A literary reading within the canon suggests that the story of Judah and Tamar points to the morally ambiguous origins of David's lineage. Ancient Jewish exegesis, however, challenges this understanding. The Testament of Judah interprets Genesis 38 as the story of a warrior king's tragic downfall. Targum Neofiti develops it to illustrate the concept "sanctification of the (divine) Name". and Genesis Rabbah portrays it as a series of providential events issuing in the royal and messianic lineage.
Esther Marie Menn pioneers a fresh approach to the study of biblical interpretation by analyzing the relation between interpretative genre, altered plot structure, and cultural values.