Photo by Honi Werner

ON THE COVER: Posing as a prostitute, Tamar lies in wait for her father-in-law, Judah, in this illustration by contemporary American artist Honi Werner. Tamar’s first two husbands—both brothers—have died, and according to the laws of levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5–6), Judah should now give her his youngest son, Shelah, in marriage. When he refuses, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute, makes love to Judah and takes his seal, cord and staff as security for payment. Judah doesn’t recognize her, and when he finds his daughter-in-law pregnant three months later, he threatens to have her killed. Tamar pulls out the tell-tale seal, and Judah admits his guilt:“She is right,” he says, “and I am not, because I did not give her to Shelah my son” (Genesis 38:25–26).

In countless biblical stories, the poor, maltreated, low-ranking woman succeeds—not through power and might, but through quick thinking and strong convictions. In “Unlikely Heroes”, Gary A. Rendsburg explains why woman play such a powerful role in what is generally seen as a patriarchal book, the Bible.