This Week's Story

Did Judah, a moral coward, become a man of courage?

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Judah’s Change part two

I had trouble writing about Judah, brother of the famous Joseph. He was cowardly as a young adult, making decisions that often hurt others, but I couldn’t escape the conclusion that he changed.   I wondered, Is there proof that he became morally strong? I found more to his story than his mistakes.

As young men Judah and his brothers hated their younger brother Joseph.  They talked about killing him. Judah showed some strength in arguing with his brothers about it. He suggested selling Joseph, which they did. To hide their treachery they covered Joseph’s coat with an animal’s blood and took it to Jacob.   “Father, we found this coat in our fields.  Does it belong to Joseph?”

“Yes,” Jacob replied.  “Joseph must have been attacked and killed by a wild animal.” For months he mourned. The brothers tried to comfort Jacob, but none had the courage to confess what he had done.

After that miserable tragedy Judah moved away.  His life got no better. His first two sons were corrupt. He was blind to their behavior. On a business trip after his wife’s death, he propositioned a woman

whom he thought was a prostitute. He didn’t realize that she was his daughter-in-law Tamar.  She had disguised herself in order to deceive him. She had been married twice, to sons of Judah.  When they died, she was left with no children.  Judah had broken a promise to her that she could marry another son of his. Her disguise succeeded and she gave birth to twin boys fathered by Judah.

When Tamar identified Judah as the father and he learned her identity, he admitted publicly, “Tamar is more in the right than I am, because I didn’t keep my promise to let her marry my son Shelah.”

At this point I thought, “Judah is changing! What he said would bring him humiliation and accountability.”

“Years later food shortages threatened starvation for all of Jacob’s family. The brothers heard that food was available in Egypt.  Unknown to them, Joseph was alive.  He had been given great power by the pharaoh and directed the Egyptian food supply program.

When the brothers went to purchase food, Joseph recognized and then tested them. He took one brother captive and commanded, “Go home and get your youngest brother.  Otherwise you will receive no more food.”

Back home Father Jacob refused to let his youngest son go.  He was afraid he would lose him.  Judah put himself on the line and promised, “Father, I personally guarantee Benjamin’s safety.  If I don’t bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame forever.”

Later in Egypt, Joseph continued testing his brothers and accused Benjamin of stealing.  Joseph commanded, “The man who stole from me will be my slave.”

Judah begged Joseph, “Please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.  How can I return to my father, if the boy is not with me?  I cannot bear to see what this would do to our father.”

Years later as Jacob was dying, he requested that his twelve sons come to him. He had a message for each one.  Judah was given the greatest promise.

Jacob declared to Judah, “Your brothers will praise you.  You will defeat your enemies and your relatives will honor you.  A line of leaders will descend from you until a final one comes whom all nations will obey.”

This is Barbara Steiner with the man whose lineage led to Jesus. Please check out

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