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We read in Hebrews 7:14 NKJV

14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.

Matthew 1 also records the lineage from Abraham to Jesus which includes Judah.

Several chapters are dedicated to Joseph in Genesis, the favored child. Judah is much less prominent than Joseph nor the oldest, for he is listed as the fourth born son of the unloved wife, Leah. So, why did Jesus arise from this son as opposed to the other sons?

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  • 1
    Questions on this site need to be about the interpretation of single passages, not about theology or bringing passages together. It's not clear which passage this question is meant to focus on. Please edit it to ask a clear exegetical question about one passage.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 14 at 23:39
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    This question may well attract answers which are opinion-based. Such choices (one is tempted to use the word 'election') are to be accepted, not queried. As the answer from Psalm 78 points out, this is a matter of love within Deity.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 15 at 0:34
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    I suggest the reason is the same as 'ye see your calling,, brethren, how that not many noble or mighty are called but God hath chosen the weak things of this world and things that are nought to bring to nought things that are'. {Again, I am tempted to use the word 'election' in respect of this.}
    – Nigel J
    Jan 15 at 2:55
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    @NigelJ If you are suggesting that that this is an acceptable question despite its attracting opinion-based answers I quite agree. (Did I read you comment right?) Hermeneutics is an art as well as a science. If it yielded only one right answer to a question this would be a very dull site indeed. Jan 15 at 3:22

4 Answers 4

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The answer to your question is found in Geneses 49 when Jacob explains the distant fate of his sons, in birth order, giving special attention to the eldest four for reasons we'll see shortly:

​1 Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.
2 “Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel your father.

Ok. Here we go...

3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, and the firstfruits of my strength,
preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
4 Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence,
because you went up to your father's bed;
then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!

Yuck. Reuben lost the right to rule his family because he did his father dirty and did the dirty with his father's lady in his father's bed... Nasty. (See Gen 35:22)
Disqualified.

Next up we have a two-for-one special:

5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers;
weapons of violence are their swords.
6 Let my soul come not into their council;
O my glory, be not joined to their company.
For in their anger they killed men,
and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.
7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
and their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
and scatter them in Israel.

Yikes... not sure if you want a couple of mass murderers leading your family. These fellas literally genocided a whole city. Crazy. (See Genesis 34:25)
Double Disqualified.

Alright, then. Three down. Who's next in line?

8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father's sons shall bow down before you.
9 Judah is a lion's cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

Well, it seems the prophecy of eternal messianic rule is granted to Judah since every other son before him, in order of birth, was ruled out of contention for sleeping with his Father's woman and murdering a whole city of men.
Qualification by disqualification.

That said, while it may be observed that Judah was not always the greatest example of virtue, he did demonstrate some Messianic qualities in the end - offering himself up as a covering (atonement) for the sin his brother was accused of for the sake of his father who sent him (see Gen 44:33).

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  • +1. That was very clear to understand. Thank you for such a well written response!
    – Jason_
    Jan 15 at 6:56
  • @Jason_, You're welcome. I had much the same question previously.
    – Austin
    Jan 15 at 7:37
  • While interesting there might be many types, shadows and alignments. On this day he brought into existence our sun, the moon, and all the stars (Genesis 1:14 - 19). Their purpose was not only to give off light, but also to divide the day from the night on earth, thus becoming a basic demarcation of time. The 4th Commandment - Keep the Sabbath Day Holy.
    – Ken
    Mar 1 at 3:07
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The short answer is: That is what God decided.

The longer answer is: that is what was decreed in the ancient prophecies such as:

  • 2 Sam 7:12, 13 - And when your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for My Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
  • Isa 9:7 - Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time and forevermore.
  • Ps 2:6 - "I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain."
  • Ps 45:6, 7 - Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever, and justice is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you above your companions with the oil of joy.
  • Jer 23:3-6 - Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock from all the lands to which I have banished them, and I will return them to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or dismayed, nor will any go missing, declares the LORD. Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He will reign wisely as King and will administer justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is His name by which He will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness. See also Jer 33:15, 16 for the same prophecy.

Thus, Messiah was destined to be born of the house and line of David who was a descendent of Judah.

Now, why Judah?

That is slightly more complex. The birthright and all its privileges should have gone to eldest son, Reuben. However, because of his sin (Gen 49:3, 4), the birthright was split a divided among three other brothers:

  • Judah became the leader and ultimately was the source of Israel's permanent earthly monarchy
  • Levi became the source of priests
  • Joseph obtained a double portion of land (Ephraim and Manasseh)
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  • Despite the prophecies, I find it hard to believe that God would intentionally choose Saul (a descendant of Rachel) as Israel's first anointed king intending that he should fail. That - in addition to what the OP mentions - is why I think Christ was originally destined to be born through through the line of Rachel and Benjamin. Jan 15 at 2:54
  • @DanFefferman - it is a mysterious to me as anyone. All I can say is that God knows the end from the beginning. Actually, there might be other reasons for this but that is another question.
    – Dottard
    Jan 15 at 2:58
  • I cannot argue with that! Jan 15 at 3:32
  • @DanFefferman, that the Messiah would come from Judah was prophesied in Genesis by Jacob. See my answer. In fact it almost seems that it was Jacobs discretion as to which son the Messiah would come from much like it was Isaac's regarding who to bless between Jacob and Esau.
    – Austin
    Jan 15 at 7:36
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Psalm 78:67-68 in American English:

He rejected the tent of Joseph and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loved.

This passage refers to the period when God chose the tribe of Judah and Mount Zion as the place to establish His temple. Let's delve into a bit more detail:

  1. Rejection of the tent of Joseph and non-choice of the tribe of Ephraim:

    • This signifies that initially, God did not choose the tribe of Joseph (which included Ephraim and Manasseh) to be the primary location for worship. There are various reasons for this, including the disobedience of the people.
  2. Choice of the tribe of Judah and Mount Zion:

    • God then chose the tribe of Judah as the preeminent tribe. This is related to the lineage of Judah, including King David and, subsequently, the royal lineage leading to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
    • Mount Zion is mentioned as the chosen place by God. Historically, Solomon's Temple was built on this mount in Jerusalem, becoming the spiritual and religious center of the people of Israel.
  3. God's love for Mount Zion:

    • The verse emphasizes God's love for Mount Zion, indicating the spiritual and symbolic importance of this place.

Overall, these verses highlight the divine choice of the location where His name would be worshiped and where the covenant with the people of Israel would be maintained. In the historical context, this points to the establishment of the Temple in Jerusalem, which became central to the religious and cultural life of the Israelites. These choices also have broader theological implications, connecting to the messianic promise and redemption through the lineage of Judah.

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  • This question may well attract answers which are opinion-based. Such choices (one is tempted to use the word 'election') are to be accepted, not queried. As the answer from Psalm 78 points out, this is a matter of love within Deity. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 15 at 0:37
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    I see the key tribe here as Benjamin's not Joseph's. He was Rachel's youngest son and the forefather of King Saul, whom God choose as Israel's first king. I take the view that Judah's line was a secondary choice. The OP is right to wonder why Rachel's line was not chosen. In fact (IMO) it was God's first choice. Jan 15 at 3:31
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Judah's line was not God's first choice. As the OP points out Joseph's course receives special attention in the saga of Jacob's family. He and his brother Benjamin were especially favored by Jacob because they were the sons of his beloved wife Rachel. Indeed, she sacrificed her life to give birth to Benjamin. (Genesis 35:19) His role is crucial here. Younger brothers consistently receive God's blessing in the Book of Genesis, and Benjamin was no exception. It would be from his lineage, not Judah's or Joseph's, that God selected the first king of Israel: Saul the Benjaminite (1 Samuel 9:21).

1 Samuel 10:1

Then, from a flask he had with him, Samuel poured oil on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying: “The Lord anoints you ruler over his people Israel. You are the one who will govern the Lord’s people and save them from the power of their enemies all around them.

Sadly, Saul failed in his responsibility and when God sought a replacement, he turned to the line of Judah.

Why Judah? First, Judah had saved the life or Rachel's son Joseph when his other brothers sought to kill him. (Genesis 37:26) Second, Judah's descendants attained special merit through their mother, Tamar. She risked her life to continue Judah's lineage. (Genesis 38) In human eyes her behavior was immoral, but in God's eyes the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, moving her to risk everything to perpetuate the lineage that God would eventually use to give birth to King David and Jesus. Ultimately she became the foremother of the Messiah.

Conclusion: Although Rachel's line was originally preferred, Christ came from Judah's lineage because 1) King Saul, God's first choice to establish the royal line, failed to fulfill the potential he inherited from Rachel through Benjamin; 2) Judah had saved Joseph's life when his other brothers wanted to murder him; and 3) Judah's descendants received special merit because of the heroic act of Tamar to perpetuate Judah's lineage.

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  • when I first posted this I left out the word "not" from the opening sentence. I hate it when that happens! Jan 15 at 2:49
  • Oh, does that mean you think God's plan A can be thwarted and a plan B has to be found instead? That's a theologically massive Q, I know - requiring a fresh question, but if you hadn't made the above comment, I would not have noticed your slip-up in sentence 1! Smiles.
    – Anne
    Jan 19 at 16:18

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