Shalom, everyone, during these days of great joy and anticipation! Our expectant Father is waiting, and it won’t be long before His son, a male-child, is fully delivered and brought home safe and sound (Rev. 12:5; c.f. Isa. 26:20; John 14:1-3).
Most of us who have been alert and watching have seen the Scriptures open up like never before. Once Yahweh got our attention by looking up, we’ve been devouring His word only to find more and more confirmation of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and our impending birth—our true collective birthday into glory! Hallelujah!
In a previous study, “The Birth of a Nation,” Parts I and II, I traced the fulfillment of Revelation 12:5, the resurrection and rapture of the Church, back to the book of Isaiah and eventually connected the dots to Deuteronomy 32:21. Thus, through an in-depth look at Old Testament prophecy, it was demonstrated that the salvation of the body of Christ occurs first, before Israel’s time of trouble. Also, it was shown that the “birth” of the body of Christ serves to trigger the onset of Daniel’s 70th week and provoke Israel so that she turns back to God in genuine repentance.
This current study was conceived, in part, thanks to the first-fruits of co-laboring with my fellow brother, Brad, of Revelation 12 Daily. We had collaborated on his “Woman in Labor’ in the Bible” post, and under a section entitled Woman in Labor Types and Shadows, Brad wrote:
Unpacking some of these examples would be an article in itself, but I hope that with the background of Scripture above many of the connections will be evident to you. Jeff plans to expand upon some of these in future posts at Unsealed if there is time. Needless to say, the breadth of the imagery below is staggering.”
So here it is! While there’s still time. The breadth of imagery is staggering, indeed, but I will attempt to present a concise study of yet another prophetic disclosure related to Revelation 12. I believe that the prophetic foundation for the “birth” of the Rev. 12:5 male-child is found in the book of Genesis. Fitting, isn’t it? Just as we might expect from the first book of the Bible…
First, we’ll compare two intentionally intertwined “labor and delivery” accounts from Genesis 25 and 38 (Rebekah and Tamar/Jacob and Perez). Second, we’ll narrow the focus and explore Genesis 38: The curious account of Perez and Zerah (“the birthday break-away”). Finally, we’ll apply the prophetic root presented in Genesis to its end-time fulfillment (a birth order surprise: Church first, Israel second).
Continuity: Behold, There are Twins in Her Womb!
As a 21st-century Westerner, I find it difficult to fathom the significance of the rights of the firstborn in the ancient Near Eastern culture. It’s a weighty subject that also applies to believers in the body of Christ today—those who are co-heirs with Christ, the Firstborn Son of the Father (Rom. 8:16-17; Gal. 4:6-7; Col. 1:15-18; Rev. 2:26-27; 12:5; 19:14-15).
Beginning with the patriarchal narratives in Genesis, the battle for the birthright sets the stage for the rest of the story that unfolds throughout the Bible. The firstborn son gets to inherit his father’s estate, and while the property is divided among the surviving relatives of the clan, it’s the firstborn who receives a double share (“Birthright,” in Dictionary of Bible Themes). For examples in Scripture, see Gen. 25:5-6; Deut. 21:15-17; and Num. 27:1-11 (this one is for all my sisters out there!).
Ok, so the law is the law, and the son who is born first gets the gold. Easy enough. But what if there are twins in the womb? More specifically, what is a woman to do when she’s got two boys wrestling for supremacy inside her? Yikes! Sounds like trouble. Also sounds like the two birthing accounts of Rebekah and Tamar in Genesis chapters 25 and 38.
Before diving into this study, I had no idea there were only two accounts in the whole Bible about women giving birth to twins. This fact alone was enough to pique my curiosity. Here’s a brief quote from Kenneth Mathews on the strong link between these two stories:
The peculiar birth story of the twins Perez and Zerah revived the celebrated struggle the twins Jacob and Esau experienced, which was previewed by a divine oracle that foretold the superiority of the younger child (Gen. 25:23). Although no oracle precedes the birth of Tamar’s twins, there is by implication the same assumption, for in all of Scripture only Rebekah and Tamar produce twins” (New American Commentary, pg. 703, emphasis mine).
I fact-checked and looked up the word for “twin” in both the Hebrew and Greek lexicons. Sure enough, the only places you will find ta’owm [Heb.] and didyma [Grk.] in reference to human twins being born are Genesis 25:24and 38:27.
*Side note: The doubting disciple, Thomas, whose name is a form of the Hebrew word for “twin” (ta’owm), is also called “Didymus,” in the New Testament passages of Jn. 11:16; 20:24; 21:2. Moral of the story: You may look like Jesus, but you’ve still got to believe in Him in order to become a member of God’s family (Jn. 1:12-13).
So, the “twin” narratives of Rebekah and Tamar are interconnected by the fact that there are only two accounts in all of Scripture that mention a woman giving birth to twins. However, this isn’t the only connection linking these two stories together. When we compare Gen. 25:24-26 and Gen. 38:27-30 side-by-side, some striking similarities begin to surface.
See the comparisons below; all Scripture quotations selected from the NASB:
(1) Behold! Twins in Her Womb
Gen. 25:24 – “When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.”
Gen. 38:27 – “It came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb.”
(2) The “First” Son Identified by the Color Red
Gen. 25:25 – “Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau.”
Gen. 38:28 – “Moreover, it took place while she was giving birth, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.”
(3) The Other Brother Born Later
Gen. 25:26 – “Afterward, his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob…”
Gen. 38:30 – “Afterward, his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand; and he was namedZerah.”
As you can see from the above comparisons, the synchronicity between these two accounts is beyond happenstance. So, what is the inspired author doing with this arrangement? What is being subtly communicated?
I believe that the continuity between the births of Jacob [Israel] and Perez [son of Judah; the forefather of Jesus] are intentional and emphasize the shared root of all believers (see also Rom. 11:11-24; Gal. 3:6-7, 27-29). Undeniably, the stand-outs in these twin birth narratives are Jacob and Perez. Esau and Zerah are important to the story, but they merely serve as foils to their exceptional brothers.
Big-picture Takeaway #1: There is a biblical precedent for continuity and interrelationship between Israel and the Church in the beginning
Discontinuity: A Separation at Birth, and the Second Son is First
Recall the quote cited above from Mathews concerning the divine oracle in Genesis 25:23. Though not explicitly repeated in chapter 38, the same prophecy applies to Tamar’s twins, Perez and Zerah. Here’s Yahweh’s declaration again with added emphasis:
…Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger” (ESV).
Wow, talk about shattering the expected standard of the day! First: Whatever happened to keeping it all in the family? God says the twins will be two nations divided. Second: What is this about the older serving the younger? That completely flips the script on the birthright laws.
Remember the words of Jesus, “The last will be first…” (Matt. 20:16). And the mystery deepens…
Genesis 38, as many of you may remember, is the chapter that your youth pastor skipped over in order to pick back up with the Joseph narrative. You know what I’m talking about. That bizarre chapter where Judah is tricked into sleeping with his daughter-in-law. That one.
As uncomfortable as Genesis 38 may be for youth night at your local church, it’s time to take another serious look at this momentous chapter. You may already know this, but Judah is kind of a big deal. His progeny are the ancestors of the Messiah, the royal line of the eternal King (Gen. 49:10)! And most significant to our current study is the contrast between Perez and Zerah.
The focal point is Genesis 38:27-30. Verse 29 (bolded below) is the outlier and carries huge prophetic implications for the Church, the body of Jesus, son of Perez. Here is the full passage from the colorful New Living Translation, which really brings out the intended shock and surprise if you were retelling this story around a campfire:
When the time came for Tamar to give birth, it was discovered that she was carrying twins. While she was in labor, one of the babies reached out his hand. The midwife grabbed it and tied a scarlet string around the child’s wrist announcing, “This one came out first.” But then he pulled back his hand, and out came his brother! ‘What!’ the midwife exclaimed. ‘How did you break out first?’ So he was named Perez. Then the baby with the scarlet string on his wrist was born, and he was named Zerah.”
The dramatic turn of events in this brief narrative foretells the shocking story of the Gentile-dominant Church taking priority over the nation of Israel. Do you see how Perez fulfills the divine oracle of Gen. 25:23? In the blink of an eye, he literally separates himself from his brother and exemplifies “the younger ruling the older,” and “the last becoming the first.” In a similar manner, prophetically speaking, the Church seizes the opportunity when Israel “pulls back” in unbelief. During Israel’s partial hardening, the body of Christ breaks out to become one with the Son of God, the Firstborn and Ruler over all creation!
The name, Perez, Strong’s #6555, has three primary meanings: to make a breach, burst forth, or break out/away. Furthermore, in these last of the last days, the name Peres/Perez has been showing up repeatedly (see Matt’s most recent post at Daily Crow, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” especially chapter 11). It’s a name of extreme significance when it comes to the long-awaited Messiah, and the meticulous genealogical records in Scripture demonstrate the prominence of Perez. For example, see the passages below:
(1) Numbers 26:19-20
(2) Ruth 4:18
(3) 1 Chronicles 4:1
(5) Luke 3:33
Thus, based on the biblical evidence, we have a direct link from Perez to Christ, and, by implication, we can most assuredly associate Christ [the Head] with His body, the Church (Eph. 1:20-23; 2:11-22; 5:29-32; Col. 1:18; and Rev. 12:5!).
Perez, as his name signifies, made a breach [divide] for himself and came out of the womb first. In the same vein, if you are rightly “dividing the Word” (2 Tim. 2:15), then you’ll also see a divergent course for the Church and Israel in future prophecy: Christ/His body is an eager Perez and delivered first. The remnant of Israel during the Tribulation is a reluctant Zerah and delivered last.
Big-picture Takeaway #2: There is a biblical precedent for discontinuity and separation between Israel and the Church in the beginning
Tracing the Thread: The Body of Christ [Church] Born First, and a Reluctant Remnant [Israel] Born Last
In addition to Perez creating a divide and breaking out of the womb first, there is another prophetic link associated with Zerah, which, I believe, represents Israel’s unwillingness and stubborn refusal to turn back to Yahweh. This theme of reluctancy and “turning away from the light” echoes throughout the rest of Scripture and exemplifies Israel’s attitude toward God in many contexts.
The red thread (translated as either “scarlet” or “crimson”) tied around Zerah’s hand was originally intended to ensure his supremacy and status as the firstborn. However, there is a sudden plot-twist in Gen. 38:29—Zerah shrinks back and Perez leaps up. A symbol which was suppose to represent headship and supremacy now means something else entirely.
After doing a word study on “scarlet” (used twice for emphasis in Gen. 38:28 and 30), I found some interesting connections elsewhere in Scripture. A survey of the Greek term [kokkinos] throughout the LXX and NT made a few of these connections clearer, and I have condensed them into three main categories:
(1) The Mosaic Law: These covenant passages constitute the majority of where kokkinos is found, especially the books of Exodus and Leviticus (e.g. Ex. 25:4; Lev. 14:6). The author of Hebrews sums up this Old Covenant red-thread association nicely in Heb. 9:19-22 (v. 19 contains one of merely six usages of kokkinos in the NT). I’ll include Rahab’s scarlet cord under this category too, because her act symbolizes covenant-loyalty and faithfulness to Israel (Josh. 2:17-21).
(2) Wealth, Beauty, and Royalty: There are two usages in Song of Solomon (4:3; 6:7); one in reference to Satan’s kingdom (Rev. 17:3); a few about Mystery Babylon (Rev. 17:4; 18:12, 16); and one significant association with the sacrificial death of the King of kings (Matt. 27:28).
(3) Sin, Harlotry, and Rebellion: There is a powerful association with the use of “scarlet” and Israel’s idolatry in Jeremiah 4:30-31 (note the “cry of a woman in labor” in v. 31). Lastly, the use of “scarlet” in Isaiah 1:18captures the sense of Israel’s waywardness perfectly:
Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (NLT).
In summary, the term kokkinos has both positive and negative connotations depending on the surrounding context. Consequently, it appears that the Zerah “red-thread” theme presented in Genesis 38 can be traced right through the Law, Prophets, and all the way to the end of the Tribulation, when Israel finally turns around and heads toward the opening of the womb.
Yahweh’s red-thread message to Jacob and his Zerah-esque remnant should be familiar to anyone who has read the whole story. It goes something like this:
Despite your unfaithfulness and infidelity, Jacob, I am Your faithful King. I have made an irrevocable promise to You, O’ Israel, and I will not go back on My word. Though you play the harlot and go after the wealth and riches of your lovers, I will win you back, cleanse you of your scarlet sins, and clothe you in My righteous white garments. Your children, though reluctant like Zerah, will turn around when they are in distress, and I will deliver them and bring them home to be with Me forever.”
And before the remnant of Israel returns and is fully delivered, we now await our breakout moment. Like Perez, the body of Christ is ready to be born. Heads up, brothers and sisters, we’re getting close to the due date!
Here are a few familiar passages covered by many who have been digging deeper into the Revelation 12 sign and its implications. With the insight from Genesis 25 and 38, I hope that you will be able to see these Scriptures in a new light.
Ephraim’s guilt is preserved; his sin is stored up. Labor pains come on him. He is not a wise son; when the time comes, he will not be born [lit. ‘he will not present himself at the opening of the womb for sons’]. I will ransom them from the power of Sheol. I will redeem them from death. Death, where are your barbs? Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes” (HCSB + footnote added).
Cross reference the passage quoted above with Jer. 31:9, 18-20 and Hos. 11:8. Given the Perez/Zerah connection, do you think the apostle Paul had insight as well when he alluded to Hosea 13:14 in 1 Corinthians 15:55?
Before she was in labor, she gave birth; before her pain came, she delivered a male child [hello, Perez!]. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children [hello, Zerah!]” (NKJV, added commentary mine).
Therefore, he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth [hello, Perez!]; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel [hello, Zerah!]” (ESV, added commentary mine).
Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’…For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed [hello, Zerah!]. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God [hello, Perez!]” (NASB, added commentary mine).
Finally, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, now that we see the Day approaching, clear and within reach, don’t draw back in unbelief. It’s getting uncomfortable in the womb right now, so let’s be like Perez and seize the Day!
Yet a little while, and the coming One will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:37-38, ESV).
Amen, and amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus!!! (Click to Site)