So, after galavanting around for 20+ years, Jacob comes home and settles down (apparently for good) in Canaan, just like Isaac and Abraham.
Joseph was Jacob's favorite (you know he had a favorite, they all do). Jacob made a "richly ornamented" robe for Joseph (an amazing technicolor dreamcoat, perhaps?). Joseph's brothers are super jealous, and who can blame them.
Joseph has a couple of dreams that he shares with his family...a bunch of symbolism of Joseph ruling over the rest of them. This apparently pushes Joseph's brothers over the edge, and they decide to kill him (over a dream? really?). Reuben tries to convince his brothers not to kill Joseph, so while Reuben isn't looking, they sell Joseph to some handy passing Ishmaelites. They fake Joseph's death by putting blood on his amazing robe, and Jacob buys it.
Jacob is super upset...he "tore his clothes" and "mourned for many days." This is totally the most "depth" I've seen yet to any of these characters.
Meanwhile, Joseph is taken to Egypt and sold.
Chapter 38 is all about Jacob's son Judah. All sorts of quality arbitrary Godly judgement in this chapter!
Judah goes away from his family and marries a Canaanite woman.
Wait, he's not going to go find some cousin to marry? Oh yeah, Judah is not the favorite. I bet Joseph does some inbreeding later.
Judah has 3 sons...the first one is named Er. Best name ever. But awesome-name-kid was "wicked in the LORD's sight; so the LORD put him to death." Seriously. No rhyme or reason, that's all we get.
Apparently Er lived long enough to get married though, because Judah tells the second son Onan that he must sleep with Er's wife, Tamar, to make babies for his brother. But Onan doesn't want to make babies that "would not be his" (why wouldn't they be his?), so whenever he sleeps with Tamar he "spilled his semen on the ground." This apparently was also "wicked in the LORD's sight," and Onan dies too. Really, God, really? That's what you're going to care about? It's just so trivial! So inconsequential! I suppose "every sperm is sacred" is more true than I thought.
Judah tells Tamar to go and wait until his third son was old enough to knock her up, but he never lets his third son near Tamar...it seems Judah thought Tamar was bad luck. But no, Judah, no...God just hates your kids, for no apparent reason. Or for the stupidest reason I've ever heard of.
Many years later, Judah's wife dies, Judah mourns for a while, then he goes to get his sheep sheared, and I guess Tamar happened to be in that general area. Tamar is upset that she never got to marry (or just get knocked up by? I'm confused) the third son, so she dresses up like a prostitute and waits for Judah. Judah sleeps with her, not knowing who she is. Of course, she gets pregnant.
Side note... I've noticed a pattern of the bible making it sound like people regularly get knocked up after having sex only one time. I am of the impression that that is actually fairly unlikely... just seems a bit weird.
Anyway, after that, Judah is trying the find this prostitute so he can send her the goat he promised in payment, but he can't find her. So the matter is basically dropped.
A few months later, someone tells Judah, "Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution." And obviously, Judah's very first reaction is, "Have her burned to death!" But then he finds out it was he who slept with her, and he completely changes his tune to, "She is more righteous than I." What a fucking hypocrite.
So, Tamar does not get burned to death, and instead gives birth to twins. Now I wonder whether these are Judah's, or are they really Er's twins, since that's apparently how it works? Freakin' weird.
For some more random weirdness, during the birth of these twins, apparently one of them stuck a hand out, and then pulled it back in. Then the other baby came out first, and the one that stuck the hand out came second.
So...I'm really not an expert in the birthing process, but does this sort of thing EVER happen in reality? A hand coming out and then going back in? Really? What the fuck is all that about?
Is it supposed to be symbolic? If so, what could it possibly mean???
As usual, I am completely lost.