Tribe of Judah

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According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Judah (Hebrew: יְהוּדָה, Modern Yehuda Tiberian Yəhûḏā ; "Praise") was one of the Tribes of Israel.

Following the completion of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes after about 1200 BCE[1], Joshua allocated the land among the twelve tribes.

From after the conquest of the land by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel in c. 1050 BCE, the Tribe of Judah was a part of a loose confederation of Israelite tribes. No central government existed, and in times of crisis the people were led by ad hoc leaders known as Judges. (see the Book of Judges) With the growth of the threat from Philistine incursions, the Israelite tribes decided to form a strong centralised monarchy to meet the challenge. The first king of this new entity was Saul, who came from the Tribe of Benjamin, (1 Samuel 9:1-2) which at the time was the smallest of the tribes.

After the death of Saul, all the tribes other than Judah remained loyal to the House of Saul, while Judah chose David as its king. However, after the death of Ish-bosheth, Saul's son and successor to the throne of Israel, all the other Israelite tribes made David, who was then the king of Judah, king of a re-united Kingdom of Israel. However, on the accession of Rehoboam, Solomon's son, in c. 930 BCE, the northern tribes under the leadership of Jeroboam from the Tribe of Ephraim split from the House of David to reform a Kingdom of Israel as the Northern Kingdom. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to the House of David. These tribes formed the Kingdom of Judah, which existed until Judah was conquered by Babylon in c. 586 BCE and the population deported.

When the Jews returned from Babylonian exile, residual tribal affiliations were abandoned, probably because of the impossibility of reestablishing previous tribal land holdings. However, the special religious roles decreed for the Levis and Kohanim were preserved, and the general population was called Israel. These designations are still followed today.

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