John William McConnellAnd she conceived again and bore a son, and said, 'now i will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah” (Gen. 29:35).*
How would you like to have a name like “Thanks”? I can see this resulting in some communication problems. Let’s envision a conversation between two strangers that sounds somewhat like an Abbott and Costello routine:
One says to the other, “Hello, my name is Howard; what’s your name?”
“You’re welcome, but what’s your name?”
“I don’t know why you’re thanking me, but, please, give me your name.”
“My name is Thanks.”
“Aha, I thought for a moment that we weren’t communicating.”
This routine may sound rather foolish, but a similar conversation might have occurred with one of Leah’s sons. Leah, the first wife of Jacob (see Genesis 29, 30), was so happy when her fourth child was born that she called him Judah. The word “Judah” comes from the Hebrew word yadah, which is often translated as “praise,” but more often as “thanks.” The dictionary defines “thanksgiving” as being grateful. So whenever Leah spoke of her son Judah, she actually was calling him Thanks in remembrance of her gratitude.
Judah exhibited the same generous, unselfish spirit as did Christ. When he and his brothers—except for his youngest brother, Benjamin—journeyed to Egypt to obtain food during a famine, they encountered their brother Joseph, whom they had sold into slavery many years before but who was now a high Egyptian official (see Gen. 37-45). Joseph recognized his brothers, but they didn’t recognize him. So Joseph insisted that they bring their younger brother, Benjamin, to Egypt before he would give them any food.
Judah and his brothers journeyed home to present the request to their father, Jacob. At first he refused to agree to the request, but in time he relented and allowed Benjamin to go. Judah realized how difficult this decision was for his father, so he promised him: “I myself will be surety for him. . . . If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever” (Gen. 43:9). Out of love for his father and his brothers, Judah was willing to offer his own life. So also Christ, a distant grandson of Judah, was willing to lay down His life to save those whom He calls His brethren (Heb. 2:11, 12).
How important it is for us to give thanks for Heaven’s many blessings—for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; for food and clothing; for our homes and friends; but most of all for the wonderful plan of salvation and the prospect of eternal life, gifts from God through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord.
An old adage states that “a merry heart does good, like medicine” (Prov. 17:22), but I would like to paraphrase it by saying, “a thankful heart does good, like medicine.” One cannot be thankful and unhappy at the same time. In fact, I believe that thankfulness is a good remedy for depression. We should follow the counsel from the revelator, “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned” (Rev. 11:17). Regardless of our circumstances in life, we can always find a reason to be thankful, and when we do, it will lift our spirits.
Could it be that Judah’s name had something to do with God choosing the fourth son of Leah and one of the 12 sons of Jacob to be the progenitor of the kings of Israel and of Jesus Christ Himself, the Lion of the tribe of Judah? Perhaps God honored Leah’s grateful attitude by exalting the tribe that bore her son’s name, and his name was “Thanks.”
*All Bible texts in this column are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
John William McConnell, now retired, taught science and math for 30 years in Seventh-day Adventist Academies. His hobby is writing a weekly devotional that he send to some 500 recipients. This article was published November 25, 2010.