Judah’s Blessing & Christmas
Tuesday, December 18, 2007— So far in our studies in the last few chapters of Genesis, using RC Sproul’s TableTalk as a guide, we have looked at the blessings of Jacob upon Manasseh and Ephraim, Reuben, Simeon and Levi. Now we turn to Judah and the messianic hope that would come through his tribe.
Judah is the 4th son of Leah and is named the ruling tribe, taking the place of the firstborn in this respect. Yet we immediately know that Judah is not very deserving because he, too, had a checkered past. In Gen.37:26ff is the first story including Judah to a considerable degree. Here we see him hatching the plot to sell his younger half-brother Joseph to the Ishmaelites. Reuben had previously rescued Joseph from the brothers’ plot to kill him, but when Reuben apparently departs for a while, Judah seizes the opportunity to sell Joseph to the caravan. Can you imagine selling your brother to a caravan headed to the slave markets of Egypt? This is a cold, calculating sin for personal profit. Yet Judah and his brothers were quite wealthy and the proceeds from the sale would have been so insignificant that we can scarcely accuse Judah of greed, but certainly of malice. Judah and his brothers knew that Reuben had spared the boy’s life, yet still they continued in their hate.
Ch.38 of Genesis has another story about Judah that seems rather bizarre to us today. Judah’s firstborn son, Er, marries Tamar, but the Lord puts Er to death because of his great wickedness. The custom of the day was to give the widow to the next son, in this case Onan, in order to raise up children for his deceased brother (this deals with inheritance rights). But the Lord also kills Onan for being wicked, so Judah promises Tamar for the next son in line, but he is too young. Judah forgets his obligation to Tamar and time passes, Judah’s wife dies. When Tamar hears of Judah arrival at Timnah, she sets up as a prostitute and deceives Judah, getting impregnated along the way. So we see Judah as a man who has a mean streak and will conveniently forget his obligations and stoop to using a prostitute.
When Judah learns Tamar is pregnant, he is at first incensed and plans an incendiary end to young Tamar. She reveals him to be the father and he confesses that “She is more righteous than I”. Truly one of the great acts of repentance and humility in the Bible in what is an otherwise strange story to modern ears (though it does have all the elements for a modern soap opera). Now we see that Judah can be sensitive to the Spirit’s convicting presence.
Judah’s next role continues this character development in a positive direction as we look at ch.44. In vss. 18-44 there is a passionate plea from Judah to Joseph to spare the life of Benjamin, Joseph’s only full brother. Judah, in a foreshadowing of Christ, offers his life in exchange for that of his brother. The one who betrayed his brother, sold him into slavery, now is willing to submit to slavery himself in order to rescue another brother. This is certainly one of the biggest turn arounds in all of Scripture.
Now we get to the blessing of Judah by Jacob in ch. 49.