n the book of Romans we find the phrase “to the Jew first” three times: one for the gospel (1:16
), one for wrath (2:9
) and one for glory (2:10
). I believe that this phrase is a continuation from the book of Genesis, in which the tribe of Judah was to “go first.” The connection between the “Jew first” of the gospels and “Judah first” in the Torah reveals the consistency of divine order throughout the biblical covenants.
The Messianic covenant came through Isaac instead of Ishmael because Abraham was already married to Sarah. She came first.
The seed then passed through Leah because she was Jacob’s first wife, even though Jacob loved Rachel more. The covenant should have gone to Reuven as the firstborn son, but he disqualified himself by sexual perversion (Genesis 35:22). The second son Shimon was disqualified because of murder (Genesis 34:30). Levi lost the kingship lineage because of his cooperation with Shimon, but retained the priesthood as the 3rd born.
The covenant right was then passed on to Judah (Genesis 43:3). He proved himself worthy by being willing to sacrifice himself to save Benjamin (Genesis 44:18). When Jacob travelled to Egypt, the order of Judah’s leadership was already set (Genesis 46:28). The order of the encampment of the tribes in the wilderness was again, “Judah first” (Numbers 10:14). When the Israelites conquered the land of Canaan, Judah went up first (Judges 1:2).
With Order comes Controversy
The controversy about the priority of the tribe of Judah came to a head when David became king. After the rebellion of Absalom, the northern 10 tribes of Israel accused the tribe of Judah of “stealing” the coronation rights (II Samuel 19:42-44). Judah replied that their priority came from being “closer relatives” to David. Israel responded by saying they were “10 times” larger, and that Judah had dishonored them. But Judah’s claim to being “first” was stronger than the Israelites’ claim to equality.
The conflict between Judah and Israel foreshadows the conflict between Israel and the Church. Although the huge quantity of people in the international Church has great importance, it does not override the covenant order of Judah coming first. This order will continue into the end times (Zechariah 12:7) to the second coming (Matthew 23:39) and even to the millennial government (Matthew 19:28).