24.And it came to pass about three months after. Tamar might sooner have exposed the crime; but she waited till she should be demanded for capital punishment; for then she would have stronger ground for expostulation. The reason why Judah subjects his daughter-in-law to a punishment so severe, was, that he deemed her guilty of adultery: for what the Lord afterwards confirmed by his law, appears then to have prevailed by custom among men, that a maid, from the time of her espousals, should be strictly faithful to her husband. Tamar had married into the family of Judah; she was then espoused to his third son. It was not therefore simple and common fornication which was the question for judgment; but the crime of adultery, which Judah prosecuted in his own right, because he had been injured in the person of his son. Now this kind of punishment is a proof that adultery has been greatly abhorred in all ages. The law of God commands adulterers to be stoned. Before punishment was sanctioned by a written law, the adulterous woman was, by the consent of all, committed to the flames. This seems to have been done by a divine instinct, that, under the direction and authority of nature, the sanctity of marriage might be fortified, as by a firm guard: and although man is not the lord of his own body, but there is a mutual obligation between himself and his wife, yet husbands who have had illicit intercourse with unmarried women have not been subject to capital punishment; because that punishment was awarded to women, not only on account of their immodesty, but also, of the disgrace which the woman brings upon her husband, and of the confusion caused by the clandestine admixture of seeds. For what else will remain safe in human society, if license be given to bring in by stealth the offspring of a stranger? To steal a name which may be given to spurious offspring? And to transfer to them property taken away from the lawful heirs? It is no wonder, then, that formerly the fidelity of marriage was so sternly asserted on this point. How much more vile, and how much less excusable, is our negligence at this day, which cherishes adulteries, by allowing them to pass with impunity. Capital punishment, indeed, is deemed too severe for the measure of the offense. Why then do we punish lighter faults with greater rigor? Truly, the world was beguiled by the wiles of Satan, when it suffered the law, engraven on all by nature, to become obsolete. meanwhile, a pretext has been found for this gross madness, in that Christ dismissed the adulteress in safety, (John 8:11,) as if, truly, he had undertaken to indict punishment upon thieves, homicides, liars, and sorcerers. In vain, therefore, is a rule sought to be established by an act of Christ, who purposely abstained from the office of an earthly judge. It may however be asked, since Judah, who thus boldly usurps the right of the sword, was a private person, and even a stranger in the land; whence had he this great liberty to be the arbiter of life and death? I answer, that the words ought not to be taken as if he would command, on his own authority, his daughter-in-law to be put to death, or as if executioners were ready at his nod; but because the offense was verified and made known, he, as her accuser, freely pronounces concerning the punishment, as if the sentence had already been passed by the judges. Indeed I do not doubt that assemblies were then wont to be held, in which judgments were passed; and therefore I simply explain, that Judah commanded Tamar to be brought forward in public; in order that, the cause being tried, she might be punished according to custom. But the specification of the punishment is to this effect, that the case is one which does not admit of dispute; because Tamar is convicted of the crime before she is cited to judgment.