PEREZ (Heb. פֶּרֶץ; "he who breaches," "bursts forth"), one of the twins born to *Judah by *Tamar; father of Hezron and Hamul and ancestor of King David. He is said to have received his name on account of the sudden and unexpected priority of his birth to that of his twin brother Zerah, who was the first to put out a hand from their mother's womb (Gen. 38:27–29). The story of Perez' birth may well reflect a lost chapter in the tribal history of Judah when the older clan of Zerah lost its preeminence to the more vigorous Perezites. The Perezites are listed as an important clan in the census taken by Moses in the wilderness (Num. 26:20–21). One of them served as the first monthly chief of all the captains of David's army in the annual roster of military duty (i Chron. 27:3). Descendants of the Perezites were among the lay leaders who lived in Jerusalem after the return from the Babylonian Exile (Neh. 11:4–6). They are said to have numbered 468 "men of substance." The high station of the clan in Judah may be measured by the blessing that the men of Beth-Lehem bestowed on Boaz: "May your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah" (Ruth 4:12). King David was descended from Perez through Boaz (4:18–22).
In the Aggadah
Perez, together with his brother Zerah, inherited Judah's characteristic valor and piety (Gen. R. 85:9). An indication of his virtue is seen in the fact that David's genealogy (Ruth 4:18–22) begins with his name (Zohar ii 104a). The plene spelling of the word toledot ("generations") in that name is to signify that the Messiah, too, would claim descent from him (Ex. R. 30:3).
in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index; I. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964), 370.