Tribe of Judah: History & Descendants

Instructor: Margaret Moran
The tribe of Judah is one of the great 12 tribes of ancient Israel. This lesson will examine the history of the tribe as well as link to the descendants of the group.

History of the Tribe of Judah

Historically, there are twelve tribes of Israel, descended from the patriarch Jacob's sons and grandsons. Judah's tribe was the largest. Introduced in the Biblical book of Genesis and in the Torah, the tribe of Judah is descended from Judah, the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. Judah was one of Jacob's twelve sons, and was responsible in part for placing his younger, more favored brother Joseph in a pit. It was suggested by Judah that he should be sold to enemy traders for pieces of silver. Judah and his brothers then deceived their parents into thinking Joseph was killed.

Painting of Judah

Judah left home and found a wife, producing three sons. The book of Genesis states that Judah's oldest son was put to death by God for being evil and his second born was killed for refusing to fulfill his duty of producing an heir with his brother's widow. Judah was then tricked by his son's widow Tamar into conceiving twins through her. The line of Judah originated with these twins.

Settlement in Canaan

After many years, the Israelites became slaves in Egypt and were eventually led to freedom in an exodus by Moses. Once they were freed, they wandered in the desert for 40 years. Upon the death of Moses, Joshua took over the leadership of the ancient Israelites and they entered the land of Canaan. After conquering the land, each tribe was given a specific section of the territory. The tribe of Judah took the area to the south of Jerusalem. Over the years, this kingdom of Judah would continue to grow and prosper in number and power until circa 586 B.C.E. when it was conquered by the Babylonians. Many of the inhabitants were captured and carried off with the army. But, when Cyrus the Great conquered Babylonia in 538 B.C.E. with his Persian army, he allowed all the Jewish citizens to return to Israel.

Upon the Israelites' return to their homeland, the tribe of Judah continued to grow and eventually would become one of the two tribes of Israel that was not destroyed and/ or scattered by the Assyrian takeover of Israel in 721 B.C.E. Jewish lore refers to the ten tribes of the north that were dismantled and eventually absorbed by other cultures as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

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