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Lessons from the Life of Judah

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Genesis 37:18–35 ESV
They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes and returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?” Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not.” And he identified it and said, “It is my son’s robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.


Fourth son of Leah the first/but non-favorite wife. In Hebrew tradition, Reuben, Leah and Israel’s firstborn son, would be the one to suceed Israel as family patriarch.

Lesson 1: Don’t based decisions on feelings.

Judah’s Youth
In Gen 37:18-35 we get a glimpse of Judah’s character.
Like his brothers, Judah was jealous of Joseph and his dreams. Together, they conspired to kill him until Rueben speaks up and convinces them to put him in a pit.
Judah comes up with the idea to sell him and make a profit.
They sell Joseph to be a slave and then the family business of deception comes back into play as they convince Israel Joseph was killed.
Genesis 37:31–33 ESV
Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not.” And he identified it and said, “It is my son’s robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.”
Judah was no saint in his youth.
Plotted murder, kidnapped brother, sold him, deceived Dad.
Like all of us, he needed to mature and to overcome character flaws.
His age and inexperience doesn’t justify his sin.
He allowed the feelings of jealousy and anger motive him into these sins.
Jealousy can lead to number of other problems.
I came across this illustration of the dangers of envy

Joseph envied by his brothers. Envy hates those excellencies it cannot reach. It is a canker to the soul and stops only at murder.

The brothers had no visions of leadership
They didn’t enjoy the status as favorites
Envy eroded at their souls and led them to murderous thoughts and horrible actions.
It will do the same to us.
Envy robs us of the joy and blessings of God.
James had this to say
James 4:1–3 ESV
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
This principle holds true in all areas of life
Our attitude should be:
1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Lesson 2: God Humbles us

Judah’s Troubles
Genesis begins 2 different settings and stories:
The faithfulness of Joseph even as a slave and then a prisoner in Egypt is contrasted by the wickedness of Judah and his sons.
married outside the faith when he married a Canaanite woman
Corruption of idolatry and its practices crept into the sons of Abraham.
Judah’s sons
Er, the firstborn was married to Tamar and died childless.
In keeping with custom (which would later be part of the law) Judah marries his next son so that they could have children in his deceased brothers name.
He was wicked and prevented conception because the child wouldn’t count as his
God punished him
Genesis 38:10 ESV
And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also.
Judah’s youngest son was too young to marry Tamar at the time and so:
Genesis 38:11–13 ESV
Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house, till Shelah my son grows up”—for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained in her father’s house. In the course of time the wife of Judah, Shua’s daughter, died. When Judah was comforted, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,”
Tamar dresses as a temple prostitute
Genesis 38:15–19 ESV
When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—” He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. Then she arose and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.
Judah sent the payment, but she was not to be found.
Then 3 months later:
Genesis 38:24–26 ESV
About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.
Twins are born and Perez is a direct ancestor of Jesus (mt 1)
Sometimes GOD has to crush us and break us down in order to build us up.
The hardness of our hearts can often be a barrier between us and the person God wants us to be.
Our pride, lust, envy, etc. hinders us just as it did Judah
God works on us and mold and shape us into the image of Christ.
That means He removes the things which don’t belong.
Jeremiah 18:1–6 ESV
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
Just as God reshaped Israel, He reshapes us!
The clay can’t argue with the Potter and neither should we.
Remain malleable in God’s hands
Judah vs. Joseph
which will you choose to follow?
Faithful to GOD regardless of the circumstances?
Sensual and selfish in spite of God’s blessings.
Thankfully, as years go by, Judah is transformed.

Lesson 3: God brings transformation

From the story of Joseph, we may recall that he could interpret dreams. Pharoah had a dream and GOD gave Joseph its interpretation warning of 7 great years followed by 7 years of famine. Joseph rises to become the chief steward of Egypt. He is second only to Pharoah and is in charge of distribution of stored food during the lean years.
This brings us to Judah’s graduation ceremony!
Judah and his brothers go to Egypt to seek food and Joseph’s childhood dreams of his brothers bowing to him are fulfilled.
The exchanges which take place are a final exam for Judah and we see his full transformation.
1st trip: won’t see me again unless you bring Benjamin
Dad won’t let it happen
Reuben responds:
Genesis 42:37 ESV
Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.”
offers his sons lives as guarantee (why not his own?)
Why bring these 2 innocents into it?
Judah’s response:
After the food ran out and crisis time hits, Judah steps up as a godly leader of the family.
Genesis 43:8–9 ESV
And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy 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 will be a pledge of his safety. 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.
He takes responsibility
He puts himself on the line for his brother, Benjamin
remember, this is the new favorite son since Rachel was his mother
This sin’t the rash, schemer and lustful younger Judah we had seen.
This was a transformed man.
In Egypt, he acts as spokesman this time.
Crucial Confession:
Meal, final exam;
cup in Benjamin’s sack
Genesis 44:14–34 ESV
When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there. They fell before him to the ground. Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that a man like me can indeed practice divination?” And Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found.” But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the man in whose hand the cup was found shall be my servant. But as for you, go up in peace to your father.” Then Judah went up to him and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’ “When we went back to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother goes with us, then we will go down. For we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. One left me, and I said, “Surely he has been torn to pieces,” and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in evil to Sheol.’ “Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”
Judah bore responsibility and asked to take Benjamin’s place
gone are the days in which he would have said, “good riddance”
Judah no longer sought to profit even at his brother’s expense.
This is the patriarch of the ruling tribe of Israel. This is the ancestor of Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
Let us leave his story with the blessing from Israel over his son:
Genesis 49:8–12 ESV
“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. 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? 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. Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.
God transforms us!
Romans 12:1–2 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Philippians 2:12–13 ESV
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
God is working on us
Don’t give up on yourself
Our past doesn’t lock us into or out of anything!
God is in the forgiving and transforming business.


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