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In this feature article, we are bringing you the prophecy of Genesis 49, that again proves from the Hebrew Scriptures that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah.
Ancient Rabbis and Christians agree on many things about the Messiah.
Judah, however, had been specially favored.
In Genesis 49:8–12, Jacob blesses Judah and his descendants with much more than the physical seed of the Messiah.
“Judah, your brothers will praise you. … You are a lion’s cub, Judah. … The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes and the obedience of the nations shall be his.”
This prophecy presents a mystery of sorts, and as with any good mystery, there are clues to solve it. The three clues to help us understand this prophecy are:
- Ruler’s staff
In this article, we’ll look at what Rabbis and Christians tell us about these clues and the Messiah in the blessing of Judah. We’ll also learn more about God’s plan for the nation of Israel and the world.
As you discover the truth, you will be specially blessed!
The Messiah in Judah’s Blessing
“You will not be called Jacob any longer,” God says. ”From now on your name will be Israel.” (Genesis 35:10)
From Israel, the twelve tribes and the Messiah would be born.
One of Israel’s sons, Joseph, seems especially suited to carry the seed of the Messiah.
Joseph’s brothers despised him and sold him into slavery in Egypt where he rose to power as the second in command, saving the lives of his family and many of the nations surrounding Egypt.
In this and many other ways, Joseph’s life is thought to foreshadow the life of Yeshua (Jesus).
Rabbis through the ages have written about and are expecting a Messiah who will be the son of Joseph. They call him Messiah ben Joseph (Messiah son of Joseph).
But in Judaism, there is also a Messiah who will be the son of David (Messiah ben David).
1 Chronicles 5:2 speaks about these two Messiahs: “Because Judah was the strongest of his brothers a ruler came from him, but the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph.”
We’ll look at this expected “first Messiah” in another article.
When referring to the Messiah who ushers in the End-Time Messianic Kingdom, we are speaking about Messiah ben David (Messiah son of David), who is from the tribe of Judah.
Let us now turn our attention back to Judah (from whom the scepter will not depart).
After living a long and eventful life, Israel (whose name was originally Jacob) realizes he is nearing the end of his life and desires to reveal a mystery to his twelve sons that no man of God had yet spoken:
“Come together,” Israel says to his sons, “that I may tell you what is to befall you in the end of days [acharit hayamim].” (Genesis 49:1)
Jacob reveals this mystery about the end of days in verses 8–12 as he rests his hand on his fourth son Judah and prophesies:
The SCEPTER (shevet, שבט) will not depart from Judah.
The Hebrew word shevet (שבט) means different things in different passages.
In most passages in the Tanakh (Old Testament), shevet means tribe. But it can mean much more. For example, Numbers 24:17 prophesies that “a star shall rise out of Jacob and a scepter (shevet) out of Israel.”
Our prophecy in Genesis also speaks of a ruler’s staff or scepter that will rule the nations.
What is a scepter?
In Hebrew, shevet is a rod used for chastisement or the staff a shepherd uses to guide his sheep (Psalm 23:4). But when written in this context, this rod or staff represents the royal authority of a king, as we see in this psalm:
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness.” (Psalm 45:6)
Judah will serve as ruler in Israel with this scepter.
The ruler’s staff (mekhokek in Hebrew) will not depart from between Judah’s feet.
In ancient Israel, legislators would speak among the feet of the people as they sat on the ground in semicircles (Luke 23:1).
Judah’s line will carry this responsibility, possessing the ruler’s staff (mekhokek וּמְחֹקֵ֖ק), and the authority to inscribe laws among the people of Israel.
The ruler’s staff is another way of saying scepter.
Judah will be seen as a lion’s cub.
Though Judah and his offspring will hold the scepter of rule and law over God’s chosen people, their reign will remain limited to Israel.
Yet, one will come from Judah as a mature lion who will rule and judge the whole world.
What does all this have to do with the end of days (acharit hayamim)?
Judah will hold this ruling authority until Shiloh comes, to whom belongs the scepter, the rule of law, the one we obey.
Judah would only be a shadow or placeholder until the true ruler arrives.
And the obedience of the nation’s (amim) shall be his.
The word in Hebrew for nations here is amim, which includes much more than merely the word for people (am); it means all people in all nations (amim) will obey the new scepter holder.
If we are supposed to give our full obedience to Shiloh, we surely need to know who or where is Shiloh.
Who or Where Is SHILOH?
The Hebrew word Shiloh (שלה) is often written in Christian Bibles as belonging to him. We can say, then, that Shiloh is the one to whom belongs the scepter.
Rabbis, however, have found another meaning for Shiloh embedded within Psalm 76:11:
“Vow and pay to the Lord your God; all those around Him will bring a gift to Him Who is to be feared.”
Looking at the Hebrew in this psalm, Rabbinic writings tell us that Shiloh (שלה) was thought to come from these two words:
- a gift (שַׁי) pronounced shi
- to him (לוֹ) pronounced lo.
Based on this understanding, the words “UNTIL SHILOH COME … indicates that all the nations of the world will bring a gift to Messiah the son of David,” as is written in the Midrash Rabbah Genesis. (see Psalm 76:11, verse 12 in Hebrew Bible)
What better gift could we give the new scepter holder than our obedience?
However, this is not the only Hebraic reference to Shiloh as the Messiah. We find others in Aramaic translations of the Bible.
Aramaic was the common language of the day in Israel. Written before and after the time of Yeshua, several Aramaic translations of the Bible (the Targumim written between 100 BC and AD 200) portray Shiloh from Genesis 49:10 as the Messiah.
Here are two excerpts:
“Kings shall not cease, nor rulers from the house of Judah, nor sopherim teaching the law from his seed, till the time that King Messiah shall come, who will arise from Judah.” (Targum Jonathan Ben Uzziel, 50 BC–present)
“He who exercised dominion shall not pass away from the house of Judah, nor the scribe from his children’s children forever, until Messiah shall come. Whose is the kingdom, and whom the peoples shall obey.” (Targum Onkelos, AD 35–120)
These Bible translations were read in synagogues to the common people in Aramaic after the Scriptures were read in Hebrew. The people were taught in these Aramaic Bibles that Shiloh is Messiah.
Ancient commentaries written down by Rabbis from AD 200–500 (known as the Midrash and Talmud) also tell us Shiloh is the Messiah, such as this one:
“The rulership abideth with the tribe of Judah until the arrival of Shiloh i.e. Messiah.” (Midrash Rabbah)
Rabbis have commonly held several names and roles for Mashiach (Messiah), and Shiloh was one of them:
“The Messiah has been given seven names, and they are: Yinnon, Our Righteousness, Shoot, Comforter, David, Shiloh, Elijah.” (Midrash on Proverbs 19 and 21, quoting Rabbi Huna (AD 216–296) a scholar of the Talmud in Babylon).
Prominent Medieval Rabbis also agree that Shiloh refers to Messiah.
Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki (1040–1105) known as Rashi wrote that Shiloh refers to “the King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs [שלו]” pronounced shelo.
Rabbi David Kimhi (1160–1235) known as Radak points out that the word Shiloh (שילו) is related to the word shilyat (שלית), which means the placenta after a child is born known as the afterbirth.
He concludes that the scepter and ruling staff belong to Shiloh, a descendant of David (see Deuteronomy 28:57).
These are only a handful of references in Rabbinic writings telling the Jewish People that Shiloh is the Messiah, and to him belongs the scepter.
In the Bible and today in modern times Shiloh is also a town.
“The entire assembly of the Israelis gathered together at Shiloh and set up the Tent of Meeting there, where the land lay conquered before them.” (Joshua 18:1)
A few rabbis have believed that this place is the Shiloh in Judah’s blessing.
If the blessing is referring to this town, then Judah held the scepter of rulership only until the Hebrews conquered the Promised Land and moved the tabernacle to Shiloh.
These few rabbis interpret Judah’s blessing in Genesis 49:10 to say “until they come to Shiloh [the town]” instead of “until Shiloh comes”:
“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes [until they come to Shiloh] and the obedience of the nations shall be his.”
The majority of rabbis disagree with this interpretation, as they interpret Shiloh as the Messiah.
The Scepter Departs from Judah
Though Judah was given the king’s scepter, Rabbis through the millennia have taught that the prophecy starts with David the shepherd boy, son of Jesse who was the first king from the tribe of Judah.
In Scripture, the prophecy is reinforced (or strengthened) by God making a covenant with King David to ensure that a seed of his will be on the throne forevermore:
“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you [Saul], but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.’” (1 Chronicles 17:13–14)
The uninterrupted line of the kings of Judah spanned from BC 1010–587, some 423 years.
Kings in the line of David stayed on the throne even in exile when Nebuchadnezzar placed the last Jewish king, Zedekiah, as his “puppet king” over Judea.
After Zedekiah, never again did a king or ruler come from the line of Judah and David.
No descendant of Judah and David has arrived to take their place as king on the throne to hold the scepter.
So how could the prophecy of Genesis 49 be fulfilled, since there have been no more potential kings of Israel to fulfill it?
To answer that, we must understand the conditions placed on the scepter by God Himself.
The privilege given to Judah in holding the scepter depended on Israel’s obedience.
“If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne.’” (Psalm 132:12; 2 Chronicles 6:16)
There were good kings who followed God and bad kings who led the people astray.
The wicked kings of Israel and Judea blatantly followed pagan gods; some even sacrificed their babies to Molech and took advantage of people without repentance.
For these reasons, the descending lineage of Judah and David lost the throne.
If there is no throne to rule from, then there is no king to hold the scepter.
According to Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (c. 1194–1280), known as Ramban, there is another good explanation for this.
Ramban said that God was angry at the northern kingdom of Israel for having kings on the throne from other tribes—and so the prophet Achiyah said, “I will afflict the seed of David for this, but not forever.” (1 Kings 11:39)
Even though David’s line would suffer a break in their kingly rule, God’s covenant with David still stands: God alone will raise up an everlasting King from David’s seed to sit on an everlasting throne. (2 Samuel 7:12–17)
The Scepter of Righteousness Belongs to Yeshua
When we consider all the details of the scepter holder, as first prophesied over Judah, they lead us to Yeshua (Jesus) who meets the requirements:
The scepter holder must be the King whom all peoples of all nations will one day obey:
“Judah, your brothers will praise you. … You are a lion’s cub. … The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” (Genesis 49:8–12)
In addition to receiving the obedience of the nations, kings will see what they were not told and understand what they had not heard (Isaiah 52:15).
The Prophet Isaiah also tells us that “In his teaching the islands will put their hope” and he will be “a light for the Gentiles” so that “salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 42:4, 49:6)
Two billion people today, including Jewish Believers, have accepted Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) as their Lord, their Savior, and their hope.
The Scepter of Judgement and Rule Belongs to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah
While we now enjoy our Messiah Yeshua as our Lord in the heavenlies, He will come down as the Lion of the tribe of Judah at the very end of days (acharit hayamim).
“Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. …” (Revelation 5:5)
Here, in the Book of Revelation, as prophecy comes to a close for all humanity, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is revealed as the Lamb who had been slain to claim the final victory over death and reign on earth forevermore:
“In the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain . . . . And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:6–10)
Yeshua Is Returning Very Soon
Since the rebirth of Israel as a nation in 1948, prophecy is being fulfilled with Jews returning en masse. Almost half of the world’s Jewish population now lives in Israel!
The plans to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem are taking place even as you are reading this article!
The Jewish Priesthood has been identified through DNA testing and other records, and these men have been trained for Temple Service.
The blueprints for the rebuilding of the Temple have already been drafted and approved by Israeli politicians.
Only the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque stand in the way of the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in which King Messiah will one day take His rightful place.
In the Book of Acts, the disciples stood with Jesus on the Mount of Olives, just across the valley from where the Temple stood, when they saw Him ascend into heaven.
Two men dressed in white (angels) explained to them that Yeshua will come back to this same place.
In Jewish tradition, the Messiah will enter through the Golden Gate. This is the only gate directly across from the Mount of Olives.
The Messiah (Shiloh) will then take His rightful place that belongs to Him (shelo / shiloh) in the new rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.
We are living in the most exciting times of history, right in the cusp of seeing Yeshua return to Jerusalem, hopefully in our lifetimes!
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” (Revelation 22:12)
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(Articles cannot be copied without permission)