Boaz

The two digressions come together in the story of


The story of Lot and his daughters is a corrupted version of the kinsman redeemer, while Judah and Tamar play out an imperfect version. But finally, the story of Ruth is a version built around love and mercy.

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