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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Judah, Tribe of

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Territory of Judah.

—Biblical Data:

The tribe of Judah is said to have been descended from the patriarch Judah, the fourth son of Jacob and Leah (Genesis 29:35). In the Book of Numbers it is represented as sharing with the other tribes, without distinctive fortunes, the experiences of the Exodus and of the sojourn in the wilderness. The clans which then composed the tribe are said to have been the Shelanites, Perizzites, Zerahites, Hezronites, and Hamulites (Numbers 26:19-22). In Joshua 15 Judah is said to have received a large inheritance which stretched right across the land from Jericho westward to the Mediterranean and from Jerusalem southward to the desert. The territory is said to have extended south as far as Kadeshbarnea (verse 3), which lay about fifty miles south of Beer-sheba (see Trumbull, "Kadesh Barnea," New York, 1884), and west as far as Gaza, Ashdod, and Ekron (verses 42-47). From the Book of Judges (1:16) it is learned that the Kenites united with Judah so as to become, probably, a clan of the tribe. To these clans the two Kenizzite clans of Caleb and Othniel appear to have been added (ib. 1:12-15,20; Joshua 14:6-15, 15:13-19). Closely connected with Caleb was Jerahmeel, who is said to have been Caleb's brother (1 Chronicles 2:42). In 1 Samuel 27:10, 30:29, the Jerahmeelites appear to be a part of the tribe of Judah; they are therefore to be regarded as another clan of the tribe.

After the settlement in Canaan, Judah seems to have stood apart from the other tribes. It is not mentioned in the song of Deborah (Judges 5); and in the accounts of the kingdom of Saul it is regularly reckoned separately from the other tribes (comp. 1 Samuel 11:8, 17:52, 18:16). Upon the death of Saul, David erected the tribe of Judah into a separate kingdom (2 Samuel 2:1 et seq.). As the house of Saul under the weak Ish-bosheth maintained its supremacy over the remaining tribes but seven and one-half years, Judah was after that time reunited to Israel under her own king, David. This union continued for eighty years, through the reigns of David and Solomon. For the further history of the tribe see see JUDAH, KINGDOM OF.

Joined by Clan of Caleb.

—Critical View:

Possibly the tribe of Judah is mentioned in the El-Amarna tablets (comp. Jastrow in "Jour. Bib. Lit." 12:61 et seq.); but, if so, the reference is too obscure to increase present knowledge. In the judgment of critics the stories of the patriarch Judah are not real biography, but are narratives of an eponymous hero, or portions of the history of the tribe. These being taken in this way, it is gathered that the clan of Judah was at first weaker than the clans of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi; that when Judah entered Palestine it first gained a foothold at Adullam and Timnah (Genesis 38:1,12), places which were probably on the eastern side of the Judean ridge. This Timnah is not to be confused with the Timnah of the Shephelah (Judges 14:1). An alliance was soon made with the clans of the Perizzites and Zerahites, who had the palm-tree for their totem, and were therefore said to be children of Tamar (Genesis 38:13-30). Later the Kenizzite clans of Caleb and Othniel were amalgamated with the tribe. These clans were, perhaps, of Edomitish origin, since Kenaz is counted among the descendants of Esau (Genesis 36:11). These two clans occupied the region around Hebron, Carmel, and Kirjath-sepher, or Debir. Gradually the Jerahmeelites were also incorporated in the tribe of Judah. Their habitat appears to have been in the Negeb (1 Samuel 27:10), and as Jerahmeel is said to be Caleb's brother, perhaps they also were of Edomitish origin. A branch of the Kenites from the Sinaitic peninsula added another element to Judah's complex character (KENITES). This large admixture of foreign blood in the tribe of Judah is probably the reason why the Judahites were so loosely connected with the other tribes of Israel. A consciousness existed on both sides that Judah stood apart in origin and in sentiment.

The prophets of Judah framed the Deuteronomic law which led to Josiah's reform. This reform accentuated the uniqueness of Israel's religion; and it was this that held the inhabitants of the Judean kingdom together in exile, that revived their state, and that made them the world's teachers of monotheism. But the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom were absorbed by the people among whom they were scattered, because their religion lacked this uniqueness. It was this uniqueness, furthermore, which caused the name of the tribe of Judah to be perpetuated in one of the great religions of the world.

  • Stade, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, 1:157-160, Berlin, 1889;
  • Luther, in Stade's Zeitschrift, 21:55-60;
  • Barton, Semitic Origins, pp. 271-286, New York, 1902. On the history of the kingdom of Judah, see the histories of Israel, by Stade, Wellhausen, Kittel, H. P. Smith, etc.
E. G. H.
G. A. B.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Judah, Tribe of'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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