Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Judah
The name Judah is borne from the Bible, in the Book of Genesis, as one of the twelve tribes of Israel and whose name was given to one of the two kingdoms of Israel, Judah to the south and Israel to the north (it is from the kingdom of Judah where we get the term Judaism). Judah was Jacob and Leah’s fourth born son after Reuben, Simeon and Levi. In Genesis 29:35 when Leah conceives again, she said: “’This time I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah.” Judah comes from the Hebrew name Yhuda meaning ‘praised’. Later in the Bible, we learn about the adult Judah. Genesis 38 tells the colorful story of Judah and Tamar. Tamar is Judah’s daughter-in-law, having been wedded to his first two sons (Er and Onan), each of whom died while married to her (note: in ancient times it was common for a surviving son to marry his dead brother’s wife in order to carry on the family name). Suspicious that Tamar might be some kind of bad omen, Judah is reluctant to have her marry his third and final son, Shelah. Judah sends Tamar back to her father’s house and tells her to sit tight until the last son grows old enough to marry (although Judah has no intention of keeping this promise to bad-luck Tamar). Tamar soon realizes she’s been had, so she disguises herself as a prostitute on the road she knows Judah will be traveling to his sheepherders. He, of course, propositions her: “Come now, let me sleep with you” (yes, it’s true. Look it up for yourself in Genesis 38:16. The Bible can be a pretty risqué read at times). Afterwards, Judah goes on his merry way having just (unknowingly) slept with and impregnating his own daughter-in-law. Here comes the funny part (no, that wasn’t it). When Judah discovers that Tamar is with child, he orders her to be executed for sleeping around. Ha! Now if that isn’t the ancient pot calling the promiscuous kettle black. On the way to her burning, Tamar sends Judah some items belonging to the man who had impregnated her – which he of course identifies as his own. Busted! Realizing (and admirably admitting to) his own hypocrisy, Judah declares: “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” [Genesis 38:26]. So Judah redeems himself by being man enough to admit he was wrong. We like him for that. Later on in Genesis, Judah does another admirable thing. When Joseph (in disguise) demands his brother Benjamin to be left in Egypt as his slave, Judah steps in and tells Joseph to take him instead, realizing that Jacob would be heartbroken if he lost his favorite son, Benjamin. So moved by Judah’s act of selflessness, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and all is forgiven. Lastly, during Jacob’s blessings of his sons, he promises Judah that he will be the preeminent one among his brothers and that “the scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler staff from between his feet.” This prophesy is true alright. Guess who ultimately descends from Judah’s tribe? The mighty King David and Jesus Christ himself. Booyah!