Cord, Staff, Seal (signet)


So, I have recently come across the story of Tamar in Genesis 38 and have become super curious.

There are a lot of aspects of this story that I am interested in exploring, but what I am most interested in is the part of the story when she asks Judah to leave his chord, staff, and seal behind.

I am very interested in the allegorical sense of scripture (what it means beyond the literal sense) and believe that no word of scripture is wasted. With that being said, what is the significance of Judah leaving behind his staff, cord, and seal? What are these things to the people of that time? What did they mean to them?

What I understand but am open to correction:

A seal is a sign of kingship (or some sort of noble responsibility)
A staff can be used for protection, or was it just a walking staff?
I have no idea what a chord is?

I’m also looking at this story os a “type” story, where the man of authority (God) impregnates the woman (Mary) and leaves the items with her while he goes to get a sacrificial animal (the goat as imperfect sacrifice, which is no longer needed when the son is born).

Or something else . . .?


Greetings Daniel

I was not able to come up with much on these three things. However, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary states this about the three items:

“Tamar makes Judah pay for his pleasure by obtaining his seal (an incised cylinder seal, well known in the ancient Near East, used to sign documents), cord, and staff: these will serve as an identity card (v 25).” (page 38)

The International Bible Commentary says this about the passage:

“The purpose of the story (of Judah and Tamar) is to indicate first how the tribe of Judah through its two main branches, the clans of Perez and Zerah, has Canaanite connections, and second how the patriarch Judah proved himself righteous as did the great ancestress mother Tamar. Judah is now rightly prepared to receive the blessing to be given in 49: 9-12, when the “staff” of 38: 18 suddenly takes on royal authority.” (page 387)

Perhaps someone else will be able to enlighten you further.



From Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary:

“Staff. These were all marks of dignity. “Kings made use of spears, or sceptres, before they wore a diadem.” (Trogus. 43.) (Calmet) — Juda might blame himself for exposing these valuable things, and divesting himself of all his dignity, to gratify his unjustifiable passion. If some have excused both the parties concerned, the Scripture at least sufficiently shews in what light we ought to consider their conduct. Juda himself thought her worthy of death; though in some sense, she was juster than himself, ver. 24, 26. (Haydock) — She was guilty of a sort of adultery, being engaged to Sela; and also of incest, &c.; whereas the fault of Juda, through ignorance of her person, was simply fornication; which is, however, always contrary to the law of nature, as the pagans themselves confessed. (Grotius in Matthew v.) (Calmet) — From Christ’s choosing to be born of such progenitors, we may learn to adore his humility and tender regard for sinners. (Haydock)”

My speculation is that it seems that the cord would have been worn around the neck holding the signet ring or seal. She had to ask for both or cut the cord, in which case she could be accused of stealing it. But to have both, meant that he had given it to her.


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