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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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1. The patriarch JUDAH; Jacob's fourth son, by Leah. Judah ("praise"), Leah having praised Jehovah for giving him; Jacob similarly refers to the meaning of Judah, "thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise" (Genesis 29:35; Genesis 49:8). He saved Joseph from death by the cruel and covetous plan of selling him to the Midianites. Conscience and natural feeling wrought on Judah, "what profit is it (like the antitype Judas, and in the keen bargaining spirit of the Jews ages afterward: John 12:4-5; Matthew 26:15), if we slay our brother and conceal his blood? Come and let us sell him ... and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh." Conscience was stupefied, and cupidity gratified, by this scheme. Judah was the brethren's spokesman in prevailing on Jacob to let Benjamin go to Egypt, and he undertook to be surety for him (Genesis 43:3-10); and when Joseph's cup was found with Benjamin, professed their guilt and liability to bondservice, though actually innocent of stealing it, in order in oriental fashion to move pity.

Then Judah touchingly appealed to the supposed Egyptian prince to detain him as a bondservant instead of his youngest brother, by describing his father's love for Benjamin after having lost Joseph, and the danger of bringing down his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave, so that Joseph could refrain no longer but made himself known (Genesis 44). Judah too is the one who prepares the way before his father in going to meet Joseph and settle in Goshen (Genesis 46:28). Throughout Judah "prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief prince" (1 Chronicles 5:2). Though "the birthright was Joseph's" he was not registered as firstborn, because of Judah's prevalence on the threefold ground, Jacob's blessing, Judah's historic preeminence, and David the prince (1 Chronicles 28:4) being chosen from Judah. The tribe outnumbered all the others under Moses: 74,600 at Sinai (Numbers 1:26-27); :76,500 before entering Canaan (Numbers 26:22); outnumbering Dan at Sinai by 11,900. Again after the division of the land Judah was called by God to be the vanguard of the army warring with the Canaanites (Judges 1:1-2).

Judah in his conduct before Joseph in Egypt manifested true nobility; if he had sold his brother 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 (Genesis 49:8-12). Judah's "hand was in the neck of his enemies" in his victories as leading tribe; "his father's children bowed down before him"' when Judah became the royal tribe, of whom sprang David and David's almighty Son. The "lion," the king of beasts, is Jacob's image for Judah; afterward it was his standard, with the motto "Rise up, Lord, let Thine enemies be scattered" (Targum in Pseudo Jonathan). Judah should hold the tribal "sceptre," and have "lawgivers" (Psalms 60:7) among his posterity ("from between his feet") until Shiloh ("the Prince of peace") should come. So accordingly Augustus' decree (Luke 2:1, etc.) and the Roman procuratorship, superseding native rule, marked the appearance of Christ of the tribe of Judah.

In Him all Judah's regal and legislative powers merged and found their consummation. Judah as to temporal prosperity should "bind his foal unto the vine and his donkey's colt unto the choice vine, washing his garments in wine and his clothes in the blood of the grape, his eyes being red with wine and his teeth white with milk." Spiritually the targums of Jerusalem and Pseudo Jonathan refer this also to Messiah. Chrysostom interprets the "vine" the Jewish people, the wild donkey the Gentiles brought into the church's vineyard. Christ is the true vine (John 15:1); He trod the winepress alone, empurpling His garments with His blood (Isaiah 63:1 ff). The wine is the inspiring Spirit in believers as milk is the nourishing spiritual food (Song of Solomon 5:1; Isaiah 55:1; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 2:2). In Moses' dying blessing (Deuteronomy 33:7) he prays: "Hear Lord the voice of Judah (in prayer) and bring him (marching at the head of the tribes back again victorious) unto his people."

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. Er died childless; and oriental or Chaldee custom (afterward permitted and regulated under the Mosaic code: Matthew 22:24; Deuteronomy 25:5) required Onan to marry his widow Tamar. Onan having been slain by Jehovah for unnatural sin, Shelah ought to have been given her; but Judah, from superstitious fear lest he too should die, delayed. Then she waylaid Judah as a veiled harlot (one apparently consecrated by vow to impurity in the worship of Venus Astarte, the Babylonian Mylitta) at the gate of Enaim (margin) and received his signet, bracelets, and staff in pledge for the kid he promised her. She resumed her widow's garments.

When it was known that she was with child, Judah, by his patriarchal authority, would have burned her as having disgraced his family; but she proved by the signet and bracelet that Judah himself was the father of her children, and that she had a claim on him as nearest of kin to marry her when he withheld Shelah (Ruth 3-4; Genesis 38:25-26). Pharez and Zarah were the offspring, Pharezthe ancestor of David and of Messiah Himself (Genesis 46:12)). God can bring purity out of impurity. The three sons born in Canaan accompanied Judah to Egypt on his removal there (Exodus 1:2). Nahshon, Amminadab's son, was chief at the first census (Numbers 1:7; Numbers 2:3; Numbers 7:12; Numbers 10:14), David's ancestor (Ruth 4:20). Caleb represented Judah among the spies, and in the allotment of the land (Numbers 13:6; Numbers 34:19). Judah led the van in the wilderness march on the E. of the tabernacle, with Issachar and Zebulun his kinsmen (Numbers 2:3-9; Numbers 10:14).

The boundaries of Judah are given (Joshua 20:20-63). The territory was thickly studded with towns and villages. Benjamin was on the N. The northern bound ran from the embouchure of Jordan, by the valley of Hinnom under Jerusalem, to Jabneel on the western sea coast; the Dead Sea on E., and the Mediterranean on W. The southern bound ran from the extreme southern end of the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean at wady el Arish. The wilderness of Zin was its extreme southern limit. Its length averaged 45 miles, its width 50. Four main regions made up the territory.

(1) "The south" (Negeb); the southernmost district of Canaan, the pasture lands between the hills and the desert; a portion of this was ceded to Simeon (Joshua 15:20-32; Joshua 19:1-9).

(2) The shephelah , or rolling lower hills, the hilly lowland between the central mountains and the Mediterranean plain (Joshua 15:33). The shephelah was hounded by the Negeb on the S.; on the N. it reached to Lydda, where the plain of Sharon begins, famous for its flowers; the hilly part (Ashedoth) of the shephelah is on the E., the link between mountain and plain, and is more thick with villages than the plain, grainfields alternate with meadows, gardens, and olive groves.

(3) The mountain or "hill country of Judah," the largest of the four (Joshua 15:48-60). Beginning at its highest level below Hebron, 3,000 ft. above the sea level, it reaches E. to the Dead Sea and W. to the shephelah; an elevated plateau of a tolerably general level; the southern part of the mountain backbone stretching N. until interrupted by Esdraelon plain, and having on it Hebron, Jerusalem, and Shechem; this "mountain of Judah" abounds in rains of former towns; springs are numerous, as at Urtas near Solomon's pools, but no streams. It rises from the Negeb precipitously, between the hilly region on the, western part of the shephelah and the desert of Judah" extending to the Dead Sea (ver. 61): a rugged limestone range, with sides covered with grass, shrubs, and trees; the valleys intersecting it yield plentifully grain, wheat, and millet; orchards, olive yards, and vineyards rise in terraces up the sides.

(4) "The desert of Judah" (midbar ), the sunken district near the Dead Sea; from the northern border of Judah (Joshua 15:6-7) to wady Fikreh on the S. and to Maon, Tekoah, and Bethlehem toward the W.: a soil of chalk, marl, flint, and lime, bore of vegetation on the side toward the Dead Sea; but where springs are, luxuriant, and even in the desolate parts bearing traces of ancient works of man. The present barrenness, so far from disproving, confirms Scripture, which, though describing its former fertility, foretells its desolation for its apostasy. Its towns were six (Joshua 15:62). (See ENGEDI.) The city of Salt was at the southern end of the Dead Sea in the Salt Valley. The priests' nine cities were all in Judah; the Levites had no cities in Judah (Joshua 21:9-19). The allotment to Judah was first (Joshua 15:1; Joshua 19:51). Joshua prepared the way by destroying the chief towns and slaying their kings, penetrating even to Hebron and Debir in the hill country.

Judah and Simeon followed up the conquest (Judges 1:9; Judges 1:19-20), occupying the mountain and the graingrowing Philistine tract, with Gaza, Askelon, and Ekron, but unable to drive out the Canaanites from the valley (Emek) where their chariots gave the latter the advantage (Judges 1:19), but in Judges 1:9 "valley" is shephelah , rather the low hilly region between the mountain and the plain. The Philistine tract was wrested from Judah's hands (1 Samuel 4-5; 1 Samuel 7:14), then Judah recovered it. Judah took little part in the conflicts under the judges, except (Judges 20) the attack on Gibeah. The Philistine incursions were through Dan's and Benjamin's territory, not Judah's. The tribe acted throughout independently of the rest (2 Samuel 2:4; 2 Samuel 2:11; 2 Samuel 19:40-43). 2 Samuel 19:2. Ezra 3:9, = Hodaviah (Ezra 2:40), Hodevah (Nehemiah 7:43).

3. Ezra 10:23; Nehemiah 12:8; Nehemiah 12:36.

4. Nehemiah 11:9, "second over the city"; compare 1 Chronicles 9:7.

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Judah'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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