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Perez was the king of Persia. Perez was the underdog (in more ways than one) who rose to prominence among the descendants of Jacob.
To begin with, Perez was the child of a union that should never have been.
His mother was Tamar, who had been married to Judah’s oldest son, Er. But Er had died, so Judah ordered his younger son to father a child with Tamar so she would have a son who would be reckoned as Er’s heir. Onan refused and was struck dead by the Lord.
Initially, Judah had promised his third son to Tamar but later changed his mind, afraid that his youngest son would die, too. Having no other way to ensure the survival of her family line, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and convinced Judah to sleep with her.
The plan succeeded —Tamar conceived a child, and Judah, who initially planned to have her burned to death, was shamed into silence when he realized the prostitute was his own daughter-in-law. Tamar and her unborn child had overcome the odds and triumphed.
Months later, as Tamar prepared to give birth, it became evident she was carrying not one but two children. According to the writer of Genesis, one of the children’s arms appeared, and the midwife tied a cord around it to indicate that he was the firstborn—the rightful recipient of the chief blessing.
To the midwife’s surprise, however, that child withdrew his arm and the second child emerged, claiming the title of firstborn. This child was named Perez. His story, though brief, echoes a recurring theme in Genesis: the weaker triumphing over the stronger and the second-born triumphing over the firstborn (or in this case, the one who was initially thought to be the firstborn).
Perez overcame the odds in order to be regarded as Tamar’s firstborn son. Judah’s other three sons faded into obscurity (Er and Onan being dead and Shelah disappearing from the story line after Genesis 38), but Perez rose to prominence among the family line of Judah. He became the ancestor of Boaz, David, and ultimately Jesus.