By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
If you are familiar with the Old Testament, then you will know the story of Jacob and his sons. It was from these sons that the twelve tribes of Israel were formed. One of those tribes was the tribe of Judah. While there are diverse elements within each tribe, there are some interesting facts about the tribe of Judah that are worth noting. Since the tribes were all birthed from people, you cannot talk about the tribe of Judah without talking about the person of Judah. When you look at Judah's life and connect it to the tribe of Judah, you will ultimately see a reminder that God uses imperfect people like us to accomplish his perfect plan. Let's look at nine interesting facts about the tribe of Judah.
Interesting Facts about the Person of Judah:
What Is the Origin of the Tribe of Judah?
Judah was the fourth son born to Leah, who was one of Jacob's wives. Unfortunately, Leah was not the love of Jacob's life; Rachel was. Because Rachel was unable to have children, Leah thought that bearing children for Jacob would make him love her, but it did not. The first three sons were Rueben, Simeon, Levi, and then came Judah.
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son, she said, "This time I will praise the Lord." So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children. – Genesis 29:35
What Does the Name Judah Mean?
The name Judah is awfully close to the Hebrew word for praise which is Yadah. When you offer Yadah, you are praising God with extended or raised hands. When hands are raised, it usually signals two things, either praise and adoration or surrender. This is one form of praise that God loves, so when you think of Judah, think of lifted hands.
"Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing." – 1 Timothy 2:8
Who Was Judah?
If you remember the life of Joseph, his brothers hated him and wanted to kill him, but Judah convinced them not to do that. You could say he interceded for his brother's life.
"Judah said to his brothers, 'What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.' His brothers agreed." – Genesis 37:26-27
Judah Had an Interesting Family Life
I can't explain everything that Judah experienced in his family life, so you will have to read Genesis 38 to get the full story. Here are a few highlights.
- Judah married a Canaanite woman named Shua.
- Had two sons who were wicked, so the Lord put them to death.
- He had sexual relations with his daughter-in-law that produced twin boys.
Those are some of the highlights to fill in the gaps. I encourage you to go and read Genesis 38.
Judah Convinced Israel (Jacob) to Allow Him to Take Benjamin Back to Joseph
"Then Judah said to Israel his father, 'Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.'" – Genesis 43:8-10
Judah seemed to constantly in this role of leadership amongst his brothers. He negotiated for Joseph's life, and here we see him again speaking up to promise to protect Benjamin. He also did this when they finally reunited with Joseph. You can consider Judah a leader in his family.
Interesting Facts about the Tribe of Judah:
Where Did the Tribe of Judah Settle?
In Joshua 15, you will see the full distribution of land that was assigned to Judah. Their land was primarily in the south, and when the kingdom split, the southern part of Israel was referred to as Judah. Thus there was a king of Judah and a king of Israel.
The Tribe of Judah Remained Loyal to David
When the nation split into the two kingdoms after Solomon's death, Judah remained faithful to David.
"When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David." – 1 Kings 12:20
The Tribe of Judah Was First to Go Into Battle
There was a period of time when the nation of Israel was conquering other nations, and unfortunately, there was a civil war. In both instances, God gave commands to send Judah first.
War Against Other Nations
"After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, 'Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?' The Lord answered, 'Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.'" – Judges 1:1-2
“The Israelites went up to Bethel and inquired of God. They said, ‘Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Benjamites?’ The Lord replied, ‘Judah shall go first.’" – Judges 20:18
There is a lesson of significance you can attach to sending Judah in first. Remember what Judah means. It means to praise, and specifically to praise with uplifted hands. It is as if God is saying when you walk into battle, go in with lifted hands, offering praise to me and surrendering the outcome to my hands. When you do that, there is an assurance that you will have victory.
Why Was the Lineage of the Tribe of Judah Important?
Perhaps the most important fact about the tribe of Judah is the one who would come through the tribe of Judah. Yes, David was a king, and Solomon was a king, but this heritage eventually led to Jesus. Jesus' earthly lineage flowed through the tribe of Judah. Jacob prophesied this in Genesis.
"Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons will bow down to you. You are a lion's cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk." – Genesis 49:8-12
One of the things you will notice in this prophecy is that Jacob mentions that the scepter will not depart from Judah, and he refers to Judah as a lion. The scepter meant power, authority, and rulership. In essence, Jacob predicted that there would be a king who would come from Judah who would rule and never give up his throne. We know that king to be Jesus, also known as the lion of the tribe of Judah. What Jacob said here about the tribe of Judah is confirmed later in a prophecy that God gave to David.
"Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever." – 2 Samuel 7:16
Because David was from the tribe of Judah, these two prophecies align. One day Jesus would come through this line of Judah to redeem mankind, and one day he will come again, and all the world will know that he is Lord of all. He will take his rightful place as ruler and king forever and ever. If I could sum up the facts about the tribe of Judah, I will go back to something I mentioned earlier. Like all of us, Judah, the person, was a flawed man, yet his lineage brought the perfect savior. In the future, whenever you think of Judah or the tribe of Judah, remember that Judah is another representation of God's perfect plan being accomplished through imperfect people.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/PeterHermesFurian
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, teacher, author, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled to try to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.