16 Verses: Genesis 49:10…Judah

16 Verses

The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses

Genesis 49:10…Judah the King

God created a kingdom, and he is the king, but he made human beings to represent him in that kingdom. Adam and Eve rejected this call, which led to sin and death. But God promised to defeat the serpent through the offspring of the woman, who is also the offspring of Abraham. Through Abraham’s family, and specifically Judah’s royal offspring, the covenant blessings would come to the world.

Judah was “Fourth of Jacob’s 12 sons (Gen 35:23; 1 Chron 2:1) and the 4th son born to Jacob by Leah, who, overjoyed with the thought of bearing Jacob another son, named him Judah, meaning “praise” (Gen 29:35, “This time I will praise the Lord”). Judah fathered five sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah by (Hira) Bath-shua the Canaanite (Gen 38:3–5; 1 Chron. 2:3) and the twins, Perez and Zerah, by Tamar, his daughter-in-law (Gen 38:29, 30; 1 Chron. 2:4). He eventually settled his family in Egypt with his father and brothers (Ex 1:2), although his first two sons, Er and Onan, were divinely killed in Canaan for their disobedience (Gen 46:12). Judah became the founder of one of Israel’s 12 tribes (Nm 1:26, 27).”[1]

God blesses through Jacob (Israel) to the fourth son of the lazy-eyed Leah, whose first two sons were killed by God for being evil, whose twins came by his daughter-in-law, with this:

Genesis 49:10 (ESV) “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.”

We choose “most likely to succeed” but God chooses the “least likely to succeed” to be the father of kings and in so doing he captivates us with his work in history and gives great hope to the world that being from the most stain free and cultured is not the way to favor with God. God gives us great hope that might does not always make right and that the meek, and sometimes flat out backward, will truly inherit the earth.

God has built this theme and storyline into history, and Scripture captures God’s work in history 1) to reveal his glory, 2) cause us to trust him and then 3) bring us back to him with this good news of his king and his kingdom atoning for the rebellion and breaking the curse and setting all things right again.

Remember, there is only 1 hero in the Bible…Jesus.

Therefore, as we read the bible we dare not moralize the accounts of people or their lives. No doubt we can learn moral lessons from them, but moral lessons are external behavior modifiers. God has to fix us at the heart level, and he works from the inside out. He does this by showing us HIMSELF at work in the lives of the least likely, himself making covenant, keeping covenant and wooing us to him to transform not to morally modify our behavior.

We are to see the people, know their lives and be reconciled back to the God who is at work in them crushing the head of the serpent and doing so with the offspring of the woman.

Ultimately, however, what makes the people of the bible, as well as you and I, part of that serpent crushing family is that the One being pointed to, alluded to, typed forward and patterned in the Old Testament is THE offspring of the woman who did crush the serpent’s head through his life, death, burial and resurrection, the Hero, Jesus.

So, what do we see in Judah’s story that points us to the One?

Judah’s Past: The Patriarchs…In all the dysfunction God was working to preserve a line…by grace

Once again, we can’t escape the theme of God’s elective grace.

Judah’s Little Brother: Joseph…All about God’s promise to preserve his people…including Judah.

The story of Joseph, a fascinating story, is the background to which God’s work in Judah is to be highlighted.

To say it another way, the darkness of what happens to Joseph and his hard work to rescue the world, and his family, from famine is there to put on display the shining work of grace in old Judah.

While the Serpent was trying to kill off the offspring of the woman, God preserved innocent Joseph so that he could save his guilty brothers, particularly Judah.

Do you see the gospel pattern there?

One innocent son of a father taking the brunt of punishment in the place of the guilty in order to save the guilty while ascending to a throne of authority.

Jesus, the innocent and perfect Son takes the punishment due the guilty in order to save the guilty as he ascends to his rightful throne as King.

But didn’t we say that the signpost was Judah? Yes!

This is why the strange story of Judah and Tamar is inserted right after Joseph is introduced.

Genesis chapter 37 records Joseph having his dreams of God’s future work, and his brothers then mistreat him and decide to sell him off to some Ishmaelite traders headed to Egypt, led by Judah nonetheless.

Genesis 38 interrupts the story of Joseph with this strange story of Judah and his daughter-in-law, Tamar. We get to be introduced to the one God will use to crush the serpent at his worse.


  1. We get to see God works by grace not effort or moral goodness.
  2. We get to see that there is nothing God can’t overcome or work through for good.
  3. We get to see that God saves the bad (Judah and his brothers) through the good (Joseph), and see his pattern of the gospel.
  4. We get to see that God preserves his people through the curse of the fall and keeps his promise to Abraham. Therefore, we know God will preserve his people.
  5. We can get a glimpse into why Paul would write things like Romans 8:28!

Judah the Lion King: Genesis 49:10 Judah will be the royal offspring that that nations will be blessed through.

Genesis 49:8-10 (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.

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 (scepter and staff are symbols of authority)[2],

nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet (he would have a line of successors)[3],

until tribute comes to him;

and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples (Philippians 2:10-11)[4].

What have we learned about Judah?

Judah is an intercessor

“Though reckless in his behavior with Tamar (Gen. 38:6–30), Judah showed firm resolve in taking personal responsibility for Benjamin’s safety in Egypt and acting as intercessor for his brothers before Joseph (Gen 44:14–18). At the time of Jacob’s blessing Judah was granted the birthright privileges of the firstborn; the leadership of Jacob’s family would come through Judah’s seed, as would the promised Messiah of Abraham’s covenant (Gen. 49:8–12).”[5]

Judah is a reminder of grace

Judah is chosen as a royal line to keep God’s plan of kingdom in place

Adam and Eve were to be a king and queen of sorts over creation.

God promised Abraham he would be a great nation, and in essence the head, or king over a nation of people.

God weaves this truth of his rule over and through his people with the promise of a kingdom that is and is to come in full in the future.

God chose king and kingdom as his means of making clear who he is and who we are.

God did not choose a democratic style of rule in which subjects get to be little sovereigns. God chose monarchy to make clear to the world that the presence of a human king is to be a reminder of the God/King who is the loving ruler over his whole domain and we are his subject who do his bidding in love.

One of the great defenses against atheism is an ontological defense. We reason from existence of ideas and concepts. As Anselm of Canterbury reasoned, if it exists in the mind it must exist in reality, otherwise, where did it come from?

Not to get too complicated, but the fact that mankind can imagine a perfect kingdom with a perfect king in our wildest fantasies is because that kingdom existed in creation, and as image bearers it is stamped on our souls.

And it gets better. The perfect kingdom is not just a fantasy. It’s a reality.

From the line of Judah, God would bring a good but flawed king over a good a prosperous people, yet flawed, that would point us to the perfect and unflawed king over a rescued and made perfect and unflawed kingdom of priests to God spanning the entire earth in which all things are right and whole.

How can we obey?

A. Don’t arrogantly assume God can’t use you to change the world.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (ESV) For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

It is supremely arrogant to assume because you and I don’t meet a cursed standard that God can’t or won’t use us or for that matter save us.

God majors in saving the un-savable and empowering the weak.

B. We have to distinguish between “Jew” and “Israel as a whole”.

The proper name “Jew” means “belonging to Judah”.

“This is whey Jesus told the Samaritan woman that salvation is from the “Jews” (John 4:22).”[6]

God’s choice of Judah to bear the role of kingship and one day bring salvation through Jesus, explains the divided kingdom after Solomon with the 10 northern tribes having some 13 dynasties from 925-722 B.C. contrasted with Judah who had 1 dynasty.

God’s choice of Judah also explains why the 10 northern tribes are not clearly preserved as Judah is preserved. In 722 the Assyrians take the 10 northern tribes captive all over the world and some don’t show up much, if at all, in history again. (Interesting tid bit for you, our people group that we love so much have a belief among them that they are one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel.)

This work of God is also why the New Testament will distinguish between those who are of the faith of Abraham, and not merely descended physically from Abraham, as the ones who are of the promised offspring of the woman.

This will help us in our interpretation of events later in the bible as we talk about the restoration of all things.

C. Respond to God in awe, wonder, praise and being a living sacrifice.

Romans 11:33-12:1

Paul finishes up one of his hardest chapters to understand regarding Israel, salvation, election, gentiles, etc. And Paul, I’m sure is clear, yet I’m a dunce. I think I get it, but my “sure” meter is low. But I want you to note what Paul does in response to this work of God’s choice of Judah and how he included Gentiles in that.

Romans 11:33 – 12:1 (ESV) Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,

or who has been his counselor?”

35 “Or who has given a gift to him

that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

12:1 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.

Paul’s response? Awe, wonder, praise and being a living sacrifice.




[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Judah (Person),” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1227.

[2] Parenthesis mine.

[3] Parenthesis mine.

[4] Parenthesis mine.

[5] Ibid. p. 1227.

[6] Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (Nottingham: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 127.


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