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According to the Bible, Shelah/Shela (Hebrew: שֵׁלָה, Modern Shela Tiberian Šēlā ; Petition) was the youngest brother among Judah's first three sons, and was born at Chezib.[1]

Biblical narrative

In the text, after Yahweh had killed Shelah's two older brothers, namely Er and Onan,[2] Judah was unwilling to allow Tamar, who had been Er's wife, and who had had sex with Onan,[3] to be married to Shelah;[4] Judah's concern was that Tamar might be cursed, and so he told her to wait until Shelah had grown up,[5] but when Shelah eventually did, Judah continued to neglect to give Tamar to him in marriage.[6] In the Book of Chronicles, Shelah is identified as being the name of a clan, containing a subclan named Er.

According to biblical scholars, the description of Shelah is an eponymous aetiological myth concerning fluctuations in the constituency of the tribe of Judah, with Shelah representing the newest clan to become part of the tribe;[7][8] the Book of Chronicles' description of Er as a descendant of Shelah, suggests that Er was in reality the name of a clan that was originally equal in status to the Shelah clan, but was later subsumed by it.[7][9]

Scholars have argued that the Tamar narrative, of which the description of Shelah is a part, secondarily aims to either assert the institution of levirate marriage, or present an aetiological myth for its origin;[7] Shelah's role in the narrative would thus be as the example of a brother refusing to perform levirate marriage.[7] Emerton regards the evidence for this as inconclusive, though classical rabbinical writers argued that this narrative concerns the origin of levirate marriage.[10]

Possible Qur'anic references

The Qur'an refers to a prophet named Saleh, who was sent to a society known as the Thamud, who lived in homes cut into mountains. The Qur'an's description of Saleh is fairly limited, although he is stated to have been born 9 generations after Noah; according to the biblical Genealogy of Abraham, Abraham was born about 10[11] generations after Noah, and therefore Shelah would have been born about 13 generations after Noah. The vague similarity in hypothetical time period, and the similarity of the names, has led to the opinion that the Qur'an's Saleh is the biblical Shelah; the equation, however, is controversial, since there is almost nothing in common between the Qur'anic narrative of Saleh and the Biblical narrative of Shelah. Many scholars of Islam equate the Thamud with the Edomites at Petra, due to the mention of them living in rock-cut homes; the name of Saleh may derive from this origin - Petra's historic name was Se'lah, meaning rock in Hebrew, others believe it comes from the Arabic Word "صالح" (Sali'h) meaning the good one.

Notes and citations

  1. Genesis 38:5
  2. Genesis 38:7-10
  3. Genesis 38:7-10
  4. Genesis 38:11
  5. Genesis 38:11
  6. Genesis 38:14
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 J. A. Emerton, Judah And Tamar
  8. Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  9. Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  10. Genesis Rabbah 85:6
  11. the masoretic text makes it 10 generations, the septuagint makes it 11
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Shelah (son of Judah). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.