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This article is about the son of Jacob. For other uses, see Judah (disambiguation).

Judah (Hebrew: יהודה, Yehūḏāh; Greek: Ἰούδας, Ioudās; Latin: Iudas; "Name means::to praise"), (b. Born::Abib 2249 AM), was the fourth son of Jacob by Leah. He is the ancestor of the Tribe of Judah. Some notable descendants of Judah are David, ancestor of::Solomon, and ancestor of::Jesus Christ.

Judah's Early Life

The Bible says that after she bore Judah, his mother Leah said, "I will praise God." Judah was born in 2249 AM, and Leah did not have another son for three years.[1]

Judah's First Sons

In Married::Tammuz 2265 AM, Judah moved away to live in an Adullamite village. There he befriended a local named Hirah, and also took a local wife.[2] She bore him three sons in this order: Er, Onan, and Shelah.[3] The Bible does not say how soon apart they were born, but they were probably born about one year apart, beginning in 2266 AM.[4]

The Plot to Sell Joseph

In 2276 AM ({{#show: Joseph|?Sold as slave}}), Judah and his brothers hatched a plot against their brother Joseph. Most of the brothers wanted to kill Joseph. Judah suggested selling Joseph to a group of Ishmaelite and Midianite traders. Killing Joseph, he said, would gain them nothing and require them to conceal their act.[5]

Judah would not hear of Joseph again for about another twenty years.


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Five years later (2281 AM), two of Judah's three sons died. Er was perhaps fifteen years of age when Judah arranged for him to marry a young woman named Tamar.[6] The Bible says only that Er was a wicked man in God's sight, and that God took his life.[7] So Judah instructed his next younger son Onan to marry Tamar next and to sire a son that would be Er's son, according to the levirate obligation. But Onan did not wish to honor this obligation, and so whenever he was intimate with Tamar he made sure that he would not impregnate her.[8]

God found this act displeasing, and so Onan died as well. Judah, in fear that Shelah also would not survive, told Tamar to wait until Shelah was "grown up" and wear widow's garments until then. In fact, Judah did not summon Tamar when Shelah attained his majority.[9]

Perhaps in the next year (Married::Abib 2282 AM), Judah's first wife died. Judah and his friend Hirah went to Timnath to supervise the annual sheep-shearing. (This is usually done in the springtime, so that the sheep will not overheat in summer.[10]) Tamar heard about it, and also heard that by now Shelah had attained his majority—and Judah had not summoned her to marry Shelah.

Tamar then traveled to Timnath, but instead of her widow's clothes, she wore the veil of a harlot. She then sat openly on the road, so that Judah would see her—but Judah did not realize whom he was talking to. He asked her price for her services, and she asked him to make her an offer. He offered a young goat from his flock, and she then demanded a pledge. That pledge was his signet ring, his bracelets, and his staff, or rod.[11]

Judah agreed to give the pledge, and he was intimate with her and made her pregnant. Tamar did not stay in Timnath; instead she returned to her father's house and resumed her widow's clothes. Judah sent his friend Hirah with the goat, but by then Tamar was gone, and the villagers said that they never had a prostitute in that place. Judah decided to let the (to him) unknown prostitute keep his pledges, because he did not want the villagers to laugh at him if he came twice on the same seemingly foolish errand.[12]

Three months later, Judah's neighbors told him that his daughter-in-law had been found pregnant out-of-wedlock. Judah ordered her brought before him to be burned at the stake. But when she appeared, she had Judah's signet ring, bracelets, and staff. Judah acknowledged them as his, and even acknowledged his own faults in the affair, including his own failure to let her marry Shelah when the time had come. He never was intimate with Tamar again.[13]

The time for Tamar's delivery was probably the winter of 2283 AM. Judah was probably three months less than age of parenthood::34 years old at the time. Tamar was found to be pregnant with twins. As one boy thrust his arm out, the midwife attending Tamar tied a bright red cord around it. But the other boy still was born first, and the midwife said, "How did you break out first?" And so this boy was named Pharez, whose name means "a breach" or "breaking out." The other boy was born next, and he was given the name Zerah, which means "bright red."[14]

The Famine

Judah returned to his own father's house, taking Tamar and his twin sons with him. When this occurred, the Bible does not say, but it must have occurred on or before 2296 AM, when famine struck the Middle East. For reasons that, again, the Bible does not disclose, Judah emerged as the leader of his brothers. (Perhaps Jacob had disqualified Reuben after Reuben had dallied with Bilhah, and Jacob had then disqualified Simeon and Levi after their hotheaded actions at Shechem; see Dinah.)

Judah led two expeditions to Egypt to buy grain for the family. The first expedition nearly ended in disaster, because the viceroy of Egypt accused them all of espionage. Reuben reminded his brothers that he had warned them against their earlier plot against Joseph. (They did not know who the viceroy was, but Reuben was telling them that they were getting their just due.)[15]

Eventually the viceroy released them, with an ample supply of food. Furthermore, when they came back to Jacob, they found their money still in their sacks.

The viceroy had told them that if they didn't bring Benjamin with them, they would not be allowed into Egypt again. So Judah prevailed upon his father to send Benjamin with them. Judah said that he would personally guarantee Benjamin's safety. Jacob advised them to take back the money that they had found still in their sacks, plus an additional double price for a second supply of grain.

The brothers arrived, and the viceroy entertained them very graciously, paying special attention to Benjamin.[16] And again the viceroy sent them back, with as much grain as they could carry and with all their money restored. But this time, Egyptian soldiers arrested them and brought them back before the viceroy, who proceeded to accuse them of stealing a silver cup from his house. The soldiers searched the men's effects—and found the cup in Benjamin's sack.

At this disaster, Judah confessed that when they had earlier said that one of their brothers was no more, that was not completely accurate. He then described the plot to sell Joseph, and the earlier deceit of their father. He finished by saying that he could not let another son of Jacob's be lost to him.[17]

What happened next shocked Judah and his brothers to the core. First, the viceroy ordered everyone else in the room to leave. Then the viceroy wept before them, and said,

"I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?" - Genesis 45:3

Judah and the others were speechless, so the viceroy repeated himself. He was indeed Joseph, whom they had earlier sold into slavery. He then said that they should not be angry with themselves, because Joseph had to come to Egypt to be put in charge of its affairs at this critical time.[18]

Entry into Egypt

Joseph requisitioned several wagons and sent Judah and his brothers back with them to Canaan, with instructions to load all their goods onto the wagons and come to Egypt to live. Judah and the others returned to Jacob and told them all that had happened. Jacob needed convincing, but the wagon train was evidence enough.

Judah came to Egypt permanently on Entry into Egypt::Teveth 2298 AM. He was 49 years old at the time, and had twin sons who were about fifteen years old. The Bible mentions that Judah's grandsons also entered Egypt at this time, so his sons probably married as early in their lives as Er had done, almost seventeen years earlier.

How long Judah lived in Egypt after his arrival, the Bible does not say.


son of::Jacob
son of::Leah
common-law husband of::Tamar
father of::Er
father of::Onan
father of::Pharez
father of::Zerah
grandfather of::Hezron
grandfather of::Hamul

Judah has many prominent descendants, including the House of David, among whom are Joseph of Nazareth, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ. In addition, he is part of the ancestry of the high priests of Israel through his descendant Elisheba.

See Also

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  1. James Ussher. The Annals of the World. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003, pgh. 121.
  2. Genesis 38:1-2
  3. Genesis 38:3-5
  4. Jones, Floyd N. The Chronology of the New Testament. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004, pp. 62-67 and Chart 3f.
  5. Genesis 37:26-27
  6. Genesis 38:6
  7. Genesis 38:7
  8. Genesis 38:8-9
  9. Genesis 38:10-11
  10. Schoenian, Susan. "Sheep 101: Shearing." Sheep 101, November 15, 2006. Accessed November 11, 2008.
  11. Genesis 38:14-18
  12. Genesis 38:19-23
  13. Genesis 38:24-26
  14. Genesis 38:27-30
  15. Genesis 42
  16. Genesis 43
  17. Genesis 44
  18. Genesis 45