Tag Archives: Judah

Genesis 49: A closer look at Judah…

My study today did not cover anything new out of Genesis 49, but instead had me look closer at the person of Judah, and more specifically, look at his lineage to David and then to Christ. I am going to try and share a little of what I studied today, but it will be much shorter than yesterday’s post, which is probably a good thing.

Genesis 49:8-12 is a quote from Jacob as he blesses Judah before he dies. As I have written about before, often times these end-of-life blessings are as much prophecies over their son’s lives as they are anything else. We saw this in the case of Isaac blessing Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27).  Jacob proclaims in these verses:

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. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.

The first part of this says that Judah will be greater than his brothers. This is similar to what Isaac had told Jacob when he blessed him – “Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.” (Genesis 27:29). I think this can be taken one of two ways – either you can see it as a prophecy of what is to come, that Judah and his descendants are foretold to be “lord” over his brothers’ descendants, or you can see this as a proclamation of Jacob giving Judah a title of lordship over his brothers. Either way, it is accurate, since Judah did become a great nation and one of the 2 kingdoms. Jerusalem, the central power of the nation of Israel (and of the later nation of Judah), was located in the kingdom of Judah.  And Judah was the leader among his brothers, respected by both them and their father (even though he was not the firstborn).

The next part of this blessing in Genesis 49 talks about how “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…” I believe this points directly to 2 of Judah’s descendants – David and Jesus. We know through the genealogical records that David was a descendant of Judah. In 1 Chronicles 5:2, it mentions that “…Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler came from him…”.  In Matthew 1, we see the human genealogy of Jesus, and we that both David and Judah are his ancestors. So it can be said that this line from Judah’s blessing is an accurate prophecy – that Judah’s descendants would be rulers. David, of course, was the king appointed over Israel after Saul. Jesus’ reign is a heavenly kingdom, and his rule over the earth is yet to come. In Isaiah 9:6 it prophecies Christ’s birth and rule – “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  In verse 7 it says that “He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom…” In Jeremiah 33:15 it also prophecies of Jesus’ coming – “In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line…”

This “scepter” that is talked about could be either a symbol of leadership, or it could be a symbol of a person who is the lawgiver. My study pointed out that either way, this points directly at Christ. In Revelation 19:15 it says of Jesus – “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” This actually is a quote from the words of David in Psalm 2, when speaking of “the LORD” and “his Anointed One” (v. 2, speaking of Christ), he says “You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery” (v. 9). This lines up perfectly with the idea of Jesus as the lawgiver – as the one who puts the law in place, he is the one with the right to judge all people and all nations – to “dash them to pieces,” if you will.

One final thought that my study didn’t bring up, but that I did mention in yesterday’s post, is about the final line of the blessing. It says “He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch…” I automatically assumed that this meant that at some point, Judah’s power would be transferred to Joseph.  My reasoning behind this is that, just a few lines later, when Jacob is blessing Joseph, he calls Joseph “a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring…” (Genesis 49:22). It also says in Judah’s blessing that he will rule “until he comes to whom it belongs…” My study pointed out that this refers to Joseph – in 1 Chronicles 5:2, it blatantly says “though Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler came from him, the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph…” This, to me, also points to Christ – Joseph is seen by many as a “type” of Christ, or a figure, example, or pattern. See this page for a list of verses that compare Joseph to Christ. So perhaps Jacob is saying that at some point, Judah will submit to Christ’s authority.  It is interesting to note that Jesus also calls himself a vine in John 15:1.

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Genesis 43-44: We are defined by our actions…

My study today had me go through both Genesis 43 and 44, so this post will be covering 2 chapters as opposed to the 1 chapter I usually cover per day.

In the previous chapter (42), Joseph’s brothers had come to Egypt in search of food to take back to their families in Canaan. Joseph, a man of power now, meets with them (though they don’t recognize him), and works it so that one brother (Simeon) has to stay in Egypt while the rest return to Canaan to get their other brother Benjamin and bring him back. Their father, Jacob, refuses to let Benjamin go. So in chapter 43, we see that what little food they were able to bring back from their first trip to Egypt has run out, and Jacob is now telling his sons to go back and get more. The sons, of course, know that they cannot go without taking Benjamin, and Judah stands up and says that he will take personal responsibility for Benjamin if Jacob will let him go with them. Jacob says yes, and they all head to Egypt for a second time. Joseph greets them when they arrive, and of course, they bow to him. Joseph prepares a feast at his home and gives Benjamin 5 times as much food as the others (he is his full-blood brother, after all). He gives them all the grain they can carry, he returns their silver, and he has one of his possessions (a silver cup) placed in Benjamin’s bag without any of his brothers knowing it. When the brothers head back to Canaan, Joseph has his servant stop them and accuse them of stealing his cup. The brothers vehemently deny that they would do this, but when they open their bags, Benjamin is found to have the cup in his bag. Benjamin is taken back to Joseph (supposedly to become Joseph’s slave), and the rest of the brothers go with him – they had promised their father they wouldn’t let anything happen to little Ben. Judah, who had taken personal responsibility for Benjamin, approaches Joseph and pleads to take Benjamin’s place, saying that his father would die if Benjamin was lost.

The thing that stood out to me today was the role of Judah throughout this entire story. If you recall earlier in the story, when Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelite merchants as a slave, it was really Judah’s idea. In Genesis 37:26-27 it says “Judah said to his brothers, ‘What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.’ His brothers agreed.”  Of course, you could look at this and say that Judah was talking his brothers out of killing Joseph, and this would place him in a much better light – but from a more responsible approach, if Judah had been wanting to take better care of Joseph, he wouldn’t have let him be sold as a slave. In general, slavery in ancient Egypt may not have been as bad as some people might think (see this site for a description of the treatment of Ancient Egyptian slaves), but this is not to say that slaves were not treated harshly and beaten, or that they had very few, if any, liberties of their own. To some, life without freedom is worst than death. So I contend with the point that Judah was being responsible here.

Interestingly, though Judah may have come up with the idea to sell Joseph as a slave, he was much more responsible when it came to handling Benjamin’s life. A lot had happened in Judah’s life since Joseph had left (see Genesis 38 to read about the Tamar debacle). Judah personally stood up and took responsibility for Benjamin with his father – he told him “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.” (Genesis 43:8-9), and Jacob gave in.  This tells me that Jacob may have had a lot more respect for Judah than Reuben (the oldest) – when they had returned from their first journey to Egypt and asked to take Benjamin back, and Jacob refused, Reuben told Jacob “You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back” (Genesis 42:37). Of course, Reuben had slept with one of Jacob’s wives (see Genesis 35:22). But Jacob still refused that first time. Jacob listened to Judah and allowed Benjamin to go.

When they were before Joseph and about to lose Benjamin as a slave, Judah stood up and begged for Benjamin’s life – he pleaded that he be taken as a slave instead of Benjamin, at least for the sake of their father’s life. I’m not sure most people would see the correlation between the fact that Judah had sold Joseph as a slave, but wouldn’t allow Benjamin to be taken as one.  We saw in the previous chapters how guilt had affected the brothers, and this stand taken by Judah was an action he was willing to take to make up for the fact that he had screwed up in this area once already. He wasn’t going to let it happen again.

I, personally, am not a Judah fan (the person, not the kingdom that came later). I’m still a little mad about the whole sell-Joseph-as-a-slave thing. And I haven’t forgotten how he treated Tamar – sending her off to her father’s home so that he doesn’t have to deal with her, then so easily permitting her to be killed for prostitution when he himself had just recently slept with a prostitute (it was her, but he didn’t know that). But he shows a little growth here, and his actions prove that.

So much of how we live in our journeys through Christian spirituality is internal (i.e., belief, hope, knowledge, love) that sometimes it’s so easy to go around acting like we are doing well spiritually, when actually we’re dead as can be. It’s when we display actions that prove that we have these internal qualities that we are truly spiritually alive.

  • Sure, we can believe all we want – “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (James 2:19). Without outward signs of trust – living outwardly as if we trust God wholeheartedly – belief is not faith. It’s just belief, and it gets you nowhere.
  • Hope is wonderful – I know a lot of people who hope they win the lottery, but if they never buy a ticket, their hope is in vain.
  • They say that knowledge is power, but I disagree. I love martial arts movies, and I have a few instructional books, but without actually physically practicing under the instruction of someone else, I will never be a proficient martial artist.
  • Many people try to go through their marriages getting by on the ‘feelings’ of love. Unfortunately, our feelings change from day to day, and people’s marriages fail day after day. Love is a verb – it requires action.

So, although I’m still a little mad a Judah for his past transgressions, I will say that his actions are showing that he is not the same guy he used to be. And if we want to prove ourselves to be spiritually health, we must take action as well. It’s our actions that define us.

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Genesis 38: When your past comes back to bite you in the…

There isn’t much of anything I enjoy more than when justice is served. And of course, this means that I like it when a criminal is caught and brought to trial, or when someone races past me on the highway, and I see them pulled over by a police officer a few miles ahead. But I enjoy it even more when those who are less able to fend for themselves get the retribution they deserve. This is what happens in the story in Genesis 38.

The story begins by telling how Judah (Jacob’s son) married a Canaanite woman and had 3 sons of his own. The oldest son, Er, married a woman named Tamar. Er was wicked and God decided to put him to death, so as was the custom of the day, Judah told Er’s brother Onan to step up and sleep with Tamar so that Er could have offspring (a little twisted reasoning, I guess, but that’s just the way it was). Onan didn’t want to give his dead brother children, so he ended up ‘withdrawing’ himself from the situation (pun intended…). God saw this as wicked and had Onan put to death as well.  Judah didn’t want to give his youngest son Shelah to Tamar (everyone who was with her seemed to die!), so he sent her back to her father’s house, which we end up learning later is in Timnah, a little north and west of Hebron. A while later, Judah’s wife dies,  and after mourning for her, he takes his sheep up to Timnah to have them sheared. Tamar hears that he is coming, so she veils herself and waits for Judah. When Judah sees her, he thinks she is a prostitute and propositions her, but she demands something in return. He promises her a goat (weird payment for those kinds of services if you ask me…), but she demands something as a pledge that he will actually send the goat, so he gives her his seal, his cord, and his staff. I assume that these are valuable to Judah, and that they can be traced back to him. Anyway, Judah sleeps with her and impregnates her, and he goes on his merry way. He tries to have a goat sent to her and to get his stuff back, but Tamar couldn’t be found, so he decides to leave things be.  After a couple of months, people find out that Tamar is pregnant out of wedlock, so the people come to Judah and tell him that she is guilty of prostitution. Judah automatically says to have her killed (burned to death, of all things!). But Tamar has Judah’s seal, cord, and staff sent to him to show that he is the father of her soon-to-be twins.  So Judah proclaims “She is more righteous than I…”.

BOOM! I love it when justice is served! Going by the standards of that day and time, Judah was obligated to give his son Shelah to Tamar, but he thought he could circumvent the rules and just send Tamar away. Unfortunately for Judah, God had a plan for Tamar (her son Perez was in the genealogical line of Jesus), so Judah wasn’t able to just throw her away. Because she was a woman and they didn’t have as much say-so back then, there wasn’t much she could do, but when she heard that Judah was coming, she thought she could disguise herself and get closer to him. I’m not sure what she planned to do – it doesn’t make it sound like she was intending to make herself a prostitute. But Judah, whose conscience is not as clear in this whole thing, thought she was and for some reason when he asked her, she accepted. Not a great decision on her part (she got pregnant!), but it was because of that decision that Judah had to eat his words. And when someone who thinks they are above the law gets caught doing something shameful and has to eat their words, I say that justice is served. And I like it.  A lot.

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Genesis 37: From bad to worse…

I wrote a short post the other day over my Bible study on Genesis 37:1-4. Yesterday, my study covered the rest of Genesis 37, and I’m afraid the situation for Joseph has gone from bad to worse. In the first 4 verses it says that, because their father showed obvious favoritism for Joseph (he even gave him a nice, colorful tunic), his brothers “hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” That is definitely bad – I have had people who hated me and couldn’t speak a kind word to me, and I can say from experience that it feels bad. But Joseph didn’t go making things better for himself. In the rest of chapter 37 it tells of how Joseph would have dreams and would tell his brothers and father about them, and they would interpret the dreams to mean that Joseph was saying that they would all bow down to him (never a good way to make a good impression). So to shorten the story, Joseph ends up getting sent to his brothers while they are out with the flocks, and his brothers see him coming. They plot to kill him and throw him in a pit, but Reuben (the oldest) talks them out of it. Instead, he says they should just throw him in the pit without killing him, and he plans to go back later and save him. Well, they do throw him in the pit, but before Reuben can save Joseph, Judah (another one of the brothers) sees some Ishmaelite merchants coming up and has the bright idea that instead of killing him, they should sell Joseph to the merchants as a slave (“after all,” he says, “he is our own flesh and blood!” – such a great brother). So they do this, and they take his pretty tunic and dip it in blood and take it back to their father to make him think that Joseph was killed by a wild animal.

There are a couple of things that stand out to me in the story. The first is the part that Reuben played in it. Reuben is the firstborn son of Jacob, and he has already messed up his life by sleeping with one of his father’s concubines. In Genesis 35:22 it says “While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.” Isreal, of course, being Jacob. Later, when it comes time for Jacob to bless his sons, he says to Reuben: “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.” (Genesis 49:3-4). So how did a guy who would sleep with one of his father’s wives (technically, concubine, but in God’s eyes I think if Jacob was sleeping with her, she was his wife) go from being a nasty pervert to his half-brother’s champion?  I really don’t know!  Matthew Henry’s commentary on this topic brought up a good point – “Reuben had most reason to be jealous of Joseph, for he was the first-born; yet he proves his best friend.”

The other thing that stood out for me didn’t come to me until after I read Matthew Henry’s commentary on this chapter. The story of Joseph is a great example of a foreshadowing event of Christ’s story. As Henry puts it “Joseph was a type of Christ; for though he was the beloved Son of his Father, and hated by a wicked world (his brothers), yet the Father sent him out of his bosom to visit us in great humility and love. He came from heaven to earth to seek and save us; yet then malicious plots were laid against him…” I absolutely love how the Old Testament foreshadows the coming of Christ. It proves to me that there is a God whose perfect plan has always been in place since the beginning. The unity of the Bible is one of the greatest faith-builders for me, and this story has contributed to that for me.

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