Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Disguised as a Harlot, a veiled Tamar sits coyly beside her own father-in-law, Judah, in an attempt to seduce him, in this painting by the 17th-century Dutch artist Gerbrand van den Eeckhout. Tamar had been married to Judah’s eldest son Er, who died. By the laws of levirate marriage, the next son in line, Onan, was required to sleep with Tamar to produce an heir for his brother, but Onan shirked his responsibility and was slain by God. Realizing that Judah had no intention of letting his youngest son, Shelah, marry her, Tamar arranged to trick Judah into sleeping with her. In this way, she procured an heir, though she was nearly burned to death for being “with child by harlotry” (Genesis 38:24). Pregnancy that carries a great personal risk for the woman, is the first of the qualities that unites the women named in Matthew’s genealogy.