Saturday, February 04, 2012

Jacob’s Prediction About Judah - Genesis 49:8-12

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.  Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up.  He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?  The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.  He ties his foal to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are dull from wine, And his teeth white from milk.”

Judah was Jacob’s fourth son, and the fourth to be born to his first wife, Leah.  His name means “God be praised”.  In Jacob’s prediction about his tribe we learn that his brothers will praise him and bow down to him implying that a king will come to rule over Israel from his tribe.

For starters, we need to remember that it was Judah who, as David Guzik points out, had suggested a profit motive in getting rid of Joseph (Genesis 37:26), had not dealt faithfully with his daughter-in-law Tamar (Genesis 38:26), and had sex with her as a prostitute (Genesis 38:18).

On the other hand, we also need to remember that pushing to have his brothers sell Joseph to the caravan headed for Egypt rather than kill him and let his remains rot in the pit they had thrown him in, meant he would remain alive.  Clearly there was something in the character of Judah that was redeeming in nature.  Had he known of Reuben’s plan to rescue Joseph entirely, he may well have supported that effort.  Trying to keep some peace with the family, he felt that he could at least keep Joseph alive by selling him to the traders headed for Egypt and perhaps the whole thing was not about profit.  Chuck Smith says that even over this act, there likely was remorse.  It was for that reason that later on he agreed to be the surety for his younger brother Benjamin’s life when Joseph demanded he be brought to Egypt if they were to get any more food.  And when Benjamin’s sack was later found to have Joseph’s missing silver cup hidden in it, it was Judah who offered himself as a slave in his place.  He became the spokesperson for the brothers showing the courage that needed to be shown from one of the older brothers.  It seems that Jacob had been made aware of all that and he had taken notice.  Again, we see God’s grace being magnificently poured on a sinner who many of us would have not considered worthy.

Matthew Henry explains the phrase “Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies” to mean that the tribe of Judah should be victorious and successful in war.  And indeed later in Scripture the Psalmist writes about that in Psalms 18, verse 40.

Verse 9 refers to Judah as the Lion’s whelp or cub who matures into a ruling king.  [Henry wants us to note that “Judah is compared, not to a lion rampant, always tearing, always raging, always ranging; but to a lion couchant, enjoying the satisfaction of his power and success, without creating vexation to others: this is (what it means) to be truly great.”]  This is where we get the beginning of the prophesy of the Lion of the tribe of Judah that would eventually come to rule the world in the person of Jesus Christ.  In verse 10 we learn that Judah’s tribe would rule until the Messiah (Jesus) would come, or as stated in the text until ‘Shiloh’ or peace (the Prince of Peace, Jesus) comes.  And indeed that was the case.  Judah’s tribe reigned for several (three or four) decades after Christ’s death.  Under the rule of various Herods, Israel only kept a limited right to self-rule until 7 A.D. according to David Guzik, and then the Romans took away their right to determine when capital punishment could be applied.  It is reported that Jewish Rabbis, who realized the scepter had passed from Judah at this point, walked the streets of Jerusalem crying, “Woe unto us, for the scepter has been taken away from Judah, and Shiloh has not come.”  But the reality was that Jesus had come and was living among them there and then.  Guzik suggests he may well have been exactly 12 years old and discussing God’s Word in the temple with the scholars of His day.

Now here is the interesting thing about this fact.  It poses some real difficult issues for the Jewish people of whom many are still awaiting for their Messiah and rejecting Jesus as the one that was prophesied about.   If Jacob’s prophesy was to be fulfilled, or better still, if Old Testament prophesy is at all to be counted on, then the Jewish Messiah must have come sometime before 70 A.D., that is, before approximately 40 years after Christ’s death, the time by which Israel had completely been overtaken by foreign rule.  So, if Jesus was not the Messiah, who was?  There is no alternative.  This is just one of the many reasons many Jewish believers are coming to Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Please continue to pray for the rest to see what their very own Scriptures say and require in prophesy, so that they too may come to accept Him.

So instead of being punished, Judah inherited the leadership of his brothers, something that otherwise would have traditionally belonged to Reuben the firstborn who had relinquished it with his own actions.  And in his last days, Jacob saw how God would use Judah’s tribe to usher in the reign of the Savior of the world.  Matthew Henry also points out that at the time of Christ’s death, the Jews clearly stated, “we have no king but Caesar” implying without a shadow of a doubt the scepter had passed from Judah.  The King of Peace, the Messiah, must clearly have come.

The reference to vines in the prophesy is a reference to how rich Judah’s lands would be with respect to vineyards and the ability to grow grapes and thus make wine.  Israel today is still a great grape-growing and wine-producing country.

As we read this portion of Scripture, we notice that we can easily see the parallel between what Jacob was prophesizing for Judah and the person, life and attributes of the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Matthew Henry describes this so well.  In his commentary on Genesis 49 he writes, “(1.) He is the ruler of all his father’s children, and the conqueror of all his father’s enemies; and he it is that is the praise of all the saints. (2.) He is the lion of the tribe of Judah, as he is called with reference to this prophecy (Rev. 5:5), who, having spoiled principalities and powers, went up a conqueror, and couched so as none can stir him up, when he sat down on the right hand of the Father. (3.) To him belongs the scepter; he is the lawgiver, and to him shall the gathering of the people be, as the desire of all nations (Hag. 2:7), who, being lifted up from the earth, should draw all men unto him (John 12:32), and in whom the children of God that are scattered abroad should meet as the center of their unity, John 11:52. (4.) In him there is plenty of all that which is nourishing and refreshing to the soul, and which maintains and cheers the divine life in it; in him we may have wine and milk, the riches of Judah’s tribe, without money and without price, Isaiah 55:1.”

Oh that all those who hold on to Jacob’s prophesies may see that they were indeed fulfilled in Christ Jesus.

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