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Meaning and etymology of the name Judah

Judah Judah

There are up to seven men named Judah in the Bible

The original Judah is Jacob's fourth son with Leah (Genesis 29:35). Judah becomes prominent when his three brothers Reuben, Simeon and Levi forfeit their places in the hierarchy (Reuben sleeps with Bilhah - Genesis 35:22, and Simeon and Levi avenge their sister Dinah's rape by killing the entire male population of the village of Shechem, and looting the place - Genesis 34:25).

It should be noted that the feminine form of this name, Judith, occurs a generation earlier than Judah and may very well be the original (meaning that the name Judah is derived from Judith and not vice versa). Judith is the Hittite aunt of Judah, married to Judah's uncle Esau. This also implies that the Biblical meanings of the names Judah and Judith may have been imposed upon these existing names, and the spelling of them altered to fit the meaning.

Other Judahs are: a postexilic Levite (Ezra 3:9); a Levite who divorces his foreign wife in the purge of Ezra (Ezra 10:23); a postexilic overseer (Nehemiah 11:9); a Levite who returns with Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 12:8); a postexilic leader (Nehemiah 12:34); and a priestly musician (Nehemiah 12:36);

The name Judas is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Judah.

The name Judah is a combination of two elements. The first element is yah, which is the commonly accepted abbreviated form of YHWH, which is YHWH, the Name of the Lord.

The second part of the name Judah comes from the verb yada (yada) meaning to confess, praise, give thanks. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament reports that 'the primary meaning of this root is "to acknowledge or confess sin, God's character and works, or man's character."'

Originally this verb denoted a private or national confession of sin (for instance in Leviticus 16:21, Aaron will praise over the scapegoat), which is the very thing the Law was designed to provoke (Romans 3:20). Then it evolved to denote gratitude, and only finally it came to indicate what we know as praise.

When Leah gave birth to Judah she names him such by saying, "This time I will praise the Lord." Perhaps she meant that she realized that her first three sons weren't going to bring her closer to Jacob, and she should redirect her focus to God.

For the meaning of the name Judah, NOBS Study Bible Name List reads Let Him (God) Be Praised. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names simply reads Praised.

Another curious detail is that when the letter D is dropped from the name Judah, the Name YHWH appears.

Other related names are Jaddai, Jedaiah and Jeduthun.



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