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I was asked an interesting question the other day: Why was Judah selected as the chosen line instead of Joseph? The reasoning behind the person’s question was: Joseph was a firstborn, Judah wasn’t; and in the Old Testament birthright promises were usually given to firstborns. So, why?
I gave a brief response, then later thought the subject worth pursuing more fully—especially after researching the Internet and seeing so many people asking this same question but finding no site offering any real detailed explanation.
So . . . Do you know why Judah was chosen over his brother?
|"Mom always did like you best."|
The Smothers Brothers were huge in TV entertainment back in the sixties. Many of you may never have heard of them but I remember well their comedic stand-up routines. I couldn't resist using this bit of humor because it illustrates the idea that some children think a parent has a favorite child, therefore showers more benefits on them. Was this true of Judah? Was he his father’s favorite?
This is at the core of the originally posed question as to why Judah was given the chosen line and Joseph, the firstborn, wasn't.
Was Jacob, the father who pronounced the blessing, prejudiced—that is, was he playing favorites?
Did God have anything to do in the matter? If so, what?
WHY WAS JUDAH SELECTED AS THE CHOSEN TRIBE INSTEAD OF JOSEPH?
What was a birthright blessing?Through Adam’s elect line (Seth, Enoch, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.) each patriarch, before he died, laid hands on his sons and pronounced a special, prophetic blessing for each, stating what God had designed for each of their lives. The firstborn usually inherited everything of the father’s, such as land and possessions. He, in turn, was to hand down these same things to his firstborn and so on down the line. The sons who were not firstborns were blessed with other things, often including prophetic words about the destiny of their posterity. This was done by the laying on of hands.
|Birthright blessing given by laying on of hands|
But besides land and possessions there was a hidden aspect within the birthright blessing that was to lay dormant until the time of Judah. It was the divine right of kings (which will be discussed further down).
Blessings by inspiration
The important part was that inspired revelation from God always played a part in birthright blessings. God's will was always predominant. This can be seen later when Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and crossed his hands bypassing Manasseh, the firstborn.
|Jacob crossing his hands on Ephraim and Manasseh|
Why did God’s divine sovereignty have a role? Because God had pre-determined (pre-elected) certain individuals to fill special callings. Scriptures bear this out. For example, God told Jeremiah he was chosen to be a prophet before he was born:
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (Jer. 1:5)
Also, in the case of Jacob and Esau (Esau being the firstborn, but lost his birthright blessing to Jacob):
...but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I rejected. (Rom. 9:10-13; emphasis mine)
We could also include the special calling of Moses (Ex. 3:4-10), Aaron, and others.
It is logical, then, to rightly assume that since Judah was not a firstborn he was pre-elected to be the chosen line of Israel. This would mean his earthly line would consist of kings and eventually Jesus, King of the Jews. This was the part of the birthright blessing that lay dormant until the time of Judah.
Therefore, this suggests there were 2 aspects, or parts, to the birthright blessing:
Part 1: Inheriting the land and all the father has; usually a blessing to be fruitful.
Part 2: The right to rule as a King
Note: The Bible does not call these two features Part 1 and 2; these are my designations for use in this article.
Understanding the 2 parts; how the concept of birthright was initiated by God and handed down
To understand the birthright concept more fully, let’s take it chronologically, beginning with Adam, to see how it was transmitted in time as one single, all-inclusive blessing at first—starting with Adam down through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—but then separated into two birthright blessings at the time at the time of Judah.
|God endowing the birthright to Adam|
NOAH AND THE FLOOD
|Birthright handed down to Noah's son, Shem.|
This birthright inheritance for firstborn sons, comprising Parts 1 and 2, was handed down in the elect line to Noah and continued after the flood by Shem, from whom Abraham later descended.
|God makes a birthright covenant with Abraham|
God gave Abraham a blessing in Gen. 17:6 and also made a Covenant with him. At that time these two parts were still combined into one all-inclusive blessing. There was no separation of the two parts yet. The kingly right still lay dormant in the blessing; but with Abraham the details of what Adam’s “dominion” and “governing” blessing consisted of were spelled out for him:
Part 1: Land, a numerous posterity and becoming a great nation(s): “I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee.” (Gen 17:6)
Part 2: The right to rule as a King: “Kings shall come out of thee.”
Still an all-inclusive blessing, Abraham handed it down to his firstborn Isaac, who in turn handed it down to Jacob.
|Isaac handing birthright down to Jacob|
JACOB (RENAMED "ISRAEL")
|Jacob on his deathbed|
In preparation for the need of a specially chosen royal line containing the divine right to be kings, God decided when Jacob was nearing death it was time the birthright blessing containing the two features should be divided.
Jacob, on his deathbed, gave Joseph and Judah their blessings (also his other sons). Because of God’s sovereignty and pre-election, God directed Jacob to choose Judah (the fourth son of his first wife, Leah—obviously not a firstborn), for the royal line that previously had been lumped into all firstborn sons’ single blessing of inheritance.
Therefore . . .
JOSEPH as firstborn received Part 1 of the Abrahamic blessing pertaining to the Kingdom of God; that is, inheritance of the land, having a great posterity and becoming a great nation: “Joseph is a fruitful bough…, etc.” (See Gen. 49:22-16)
Technically, Joseph was not the rightful firstborn; Reuben was, being the firstborn from Jacob’s first wife, Leah; but Reuben forfeited that right because he slept with one of his father’s wives. Therefore, Joseph, who was the firstborn of Jacob's second wife, Rachel, was placed in his stead.
There may be some confusion about Joseph being called the firstborn, when we know he was actually Jacob's eleventh son. However, he was only Jacob's eleventh son chronologically (in order of time), but he was the firstborn of Jacob's 2nd wife, Rachel. Here is Jacob's genealogy chart for his wives and sons, showing Joseph as the eleventh son, but the firstborn of Rachel:
JUDAH received Part 2, the right to rule as a king: “Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee. …The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh (the Messiah) come.” (See Gen. 49:8-12)
(God was already working through Judah: When Joseph was thrown into the pit by his brothers, Judah was the one who suggested he be sold rather than killed as his brothers wanted, thus saving his life. Also, when Joseph was ruling in Egypt and sent his brothers back for their father but wanted them to leave Benjamin, the youngest, behind with him, Judah was willing to sacrifice his own freedom, even die, so Benjamin could return to his father.
The line of kings begins
Saul was the first king of Israel. He was, however, of the tribe of Benjamin, not Judah, which has puzzled scholars. Two reasons have been suggested for this:
(1) Saul was the man who could, battle-wise, deliver Israel from foreign oppression which was the pressing need at the moment, and probably no one in the line of Judah qualified at that time
(2) God may have given the people Saul as their first king because of their sin of disobedience in insisting on a king “like the other nations had” instead of Him.
Saul did not prove a good king. Therefore, God chose David of the line of Judah, a man after his own heart, as the next king. He and his posterity from then on would inherit the divine right of kings that belonged only to the line of Judah.
What was the whole idea of setting up a chosen line of kings?
Setting up an earthly kingly line was a necessity because there was another purpose for the chosen line.
THE MAIN PURPOSE OF THE GOD-GIVEN KINGLY LINE
THE MAIN PURPOSE OF THE GOD-GIVEN KINGLY LINE
The kingly line of Judah was also intended to bring forth the Messiah. Why? Since Jesus was to become a king, he had to come through Judah’s authoritative, God-given line so he could legitimately acquire that title and secure His throne-rights to rule as King of the Jews over the Household of Israel—but he had to die to receive that full kingship.
The original blessing of kings given to Judah by Jacob also included a picture of a lion in a crouching position covered with blood—a prophetic picture of Jesus, and why he is referred to as the "Lion of the Tribe of Judah."
“Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? … he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes…His eyes shall be red with wine…” (Gen. 49:8-12)
|Jesus - Lion of the Tribe of Judah|
- God gave Adam dominion over the earth and the right to govern it. That blessing was handed down to firstborn sons by way of inheritance. Part 1, inheriting land and having great posterity, and Part 2, the kingly right to rule, was included. Prior to Judah receiving, these two features continued to be embedded within the single inherited blessing given to each firstborn son.
- The continuation of this inherited blessing, containing the two features, went down to Noah and continued after the flood through his son Shem, from whom Abraham descended.
- God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants, known as the “Abrahamic Covenant” spelled the two features out in more detail versus the ambiguity of Gen. 1:26-28. From Abraham on, the all-inclusive blessing containing the two features were passed down to Abraham’s son, Isaac until the time of Jacob where it was drawn forth.
- Jacob, inspired by God, was
directed to divide the two features, giving Part 1 to Joseph, and Part 2 to
Judah. From that point on, firstborn sons would inherit only Part 1 (land,
posterity, etc.), not the right to rule as king. This was specifically
designated, by pre-election, to Judah and his posterity.
- The reason Judah was selected for the chosen line was due to God’s sovereignty and pre-election, as was the case with the calling of Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5), and Jacob over Esau (Rom. 9:10-13), Moses and others. And it goes without saying, Jesus was also pre-elected “before the foundations of the world.” (1 Pet. 1:20)
- Judah was designated as the chosen line through which future
earthly kings would reign by divine right and through which the Messiah,
out of necessity, had to come through to secure a legitimate right to his
kingly throne-rights over the House of Israel.
I hope this helps to answer the question.
Until next time,
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