My basic question is:

Are there any reasons or hints in the Torah that explain or hint that Judah/Yehudah would be the tribe that was not lost?

Yes, I know that parts of Benjamin survived as well, as did - obviously - some of the tribe of Levi, and that there are opinions that some parts of the other tribes were absorbed into Judah. But fundamentally, of all the Israelites, the tribe that survived is Judah which is obviously why we are called Jews today.

  • Why, of all the tribes, did Judah make it?
  • Is it "just" because they chose to remain loyal, or did they do something to "deserve" it?
  • Are there any commentaries discussing this?
  • Did Judah himself do something that, in that merit, caused his tribe to endure?
  • Is there anything in Torah specifically that has been used to explain this success?
  • 4
    off the cuff, if the "scepter will not depart from Judah" (Ber. 49:10) then Judah would have to continue so the scepter can be seen when the need arises.
    – rosends
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 16:16
  • Without going into Biblical hints, its worth noting that when they were carried off into exile they were allowed and sometimes encouraged to continue practicing their religion, which was not a luxury the 10 northern tribes had for their exile
    – Aaron
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 18:43

2 Answers 2


The OP's question presumes that primarily only the tribe of Judah/Yehuda endured, which is why we are called Jews today.

My answer attempts to show the fallacy of such a presumption.

First, it's important to note that the Talmud (Bava Basra 115b) posits in the name of Abaye, that גמירי דלא כלא שבטא, we have a tradition that no tribe will ever be entirely destroyed.

Rashbam (ad loc.) cites Rabbeinu Chananel, who brought support to this axiom from the verse in Malachi (3:6) כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה לֹ֣א שָׁנִ֑יתִי וְאַתֶּ֥ם בְּנֵֽי־יַעֲקֹ֖ב לֹ֥א כְלִיתֶֽם, "For I, the Lord, have not changed; and you, the sons of Jacob, were not destroyed".

So while we may not know our individual lineages, we still know, traditionally, that among us, are members of ALL the different tribes.

I note, that that in most of the Bible, the Hebrews are referred to as Israel, or the Children of Israel (not Hebrews). At some point, probably near the time of the Babylonian exile, they are started to be referred to as "Yehudim" (Judah-im) (Jews). This is indicated in the Book of Esther, which is replete with the term.

It would be pure sophistry to suggest that the Book of Esther is only about the tribe of Judah, which was endangered by the evil decree of Ahasuerus and Haman, while all the other tribes of Israel were unaffected by the decree.

This is also indicated in the verse (Esther 3:6) "And it was contemptible in his eyes to lay his hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him Mordecai's nationality" (not tribe).

I also note the verse in Jeremiah (34:9)

לְ֠שַׁלַּח אִ֣ישׁ אֶת־עַבְדּ֞וֹ וְאִ֧ישׁ אֶת־שִׁפְחָת֛וֹ הָֽעִבְרִ֥י וְהָֽעִבְרִיָּ֖ה חָפְשִׁ֑ים לְבִלְתִּ֧י עֲבָד־בָּ֛ם בִּיהוּדִ֥י אָחִ֖יהוּ אִֽישׁ

"That every man should set his manservant, and every man his maidservant, the Hebrew male and Hebrew female, free, that none should hold his Jewish ("Yehudi") brother as a slave.

This seems to indicate, that all children of Israel are referred to as "Yehudim".

The Talmud (Megillah 13a) states that the word Jew is synonymous with those deny idolatry, hence this refers to all Yehudim.


Disclaimer: I am not Jewish nor do I have any formal training in anything.

In addition to the important comment about the promise that the scepter would not depart from Judah made above by @rosends I would point to Rashi's commentary on Hosea 1:4:

And the Lord said to him: Name him Jezreel, for, in a short time, I will visit the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and I will terminate the kingdom of the house of Israel.

וַיֹּ֚אמֶר ה֙ אֵלָ֔יו קְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ יִזְרְעֶ֑אל כִּֽי־ע֣וֹד מְעַ֗ט וּפָ֨קַדְתִּ֜י אֶת־דְּמֵ֚י יִזְרְעֶאל֙ עַל־בֵּ֣ית יֵה֔וּא וְהִ֨שְׁבַּתִּ֔י מַמְלְכ֖וּת בֵּ֥ית יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:

the blood of Jezreel: To be understood according to its Aramaic translation: the blood of the house of Ahab, whom Jehu slew in Jezreel because they worshipped Baal, and he and his sons went afterwards and worshipped pagan deities; therefore, I account for them the blood of the house of Ahab as innocent blood.

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