The story of Joseph is a familiar one (Read Genesis 37). His jealous brothers were very bothered by their "goody goody" favored brother, and given the opportunity, they were only too ready to vent their anger and hatred. Reuben, the oldest advised against killing him.
Judah suggested a plan that would rid them of their brother while making a profit. They sold him as a slave, a fate worse than death.
The anticipated satisfaction was not forthcoming. Their father's inconsolable sorrow was too much for Judah.
The narrative about Joseph is interrupted by a sad and awful story of Judah found in Genesis 38.
Verse1 reads "it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren."
He left his family and his God – married a Canaanite, raised sons who were so wicked that God slew two of the three, chose the friendship of the heathen, lied to Tamar, his widowed daughter-in-law to whom he'd promised his youngest son when grown, and impregnated a "prostitute" who he paid with his signet and staff as surety.
What a reckless life he was living! When Judah learned that Tamar was pregnant, he was quick to pronounce judgment.
"Bring her forth, and let her be burnt" verse 24.
It was then that she showed the signet and staff of the one by whom she was pregnant,
"And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son" verse 26.
It seems that this was a turning point for Judah. The next time we find him mentioned, not only is he back with his family, but he is taking a lead role in seeking their welfare during the time of terrible famine.
He and his brothers, with the exception of Benjamin, had already made one trip to Egypt for food supplies.
The lord of the country, who they would learn was their brother Joseph, had said they could not return unless they had their youngest brother with them.
Food sources were about depleted. It was Judah who was willing to put his own life on the line.
"And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones.
"I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever" Genesis 43:8, 9.
Judah backed up his promise with action. Read his tender entreaties to the Egyptian leader (Joseph) in Genesis 44:15-34. Judah was a changed man.
Years later, as father Jacob(Israel) was on his deathbed, he called his 12 sons to him to have his last words with each.
Did he mention Judah's years of profligate living? No, in fact he pronounced on him the blessing of blessings – to be the progenitor of the Savior of the world!
"Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise...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" Genesis 49:8-10.
What an illustration of grace! Regardless of the sins that have marred the life, when one repents, those sins are not only forgiven but banished from recall. Praise the Lord!