Perez and Zerah: The Forgotten Twins of Genesis (Genesis 38:27)

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Ask anyone to name a set of twins from the Bible, and they’ll almost always point to Jacob and Esau. Every time. Seriously, try it.

But did you know there was a second set of twins in the book of Genesis? And that their stories are remarkably similar?

If you remember from Genesis 25:22-26, Jacob and Esau “struggled” inside of Rebekah’s womb. When it came to deliver them, Jacob emerged holding on to Esau’s heel. 

In hindsight, it’s one of the clearest acts of foreshadowing we find in the entire book. Though Esau was the oldest, the story ultimately is Jacob’s. We follow him, the youngest son, throughout Genesis. Not Esau.

An eerily similar story happens with Jacob’s grandhildren, Perez and Zerah. Born as the result of an incestuous union between Judah (Jacob’s son) and his daughter-in-law Tamar, Perez and Judah are born and almost immediately forgotten about in Scripture.

With the exception of their birth, that is. At their birth, it appeared that Zerah would be the first born. He shoots his hand forth and the midwife ties a scarlet cord around it to signify the firstborn. Then, inexplicably, he draws it back and Perez is born first; Zerah, the one initially expected to be born first, comes out after.

Even for the people present, such an event was a surprise. The midwife even names him Perez, which means “breach” to represent the foothold he created for himself.

Why is any of this important (besides being a part of Scripture)? For starters, it’s through the genealogy of Perez that eventually the Messiah will be born. Matthew 1:3 and Luke 3:33 both clearly state that Jesus came from the line of Judah through Perez (although Zerah is given an honorable mention in Matthew’s account). 

But Perez’s birth also gives us a glimpse into who the Messiah would be, as well. 

If you could sum up the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus in one word, you could use the word “surprising.” Virtually nothing about the actual Messiah was expected. He didn’t preach what they wanted, didn’t describe a Kingdom they expected, and didn’t die in a manner that befit a King.

And yet, just like Zerah, he was the rightful Heir. 

While everyone else was looking at the ones with the scarlet threads around their hands, Jesus “made a breach” for Himself as the Son of God.