Ju'dah (Heb. Yehudah', יהוּדָה, celebrated; comp. Ge 29:35; Ge 49:8, Chald. יהוּד, Yehud', Ezr 5:1; Ezr 7:14; Da 2:25; Da 5:13; Da 6:13; "Judaea," Ezr 5:8; "Jewry," Da 5:13; Sept. and N.T. generally Ι᾿ούδας [as also Josephus]; but comp. Ι᾿ούδα, Lu 3:26,30; for Lu 1:39, SEE JUTTAH ), the name of several persons, etc., in Scripture. SEE JUDAS; SEE JUDE.
1. The fourth son of Jacob by Leah, born B.C. 1916 (Ge 29:35), being the last before the temporary cessation in the births of her children. His whole brothers were Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, elder than himself — Issachar and Zebulun younger (see Ge 35:23). The name is explained as having originated in Leah's exclamation of "praise" at this fresh gift of Jehovah — "She said, 'Now will I praise (אוֹדֶה, odeh) Jehovah,' and she called his name Yehudah" (Ge 29:35). The same play is preserved in the blessing of Jacob — "Judah, thou whom thy brethren shall praise!" (Ge 49:8).
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 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" (Ge 37:26-27). Though not the first born, he "prevailed above his brethren" (1Ch 5:2), and we find him subsequently taking a decided lead in all the affairs of the family. When a second visit to Egypt for corn had become inevitable, it was Judah who, as the mouthpiece of the rest, headed the remonstrance against the detention of Benjamin by Jacob, and finally undertook to be responsible for the safety of the lad (Ge 43:3-10). When, through Joseph's artifice, the brothers were brought back to the palace, he is again the leader and spokesman of the band. In that thoroughly Oriental scene it is Judah who unhesitatingly acknowledges the guilt which had never been committed, throws himself on the mercy of the supposed Egyptian prince, offers himself as a slave, and makes that wonderful appeal to the feelings of their disguised brother which renders it impossible for Joseph any longer to conceal his secret (Ge 44:14,16-34). So, too, it is Judah who is sent before Jacob to smooth the way for him in the land of Goshen (Ge 46:28). This ascendency over his brethren is reflected in the last words addressed to him by his father — Thou whom thy brethren shall praise! thy father's sons shall bow down before thee! unto him shall be the gathering of the people (Ge 49:8-10). In the interesting traditions of the Koran and the Midrash his figure stands out in the same prominence. Before Joseph his wrath is mightier and his recognition heartier than the rest. It is he who hastens in advance to bear to Jacob the fragrant robe of Joseph (Weil's Biblical Legends, p. 88-90).
Not long after the sale of Joseph, Judah had withdrawn from the paternal tents, and gone 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. SEE ER. As he died childless, the patriarchal law, afterwards adopted into the Mosaic code (De 25:6), required Judah to bestow upon the widow his second son. This he did; but as Onan also soon died childless SEE ONAN, 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. SEE TAMAR. 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 (B.C. cir. 1893), 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 (Ge 38; Ge 46:12; 1Ch 2:3-5; Mt 1:3; Lu 3:33). 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, SEE 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 (Ge 44:14-34). B.C. 1874. SEE JACOB.
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 (Ge 49:8-12). B.C. 1856. SEE SHILOH.