1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Judah

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JUDAH, a district of ancient Palestine, to the south of the kingdom of Israel, between the Dead Sea and the Philistine plain. It falls physically into three parts: the hill-country from Hebron northwards through Jerusalem; the lowland (Heb. Shĕphelah) on the west; and the steppes or “dry land” (Heb. Negeb) on the south. The district is one of striking contrasts, with a lofty and stony table-land in the centre (which reaches a height of 3300 ft. just north of Hebron), with a strategically important valley dividing the central mountains from the lowland, and with the most desolate of tracts to the east (by the Dead Sea) and south. Some parts, especially around Hebron, are extremely fertile, but the land as a whole has the characteristics of the southern wilderness—the so-called “desert” is not a sterile Sahara—and was more fitted for pastoral occupations; see further G. A. Smith, Hist. Geog. Holy Land, chs. x.–xv. Life in ancient Judah is frequently depicted in the Bible, but much of the Judaean history is obscure. In the days of the old Hebrew monarchy there were periods of conflict and rivalry between Judah and Israel—even times when the latter incorporated, or at least claimed supremacy over, the former. Later, from the 5th century B.C. there was a breach between the Jews (the name is derived from Judah) and the Samaritans (q.v.). The intervening years after the fall of Samaria (722 B.C.), and after the destruction of Jerusalem (586 B.C.), were probably marked by closer intercourse, similar to the period of union in the popular traditions relating to the pre-monarchical age. The course of Judaean history was conditioned, also, by the proximity of the Philistines in the west, Moab in the east, and by Edom and other southern peoples extending from North Arabia to the delta of the Nile. Judah’s stormy history, continued under Greek and Roman domination, reached its climax in the birth of Christianity, and ended with the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (see Jews, Palestine).

In conformity with ancient methods of genealogy (q.v.), Judah is traced back to a son of Jacob or Israel by Leah and along with other “tribes” (Dan, Levi, Simeon, &c.) is included under the collective term Israel. Thus it shares the general traditions of the Israelites, although Judah appears as an individual in the story of his “brother” Joseph (on ch. xxxvii. seq., see Genesis). Its boundaries in Joshua xv. are manifestly artificial or imaginary; they include the Philistines and number places which are elsewhere ascribed to Simeon or Dan. The origin of the name (Yĕhūdah) is quite uncertain; the interpretation “praised” is suggested in Gen. xxix. 35 (cf; xlix. 8 seq.), but some connexion with allied names, as Yehūd (Yahūdīya, E. of Jaffa), or Ēhūd (a Benjamite clan) seems more probable. That Judah, whatever its original connotation, underwent development through the incorporation of other clans appears from 1 Chron. ii., iv., where it is found to contain a large element of non-Israelite population whose names find analogies or parallels in Simeonite, Edomite and other southern lists.[1] Indeed, underlying the account of the Israelite exodus (q.v.) there are traces of a separate movement of certain clans—apart from the Israelite invasion of Palestine—who are ultimately found in the south of Judah; and the traditions in Chronicles themselves allow the view that the incorporation of these elements began under David, when Judah first occupies a prominent position in biblical history (cf. Cheyne, Ency. Bib., col. 2618 seq., and see Caleb, Jerahmeel, Kenites). But such movements were not necessarily limited to one single period, and the evidence connecting (a) the non-Israelite clans of Judah with Levites, and (b) both with the south, is found in narratives referring to several different ages and might point to an unceasing relationship with the south. On the other hand, clans, which in the traditions of David’s time were in the south of Judah, about five hundred years later (in the exile) are found near Jerusalem (e.g. Caleb), so that either these survived the strenuous vicissitudes of half a millennium or all perspective of their early history has been lost. In Gen. xxxviii. a curious narrative points to the separation of Judah “from his brethren” and his marriage with Shua the Canaanite; two sons Er and Onan perish and the third Shelah survives. From Judah and Er’s widow Tamar are derived Perez and Zerah, and these with Shelah appear in post-exilic times as the three representative families of Judah (Neh. xi. 4–6; 1 Chron. ix. 4–6). This story, amid a number of other motives, appears to reflect the growth of the tribe of Judah and its fluctuations, but that the reference is to any very early period is unlikely, partly because the interest of the story is in post-exilic families, and partly because the scenes (Adullam, Chezib and Timnah) overlap with David’s own fights between Hebron and Jerusalem (2 Sam. xxi. xxiii.; see David, ad fin.).[2] Even David’s conquest of Jerusalem (2 Sam. v.) conflicts both with the statement of its capture by Judah many years previously (Judges i. 8), and with the traditions of the Israelite heroes Joshua and Saul. Consequently, the few surviving data are too uncertain for any decisive conclusions regarding the origin of the tribe of Judah. Judah as a kingdom may have taken its name from a limited district, in which case its growth finds a parallel in the extension of the name Samaria from the city to the province. The location of Yehūd and Ēhūd in the light of 1 Kings iv. 8–19 (perhaps the subdivisions of the Israelite kingdom, see Solomon), would necessitate the assumption of a violent separation from the north; this, however, is quite conceivable (see Jews, §§ 11–13). On the bearing of South Judah upon the historical criticism of the Old Testament, see especially N. Schmidt, Hibbert Journal (1908), pp. 322–342, “The Jerahmeel Theory and the Historic Importance of the Negeb, with some account of personal exploration of the country”; also Jews, § 20.  (S. A. C.) 

  1. See especially Wellhausen, De gentibus et familiis Judaeorum (Göttingen, 1869), the articles on the relative proper names in the Ency. Bib., and E. Meyer, Die Israeliten u. ihre Nachbarstämme, pp. 299–471 (much valuable matter).
  2. For the principle of the Levirate illustrated in Gen. xxxviii., see Ruth. Lagarde (Orientalia, ii.) ingeniously conjectured that the chapter typified the suppression of Phoenician (viz. Tamar, the date-palm) and the old Canaanite elements (Zerah = indigena) by the younger Israelite invaders (Perez = “branch”). For other discussions, apart from commentaries on Genesis, see B. Luther in Meyer, op. cit., pp. 200 sqq.