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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature

Judah Tribe of

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This tribe sprang from Judah, the son of Jacob. When the Israelites departed from Egypt, it already exhibited the elements of its future distinction in a larger population than any of the other tribes possessed. It numbered 74,000 adult males, being nearly 12,000 more than Dan, the next in point of numbers, and 34,100 more than Ephraim, which in the end contested with it the superiority among the tribes. During the sojourn in the wilderness, Judah neither gained, like some tribes, nor lost like others. Its numbers had increased to 76,500 being 12,100 more than Issachar, which had become next to it in population (). In the first distribution of lands, the tribe of Judah received the southernmost part of Palestine, to the extent of fully one-third of the whole country to be distributed among the nine and a half tribes for which provision was to be made. This oversight was discovered and rectified at the time of the second distribution, which was founded on an actual survey of the country, when Simeon and Dan received allotments out of the territory which had before been wholly assigned to Judah (). That which remained was still very large, and more proportioned to the future greatness than the actual wants of the tribe. When Judah became a kingdom, the original extent of territory assigned to the tribe was more than restored or compensated, for it must have included the domains of Simeon, and we know that Benjamin was included in it.

The history of the Judges contains fewer facts respecting this important tribe than might be expected. It seems however to have been usually considered that the birthright which Reuben forfeited had passed to Judah under the blessing of Jacob; and a sanction was given to this impression when, after the death of Joshua, the divine oracle nominated Judah to take precedence of the other tribes in the war against the Canaanites (). It does not appear that any tribe was disposed to dispute the superior claim of Judah on its own account, except Ephraim, although in doing this Ephraim had the support of other tribes. Ephraim appears to have rested its claims to the leadership of the tribes upon the ground that the house of Joseph, whose interest it represented, had received the birthright, or double portion of the eldest, by the adoption of the two sons of Joseph, who became the founders of two tribes in Israel. The existence of the sacerdotal establishment at Shiloh, in Ephraim, was doubtless also alleged by the tribe as a ground of superiority over Judah. When, therefore, Judah assumed the scepter in the person of David, and when the sacerdotal establishment was removed to Jerusalem, Ephraim could not brook the eclipse it had sustained, and took the first opportunity of erecting a separate throne, and of forming separate establishments for worship and sacrifice. Perhaps the separation of the kingdoms may thus be traced to the rivalry of the two tribes. After that separation the rivalry was between the two kingdoms; but it was still popularly considered as representing the ancient rivalry of these great tribes; for the prophet, in foretelling the repose of a coming time, describes it by saying, 'The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim' ().





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Judah Tribe of'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature".

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