Did people normally tie a scarlet cord on a twin at birth?


Why did midwife tie scarlet thread around Zerah's wrist? Was this a common action for twins? surely if it was custom to tie a ribbon surely this would have been done once the baby had been 'birthed'. This whole procedure seems unlikely and extremely messy.


"Now it came to pass, at the time for giving birth, that behold, twins were in her womb. And so it was, when she was giving birth, that the one put out his hand; and the midwife took a scarlet thread and bound it on his hand, saying, "This one came out first." Then it happened, as he drew back his hand, that his brother came out unexpectedly; and she said, "How did you break through? This breach be upon you!" Therefore his name was called Perez. Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand. And his name was called Zerah" (Genesis 38:27-30).

I find it interesting that today you in your armchair look back at the record of an event that happened roughly 4,000 years ago and decide that a fact in that event was "unlikely." Beyond your own opinion, what proof can you offer?

Let's look at the events. It was known prior to the birth that Tamar was going to have twins. Birth order was important in that culture as it determined inheritance rights. Births themselves are messy and there are numerous things which must be done in quick succession. In the birth of twins, it is easy to confuse which twin came first after things settle down. Personally, I think the marking of the first born was a clever idea. The only problem is that while one boy's arm came out first, the other boy managed to slip past his brother and was born first. I'm sure that caused quite a discussion as to who was actually the first born. The name "Perez" means a bursting forth or a breach (as in a dam breaking). The name "Zerah" means "he dawned."

I think you totally misunderstood me. I am coming to the Bible late in life and want to understand it, not just the ‘glory points,’ I want to understand what it was like in those time and see why they did what they did. Yes, 4,000 years later are you saying from our armchairs there is nothing to learn – hopefully not, but try and picture the scene then with what they had at hand. Is there any evidence that this was indeed a custom to tie a ribbon as soon as any part of the baby appeared? The fact that Perez did burst forward and was now the first born seems to negate this practice, was the marking of the first to appear and not the first born?

Perhaps I am expecting too much by my question?

Dare I ask why the talking ass was referred to as a female?

But from my armchair 4,000 years later what evidence do I have – none. What can I learn from this? My whole time in reading the Bible is that every word has a significance and none can simply be accepted, but then some people believe because it is written. I believe that through understanding will come belief, and blind faith is not faith at all.

What I did is point out that you are sitting in judgment on the accuracy of the Bible but are using your personal opinion as the standard by which you are making conclusions. This is not an attempt at understanding, but a search for faults.

Things are mentioned in the Bible for reasons. I might not be able to discern all the reasons, but in this particular case there are some obvious points. The reason Perez received his name was because he scooted past his brother during the birth process. The reason it was noticed is solely because the midwife had put a scarlet thread on the arm that first came out from the birth canal. If she hadn't done this, it wouldn't have been noticed. Thus the recording of this fact explains why it was noticed and how Perez received his name. It didn't change anything about inheritance or birth order. Since Perez is named first, he would have been considered the older child.

Balaam's donkey is called "she" (Numbers 22:25) simply because the animal was female. You will find that the Bible is filled with details which are always accurate and precise. That is why I do not like the gender-neutral translations. They remove a level of precision from the original text both in gender and in number.