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Judah was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah .Judah is best known as the forefather of Israel’s leading tribe. His family produced the royal bloodline that included both David and the Messiah.
Judah enjoyed this position of honor because he was given his father’s blessing—a blessing that, by custom, should have gone to the firstborn son.
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, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? (Genesis 49:8-9)
Judah’s path to preeminence was unlikely, to say the least. When his brothers decided to get rid of Joseph (the youngest member of their family), it was Judah who stepped in and persuaded them not to kill the boy. However, Judah’s plan was little better than theirs—he suggested they sell Joseph into slavery instead.
Years later, Judah was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for redemption. In Egypt to beg for food—and unaware that the official listening to their plea was in fact their long-lost brother, Joseph—the sons of Jacob found themselves in a crisis rapidly going from bad to worse. Joseph threatened to enslave the youngest son, Benjamin—at which point Judah intervened, offering to take Benjamin’s place. The one who had sold Jacob’s favorite son into slavery now volunteered to become a slave himself in order to spare another of Jacob’s favorite sons. This selfless act opened the door for Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers.
More important, Judah demonstrated an integrity that his older brothers failed to match. When their aged father gathered his sons for one last blessing, it was Judah who received the blessing of the firstborn—not Reuben, Simeon, or Levi.
Judah’s privileged position suggests that character matters more than birth order.
Judah’s story was not without its own embarrassment. He once slept with a prostitute who turned out to be his deceased sons’ widow, Tamar. After his first two sons had died, Judah promised to give Tamar to his youngest son, Shelah. Judah, however, reneged on his promise and ended up impregnating his own daughter-in-law without even realizing who she was (see Genesis 38).