27 When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb. 28 And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29 But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Perez.[e] (Genesis 38:27)
Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them. (Psalm 106:23)
3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, (Matthew 1:3)
In the middle of the story of Joseph, we have this random and scandalous story about Judah fathering twins with his daughter in law. As the twins are being born, one puts his hand out. The midwife ties a scarlet thread on his hand to indicate that technically, he was the first one to be born. But then his brother came out. So when the firstborn emerges, the midwife says something odd—“What a breach you have made for yourself” (other translations put it in the form of a question: “How did you break through?”). Which leads Tamar to name the child Perez, the Hebrew word for “breach” or “break forth.” He was the first recorded breach baby.
It’s a weird story. But it points to Christ. Perez establishes his place in the family tree of Jesus, because the Lion of the tribe of Judah would come through Perez, and not his brother Zerah.
Incidentally, here’s yet another example of a younger son having preeminence over an older son. (See Day 020: “Heirs and Spares”).
Let’s think about the midwife’s words in verse 29: “What a breach you have made for yourself!” This word “breach” is both a verb and a noun. As a verb, it means to break through or create an opening. When an army breaches the enemy’s defenses, it often turns the tide of the battle and assures the defeat of the enemy.
When “breach” is used as a noun, it describes the gap between two things. It’s the opening in the wall. It’s also the rift in the relationship.
Consider how this story of the first breach baby points to Jesus:
Like Zerah, who was born first and then drew back, Jesus is the firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15). Yet, Jesus was not born into the world until thousands of years after the first man, Adam. He withdrew. He held back until “just the right time” (Romans 5:6-8).
And then, He broke through. He breached (verb) the lines of the Enemy and turned the tide of the battle. When He broke through, victory was made certain.
At the same time He stood in the breach (noun) between Holy God and sinful man. Like Moses was described in Psalm 106, Jesus turned God’s wrath away from us.
Jesus is the ultimate breach baby. He has broken forth into our world. And because of Him, we can grasp hold of the “scarlet thread of redemption.”
Note: The phrase “scarlet thread of redemption” comes from a classic Bible study by WA Criswell, in which he traced the motif of the scarlet thread all through scripture. You can download a free pdf of the study here.
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