THE LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH
King James Version (KJV)
1 Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
2 And I will make my covenant before me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be called Abraham; for a father of many nations I made thee.
6 And I will make thee exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee
33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
Genesis 27: 29-30
29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be that blesseth thee.
30And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of the blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more than Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now I will praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.
Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
1 Chronicles 5:1
Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.
And Judah begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;
And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
THE LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH
The historical implication of the tribe of Judah, which ultimately became a nation, begins in the book of Genesis. Abraham and Sarah begot Isaac, Isaac and Rebekah begot Jacob, Jacob and Leah begot Judah. Jacob was the grandson of Abraham, received the greater inheritance from his father Isaac. Esau also sold his birthright to Jacob (Genesis 25:33-34). Jacob was the younger twin brother of Esau. Jacob was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor (father) of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants (sons).
Jacob was renamed “Israel” by God (Genesis 32:28). One of Jacob’s (12) sons was Judah. Upon his birth, Leah his mother exclaims, "This time I will praise the Lord," with the Hebrew word for "I will praise," 'odeh (אודה) sharing the same root as Yehudah. Yehudah (יהודה) has the meaning of literally "thanksgiving" or "praise," It is the noun form of the root Y-D-H (ידה), "to thank" or "to praise." One of the (12) tribes is Judah is where you can trace the lineage to King David, King Solomon, many other kings and Lord Jesus, the Messiah.
Actually, the story of Joseph begins before (Genesis 37). The (12) sons and (1) daughter of Jacob were the offspring of four mothers. The two wives were Rachel and Leah; the concubines were Zilpah and Bihah. The rivalry between Jacob’s two wives and two concubines caused much dissention and conflict within the family. The order of their birth, beginning in (Genesis 29:32) represents the (12) sons of patriarch Jacob and (4) mothers; later to be the namesakes of (12) tribes of Israel.
Judah is the fourth son of the Patriarch Jacob “Israel” and his first wife Leah (Genesis 29:35). Seven of Judah’s siblings were (6) sons and (1) daughter of Jacob’s unloved wife Leah. Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah were the first four sons and prior to Joseph’s birth Issachar and Zebulum were born. Judah also had six half-brother; two sons were begot from Leah’s handmaid Zilpah, Gad and Asher. Two sons were begot from Rachel’s handmaid Bihah, Dan and Naphtali. Leah gave birth to Jacob’s only daughter Dinah after her son Zebulun (Genesis 30:21) and one month before Rachel gave birth to Joseph. The two youngest brothers Joseph and his younger brother Benjamin, were the only two children of Rachel, Jacob’s favored wife. Benjamin was born near Bethlehem.
All eleven brothers worked in the family business of tending sheep and cattle. It was all too apparent to the older brothers that their father Jacob “Israel” loved and favored Joseph, the “son of his old age” more than all of them combined. Especially when he gave him a special coat to wear (Genesis 37:3). Joseph was the youngest at this time because Benjamin was not born until later. In time Judah and his brothers developed hatred from jealousy and envy of their younger brother Joseph. Eventually they could not speak to him in a civil manner (Genesis 37:4).
But it was when Joseph informed his brothers about his dreams, which specified he would be greater than them, that their hatred of him increased (Genesis 37:5-11). There were other contributing factors, which fueled the hatred of these older brothers for Joseph. Jacob “Israel” unwisely used his 17-year-old son to spy on his other sons and had Joseph report to him confidentially (Genesis 37: 13-14). In addition to this, Joseph was imprudent in the way he associated to his brothers. This may have been due to the innocence of youth, but his brothers were greatly infuriated by his reports of his two dreams, both of which symbolized his authority over them, and even over their parents. Eventually, Joseph’s brothers could not speak to him in a peaceful manner (Genesis 37:4).
The animosity grew to the point that the brothers wanted to actually murder Joseph; but Reuben, the firstborn, stepped in to stop them. Joseph was placed in a pit; and while Reuben was not present, Judah came up with the idea of selling Joseph to Midianite traders for 20 shekels of silver (Genesis 37:28) Then the brothers killed a goat and covered Joseph’s coat with blood to deceive their father Jacob “Israel” into believing an evil beast had killed him. Jacob could never get over his anguish for the loss of his son (Genesis 37:35).
Judah Suffers Many Family Problems
Judah and his brothers thought they had taken care of the problem of their younger brother Joseph, but God did not let that be the end of the story. Judah’s family would suffer many trials for the next (20) years or more. Judah married a Canaanite woman named Shua. They had three sons, Er, Onan and Shelah (Genesis 38:2-5).
Judah chooses a wife, Tamar for his firstborn son Er (Genesis 38:6). Er was so wicked in the eyes of the Lord, that the Lord slew him (Genesis 38:7). Judah commanded his second-born son, Onan, to marry Tamar and rise up seed to thy deceased brother as God’s laws commanded in such circumstances (Genesis 38:8). Onan would not carry through with this act because it would not be his seed. God then slew Onan’s life for his refusal to give his brother an heir (Genesis 38:9-10).
A Strange Occurrence In Judah’s Life
Following Onan’s passing, Judah asked Tamar to not remarry, but to wait in her father’s house until Judah’s youngest son, Shelah, was old enough to marry (Genesis 38:11). Tamar complied with Judah’s wishes. And in the process Judah’s wife, Shua passed away (Genesis 38:12). Tamar realized that she was not going to be given in marriage to Shelah, who was now grown (Genesis 38:14).
One day Tamar heard that her father-in-law was heading out to shave his sheep. She removed her widow’s garments and changed her clothes to appear as a harlot as she sat along the road where Judah would pass by. Judah did not recognize her and propositioned her; and she demanded his scepter, cord and staff as a pledge. (Genesis 38:13-18). When it was later discovered that she was pregnant, Judah threatened her with death for immorality and prostitution. To save her life, she presented the items belonging to Judah and said, “By the man to whom these belong, I am with child” (Genesis 38:24-26).
Tamar had twins. At delivery, one twin put out his hand first and the midwife tied a scarlet thread on it and said, “This child one came out first.” But the second twin, Phares came out unexpectedly followed by Zara with the scarlet thread tied on his hand (Genesis 38:27-30). God would use the uncommon birth of these twins to create two lines of genealogy in the tribe of Judah.
Jesus Christ Came Through The Line Of Judah
The second great promise God gave to Abraham stated, “And in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). This promise would come through the line of Phares. King David and the kings of Judah would descend through the line of Phares. But most importantly, Jesus Christ would come through this line so “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Matthew 1:3 - 16).
Why The Tribe Of Judah?
In looking at the life of Judah and his character, it is hard to see why the tribe of Judah should become so prominent amongst the tribes of Israel. On the one hand, Joseph lived a righteous life and was blessed with the birthright in place of Reuben, the firstborn. The name of “Israel” was passed on to his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Yet God also chose Judah and his descendants for a special place in his plan through the ages. The prophecy God gave to Jacob at the end of his life concerning his sons’ descendants “in the latter days” reveals a special blessing for the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:1, 8-10).
In speaking of the tribe of Judah, Jacob said, “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down; he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, which shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the people” (Genesis 49:8-10).
In this passage God looked at Judah as a strong warrior and likened him to a young lion sleeping in its den after devouring its prey. Perhaps it was this strength of character and determination that God foresaw in this tribe that influenced Him to choose Judah to be His lawgiver and the tribe from which his Son would later be born (Hebrews 7:14).
Regarding (Genesis 49:10) “the word ‘Shiloh,’ found in some English versions, is simply an untranslated form of the Hebrew expression meaning “one to whom it belongs.” Jesus Christ is the “one to whom it belongs.” David was apparently inspired by this passage in Genesis 49 to mention it twice Psalms that “Judah is my lawgiver” (Psalms 60:7; 108:8).
The tribe of Judah has not only been a lawgiver, but a preserver of God’s written laws. The apostle Paul said, “What advantage then has the Jew? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles that which was spoken or commanded of God” (Romans 3:1-2). Through the centuries, the Jews have faithfully preserved the books of the Old Testament and the Hebrew calendar.
Judah Prevails Over His Brothers
The writer of 1 Chronicles, probably Ezra, wrote, “Yet Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came a ruler, although the birthright was Joseph’s” (1 Chronicles 5:2).
How Did Judah Prevail?
During the time of Moses, the tribe of Judah became the stronger tribe and “prevailed over his brothers.” The census in Numbers 1 shows that Judah was the leading tribe in population and in men who could go to war (Numbers 1:2-3, 27).
After Joshua passed away, God chose the tribe of Judah to take the lead in conquering the nations who were living in the land promised to the 12 tribes (Judges 1:2). The first chapter of Judges shows that the tribe of Judah was very aggressive and strong in driving out the Canaanites in the southern half of the land of Canaan.
An even more important way that Judah prevailed over his brothers took place during the time of King David. The tabernacle of God had long been in Shiloh in the territory of Joseph. But David set the stage for the temple to be built on Mount Zion, “which He “God” loved,” in the tribe of Judah (Psalm 78:67-70). God chose David to be His shepherd and Jerusalem (Mount Zion) for His place to dwell. God also chose David to hold the “scepter,” a symbol of kingship that would always remain in the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Psalm 89:34-37).
After the death of Solomon, the nation of Israel became divided. Solomon’s son Rehoboam refused to lighten the burden of taxes that had been imposed by his father. In fact, Rehoboam threatened to make life far worse for the people than what his father had done. This resulted in 10 tribes separating and becoming the northern kingdom of Israel with its capital city in Samaria (1 Kings 12:12-14). The tribes of Judah, Benjamin and a part of Levi stayed with Rehoboam and became the southern kingdom of Judah, with Jerusalem as its capital.
The northern kingdom of Israel instantly went into idolatry and turned away from worshipping God. After 200 years, they went into national captivity at the hands of the Assyrian Empire.
The southern kingdom of Judah lasted more than a hundred years after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. Judah also turned away from the God of their fathers and went after idols several times, and several times righteous kings instituted reforms. God sent prophets to warn them of their slide into idolatry, but eventually they would not listen anymore. The Jewish nation was taken into national captivity by the Babylonians in several waves of deportations culminating in 586 B.C.
After (70) years of captivity in Babylon, some of the Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, but they didn’t fully return to the status of a sovereign nation until the 20th century. Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior of mankind, would come through the tribe of Judah, but He would be rejected by His own people. The Church Jesus established initially sprang out of the tribe of Judah. But since the middle of the first century, the Church of God has become largely non-Jewish in membership.
Approaching the 20th century, many Jewish groups and Christian churches were advocating a homeland in Palestine for the tribe of Judah. Jewish groups wanted to return to Judea because it was their ancient homeland. Christian groups saw the establishment of a Jewish state as a sign of end-time prophecy being fulfilled that would lead to the imminent return of Jesus Christ. One such prophecy can be found in (Daniel 12:11), which indicates that the Jews will resume animal sacrifices before the return of Christ. Presumably, they would need their own homeland to do this.
In 1917 the Balfour Declaration made public Great Britain’s support of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. But it would not become a reality until May 14, 1948. Today, the nation called Israel is a major power in the Middle East, but will it remain such a power until the second coming of Jesus Christ?
Tribulation and Restoration
Jesus in His Olivet Prophecy said, “For then there will be Great Tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). The tribe of Judah and the State of Israel will not be spared from this traumatic time. In Luke’s account of the same prophecy, Jesus said, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near” (Luke 21:20).
The prophet Zechariah also spoke of this same time, “For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (Zechariah 14:2). Invasion and war will come to Jerusalem and to the tribe of Judah.
Following the prophecy of the invasion of Israel and Jerusalem, Zechariah announced the good news of the coming of Christ: “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. The LORD shall be King over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:4, 9).
Jeremiah spoke of this same time when he said, “In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jeremiah 23:6).
The good news for the tribe of Judah and this world is that the “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:5), will return to establish the Kingdom of God, and the tribe of Judah will finally accept its Redeemer (Romans 11:26).