Name, or pedigree, separate from character, has no weight in the records of heaven. Because Reuben failed to cultivate a character worthy of the first-born, - the one entitled to both the temporal and the spiritual birthright, - its blessings were taken from him, and given to others who had developed characters worthy of them.
Joseph, who had become a noted business manager, was given the double portion of his father's inheritance, - the temporal birthright; but it required more than ability to control great wealth to be entitled to the spiritual birthright, and to become the progenitor of the Messiah. The records state that Judah, the fourth son,
prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the Chief Ruler. 1 Chronicles 5:2 Jacob, upon his deathbed, pronounced the prophetic words:
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be. Genesis 49:10
How did Judah prevail above his brethren, and thus inherit the spiritual birthright? This is a subject worthy of careful study by every one who desires a part in the great spiritual birthright by which we today may become heirs of the eternal inheritance. We have no record of Judah's ever prevailing over his brethren by force of arms. But a careful study of the lives of the twelve sons of Jacob, reveals the fact that Judah was a leader. When he offered to stand as surety for Benjamin, Jacob consented to let Benjamin go into Egypt, although Reuben's offer had been refused. Genesis 43:8-13; 42:37, 38
When Jacob and his family arrived in Egypt, Jacob
sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen. Genesis 46:28 When the sons of Jacob were in great perplexity because the ruler of Egypt demanded Benjamin as a hostage, it was Judah who pleaded their cause so earnestly that Joseph threw off his disguise, and made himself known unto his brethren. Genesis 44:14-34; 45:1-3
By strict integrity to principle, Judah had won the confidence of his father and his brethren. The whole story is told in the blessing pronounced over Judah by his aged father, just before his death:
Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies. Thy father's children shall bow down before thee. Genesis 49:8
His brethren bowed down before Joseph, but the circumstances were different. Joseph's wealth and position, acquired in a foreign land, gave him the pre-eminence; but Judah won the respect of his brethren in the every-day contact of the home life. This confidence was not born in a moment; but day by day his strict integrity won their respect, until of their own free will, not from force of circumstances, they praised him and bowed down before him. A life of conflict and victory over the selfish tendencies of his own heart, is bound up in the words,
Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise.
It is worthy of note that Judah prevailed under the same circumstances in which Reuben failed. It was not sins committed against the public that debarred Reuben from the privileges of the first-born; he proved himself untrue in the home life. 1 Chronicles 5:1 He had no regard for the honour of his own family. His father and his brethren could not trust him in their private life. In the same home, surrounded by the same temptations and environments,
Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the Chief Ruler. 1 Chronicles 5:2
Twelve thousand of the one hundred and forty-four thousand will enter the holy city under the name of Judah, Revelation 7:5 - persons who, in times of perplexity, have been recognised by their brethren as trusted leaders.
Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? Genesis 49:9 In these words Jacob gives the impression that it would be as easy to conquer a lion as to overcome one with the character of Judah; that it would be as safe to rouse an old lion as to contend with one who stood fast in his integrity to God. Judah's is a character we may well covet, - that firmness that will not surrender our Christian integrity, but will know of a surety that the Lord is with us when we are assailed by Satan and all his hosts. Matthew 7:24,25
Judah is mentioned oftener in the Scriptures than any other of the twelve patriarchs, except Joseph. Of the five sons of Judah, two died childless; but from the three remaining sons came the strongest tribe in all Israel.
At Sinai the children of Judah numbered 74,600. They evidently had a very small part, if any, in the apostasy at Shittim, where Simeon's numbers were greatly reduced; for Judah numbered 76,500 as they left Shittim to enter the promised land.
The tribe of Judah occupied a position among the other tribes similar to that which their progenitor held in his father's family. They were entrusted with the care of the priesthood. The nine cities occupied by the family of Aaron, the priests, were all within the territory of Judah and Simeon. Joshua 21:9-16 The remainder of the forty-eight cities occupied by the Levites were scattered throughout the other tribes.
Judah was an independent tribe. After the death of Saul, they did not wait for others to acknowledge David as king, but crowned him king of Judah, and David reigned over them seven and one-half years before he was crowned king over all Israel. 2 Samuel 2:4,11
After the death of Solomon, Judah and Benjamin remained true to the seed of David, and formed the kingdom of Judah. This kingdom retained their own land about 142 years after the kingdom of Israel was carried captive into Assyria. 2 Kings 17:6; 2 Chronicles 36;17-20
Zedekiah, king of Judah, was given the last opportunity of saving the holy city from falling into the bands of the heathen, Jeremiah 38:17-20 but he failed, and Judah, the kingly tribe, was carried captive into Babylon.
The sceptre never fully departed from Judah until Shiloh came. Herod, the last king who reigned over the Jews, died a few years after the birth of Christ. In his first will Herod appointed Antipas as his successor; but his last will named Archelaus as the one to reign in his stead. The people were ready to receive Archelaus, but afterward revolted. Archelaus and Antipas both went to Rome to present their claims before Caesar. Caesar confirmed neither, but sent Archelaus back to Judea as ethnarch, Matthew 2:19-22 with the promise of the crown if he proved worthy of it; but he never received it. Thus the land
forsaken of both her kings during the childhood of Christ, as was prophesied by Isaiah. Isaiah 7:14-16 The tribe of Judah furnished a galaxy of names noted in sacred history. No other tribe furnished the world so many mighty men of God. At the head of the list is the one incomparable name, - Jesus of Nazareth, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
Caleb's great faith and dauntless courage has been an inspiration to men of all ages. In the prime of life his faith was strong. When other men saw only the giants of difficulties in the way of entering the land, he said,
We are well able to overcome it. Numbers 13:30 At the age of eighty-five, in the strength of God, he drove the enemies from the stronghold of Hebron. Joshua 14:6-15; 15:13-15
David has been honoured above all earthly kings in being taken as a type of Christ, and inspiration calls the Saviour
the son of David. Matthew 21:9 Judah furnished a number of other kings who, surrounded by all the temptations of the court life, stood true to God.
After the captivity, when for a time it seemed as if the Israel of God were almost obliterated from the earth, four young men of Judah, true to the lion-like character of their tribe, risked their lives rather than defile themselves with the royal dainties Proverbs 23:1-3 from the table of the king of Babylon. Daniel 1:8 A few years later three of these men stood fearlessly before the king of Babylon, saying,
Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods. Daniel 3:18 In fulfilment of the promise made over one hundred years before, Isaiah 43:2 the Lord walked with those three sons of Judah through the fiery furnace, and they came forth unhurt. Daniel 3:24-27 And Daniel, true to the integrity of his tribe, faced hungry lions rather than have any interruption in his communion with God. Daniel 6:7-10,16-22
Judah was the progenitor of Christ. 1 Chron. 5:2; Gen. 49:10.
The tribe of Judah were the descendants of the three youngest sons of Judah.
The tribe numbered 76,500 when they entered the promised land. Num. 26:19-22.
The sceptre did not depart from Judah until Shiloh came. Isa. 7:14,16.
Noted Characters Caleb, the son of Jephunneh. Num. 13: 6.
Othniel, a nephew of Caleb, judged Israel forty years. Judges 3:9-11.
Ibzan of Bethlehem, of the land of Judah, judged Israel seven years. Judges 12:8-10.
Judah furnished many kings; prominent among them were David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat,
Hezekiah, and Josiah.
The greatest character of all is Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Rev. 5:5.