Judah: Son of Jacob


People who are leaders stand out. They don’t necessarily look or act a certain way until the need for their action is apparent. Among their skills are outspokenness, decisiveness, action, and control. These skills can be used for great good or great evil. Jacob’s fourth son, Judah, was a natural leader. The events of his life provided many opportunities to exercise those skills. Unfortunately Judah’s decisions were often shaped more by the pressures of the moment than by a conscious desire to cooperate with God’s plan. But when he did recognize his mistakes, he was willing to admit them. His experience with Tamar and the final confrontation with Joseph are both examples he passed on to his descendant David.

Whether or not we have Judah’s natural leadership qualities, we share with him a tendency to be blind toward our own sin. Too often, however, we don’t share his willingness to admit mistakes. From Judah we can learn that it is not wise to wait until our errors force us to admit wrong doing. It is far better to admit our mistakes openly, to shoulder the blame, and to seek forgiveness.

Strengths and Accomplishments

  • Was a natural leader – outspoken and decisive
  • Thought clearly and took action in high pressure situations
  • Was willing to stand by his word and put himself in line when necessary
  • Was the fourth son of 12, through whom God would eventually bring David and Jesus, the Messiah.

Weaknesses and Mistakes

  • Suggested to his brothers they sell Joseph into slavery
  • Failed to keep his promise to his daughter-in-law, Tamar

Lessons From His Life

  • God is on control, far beyond the immediate situation
  • Procrastination often makes matters worse
  • Judah’s offer to substitute his life for Benjamin’s is a picture of what his descendant Jesus would do for all people

Vital Statistics for Judah

  • Where: Canaan and Egypt
  • Occupation: Shepherd
  • Relatives: Parents: Jacob and Leah. Wife: The daughter of Shua (1 Chronicles 2:3). Daughter-in-law: Tamar. Eleven brothers, at least one sister, and at least five sons.

Key Verses for Judah

Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness – who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his” (Genesis 49:8-10).

Judah’s story is told in Genesis 29-35-50:6. He is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 2-4.

The ESV Study Bible, Large Print edition features the content of the award-winning ESV Study Bible with a highly readable, large-print type. Extensive study notes, charts, maps, and articles make this study Bible a valuable resource for serious readers, students, and teachers of God’s Word.

Further Reading on Judah

Judah and Joseph Reunited: The Hope for Israel by Lynda Cherry. Born out of order, neither Judah nor Joseph expected to receive the firstborn birthright from Father Jacob (Israel), yet each was endowed with powerful blessings of leadership over their siblings.

The Kings Of Judah And Israel: Or The History Of The Jews by Religious Tract Society. The book provides a comprehensive account of the history of the Jewish people, specifically focusing on the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel. It covers the period from the reign of Saul, the first king of Israel, to the Babylonian captivity.

Judah’s Scepter and Joseph’s Birthright by J. H. Allen. Offering a different perspective, this book explores the biblical prophecies related to Judah’s role and the blessings associated with his lineage.

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