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38:24 Some three months passed, and Judah was told, 'Your daughter-in-law has been behaving loosely. She has become pregnant from her looseness.'

'Take her out and have her burned,' said Judah.
Vayehi kemishlosh chodashim vayugad li-Yehudah lemor zantah Tamar kalatecha vegam hineh harah liznunim vayomer Yehudah hotsi'uha vetisarech.


  It seems that there was no legal justification to burn her, but Judah was using the discretionary power given to the courts to prevent immorality by imposing particularly harsh punishments (Mizrachi; Or HaChaim; cf. Ramban; Sanhedrin 46a). Moreover, if it were the prescribed penalty, how could Judah later refrain from imposing it? Some say that Judah was punishing her for undermining the morality of the Israelites (Yov'loth 41:17), or as revenge (Tzava'ath Yehudah 12:5). According to other sources, 'burning' here denotes branding and not a death penalty (Tur).

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