Ancient rabbinical literature has provided us a key piece of information regarding Tamar’s identity.
Tamar was the daughter of Shem, the son of Noah. Shem was a priest, and when Tamar was charged with fornication (Gen. R. lxxxv. 11) she was condemned to be burned to death in conformity with Lev. xxi. 9. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14222-tamar
So it seems like Tamar was NOT a Gentile after all.
She was a Shemite, or to use modern language, a “Semite”.
She was part of the sanctified line of good.
From God’s perspective, this makes sense.
You see, Judah had every intention of carrying on his family line through his Canaanite wife!
There is no way God was going to let that happen.
Recall, a Canaanite is a descendant of Ham, a line cursed by God.
Think about it.
Out of the three sons that Judah had by a Canaanite woman, two of them died.
And the third one, Shelah, who according to tradition should have impregnated Tamar, never got the chance to do so because Judah refused and he refused for all the wrong reasons.
It was obvious that Judah cared little about the line of covenant promise being polluted by Canaanite blood.
In his mind, his only “wrong” was shaming Tamar by not giving his son Shelah as a husband to her.
Well, irony of ironies, and here’s where God’s genius comes into full display, despite his indifference to keeping the covenant line pure, Judah’s actions ultimately resulted in him making Tamar pregnant.
Do you see the spiritual significance in this?
Through Tamar, a Semite woman, Judah produced Semite sons who would carry on the covenant line of promise.
A few chapters back, we already saw how the attempted marriage between Jacob’s daughter Dinah and the King of Shechem’s son was literally put to death when all the males of Shechem were killed by Simeon and Levi.
So since Judah fathered Tamar’s children, and since Tamar is a daughter of Shem, the children from this union would be acceptable to God.
Hence, in spite of Tamar’s less than applaudable act, the purity of the promised covenant line that started with Abraham, went on to Isaac, then Jacob and now to Judah was maintained.
We get confirmation of this in Yeshua’s genealogy.
Perez, the firstborn Tamar’s twin sons, is a direct ancestor of Yeshua.
Later on we will see Perez separated away from all the other children of Judah.
To me this story is inspiring because it is surefire evidence of the steady though not always visible guiding hand of God who never forgets His people and their destiny in spite of all our flaws and stupid things we sometimes do.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
This is the genealogy of Yeshua the Messiah the son of David,
the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,