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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Ju´dah, (celebrated), fourth son of Jacob and Leah (B.C. 1755). The narrative in Genesis brings this patriarch more before the reader, and makes known more of his history and character, than it does in the case of any other of the twelve sons of Jacob, with the single, exception of Joseph. It is indeed chiefly in connection with Joseph that the facts respecting Judah transpire; and as they have already been given in the articles Jacob and Joseph, it is only necessary to indicate them shortly in this place. It was Judah's advice that the brethren followed when they sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites, instead of taking his life. By the light of his subsequent actions we can see that his conduct on this occasion arose from a generous impulse, although the form of the question he put to them has been sometimes held to suggest an interested motive:—'What profit is it if we slay our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him,' etc. ().

Not long after this Judah withdrew from the paternal tents, and went to reside at Adullam, in the country which afterwards bore his name. Here he married a woman of Canaan, called Shuah, and had by her three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. When the eldest of these sons became of fit age, he was married to a woman named Tamar, but soon after died. As he died childless, the patriarchal law, afterwards adopted into the Mosaic code (), required him to bestow upon the widow his second son. This he did: but as Onan also soon died childless, Judah became reluctant to bestow his only surviving son upon this woman, and put her off with the excuse that he was not yet of sufficient age. Tamar accordingly remained in her father's house at Adullam. She had the usual passion of Eastern women for offspring, and could not endure the stigma of having been twice married without bearing children, while the law precluded her from contracting any alliance but that which Judah withheld her from completing.

Meanwhile Judah's wife died, and after the time of mourning had expired, he went, accompanied by his friend Hirah, to attend the shearing of his sheep at Timnath in the same neighborhood. These circumstances suggested to Tamar the strange thought of connecting herself with Judah himself, under the guise of a loose woman. Having waylaid him on the road to Timnath, she succeeded in her object, and when the consequences began to be manifest in the person of Tamar, Judah was highly enraged at her crime, and, exercising the powers which belonged to him as the head of the family she had dishonored, he commanded her to be brought forth and committed to the flames as an adulteress. But when she appeared, she produced the ring, the bracelet, and the staff, which he had left in pledge with her; and put him to confusion by declaring that they belonged to the father of her coming offspring. Judah acknowledged them to be his, and confessed that he had been wrong in withholding Shelah from her. The result of this painful affair was the birth of two sons, Zerah and Pharez, from whom, with Shelah, the tribe of Judah descended. Pharez was the ancestor of the line from which David, the kings of Judah, and Jesus came (Genesis 38;;;; ).

These circumstances seem to have disgusted Judah with his residence in towns; for we find him ever afterwards at his father's tents. His experience of life, and the strength of his character, appear to have given him much influence with Jacob; and it was chiefly from confidence in him that the aged father at length consented to allow Benjamin to go down to Egypt. That this confidence was not misplaced has already been shown [JOSEPH]; and there is not in the whole range of literature a finer piece of true natural eloquence than that in which Judah offers himself to remain as a bond-slave in the place of Benjamin, for whose safe return he had made himself responsible to his father. The strong emotions which it raised in Joseph disabled him from keeping up longer the disguise he had hitherto maintained, and there are few who have read it without being, like him, moved even to tears.

We hear nothing more of Judah till he received, along with his brothers, the final blessing of his father, which was conveyed in lofty language, glancing far into futurity, and strongly indicative of the high destinies which awaited the tribe that was to descend from him.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Judah'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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