I Chr 2:1

God’s reasons for His choice

God chose Judah

1. Not according to the right of the firstborn for he had three elder brothers (Reuben - Gen 29:32, Simeon - Gen 29:33 and Levi - Gen 29:34). Judah was the fourth son of the marriage between Jacob and Leah (Gen 29:35).

2. Not according to his own righteousness. There are no incidents recorded concerning his childhood or his adolescence, but we have one as a young man in Gen 37:26-27 where, after Reuben had persuaded his brothers not to kill Joseph (Gen 37:21-22), Judah was the one who so despised him that he thought of a way to effectively kill him by making his brothers think that it was a noble act to sell him into slavery as Joseph was part of their family. And we can also see his immorality (not just sexual immorality) in the incident of Genesis chapter 38 explained below.

God, then, didn’t choose Judah according to either of these two qualifications, but

3. According to God’s sovereign choice (Rom 9:10-12), and,

4. According to God’s sovereign grace (Rom 11:5-6).

God’s choice

We notice, with some surprise that, in the march through the wilderness, it’s Judah - not Reuben - who are the first to march (Num 2:9, 10:14) even though he wasn’t the firstborn of his brothers or even the firstborn of his full brothers through Leah.

And further on in the history of Israel we see that, even though Saul, the first anointed king of Israel, was a Benjaminite, his disobedience caused his dynasty to be discontinued and a king chosen by God from the tribe of Judah became the heir and eventually the king (I Sam 13:14, 15:28, 16:1, 16:12) with many subsequent generations of future kings ruling from the capital Jerusalem.

Judah, then, was a favoured tribe and God’s choice to treat him this way goes back to a prophecy that Jacob gave to all the brothers when he was nearing the end of his life. He begins by proclaiming (Gen 49:1)

‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in days to come...’

and then goes on to speak prophetically concerning each of his sons and what was in store for them.

We find the anointed declaration concerning Judah in Gen 49:8-12 but it’s v.10 in particular that reveals God’s purpose in His choice of Judah. The first half reads

‘The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet...’

(see also Psalm 60:7, 108:8) where the ‘ruler’s staff’ (also mentioned in Psalms) is a poetic word standing for ‘commander’s staff’, and ‘sceptre’ has many different shades of meaning but is taken to mean ‘rod of correction’. This was all true of the subsequent history of the tribe but the second half of the verse projects this forward to the One who was to come. It reads

‘...until He comes to whom it belongs; and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples’

That is, Jacob was saying that Judah was going to rule over his people until the Messiah came to whom the rod of correction and the ruler’s staff rightfully belonged.

Note that it isn’t specifically related to us that Messiah was to come from the line of Judah at this time in Israel’s history, but it’s taken to indicate this retrospectively since the Messiah was to bring in God’s Kingdom and rule and it’s difficult to see how the ‘ultimate King’ could be any other than Him - the final conclusion to God’s chosen line of sovereignty.