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Judah - The Boy

INTRODUCTION: Jacob agreed to work seven years in Paddan Aram with the understanding that when the time was completed, his uncle Laban would give his daughter Rachel as a wife. However, Laban deceived Jacob by giving him Leah instead of Rachel overnight, after the wedding celebration. A week later Rachel was given to be Jacob's wife, but with an obligation for Jacob to serve Laban an additional seven years. During that time Jacob fathered eleven sons with his two wives and their two handmaids, and one daughter from Leah. Judah was Jacob's fourth son from Leah before she had a brief period of infertility. When Jacob prepared to leave to return to his father in Canaan, another agreement was made for an additional six years during which Jacob acquired many servants and much livestock. When Jacob left without telling Laban, his children would have ranged in age somewhere between six and thirteen.

NOTE: All scripture is from the World English Bible.


Genesis 29 "1 Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the children of the east. 2 He looked, and behold, a well in the field, and, behold, three flocks of sheep lying there by it. For out of that well they watered the flocks. The stone on the well's mouth was large. 3 There all the flocks were gathered. They rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again on the well's mouth in its place. 4 Jacob said to them, "My relatives, where are you from?" They said, "We are from Haran." 5 He said to them, "Do you know Laban, the son of Nahor?" They said, "We know him." 6 He said to them, "Is it well with him?" They said, "It is well. See, Rachel, his daughter, is coming with the sheep." 7 He said, "Behold, it is still the middle of the day, not time to gather the livestock together. Water the sheep, and go and feed them." 8 They said, "We can't, until all the flocks are gathered together, and they roll the stone from the well's mouth. Then we water the sheep." 9 While he was yet speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she kept them. 10 It happened, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban, his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban, his mother's brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. 11 Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. 12 Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son. She ran and told her father. 13 It happened, when Laban heard the news of Jacob, his sister's son, that he ran to meet Jacob, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things. 14 Laban said to him, "Surely you are my bone and my flesh." He lived with him for a month."

COMMENTS: Jacob was sent with the blessing of his father and mother to find a wife from among his relatives. Laban was Jacob's uncle, but the term "brother" was used in a general sense to indicate the family relationship between them. When Jacob encountered Rachel with her father's sheep, he was immediately attracted to her. Laban warmly accepted Jacob and they were together for a month before they came to the point of discussing wages for Jacob's services.


Genesis 29 "15 Laban said to Jacob, "Because you are my brother, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what will your wages be?" 16 Laban had two daughters. The name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and attractive. 18 Jacob loved Rachel. He said, "I will serve you seven years for Rachel, your younger daughter." 19 Laban said, "It is better that I give her to you, than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me." 20 Jacob served seven years for Rachel. They seemed to him but a few days, for the love he had for her. 21 Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her." 22 Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. 23 It happened in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him. He went in to her. 24 Laban gave Zilpah his handmaid to his daughter Leah for a handmaid. 25 It happened in the morning that, behold, it was Leah. He said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? Didn't I serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?" 26 Laban said, "It is not done so in our place, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfil the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you will serve with me yet seven other years." 28 Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week. He gave him Rachel his daughter as wife. 29 Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah, his handmaid, to be her handmaid. 30 He went in also to Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years."

COMMENTS: It may have seemed that Laban was being generous when he said that family relationship should not prevent Jacob from realizing a profit for the work he was providing. Jacob loved the younger daughter Rachel and offered to serve seven years so she would become his wife. Laban began his deception when he did not indicate any other conditions to their agreement, and seemingly accepted Jacob's proposal. When the seven years were completed, Jacob awoke after his wedding night and found that he was with Leah, not Rachel. Laban had also given his handmaid Zilpah to Leah to be her handmaid.

Jacob was upset that he had been deceived by his uncle, but Laban claimed that it was not an acceptable practice to give a younger sister to wife before the first born. Then Laban simply directed the conversation with the condition that if Jacob would "Fulfil the week" for Leah, then he would be given Rachel to wife. This included the requirement of another seven years of service to Laban for Rachel. There is no indication of any further complaint by Jacob as he accepted this addition to the original agreement. When the week for Leah was completed, Laban gave his daughter Rachel as Jacob's wife, and Bilhah, his handmaid, to be Rachel's handmaid. Jacob consummated the marriage with Rachel, and he loved her more than Leah.


Genesis 29 "31 Yahweh saw that Leah was hated, and he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32 Leah conceived, and bore a son, and she named him Reuben. For she said, "Because Yahweh has looked at my affliction. For now my husband will love me." 33 She conceived again, and bore a son, and said, "Because Yahweh has heard that I am hated, he has therefore given me this son also." She named him Simeon. 34 She conceived again, and bore a son. Said, "Now this time will my husband be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons." Therefore was his name called Levi. 35 She conceived again, and bore a son. She said, "This time will I praise Yahweh." Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing." 30:1 When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister. She said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I will die." 2 Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, "Am I in God's place, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?" 3 She said, "Behold, my maid Bilhah. Go in to her, that she may bear on my knees, and I also may obtain children by her." 4 She gave him Bilhah her handmaid as wife, and Jacob went in to her. 5 Bilhah conceived, and bore Jacob a son."

Genesis 30 "22 God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her, and opened her womb. 23 She conceived, bore a son, and said, "God has taken away my reproach." 24 She named him Joseph, saying, "May Yahweh add another son to me." 25 It happened, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, "Send me away, that I may go to my own place, and to my country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service with which I have served you.""

COMMENTS: The scripture states that Yahweh saw how Leah was regarded less than Rachel, and he interceded by opening her womb so she would conceive. She successively gave birth to four sons, but Rachel experienced being barren. In the opening of Genesis chapter 30 there is a sharp exchange of words between Rachel and Jacob because she was not becoming pregnant. That began the pattern whereby the two sisters gave their handmaids to Jacob as wives to have children they would count as their own. I didn't include verses 6 through 21 that detail the other children fathered by Jacob, since I wanted to generalize the events that would have been possible for the boy Judah to observe to some degree. The giving of a handmaid to bear children had taken place two generations earlier, between Abram and Sarai before Isaac was born, as described in Genesis 16:1-3.


Genesis 31 "25 Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mountain, and Laban with his relatives encamped in the mountain of Gilead. 26 Laban said to Jacob, "What have you done, that you have deceived me, and carried away my daughters like captives of the sword? 27 Why did you flee secretly, and deceive me, and didn't tell me, that I might have sent you away with mirth and with songs, with tambourine and with harp; 28 and didn't allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters? Now have you done foolishly. 29 It is in the power of my hand to hurt you, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, 'Take heed to yourself that you don't speak to Jacob either good or bad.' 30 Now, you want to be gone, because you greatly longed for your father's house, but why have you stolen my gods?" 31 Jacob answered Laban, "Because I was afraid, for I said, 'Lest you should take your daughters from me by force.' 32 Anyone you find your gods with shall not live. Before our relatives, discern what is yours with me, and take it." For Jacob didn't know that Rachel had stolen them. 33 Laban went into Jacob's tent, into Leah's tent, and into the tent of the two female servants; but he didn't find them. He went out of Leah's tent, and entered into Rachel's tent. 34 Now Rachel had taken the teraphim, put them in the camel's saddle, and sat on them. Laban felt about all the tent, but didn't find them. 35 She said to her father, "Don't let my lord be angry that I can't rise up before you; for I'm having my period." He searched, but didn't find the teraphim. 36 Jacob was angry, and argued with Laban. Jacob answered Laban, "What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued after me? 37 Now that you have felt around in all my stuff, what have you found of all your household stuff? Set it here before my relatives and your relatives, that they may judge between us two. 38 "These twenty years I have been with you. Your ewes and your female goats have not cast their young, and I haven't eaten the rams of your flocks. 39 That which was torn of animals, I didn't bring to you. I bore its loss. Of my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 This was my situation: in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep fled from my eyes."

COMMENTS: We have no specific detail about the children of Jacob while this tense exchange took place between Jacob and Laban where Jacob's family was encamped. Laban said he had the power to hurt Jacob, but the God of Jacob's father had spoken to him the previous night, telling him not to speak to Jacob for either good or bad. Laban wanted to know why Jacob had left secretly and had stolen Laban's idols. Jacob explained that he didn't believe that Laban would have allowed him to leave with his family, so he left secretly. But Jacob was not aware that his beloved Rachel had stolen her father's idols, so he said whoever was found to have them would not live. All of the family members encamped there at that time would have been aware of these heated conflicts. Laban made a search for his stolen idols through each of the family tents with no results, then there was a further heated discussion between the two men. Judah may have been nine or ten while all of these things were happening.


Genesis 31 "41 These twenty years I have been in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. 42 Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty. God has seen my affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked you last night." 43 Laban answered Jacob, "The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine: and what can I do this day to these my daughters, or to their children whom they have borne? 44 Now come, let us make a covenant, you and I; and let it be for a witness between me and you." 45 Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar. 46 Jacob said to his relatives, "Gather stones." They took stones, and made a heap. They ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 Laban said, "This heap is witness between me and you this day." Therefore it was named Galeed 49 and Mizpah, for he said, "Yahweh watch between me and you, when we are absent one from another. 50 If you afflict my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, no man is with us; behold, God is witness between me and you." 51 Laban said to Jacob, "See this heap, and see the pillar, which I have set between me and you. 52 May this heap be a witness, and the pillar be a witness, that I will not pass over this heap to you, and that you will not pass over this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. 53 The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us." Then Jacob swore by the fear of his father, Isaac. 54 Jacob offered a sacrifice in the mountain, and called his relatives to eat bread. They ate bread, and stayed all night in the mountain. 55 Early in the morning, Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them. Laban departed and returned to his place."

COMMENTS: Jacob said if the God of his father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been with him, Laban would have sent him away empty. But God had seen the affliction and rebuked Laban the previous night. Laban's response was that the daughters, children, and livestock were all his own, but he could do nothing about Jacob having them in his possession instead. Then Laban proposed that a covenant be made between the two men, so Jacob instructed his relatives to make a heap of stones, and they had a meal by it. . The marker represented a pledge made which included that Jacob would not harm Laban's daughters or take any other wives. Also, Neither Laban's people or Jacob's people would pass from their side of the marker to harm those on the opposite side. The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, would judge between them.

Then Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac, offered a sacrifice in the mountain, and called his relatives to eat bread. They did so, together and stayed all night in the mountain. This was the first recorded time a sacrifice was offered to God by Jacob since his children had been born. Early in the morning, Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them. Laban departed and returned to his place. Thus ended all contact between Jacob and Laban. Judah and his siblings were now transitioning to a new segment of there childhood as they entered Canaan. They would only briefly see their father's twin brother Esau, and they may not have known the reason Jacob had fear of his brother, but Jacob began to exhibit more evidence of his belief in God. The daily contacts of Jacob's children would still be among their family, and the male and female servants who tended the livestock. The servants may have also had some children.


Genesis 32 "1 Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When he saw them, Jacob said, "This is God's army." He called the name of that place Mahanaim. 3 Jacob sent messengers in front of him to Esau, his brother, to the land of Seir, the field of Edom. 4 He commanded them, saying, "This is what you shall tell my lord, Esau: 'This is what your servant, Jacob, says. I have lived as a foreigner with Laban, and stayed until now. 5 I have cattle, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants. I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favour in your sight.'" 6 The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, "We came to your brother Esau. Not only that, but he comes to meet you, and four hundred men with him." 7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and was distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks, and the herds, and the camels, into two companies; 8 and he said, "If Esau comes to the one company, and strikes it, then the company which is left will escape." 9 Jacob said, "God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, Yahweh, who said to me, 'Return to your country, and to your relatives, and I will do you good,' 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the loving kindnesses, and of all the truth, which you have shown to your servant; for with just my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. 11 Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he come and strike me, and the mothers with the children. 12 You said, 'I will surely do you good, and make your seed as the sand of the sea, which can't be numbered because there are so many.'"

COMMENTS: It is not stated whether only Jacob saw angels of God, but when he saw them he said they were God's army. He called the name of that place Mahanaim. Then Jacob sent messengers ahead to Esau, his brother, to the land of Seir, the field of Edom. They were to ADDRESS Esau as Jacob's lord, AND TELL HIM that his servant Jacob had lived as a foreigner with Laban, and stayed until now. Jacob wanted Esau to know that he was returning with cattle, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants. The messengers were to ask Laban as Jacob's lord that he might find favour in his sight. The messengers returned to Jacob to report that they had reached Esau, and he was now on his way to meet Jacob with a company of four hundred men. This made Jacob greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks, and the herds, and the camels, into two companies; with the hope that if Esau attached one, the other could escape. This was his first step of preparation for the worst outcome, but it is not clear how his wives and children were separated.

Then Jacob prayed as he remembered that the God of his father Abraham, and the God of his father Isaac, Yahweh, had told him to return to the home country, and to his relatives, and God would do him good. As Jacob prayed, he humbly stated that he was not worthy of all the loving kindnesses and truth that God had done for him in Paddan Aram, and now he had become two companies. He prayed asking God to please deliver him from the hand of his brother Esau: for he fear him, lest he come and strike Jacob, and the mothers with the children. Jacob was holding on to the promise of God that he would do good for Jacob, and give him so many offspring it would be hard for them to be counted. The promises by Yahweh had been given to Jacob at Bethel as he was on his way to be with his Uncle Laban, and that account is in Genesis 28:10-22.


Genesis 32 "13 He lodged there that night, and took from that which he had with him, a present for Esau, his brother: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milk camels and their colts, forty cows, ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten foals. 16 He delivered them into the hands of his servants, every herd by itself, and said to his servants, "Pass over before me, and put a space between herd and herd." 17 He commanded the foremost, saying, "When Esau, my brother, meets you, and asks you, saying, 'Whose are you? Where are you going? Whose are these before you?' 18 Then you shall say, 'They are your servant, Jacob's. It is a present sent to my lord, Esau. Behold, he also is behind us.'" 19 He commanded also the second, and the third, and all that followed the herds, saying, "This is how you shall speak to Esau, when you find him. 20 You shall say, 'Not only that, but behold, your servant, Jacob, is behind us.'" For, he said, "I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face. Perhaps he will accept me." 21 So the present passed over before him, and he himself lodged that night in the camp. 22 He rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two handmaids, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them, and sent them over the stream, and sent over that which he had."

COMMENTS: Jacob prepared three generous sized herds of livestock as gifts to be delivered in separated sequence to Esau before the brothers would come to each other. The herdsmen for each set were to address Esau as Jacob's lord, and to indicate that Esau's servant Jacob was following behind these gifts. Jacob thought this would appease Esau who had wanted to kill him twenty years earlier because the birthright had transferred to Jacob. Jacob stayed in the camp that night, but he rose up that night and took his two wives, and his two handmaids, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them, and sent them over the stream, and sent over that which he had.


Genesis 33 "1 Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau was coming, and with him four hundred men. He divided the children between Leah, Rachel, and the two handmaids. 2 He put the handmaids and their children in front, Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph at the rear. 3 He himself passed over in front of them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. 4 Esau ran to meet him, embraced him, fell on his neck, kissed him, and they wept. 5 He lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, "Who are these with you?" He said, "The children whom God has graciously given your servant." 6 Then the handmaids came near with their children, and they bowed themselves. 7 Leah also and her children came near, and bowed themselves. After them, Joseph came near with Rachel, and they bowed themselves. 8 Esau said, "What do you mean by all this company which I met?" Jacob said, "To find favour in the sight of my lord." 9 Esau said, "I have enough, my brother; let that which you have be yours." 10 Jacob said, "Please, no, if I have now found favour in your sight, then receive my present at my hand, because I have seen your face, as one sees the face of God, and you were pleased with me. 11 Please take the gift that I brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough." He urged him, and he took it. 12 Esau said, "Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before you." 13 Jacob said to him, "My lord knows that the children are tender, and that the flocks and herds with me have their young, and if they overdrive them one day, all the flocks will die. 14 Please let my lord pass over before his servant, and I will lead on gently, according to the pace of the livestock that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord to Seir." 15 Esau said, "Let me now leave with you some of the folk who are with me." He said, "Why? Let me find favour in the sight of my lord." 16 So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17 Jacob travelled to Succoth, built himself a house, and made shelters for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. 18 Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan Aram; and encamped before the city. 19 He bought the parcel of ground where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for one hundred pieces of money. 20 He erected an altar there, and called it El Elohe Israel."

COMMENTS: After Esau had seen the three presents of livestock along the way, he approached Jacob and his family. Jacob was in front of his wives and children, and he bowed before Esau who approached and greeted him warmly, and they both wept. Esau asked about the women and children, and Jacob gave credit to God for his family. Each mother and their offspring came forward in turn bowing before Esau, with Joseph and Rachel being last. Esau then asked about the three groups of livestock, and Jacob explained they were all gifts, that Esau might receive Jacob favorably. Upon the insistence of Jacob, Esau agreed to accept the gifts, and subsequently also agreed to return to Seir and allow Jacob to travel without any escort.

Esau returned to Seir with all of his men, but Jacob and all in his company traveled to Succoth for his first major stop. Then he bought a parcel of land where he had encamped outside the city of Shechem. The price was one hundred pieces of money, purchased from the children of Hamor. Jacob erected an altar there, and called it El Elohe Israel, which was a significant event for his return to the land promised by the LORD. Noah built an altar after his family came off of the ark, but there was no other record of an altar to God until the first one built by Abram as described in Genesis 12:7-8. Isaac built an altar to God at Beersheba as described in Genesis 26:22-24. Now, Jacob, as the one who had been renamed Israel by the LORD, was the third generation patriarch to build an altar in the land of promise.


LORD, though there are no verses that specifically describe Judah during his childhood in Paddan Aram, the details in scripture about family members represented factors that surrounded him as he grew. the keeping of flocks and herds as an adult livelihood, and families living in tents would have been the normal way of life for him. All of his siblings were very close in age to him, and they would have known their were four different mothers, with Jacob as the only father. Tension between Judah's grandfather Laban and his father Jacob was very strong as the family left Paddan Aram, resulting in a marker being placed as a dividing point between the two groups. When Jacob met with his brother Esau, Judah and his siblings had never met their uncle before, and after a brief exchange Jacob and Esau were again separated. Upon establishing lodging in Canaan, the altar Jacob built drew attention to the open worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I thank you, LORD, for the subtle information that can be gleaned about the childhood of Judah from the scripture, as I prepare to continue looking at his life in successive studies. There are some significant cultural differences when that historical period is compared with the New Testament guidance for Christian families in the present age. Help me, Lord Jesus, to keep my thoughts more on the character and guidance found in your Word, than on the great cultural variety around the world and over the centuries. Amen.

Published 30 May 2017