As the forefathers of the 12 tribes, the lives and personalities of each of the sons of Jacob impacted upon the history and behavior of the tribe that was to descend from them.
According to tradition, Judah earned for his descendants the right to kingship because of his ability to acknowledge his own mistakes, accept responsibility for his actions and alter his course of action. The kingship of David, the most famous descendant of this tribe, was the beginning of a dynasty that would outlast the kingdom itself, as the Messiah is destined to come from this line. Even before David, however, the tribe of Judah, which was the largest of the tribes, provided Israel with leaders, men of strong will and solid judgment (indeed, the very first of the Judges, Othniel, was from the tribe of Judah).
As the tribe of leadership, Judah was the first tribe in the marching order in the Wilderness, as well as the first tribe to enter Canaan and conquer its own land. Their strength in battle fulfilled Moses' prayer for them (Deuteronomy. 33:7): "Listen, God, to Judah's voice, and return him to his people; may his hands fight his grievance and may You be a Helper against his enemies."
Judah's natural quality of leadership was also reflected by other members of the tribe of Judah such as Nachshon the son of Amminadab, and Caleb the son of Yephunneh. Nachshon led the Israelites into the Sea of Reeds when they hesitated in fear. With the Egyptian army behind them, the water before them, and only his faith in God, Nachshon walked into the water. When he was nose deep, the waters tore themselves apart and the children of Israel followed Nachshon on dry land.
Caleb represented the tribe of Judah when Moses sent a man from each tribe to scout the Promised Land. When they returned, ten of the scouts reported that the land's inhabitants were fierce and unconquerable. Caleb and Joshua the son of Nun refuted these claims and tried to rally the people to keep the faith. After all, God had promised the land to them, so it must be that with God's help they would be able to conquer it. Caleb was later given the area of Hebron, which he had personally scouted 39 years earlier.
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