“And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. Gather yourselves together, and hear ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.” (Genesis 49:1-2)
Judah is the fourth son of Leah, Jacob’s second wife.
“Judah is a lions welp, 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?
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
Binding his foal unto the vine and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine, he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: his eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.” (Genesis 49:8-12)
If you go back and read Genesis 38, it is recorded for the first time that there were “father-in-laws”. The term daughter-in-law had been used previously in scripture regarding Abraham’s father, Terah, who referred to his daughter Sarai (Sarah) as his “daughter-in-law” and most likely, she was a child that he had with his second wife. But now, with Judah, daughter-in-law meant his son’s wife. Judah took family law one step further. This time it was to force the break up of the first family with divorce, remarriage, and laws. With the laws that he put in place, it would have been easy for Jacob to leave Rachel and start another family with Leah. This is what Leah, his mother, wanted from the beginning. She wanted Jacob for her husband and she would not have shared him with Rachel.
Judah, Leah’s fourth son, was a very controlling man. Rather than using violence, as his brothers Simeon and Levi did, he chose to use laws to create his “perfect” world. But the punishment for disobeying “laws” must have meant death for the one that broke the “law”. Judah was a “Lord” in his day, meaning that he was a highly respected and feared man within his community. (Even Sarai (Sarah) called Abraham her Lord early in their life together.) Judah treated his family as puppets – ready to do his bidding. In reading Judah’s story, I get the feeling that his oldest son who was described as evil and was killed by the “Lord” may have been a good man. I think that he disobeyed his father. Following his oldest son’s death, Judah demanded that his second son lay with his oldest son’s wife and impregnate her. This young man did go in and lay with her, but he chose to ejaculate onto the ground. For this reason, the “Lord” killed him also. Next Judah’s daughter died also.
So Judah’s oldest son’s wife, Tamar, who was a widow, decided to play the role of a harlot or whore. As Judah traveled with his sheep shearers, he came upon a prostitute and asked to lay with her. He promised her a kid goat as payment, but she asked to have his bracelets, signature ring, and his staff. He gave these things to her and laid with her and she got pregnant. Judah had a friend deliver the kid goat, but the harlot could not be found.
Well, three months later, someone told Judah that his daughter in law was pregnant by whoredom. Judah commanded that his own daughter in law be burned. (Genesis 38:24) When she was brought forward, she accused her father in law and presented the signature ring, bracelets, and his staff. He said, “She hath been more righteous the I, because I gave her not to Shelah my son.”
Family members were disposable – all family was now based upon “law”. Lawyers are the props that keep Judah’s tribe standing and it is here that the gathering of the people will be. There are broken homes, broken families, and violence. Jacob explained exactly how it must be done. He is to take his second wife’s children to his first family. The he will lift his oldest child to the choice vine – the one that springs from his first wife and lift this child up as the cornerstone of his whole family. In essence, this requires that the man put his family back together. This is when a man’s family becomes God’s family and one that is not based upon “laws” and what lawyers believe based upon their laws.