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The name of one of the Patriarchs, the name of the tribe reputed to be descended from him, the name of the territory occupied by the same, and also the name of several persons mentioned in the Old Testament.

Juda the patriarch

The son of Jacob by Lia, whose exclamation on the occasion of his birth: "Now will I praise the Lord" is given as the etymological reason for the name "Juda", which is derived from the Hebrew verb "to praise" (Genesis 29:35). It was Juda who interceded with his brethren to save the life of Joseph, proposing that he be sold to the Ismaelites (Genesis 37:26, 27). Though not the eldest son of Jacob, he is represented as assuming an important and predominating rôle in the family affairs. It is he who, on the occasion of the second journey to Egypt, persuades the afflicted Jacob to consent to the departure of Benjamin (Genesis 43:3-10), for whom he pleads most touchingly before Joseph after the incident of the cup, offering himself to be retained as a slave in his stead (Genesis 44:18 sqq.). This earnest plea determines Joseph to disclose his identity to his brethren (Genesis 45:1 sqq.). Juda is the one chosen by Jacob to precede him into Egypt and announce his coming (Genesis 46:28), and his prestige is further emphasized in the famous prophecy enunciated by Jacob (Genesis 49:8-12). To Juda were born five sons, viz., Her, Onan, and Sela by the daughter of Sue, and Phares and Zara by Thamar (Genesis 38). It is through Phares, according to the First Gospel, that the Messianic lineage is traced (Matthew 1:3).

Juda, a tribe of Israel

Named after the son of Jacob. The unquestioned predominance and providential mission of this tribe, foreshadowed in Genesis 49:8-10, appear from the time of the Exodus and throughout the subsequent Israelitish history. From the beginning Juda predominated in point of numbers. When the first census was taken after the departure from Egypt it numbered 74,600 fighting men, while Dan, the next largest tribe, counted only 62,700 and the smallest, Manasses, only 32,200. The chief of the tribe during the period of the wanderings was Nahasson, son of Aminadab. Among the spies sent to explore the Land of Chanaan, the tribe of Juda was represented by Caleb, son of Jephone (Numbers 13:7). According to the second census of the Israelites taken on the plains of Moab, Juda numbered 76,500 fighting men. The names of the principal families of the tribe are given in Numbers 26:19-21, and more fully in 1 Chronicles 2. Caleb was one of the chiefs selected to settle the division of the land among the tribes, and on the occasion of the passing of the Jordan the tribe of Juda, together with those of Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Ephraim and Manasses, was designated to "bless the people" from the top of Mount Garizim (Deuteronomy 27:12). After the death of Josue the tribe of Juda was chosen to be the vanguard in the war against the Chanaanites. This honour was probably less a recognition of the numerical strength of the tribe than of the promises it had received (Genesis 49:8-10) and the hopes for its glorious destiny founded on these promises (Judges 1:1-2). Juda was again chosen by the Divine oracle to head the attack against Gabaa and the Benjamites (Judges 20:18). The natural ramparts surrounding their country saved the inhabitants from many of the invasions that troubled their northern brethren; but the children of Ammon, passing over the Jordan, wasted Juda, and the mountains proved ineffectual in keeping off the Philistines (Judges 10:9; 1 Samuel 17:1). In the persecution of David by Saul the tribe of Juda showed great loyalty to the former, and soon after the death of Saul David was enthusiastically crowned at Hebron (2 Samuel 2:4, 7, 10) where he reigned seven years (2 Samuel 5:5). When the unfortunate schism took place under Roboam only the tribe of Juda and of Benjamin remained faithful to the House of David (1 Kings 12:20), and henceforth the Southern Kingdom was known as that of Juda. After the Captivity the members of Juda were among the first to return to Jerusalem and begin the reconstruction of the Temple (Ezra 1:5; 3:9); in fine, the name "Jews" (Judæi), by which the post-Exilic Israelites and their descendants are generally designated, is, of course, derived from Juda. Thus the history of the Chosen People is to a great extent the story of the varying vicissitudes of the dominant tribe of Juda. Its military ascendancy and glory reached its height in the person of David, the "lion of Juda". But the true lion of the tribe of Juda is Christ the Son of David (Revelation 5:5).

Territory of Juda

The tribe of Juda occupied a rather extensive territory in the southern part of Palestine. It was bounded on the north by Dan and Benjamin, on the east by the Dead Sea, on the south by Simeon, and on the west by the Sephela or plain of the Philistines. The principal cities of Juda are enumerated in Josue (xv, 21-62). The sacred writer divides the cities into four groups, viz., those of the south on the boundary of Idumea, those of the western plain, those of the mountain, and finally those of the desert. In all, mention is made of 134 towns, about one-half of which have been identified or located with a fair degree of certitude. The recently built railroad from Jaffa to Jerusalem passes through a corner of the territory of Juda, the general aspect of which is a series of hills covered in the spring-time with grass and flowers, but bare and arid during the rest of the year. A modern carriage-road runs from Jerusalem to Hebron, which lies in a fertile valley between two ranges of green hills. Here and there cultivated fields greet the eye. The slopes of the hills are dotted with terraced gardens and vineyards, among which are to be found grottoes and labyrinths which formerly served as hiding-places. The Kingdom of Juda, dating from the beginning of the reign of Roboam, was thus called in opposition to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The capital, Jerusalem, was situated on the boundary line between Juda and Benjamin.


LEGENDRE in VIG., Dict. de la Bible, s.v.

About this page

APA citation. Driscoll, J.F. (1910). Juda. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Driscoll, James F. "Juda." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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