Categories: Jacob, Men in the Old Testament
- Judah is the fourth son of Jacob and his first wife, Leah.
- The name Judah means, “thanksgiving” or “praise.” Leah names this son, Judah, from the verb “to praise” and resolves to praise God for his wonderful provisions.
- Leah does not mention Jacob, which suggests that she has resigned herself to her situation and has stopped having children for the purpose of gaining her husband’s love. Now she praises God. “Now will I praise Jehovah, and she called his name Yehudah.”
- Judah is also the progenitor of the Tribe of Judah that becomes known as the southern kingdom.
- Judah is with his brothers when Joseph tells them of his dreams. He, along with his brothers, “hated Joseph,” according to the Bible.
- He is with his brothers in the field when Joseph comes by wearing his coat with long sleeves.
- They conspire to kill Joseph.
- Reuben convinces the brothers to throw Joseph into a pit, thinking he will come later and rescue him.
- The brothers then sit down to eat.
- Judah suggests that they sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites, “and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.”
- The brothers agree, and they sell him for twenty pieces of silver.
- Shortly thereafter, Judah leaves his brothers to settle near Adullam.
- There, he sees the daughter of a Canaanite whose name is Shua.
- He marries the woman, and they have three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah.
- Judah arranges a wife for Er named, Tamar.
- Unfortunately, Er is “wicked in the sight of the Lord,” so the Lord “put him to death.”
- Invoking the concept of Levirate marriage, Judah says to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her; raise up offspring for your brother.”
- But Onan knows that this child will not be his offspring, so he makes sure Tamar doesn’t get pregnant.
- This also displeases the Lord, so he “put him to death as well.”
- Judah says to his daughter-in-law, Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until Shelah grows up.” But by this time, Judah is worried that he would also die because of her.
- Sometime later Judah’s wife passes away; Judah mourns.
- When the time of mourning ends, Judah goes to Timnah to his sheepshearers.
- Someone tells this to Tamar, who puts off her widow’s garment, puts on a veil, wraps herself up, and sits near the road to Timnah.
- By now she realizes that Shelah is grown up, but she has not been given to him in marriage – a breach of contract with Judah.
- Judah sees her along the road and thinks she is a prostitute.
- He asks for her favor, but she insists that he give her something first.
- He offers a kid from his flock, but she asks for his “signet, his cord, and his staff.”
- He willingly gives them to her, and she conceives.
- When he sends his friend with the young goat to retrieve his pledges, no one can find her.
- Months later, someone tells him that Tamar is pregnant.
- He assumes she has been sleeping around, so he says, “Bring her out and let her be burned.”
- However, she sends word to him that the father of her child is the one who gave her the signet, cord, and staff.
- Judah recognizes them as his and says, “She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.”
- And he does not lie with her again.
- Turns out she has twins, Perez and Zerah. (Perez will become the ancestor of King David.)
- Years later, Judah is with his brothers in Egypt.
- When the initial grain runs out, he convinces Jacob to send Benjamin back with them – per Joseph’s demand.
- Jacob resists, but Judah promises to be surety for him. Jacob can hold him accountable if things don’t work out as planned.
- When the missing items are found in Benjamin’s pack, Judah and his brothers fall to the ground before Joseph.
- Judah is the only brother that speaks.
- He pleads for the life of Benjamin, saying that their father will die if he doesn’t return.
- He offers to bear the blame for Benjamin.
- His speech is so impassioned that Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and invites all of them to join him in Egypt.
- Jacob also has a deathbed blessing for Judah.
- Judah is likened to a lion, strong and secure whose hand will be on the necks of his enemies.
- He will be praised by his brothers.
- From him the scepter will never part.
- King David hails from Judah, and thereafter Judah will be the dominant tribe for three centuries.
- Judah lives to be somewhere between 119 and 129 years of age.