Who was Judah in the Bible?

A simple but complex narrative.

Jesus is called the Lion of Judah who has triumphed. Jesus has triumphed over temptation and sin, over pain and suffering, over fear, over death and even over the Devil himself. Jesus is the Lion who retreats before nothing!

”A lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing;” Proverbs 30:30

Proverbs 30:30 isn’t specifically talking about Jesus as the lion, but He is called the Lion of Judah, and this verse is empowering if envisioning Jesus as that mighty lion who retreats before nothing. Verse 29 says the lion is stately in his stride, and he moves with stately bearing:” Some synonyms for stately are: epic, glorious, heroic, majestic, massive, noble, and royal.

Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.

…After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him.

When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,”

she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.

When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.

Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.” “And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked.

“I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said. “Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked.

He said, “What pledge should I give you?” “Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him.

After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.

Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her.

He asked the men who lived there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?” “There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said.

So he went back to Judah and said, “I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’ ”

Then Judah said, “Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn’t find her.”

About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.” Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”

As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”

Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.

When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb.

As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.”

But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez.

Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah

So Judah told Onan, “Go and sleep with your brother’s widow; it’s the duty of a brother-in-law to keep your brother’s line alive.” But Onan knew that the child wouldn’t be his, so whenever he slept with his brother’s widow he spilled his semen on the ground so he wouldn’t produce a child for his brother.

We are shared Judah’s stepping out of his word to Tamar. Yet, according to the Christian narrative, he was the ancestor of Jesus.

How many generations are there from Judah to Jesus?

The total of 42 generations is achieved only by omitting several names, so the choice of three sets of fourteen seems deliberate. Various explanations have been suggested: fourteen is twice seven, symbolizing perfection and covenant, and is also the gematria (numerical value) of the name David.

Judah was the fourth son of Jacob with his wife Leah, and the head of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. The other 11 tribes descended from Judah’s brothers and half-brothers.


Judah’s second-to-youngest brother, Joseph, was preferred by their father, and Judah and his brothers hated Joseph (Genesis 37:3–4). One day, the brothers threw Joseph in a cistern and conspired to kill him. The eldest sibling, Reuben, argued against this course of action, intending to rescue Joseph from the others (verses 21–22). But while the brothers ate lunch, and in Reuben’s absence, a caravan approached, and Judah came up with a plan to sell Joseph to the caravan’s merchants as a slave (verses 26–17). The brothers agreed, and Joseph was sold and taken to Egypt.

It is possible that Judah felt remorse or guilt for his actions, for “at that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah” (Genesis 38:1). There, Judah married a Canaanite woman who gave Judah three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. When Er grew up, Judah gave him a wife named Tamar. But Er was an evil man, so the Lord put him to death (verse 7). Following the custom of levirate marriage, Tamar was then given to Onan, who selfishly refused to give Tamar children (verse 9); he was also put to death by the Lord for his actions. Shelah was too young to take a wife, so Judah ordered Tamar to live as a widow in her father’s house (verse 11).

After several years Judah’s own wife died (he was without a wife/partner), and he grieved. When he recovered from mourning, he traveled to Timnah to oversee to the shearing of his sheep. Tamar, still a widow in spite of the fact that Shelah had grown up, heard that her father-in-law was coming, and she devised a plan. Tamar put on a veil and pretended to be a prostitute on the road to Timnah (Genesis 38:14). The veil hid her identity from Judah, and Judah slept with her. Tamar became pregnant, which had been her goal all along. Three months later, when Judah found out that his supposedly chaste daughter-in-law was pregnant, he was filled with rage: “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” he demanded (verse 24). As she was being brought out for punishment as a harlot, Tamar produced evidence that her pregnancy was due to Judah’s own immorality. Judah saw his hypocrisy and repented, saying, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah” (verse 26). Judah did not have sexual relations with Tamar after that. She later gave birth to twins, two boys named Perez and Zerah (verses 29–30).

Meanwhile, God was with Judah’s brother Joseph in Egypt, elevating Joseph to a place of power second only the Pharaoh himself (Genesis 41:39–40). Joseph had interpreted the king’s dream warning of seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, and so Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of gathering grain to store for the lean years. Under Joseph’s supervision, a large amount of grain was set aside (verse 49). When the great famine came upon the land, it affected even Canaan. Judah and his brothers traveled from Canaan to Egypt to buy some of the surplus food. Joseph eventually revealed himself to his brothers, who were remorseful for what they had done to him (for more on this, see Genesis 42 – 45).

Soon, Joseph brought his entire family to the land of Egypt, where their descendants would live for several hundred years, according to God’s great plan for His people. This is where Jacob died, and before he passed, he called all his sons to bless them. In spite of all Judah’s faults, his blessing from Jacob was both rich and wonderful; in it, Jacob foretold that Judah’s house would be the greatest, and the scepter, or rule, would not depart from his descendants (see Genesis 49:8–12 for the full blessing). Jacob’s words held true, for, many years later, Judah’s line produced King David and his dynasty and, eventually, through the line of Perez, came the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5).

Published by Fellowship of Praise: ALL praise to God our Reason, Hallelujah!!!

To God be The glory. Let us praise God together for His ALL in our lives, Amen.

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