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Why Did God Choose Judah?

In Bible/Theology, Blogs by Jesse King9 Comments


When I was 8 years old, I had to build a car. I didn’t know anything about cars. How was I supposed to build something I knew nothing about? Thankfully, my assignment was only a little wooden stock car, but I didn’t know anything about woodworking either. So I worried I would never get to join the stock car race with my friends.

God provided me with the help of a man from my church who knew more about cars than I knew about everything in my life put together. He showed me how to shape and smooth a car from a block of wood. He took care of the difficult details and let me add the paint and decals. Thanks to him, my car won a race and earned me a trophy.

But I didn’t deserve that trophy. I hadn’t done the work; my architect did. I just showed up and rolled the car down the track. So why should I get rewarded for something I didn’t earn?

I bet Judah, Jacob’s fourth son, felt the way I did when his father blessed him on his deathbed. As Jacob prophesied concerning his sons, his promise to Judah was greater than all others: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Genesis 49:10). This prophecy revealed that Jesus the Messiah, the King of kings, would be born of Judah’s line. So, what was so special about Judah? 

An Unworthy Candidate

Judah wasn’t the firstborn—Reuben was. Judah’s mother was Leah, not his father’s preferred bride, Rachel, whose sons were Joseph and Benjamin. God consecrated the line of Levi, not Judah, as the tribe of priests that made intercession between God and the Israelites. So, why did Judah receive the greatest blessing among Jacob’s sons? 

Though selling Joseph into slavery was cruel, God used Judah’s act to rescue Joseph from death and ultimately lead him to prominence in Egypt, allowing him to save his brothers’ lives and countless others from starvation.

Scripture characterizes Judah not as upright but as wicked. A whole chapter of Scripture (Genesis 38) records his sin of soliciting prostitution from his own daughter-in-law Tamar. His children only left a greater stain on his legacy. The Lord put his first two sons, Er and Onan, to death for their immorality (vv. 7, 10).

But God used this flawed son of Jacob for His greater purposes. When Joseph’s brothers threw him in a pit and left him to die, Judah suggested that they draw him out of the pit and sell him instead of letting him die (37:26–27). Though selling Joseph into slavery was cruel, God used Judah’s act to rescue Joseph from death and ultimately lead him to prominence in Egypt, allowing him to save his brothers’ lives and countless others from starvation.

God even magnified Judah’s most notable sin as part of the divine privilege only a handful of humans have ever enjoyed. Judah’s sinful union with Tamar resulted in the birth of twins, Perez and Zerah.

Like the children of Judah’s grandfather, Isaac, Judah’s children’s unusual births foreshadowed their reversal of blessings. Isaac’s son Esau was born first, but his twin, Jacob, grabbed Esau’s heel as he was born. Years later, Jacob grabbed his father’s blessing and birthright from his brother deceitfully. Then, in the moment Jacob’s son Judah became a father, Zerah reached his hand out, which was tied with a scarlet thread. But his twin Perez then breached first unexpectedly, earning his name, which means “breach” in Hebrew. 

Though both Jacob and Perez usurped their brothers, God granted Judah, his father, and his son the great privilege of being part of the line of the Messiah.

Grace on the Grand Scale

You might bristle at God’s choosing of Judah. Why didn’t He choose the heroic and godly Joseph as the Messiah’s ancestor? Why not Reuben, Levi, or Benjamin?

In college my professor taught about Jacob one morning. As we studied Jacob’s many missteps and deceptions, it bothered me that this man who cheated his brother out of his birthright and blessing (25:29–34; 27:1–29) and who challenged and wrestled God (32:22–32) could be so richly blessed as a key figure in Jesus’ line. 

“Aren’t you glad God offers you the same grace He offered Jacob?”

I caught up with my professor after class to discuss his lecture, including my reservations with Jacob’s deceit and subsequent blessing. When I asked why God chose Him to be such a key figure, my professor answered, “Aren’t you glad God offers you the same grace He offered Jacob?”

His question made me realize how sinful I am and how gracious God is toward me. I shouldn’t even register as a blip on His radar, yet Christ’s death and resurrection have given me access to a wealth of riches in Him that I could never earn. As God blessed Jacob despite his sins, He also blessed Judah despite his sin in His divine grace.

Judah’s Redemption

Judah’s success deserves recognition too. When Joseph held authority in Egypt, he met the brothers who had betrayed him many years earlier but did not recognize him then. Joseph tested them and arranged to separate his younger brother, Benjamin, from his older brothers.

Judah believed the pain of losing Benjamin would kill his father, so he offered to trade himself as a sacrifice and bear Joseph’s wrath, petitioning him, “Please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?” (44:33–34). Immediately, Joseph made himself known to his brothers, resulting in reconciliation and harmony for their family.

Judah’s story should resonate with us. We have all sinned against Him and fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23). Yet, by His matchless grace, He invites us to take part in the blessings of Jesus the Messiah. We can find salvation from our sins by placing our faith in Him, and we can be called sons of God (Galatians 3:26).

God’s goodness toward Judah shows us the unsurpassable grace He has granted us. Judah’s privilege in Jesus’ line shouldn’t anger us but rather comfort us, knowing God blesses us far beyond what we deserve. And our greatest blessings were bought by Judah’s descendant, Jesus, who purchased our redemption to save us from our sins.

About the Author
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Jesse King

Jesse is the managing editor of Israel My Glory magazine and a staff writer for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.

Comments 9

  1. Thanks Jesse for that wonderful reminder of the grace of God toward each and every one of us. A well written article!

  2. Brother Jesse, thanks for a great article on Jehovah’s grace in saving sinners “of whom I’m chief”. Also, you are in FOIs Praise and Prayer booklet for today, Aug 3, 2023 so know I’m praying for you! God bless and thanks for your excellent work on Israel My Glory!

    1. I just wanted to say that I found your article insightful and beautiful. However, I respectfully disagree with your statement here ‘ It bothered me that this man who cheated his brother out of his birthright and blessing (25:29–34; 27:1–29) and who challenged and wrestled God’. . While I understand that we may judge Jacob for cheating his brother, I disagree that the wrestle with God was a presumptuous act done with arrogance.

      I believe that the wrestling was a transformative experience for Jacob, not one that was wrought with pride and arrogance.
      Had this been a boastful, presumptuous confidence, Jacob would
      have been instantly destroyed, but his was the assurance of one
      who confesses his unworthiness, yet trusts the faithfulness of a
      covenant-keeping God.

      Overall, I loved the perspective you presented in your article, and I simply wanted to clarify this particular point. Thank you again for your insightful and thought-provoking piece.

  3. I am studying the first 5 books of old testament the journey of Israelites to the promise land Canaan what are blessings. Thank you for sharing gives more insight the connection of Jesus.

  4. I’m curious as to why, but mighty glad, there is two references to the Messiah-Christ. One is in Judah’s blessing and the other is in Joseph’s blessings:

    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.
    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?
    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.
    Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:
    His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.


    Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
    The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
    But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
    Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:
    The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.

    What is the inference here in that Jesus Christ is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense?

    Thank you for a good article.

  5. Light had just entered my heart now. Your is quite impressive and expressive. May God bless your fingers and give grace to pen down more revelational article

  6. Judah is proto Jesus. It was his total willingness to sacrifice himself out of love for his Father or a sacrifice for his bother. Put yourself in this situation. In that age if he didn’t outright get executed he may have lost a limb or even the prospect of being a slave could have been for life, so “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life” this is another place in the bible where the foreshadowing of Christ is shown.

  7. Judah’s blessings shows us how merciful our God is. Thank you Jesus for loving me, us, despite our sins.

  8. God is a merciful father. He can be merciful to whom He chooses to be merciful to. His ways are not our ways, so are His thoughts.

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