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Even though Judah is one of the tribes of Israel (Exo. 31:2), why, then, are Judah and Israel often distinguished when they occur in the same verse?

For example, in Jer. 30:4 (KJV), it is written,

And these are the words that the LORD spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah.

What is the significance of Israel in such a verse?

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3 Answers 3

When scripture refers to Yehuda ("Judah") and Yisra'el ("Israel") in the same verse, it is often because it is not referring to individual tribes (of which Yehuda was one), but rather, the two kingdoms into which the people of Yisra'el were split during the reign of King Rechav'am ("Rehoboam"), the son of King Shlomo ("Solomon").

This fracture was a consequence of King Shlomo forsaking Yahveh (1 Kings 11:11-13). Yahveh said that He would give one tribe to Shlomo's son, Rechav'am (1 Kings 11:13), but the rest would be given into the hand of Shlomo's servant (1 Kings 11:11 cp. 1 Kings 11:26), Yarov'am ("Jeroboam").

After the fracture, two kingdoms existed, ruled by two kings. The northern kingdom was known as "Yisra'el," and it was first ruled by Yarov'am, the son of Nevat ("Nebat") (1 Kings 11:26); the southern kingdom was known as "Yehuda," and it was first ruled by Rechav'am, the son of King Shlomo.

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By way of supplementing and extending the answers already provided for this question:

As noted elsewhere in this Q&A, the kingdom that was united under the thrones of Saul, David, and Solomon, split in the aftermath of Solomon's reign into distinct "nations": one in the north, and one in the south (narrated in 1 Kings 12). When the two designations "Israel" and "Judah" are used in the deliberate and connected fashion as in the OP's verse, Jeremiah 30:4, it is showing a self-conscious awareness of and attention to these independent political entities.

As also noted, there is a wider pattern of designations used in the Hebrew Bible to refer to these two states:

+---+----------+---------+-----------+
|   |  Aspect  |  North  |   South   |
+---+----------+---------+-----------+
| 1 | National | Israel  | Judah     |
| 2 | Tribal   | Ephraim | Judah     |
| 3 | City     | Samaria | Jerusalem |
| 4 | Mountain | Ephraim | Zion      |
+---+----------+---------+-----------+

Examples1

  1. National: 2 Samuel 5:5: "In Hebron he [i.e., David] reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah. Distinguishing the successive phases of David's period of reign over south, and north-and-south, respectively.
  2. Tribal: Isaiah 11:13: "The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and they that harass Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim. " In Isaiah's vision of a utopian future age, north and south, here designated according to their leading tribes, will be at peace.
  3. City: Isaiah 10:11: "Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?" From Isaiah's "woe" oracles, aligning the capital of the north and south.
  4. Mountain: Jeremiah 31:6: "For there shall be a day, that the watchmen shall call upon the mount Ephraim: arise ye, and let us go up to Zion, unto the LORD our God." One of the few times in the Hebrew Bible that "(Mount) Ephraim" and "Zion" appear together in a single verse, although separately they occur many, many times.

Tracing these pairs through the HB/OT can illuminate both the nature of the divisions (as in ##1 and 3, above), and the hopes and aspirations that this difference should ultimately be overcome (as in ##2 and 4, above -- see also, e.g., Jer. 50:4-5; Ezekiel 37:15-23).

1 The translation cited is the 1917 JPS translation from Mechon Mamre.

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That Joseph (and hence his son Ephraim who inherited a double portion of his blessing) was Israel's (aka Jacob's) favored son necessarily implies that a lineage through someone other than the favored son (namely Judah, the last of his children through Leah, his first wife) is a very separate entity.

Historically Judah was the most important tribe in the South, and Ephraim (one of Joseph's two sons) was the most tribe in the north. While not synonymous, Israel = Ephraim is a common refrain throughout much of the Old Testament. Indeed, the tension in Genesis between Judah and Ephraim (through Joseph) may be indicative of this tension. When the two kingdoms split under David's grandson, it became both necessary to distinguish the two, and to preserve the differences in the text.

Bottom line: Israel would distinguish himself through Ephraim in the North. Judah was clearly related, but not the heir to Israel's legacy.

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