Judah The Righteous

Judah like his brothers was not impressed with Joseph's dreams of greatness. It was not right that the younger rule over the elder. And so he chose to follow the plan of Reuben. However, when Reuben was absent, Judah offered an alternative to his brothers.

"'What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.' And his brothers listened." (Genesis 37:26) Joseph was sold and taken down to Egypt.

Judah 's plan appears more righteous than Reuben's because the profits of Judah's plan were evenly shared, while Reuben's plan would see him elevated at the expense of his brothers.

At this point the Scripture record interrupts the life of Joseph to describe some events and circumstances that befall Judah. In this passage, Judah is characterized as one who is righteous. He is perceived by his friends and those who know him as righteous. From the time that he takes a wife for his firstborn son, Er, to the moment when Tamar, his widowed daughter-in-law, who was promised to his third son, was found to be pregnant, Judah is portrayed as pursuing the path of the righteous.

The climax came when Judah acknowledged that Tamar was more righteous than he. "She is more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son." (Genesis 38:26) Judah humbled himself, for the sake of righteousness. Judah was willing to elevate Tamar, regardless of the cost to his own reputation. This is the behaviour of the righteous. And Judah continued to behave righteously toward Tamar by honouring her. "And he never knew her again." (Genesis 38:26) Judah upheld Tamar's honour by not taking her to his bed.

Eventually, Tamar gave birth to twins, Perez and Zerah. In contrast, to Reuben who offered to take the life of two of his sons, Judah was able to add the life of two sons to his father, Jacob.

Jacob refused to allow his son Benjamin to go back to Egypt with Reuben, even though Reuben offered, "Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you . . . " (Genesis 42:37) Consequently, when the supplies of food began to run low, Jacob told his sons to go back to Egypt. It was at this time that Judah approached his father and reminded him of what the Egyptian governor had told them. "You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you." (Genesis 43:4)

Jacob was still not willing to allow Benjamin to go. "Why did you deal so wrongfully with me as to tell the man whether you had another brother?" (Genesis 43:6) The brothers objected. They could not have anticipated that the governor would have demanded that they return with Benjamin.

"Then Judah said to Israel his father, 'Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; from my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.'" (Genesis 43:8-9)

Judah 's words are interesting. "Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go . . . " The words are reminiscent of the time when Abraham and Isaac went up to Mount Moriah to worship the LORD. "And Abraham said to his young men, ' . . . the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.'" (Genesis 22:5) Judah was affirming to Jacob his father, the path of the righteous–the path his father, Isaac, and Isaac's father, Abraham had walked. " . . . we will arise and go . . . " is a phrase typical of the path the righteous walk when they arise to go up specifically to worship the LORD in His house. Judah was expressing to Jacob, his father, that though they were going down to Egypt the journey will be as though going up to worship the LORD; because where the LORD is, there the righteous will worship.

Judah reassured his father that going down to Egypt would be an act of worship, a display of the righteous walking amid circumstances to the contrary. They would go up, so that they may live and not die, because who can show the nations the LORD's righteousness, if not the righteous? And who will show the nations the righteousness of the LORD, if the righteous should all die? Surely then, going down to Egypt will be a demonstration of the faithfulness of the LORD to the righteous in this present generation, and a witness to the preservation of the righteous generations to come " . . . that we may live . . . both we and you and also our little ones . . . " .

Jacob had waited a long time to hear such words from his sons. Finally, they came from the mouth of Judah.

"And their father Israel said to them, 'If it must be so then do this . . . Take your brother also, and arise, go back to the man. And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!" (Genesis 43:14)

Jacob was reluctant to let Benjamin go with Reuben, his firstborn, but he was willing to leave him in Judah's hands.