Throughout the Hebrew Bible we find that first names explain both the circumstances of birth and meaningfully foreshadow people’s destiny! This alone is a hidden treasure for English speakers because most English Bible versions almost always miss names’ meanings. For example, the connection between the fascinating name ‘Judah,’ the fourth son of Leah and Jacob, and its internal meaning is absent from most English Bibles.
The name Judah is explained twice, both times with the same meaning:
1. “And she conceived again, and bore a son; and she said, Now will I praise the Lord; therefore she called his name Judah; and ceased bearing” (Genesis 29:35).
2. “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be in the neck of your enemies; your father’s children shall bow down in your presence” (Genesis 49:8).
In example 1, the name ‘Yehuda’ comes from the root ‘hoda’ and the word ‘toda’ (‘to praise and to thank’). Leah thanks God for this birth (circumstances of birth) and therefore the son’s name means ‘praising God’. In example 2, the actual words speak about the 11 brothers praising (thanking) Judah, and in doing so they foreshadow his destiny. To complete the nature of this destiny the following two verses leave no room for mistake − it is kingdom and leadership:
“Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you are gone up; he stooped down, he crouched like a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The staff shall not depart from Judah, nor the scepter from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and to him shall the obedience of the people be”
Judah, indeed, was the tribe of the most important king in the Bible, David. Judah remained the only Jewish kingdom in the Land of Israel for many generations after the expulsion of the 10 tribes. In Jewish tradition, this is the tribe from which the Messiah will come − Massiach Ben David. We see another testimony of Judah, the lion in John’s vision:
“One of the elders said to me, ‘Don’t weep. Behold, the Lion who is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome; he who opens the book and its seven seals’”
The importance of this name and its meaning rests in the fact that it is the source of the name of the people of Israel: ‘Ye•hu•dim’ (Jewish). Ye•hu•dim came from the kingdom in Jerusalem’s region − Yehuda − that in turn came from the son, Yehuda (Judah). ‘Jewish,’ then, means ‘praising and thankful.’ We end where we began, Judah’s name is ‘praising and thanking God.’