The 4th son of Jacob and Leah.
Genesis 37:12 - 36 One day when Joseph's brothers had taken the sheep to a pasture near Shechem, his father Jacob said to him, "I want you to go to your brothers. They are with the sheep near Shechem." "Yes, sir," Joseph answered. His father said, "Go and find out how your brothers and the sheep are doing. Then come back and let me know." So he sent him from Hebron Valley. Joseph was near Shechem and wandering through the fields, when a man asked, "What are you looking for?" Joseph answered, "I'm looking for my brothers who are watching the sheep. Can you tell me where they are?" "They're not here anymore," the man replied. "I overheard them say they were going to Dothan." Joseph left and found his brothers in Dothan. But before he got there, they saw him coming and made plans to kill him. They said to one another, "Look, here comes the hero of those dreams! Let's kill him and throw him into a pit and say that some wild animal ate him. Then we'll see what happens to those dreams." Reuben heard this and tried to protect Joseph from them. "Let's not kill him," he said. "Don't murder him or even harm him. Just throw him into a dry well out here in the desert." Reuben planned to rescue Joseph later and take him back to his father. When Joseph came to his brothers, they pulled off his fancy coat and threw him into a dry well. As Joseph's brothers sat down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with all kinds of spices that they were taking to Egypt. So Judah said, "What will we gain if we kill our brother and hide his body? Let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not harm him. After all, he is our brother." And the others agreed. When the Midianite merchants came by, Joseph's brothers took him out of the well, and for twenty pieces of silver they sold him to the Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt. When Reuben returned to the well and did not find Joseph there, he tore his clothes in sorrow. Then he went back to his brothers and said, "The boy is gone! What am I going to do?" Joseph's brothers killed a goat and dipped Joseph's fancy coat in its blood. After this, they took the coat to their father and said, "We found this! Look at it carefully and see if it belongs to your son." Jacob knew it was Joseph's coat and said, "It's my son's coat! Joseph has been torn to pieces and eaten by some wild animal." Jacob mourned for Joseph a long time, and to show his sorrow he tore his clothes and wore sackcloth. All of Jacob's children came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "No," he said, "I will go to my grave, mourning for my son." So Jacob kept on grieving. Meanwhile, the Midianites had sold Joseph in Egypt to a man named Potiphar, who was the king's official in charge of the palace guard.
He saved his younger half brother, Joseph, from death by the plan of selling him to the Midianites. We will study more about this story when we study Joseph.
In Genesis 42-43, Judah was the brethren's spokesman in prevailing on Jacob to let Benjamin go to Egypt, and he accepted responsibility for him. And when Joseph's cup was found with Benjamin, Judah professed their guilt and his willingness to become a servant, though actually innocent of stealing it, in order to pay for the cup. Then Judah touchingly appealed to the supposed Egyptian prince (who was his younger half brother, Joseph) to detain him as a bondservant instead of his youngest brother, by describing his father's love for Benjamin after having lost Joseph (Genesis 44). Judah, in his conduct before Joseph in Egypt, manifested true nobility; he had sold Joseph yet he was willing to be sold himself for the youngest brother.
So, when Reuben forfeited his birthright by incest, Simeon and Levi by manslaughter, Judah, the next oldest, received from Jacob the best blessing of the older sons. He inherits the birthright, blessing and the family’s headship.
Judah stopped with his friend Hirah, an Adullamite, and there married a Canaanitess, Shuah's daughter (Bath-Shua), by whom he had sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. Judah should not have married a foreign woman.
About that time Judah left his brothers in the hill country and went to live near his friend Hirah in the town of Adullam. While there he met the daughter of Shua, a Canaanite man. Judah married her, and they had three sons. He named the first one Er; she named the next one Onan. The third one was born when Judah was in Chezib, and she named him Shelah. Later, Judah chose Tamar as a wife for Er, his oldest son. But Er was very evil, and the LORD took his life. So Judah told Onan, "It's your duty to marry Tamar and have a child for your brother." Onan knew the child would not be his, and when he had sex with Tamar, he made sure that she would not get pregnant. The LORD wasn't pleased with Onan and took his life too. Judah did not want the same thing to happen to his son Shelah, and he told Tamar, "Go home to your father and live there as a widow until my son Shelah is grown." So Tamar went to live with her father. Some years later Judah's wife died, and he mourned for her. He then went with his friend Hirah to the town of Timnah, where his sheep were being sheared. Tamar found out that her father-in-law Judah was going to Timnah to shear his sheep. She also realized that Shelah was now a grown man, but she had not been allowed to marry him. So she decided to dress in something other than her widow's clothes and to cover her face with a veil. After this, she sat outside the town of Enaim on the road to Timnah. When Judah came along, he did not recognize her because of the veil. He thought she was a prostitute and asked her to sleep with him. She asked, "What will you give me if I do?" "One of my young goats," he answered. "What will you give me to keep until you send the goat?" she asked. "What do you want?" he asked in return. "The ring on that cord around your neck," was her reply. "I also want the special walking stick you have with you." He gave them to her, they slept together, and she became pregnant. After returning home, Tamar took off the veil and dressed in her widow's clothes again. Judah had his friend Hirah take a goat to the woman, so he could get back the ring and walking stick, but she wasn't there. Hirah asked the people of Enaim, "Where is the prostitute who sat along the road outside your town?" "There's never been one here," they answered. Hirah went back and told Judah, "I couldn't find the woman, and the people of Enaim said no prostitute had ever been there." "If you couldn't find her, we'll just let her keep the things I gave her," Judah answered. "And we'd better forget about the goat, or else we'll look like fools." About three months later someone told Judah, "Your daughter-in-law Tamar has behaved like a prostitute, and now she's pregnant!" "Drag her out of town and burn her!" Judah shouted. As Tamar was being dragged off, she sent someone to tell her father-in-law, "The man who gave me this ring, this cord, and this walking stick is the one who got me pregnant." "Those are mine!" Judah admitted. "She's a better person than I am, because I broke my promise to let her marry my son Shelah." After this, Judah never slept with her again. Tamar later gave birth to twins. But before either of them was born, one of them stuck a hand out of her womb. The woman who was helping tied a red thread around the baby's hand and explained, "This one came out first." Right away his hand went back in, and the other child was born first. The woman then said, "What an opening you've made for yourself!" So they named the baby Perez. When the brother with the red thread came out, they named him Zerah.
Er died childless; and according to custom his widow was suppose to marry the next eldest son, Onan. But Onan refused to preserve the name of his deceased brother that died childless. The Messiah was to descend from Judah! He didn’t have natural, procreating sex with Tamar and thus did not consummate the marriage. So God was displeased and killed him. He could have been in the lineage of Christ but he refused. Judah became superstitiously afraid to let his youngest son marry her although he promises him to her. In his heart he blamed her for the sudden deaths of his elder sons when the real cause of their deaths was their own wickedness. His father’s heart couldn’t admit to their sin. It was easier to blame Tamar. Shelah grows up and yet was not given to Tamar as a husband, so she determined to procure children from Judah himself, who had become a widower in the meantime. He was unjust to his daughter-in-law, either through negligence or design, in not giving her his surviving son, and this exposed her to temptation. Tamar wickedly prostituted herself as a harlot to Judah, so the father might raise up seed to the deceased. It is possible she had left her Canaanite beginnings and believed in the Jewish God and learned of the prophecies to Abraham about the Messianic descendant and, by faith, she wanted to be a part of that honored family. But the way she went about it was wrong. Her scheme was well planned. Judah was taken in the snare, and through it he was guilty of incest with his daughter-in-law (not knowing who she was), and, willfully guilty of fornication. Whoever she was, he knew she was not his wife, and therefore not to be touched. He has no excuse.
When Tamar is discovered to be pregnant, her scandal reflected on Judah as well as her own family because she was married in the eyes of the law (Judah had promised Shelah to her) to his youngest son, Shelah. She was to be either burnt to death or branded by hot iron as stigmatized for being a harlot. Like Nathaniel Hawthorne's “Scarlet Letter”. But she shows the signet ring, cord and walking stick to prove it had been Judah who had impregnated her. His foolish shame is made public after all and he has to publicly exonerate her. It is a common thing for men to be severe against those whose sins match their own. In judging others, they condemn themselves. Tamar has twins and Judah has 3 sons again. She has a hard birth and when the first fist came out, they tied a scarlet thread around his wrist as the first born of the twins. But then the fist is drawn back and the other baby, Perez, is born first. Zerah is actually born second. These boys, like Jacob and Esau, struggled for the birthright. Perez obtained it, and from him Christ descended.
The Jews, just like Zerah, deserved the birthright, and were marked with a scarlet thread, as those that came first. The Gospel of Salvation through Jesus Christ was offered to them first. But, their nation as a whole, rejected Christ. They pulled back. But the Gentiles, like Perez, accepted Jesus as Christ and Messiah. They pressed forward and broke through to take what was offered to them, salvation. Yet, when the fullness of time is come, all Israel shall be saved because both sons are mentioned in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1:3 (Tamar and Judah are mentioned too).
Judah publicly admitted his guilt and never had sexual relations with Tamar again. I.e. his heart had truly turned away from the sin because his further actions proved it. True repentance is not only regretting your sin but turning away from it and leaving it behind. Despite the sin of Judah and Tamar, God forgives, redeems and extends mercy to the repentant.
When he moved to Egypt with his family it was himself and his 3 sons.
At the time of the Exodus, when we meet with the family of Judah again, they have increased to the number of 74,000 males. God was praised for him, Genesis 29:35, praised by him, and praised in him; therefore his brethren shall praise him. Judah should be a strong and courageous tribe. Judah is not a raging lion, but a lion enjoying the satisfaction of his power and success.
Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, represented the tribe as one of the spies. Judah is the tribe that both King David and the Messiah, King Jesus, came from. Upon the death of Saul, David established the tribe of Judah into a separate kingdom (II Sam. 2: 1). The house of Saul, under the weak Ish-bosheth, reigned over the remaining tribes for 7 1/2 years. Judah was then reunited to Israel under King David. This union continued for eighty years, through the reigns of King David and his son, King Solomon. The legitimate successor of the kingdom (established by David) was Solomon's son Rehoboam. The kingdom separated into Southern Judah (which included the Tribe of Benjamin, most of the Levite tribe, and the Holy City of Jerusalem) and their king, Rehoboam; and Northern Israel with their king, Jeroboam I.
Judah, may your brothers praise you. May your hand be in the neck of your enemies. May your father's sons bow before you.
Judah is a lion's whelp. My son, you have gone up from the prey. He stooped, he crouched like a lion; and like a lioness, who shall rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a Lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come. And the obedience of the peoples to him.
Binding his foal to the vine, and his ass's colt to the choice vine, he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes shall be sparkling with wine, and his teeth white from milk.
The fulfillment of God's purposes is connected with Judah, for, the King who wields the sceptre, and the Judge who administers the law, comes from Judah, and the gathering of the people will be to Him. Jesus Christ is the King of King's, the Lion of Judah, the Prince of Peace. He is the fulfillment of this prophecy.
The hand (symbolizing powerful action) will be in the midst of it’s enemies. They may be surrounded by enemies but they shall have the upper hand. When our Lord Jesus returns to this earth as a mighty King, then all will bow down in homage to Him, as many have already done for centuries in prayer! Just as a lion seizes his prey and returns to the den, daring any to challenge him, so our Savior, the Lion of Judah, takes us by force from our enemies, the devil and sin, to take us back to His City and there, we will be forever protected.
“He crouched like a lion” indicates all 4 legs folded under him in rest. As in, "It is done."
The scepter indicates His kingship, the right to rule, the title to all power, His rod of punishment against His enemies. The old "lion" is Jacob, his son, Judah, is his whelp. When Judah's descendants, the Jews, were "whelps" they were seized and devoured by others, they cried, but were not strong enough to fight other nations so he learned to keep his head low. But the whelp will grow up and rise up himself against other nations.
A young lion for agility and grace; a full-grown lion for strength and majesty; a lioness whose fierceness defends her offspring.
“Shiloh” means “to rest” or “he to whom it belongs” and is used as a personal name for Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and He has the right and ownership of His people. This blessing came way before the city of Shiloh was established. Later, when the Tabernacle was set up in the city of Shiloh in Canaan, all Israel "knew" that the Lord God dwelt with them. Not in person but in Spirit. Because of God dwelling there with them the people were delivered from their enemies, and His "presence" brought blessing. So Shiloh was a city of redemption or Salvation. Since the Ark disappeared in ancient history, "Shiloh" means Jesus Christ. He became the Salvation, the Redeemer and Deliverer from our enemies and sins, who is with us always. He is that city of strength and refuge. He is the place of refuge. He dwells within Christians as the Holy Spirit. He makes His home in us.
The Seed promised to Abraham was to be a great ruler. Isaac and Jacob in turn inherited this promise, and now Judah was to be the ‘lion’s whelp,’ that is, the one to inherit God’s royal promise.
Jerusalem, enemy troops have surrounded you; they have struck Israel's ruler in the face with a stick.
Bethlehem Ephrath (the Bethlehem where Jesus was born), you are one of the smallest towns in the nation of Judah. But the LORD will choose one of your people to rule the nation -- someone whose family goes back to ancient times.
The LORD will abandon Israel only until this ruler is born, and the rest of his family returns to Israel.
Like a shepherd taking care of his sheep, this Ruler will lead and care for His people by the power and glorious name of the LORD His God. His people will live securely, and the whole earth will know His true greatness,
because He will bring peace.
The time is coming when the people of Judah will sing this song: "Our city is protected. The LORD is our fortress, and he gives us victory. Open the city gates for a law-abiding nation that is faithful to God. The LORD gives perfect peace to those whose faith is firm. So always trust the LORD because he is forever our mighty rock.
The last verses of the blessing upon Judah refers to Jesus, who would ride a young donkey in the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem where the common people cheered and praised Him. Jesus was really entering unto His death on the cross because He knew death awaited Him and, yet, He went to His destiny. He voluntarily gave His live for us and He was obedient unto death. Jacob’s prophesy was fulfilled. And, though our sins were scarlet, He washed us white as snow. His death, the blood He shed, was the wine or grape juice that washed our filthy, tattered garments of self righteousness. He shed His blood for us, for our cleansing. He has provided garments of righteousness that are pure and clean. When we partake in the Lord’s Supper, Communion, we are asked to remember Jesus’ death, sacrifice and resurrection, when we drink the wine that represents His blood and eat the cracker that represents His broken body. As He has saved us and reconciled us to God, His pure joy shines in His eyes and smile!
Zechariah 9:9 (Messianic prophecy)
Everyone in Jerusalem, celebrate and shout! Your king has won a victory, and he is coming to you. He is humble and rides on an ass; and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.
Matthew 21:1-9 (Prophesy fulfillment)
And when they drew near Jerusalem, and had come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,
saying to them, Go into the village across from you. And immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me.
And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them, and immediately He will send them.
All this was done so that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
"Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your King comes to you, meek, and sitting on an ass, even a colt the foal of an ass."
And the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.
And they brought the ass, even the colt, and put their clothes on them, and He sat on them.
And a very great crowd spread their garments in the way. Others cut down branches from the trees and spread them in the way.
And the crowds who went before, and those who followed, cried out, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!
At its height, Judah was the leading tribe, and occupied most of the territory of the kingdom, except for a small region in the north east occupied by Benjamin, and an enclave towards the south west which was occupied by Simeon. It had 4 distinct regions: The Negev (south), the Shephelah (coast lands), the Wilderness (wild and barely inhabitable), and the Hills (an elevated plateau that was very fertile).
And it happened after the death of Joshua, the children of Israel asked Jehovah, saying, Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?
And Jehovah said, Judah shall go up. Behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.
And Judah said to Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot so that we may fight against the Canaanites. And I likewise will go with you into your lot. So Simeon went with him.
And Judah went up. And Jehovah delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand. And they killed ten thousand men of them in Bezek.
Under Caleb, during the wars of conquest, Judah conquered that portion of the country which was later assigned to it as its inheritance.
While the northern tribes (the northern Kingsom of Israel) were effectively scattered and "lost" after the Assyrian conquest in 722 B.C, the Judahites (the southern Kingdom of Judah) maintained their ethnic and cultural identity after being exiled to Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon in 587 B.C. Under Cyrus of Persia, many returned to Jerusalem, rebuilt the Temple and established a national identity as "Jews" which has lasted until this day. The northern tribes reconstituted to some degree in Samaria, but were denigrated by the Jews for intermarrying with foreign peoples and for worshiping outside of Jerusalem at Mount Gerizim. What remained of the northern tribes either evolved into the Samaritans, assimilated with Judah as "Jews," or were simply considered to be "lost."
(Note – Assyria was named after it’s capital city, Asshur, and was a colony of Babylon. Assyria became an independent and a conquering power, and shook off the yoke of its Babylonian masters and it absorbed Babylon. It subdued the whole of Northern Asia. The Assyrians were Semites (see Genesis 10:22) but in the process of time non-Semite tribes mingled with the inhabitants. They were a military people, the “Romans of the East.”)