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Judah is the fourth son of Jacob and Leah described in the Book of Genesis. Founder of the tribe that bears his name, he was born in Padan-aram.[1]

Judah's name is interpreted as a combination of "YHWH" (given as a reward for his public confession, Genesis 38:26) with the letter "dalet," the numerical value of which is 4, Judah being the fourth son of Jacob.[2]


Judah who suggested the sale of Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders. It is unclear from the record whether he did this out of protection or spite—in order to save the life of his brother, or because it was the next-worst thing he could think of since Reuben had prevented them from killing Joseph. Judah may have been especially resentful of Joseph because Judah was expecting to receive the birthright, since his three older brothers (Reuben, Simeon, and Levi) had disqualified themselves through sin. He may have seen Joseph as a competitor for the birthright and thus may have wanted to oust him.

Judah becomes surety for his brother Benjamin, and prevails upon his father to let him go down to Egypt according to the request of Joseph, after Reuben has failed.[3]

In subsequent interviews with Joseph, Judah takes a leading part among the brethren (e.g., "Judah and his brethren," Gen. xliv. 14), and makes a most touching and persuasive plea for the release of Benjamin.[4] In Jacob's blessing, he seems to be exalted to the position of chief of the brethren, owing apparently to the misconduct of Reuben and the treacherous violence of Simeon and Levi (see Genesis 34, 35:22, 49:2–10), who thereby forfeit their birthright.

According to Genesis 38, Judah married the daughter of the Canaanite Shuah, by whom he had three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er married Tamar, but died childless. According to custom his widow was given in marriage to his brother Onan, who was slain for misconduct; and she was then promised to the third son, Shelah. This promise not having been fulfilled, she resorted to stratagem, and became by Judah the mother of Parez and Zarah. Perez was an ancestor of King David.[5][6]

See also


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