Judah was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. In those times, children were a means to gain favor with a husband of many women. Leah was competing for Jacob’s affection with Rachel her sister. When her fourth son was born, Leah believed that she had won Jacob’s love and named him, “Praise the Lord.” Leah would bear two more sons without gaining the much-desired attention (Genesis 29-30). Leah and not Rachel would become the mother of the Jews that would play a major role in world events.
Judah, like his father Jacob, was ambitious and he had the best leadership potential among his brothers. Jacob saw in Judah a lion that would rule over his brothers. That prediction was fulfilled in David and Solomon (Genesis 49:8-12). Judah was more rational than his brothers. When the jealous brothers tried to kill Joseph, Judah convinced them to sell him to the Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:26-27). Years later, a famine drove the brothers to Egypt, where Joseph was Prime Minister and detained Simeon, it was Judah that convinced Jacob to let Benjamin go (Genesis 43:1-15).
Judah, unlike his father Jacob, married Shua a Canaanite rather than one from his own family. She bore him three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er married Tamar also a Canaanite. Er died and left no children. By tradition, Onan was ordered to raise children in his brother’s name. He refused and also died. Judah promised Tamar the third son who was still too young. But when Judah reneged on his promise, she played the prostitute and became pregnant with Judah’s seed. She was also wise enough to exact from her lover his seal, his cord, and his staff; and therefore, she was spared from being burned alive. It also led Judah to confess, “She is more righteous than I” (Genesis 39:26). Twins, Perez and Zerah were the fruit of that encounter, and Perez became the father of Judah’s kings. Between Perez and King David there was Boas who married Ruth, a Moabite, and she became the great-grandmother of David. Bath Sheba the Hittite became the mother of Solomon.
Judah’s descendants produced a multiple bloodline. There should be no base for racism. We need to be reminded that even our future president has more than one bloodline. The bigger lesson from Judah was and still is, when we mess up, God takes over and makes something good out of it. May God duplicate such an event in our time.