Jacob Blesses Judah

"Judah, your brothers (1) shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the (2) neck of your enemies; Your father's sons shall (3) bow down to you. (4) "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? (5) "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, (6) Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, and (7) to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (8) "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 (Genesis 49:8-12).


Verse 8 (1) "Judah, your brothers shall praise you—We have a miniature preview of the kingship of Judah that would span the years until Messiah should come. It is appropriate that Judah would be praised by his brothers since his name means ‘praise’. Leah stated at his birth "This time I will praise the Lord." Therefore, she named him Judah (Genesis 29:35). The previous births she hoped to be loved. Thus, Judah, whose name means praise, will be praised by his brothers who will do so in recognition of his leadership. Jacob intended this effect.

PT—Because Reuben, Simeon, and Levi had disqualified themselves, Judah would receive the leadership of the tribes which normally went to the first-born. Two outcomes:

1. This is how the leadership of the tribes and the Messianic line fell to Judah.

2. Jacob evidently forgave Judah’s earlier sins because he repented and later sacrificed himself for Jacob’s wellbeing (Genesis 44:30-34). Remember, Judah had wished himself to be put in Benjamin’s place, and to undergo perpetual exile and servitude, rather than convey to his father tidings which would be the cause of Jacob’s destruction.


An Application—Two lessons emerge from Judah’s sensitivity—he was willing to lose everything and achieved greatness but many who are first will be last; and the last, first (Matthew 19:30). In giving up his life, Judah also actually found it for whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:25). Such is the way of our heavenly Father. The principle is to leave everything behind as you prioritize eternal rewards in your life. The path of discipleship is the pursuit of heavenly profit by denying yourself as your following Christ.


·      (2) Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies—This is a graphic reference to the humiliation of one’s enemies in battle. He would show himself powerful over the enemies and be praised for it. To expose the neck of one’s enemy was a symbolic gesture signifying that the enemy had been conquered Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said to the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him, "Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings." So they came near and put their feet on their necks (Joshua 10:24).

·      (3) Your father's sons shall bow down to you—The praise that Judah would receive will also be incorporated into submission and homage by the family. This initial description prefigures the kingly role of the tribe expanded in the remainder of the blessing.


Verse 9 (4) "Judah is a lion's whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. —Jacob used the metaphor of the lion’s cub to portray Judah as powerful. The figure of a lion is used for the monarchy in many cultures. The image recalls the ferociousness of Judah’s powerful leadership. He is seizing his prey and bringing it back to the den.

·      He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up? —In addition to the seizing and bringing back the prey, Judah is pictured as reclining over the prey back in the den. Satiated with the battle and kill, he will be mighty in battle and kingly in repose and as a lion, who dares rouse him up?

PT—It is interesting to note that five different animals are associated with various tribes in Jacob’s blessing. Judah is compared to a lion, Issachar is associated with a donkey (v. 14), Dan with a serpent (v. 17), Naphtali with a deer (v. 21), and Benjamin with a wolf (v. 27). 


Verse 10— (5) "The scepter shall not depart from Judah—This verse moves into promise for the eschatological future, looking beyond the normal period of Israel’s history to the dawn of the messianic age. The scepter was the symbol of kingship—it would be Judah’s. The Lord anticipated that there one day would be kings in Israel "When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,' (Deuteronomy 17:14).

·      (6) Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet—The symbols of royalty, the scepter and now the lawgiver’ staff, revealed that rulership will never depart from Judah. The right to reign as king will always be with the tribe of Judah. No legitimate king could rise from another tribe. The figure from between his feet could refer to the descendants who would come from his loins. Only these would rule.

·      Until Shiloh comesShiloh means ‘to whose it is’. So the scepter and staff, that is, the theocratic administration—would remain in the tribe of Judah until the one comes to whom it belongs. The point is that in ‘Shiloh’, the one to come to whom rulership belongs, is when the scepter will reach its greatest glory and extent. Without much detail, this prophecy provides a hint at the coming of the Messiah. Later in Israel’s history, God chose a descendant of Judah, David, to be the family through whom the Messiah would come your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16).


PT—The genealogy narrowed once more when a specific town within Judah, Bethlehem, was chosen as the site of Messiah’s birth from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity" (Micah 5:2). Finally, in his genealogy of Jesus, Matthew confirmed that Jesus possessed all of the credentials to be the Messiah Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah (Matthew 1:1-16). In the throne room of heaven its Jesus described as the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David (Revelation 5:5) who’s descent is from the tribe of Judah.


·      (7) and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.The character of Shiloh’s rule will be such that obedience of the peoples or nations will dominate that rule. The apostle Paul declared that the Father’s ultimate purpose is for all peoples everywhere and from all time to at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).


Verse 11 (8) "He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey's colt to the choice vine—The language here revealed an abundance in the land of promise. This prophecy is catching the mood of the time when the curse will have little effect and the land will have great blessing. Binding a foal to a vine and a choice vine speaks of a time of great plenty and splendor—in this case most likely the millennium.

·      He washes his garments in wine, and his robes in the blood of grapes—These expressions speak of abundance—it will be a golden age for sure. So much so, that commodities such as wine and the grapes they are made from will be bountiful. Wine, the symbol of prosperity and blessing, will be so plentiful that even the choicest vines will be put to such everyday use as tethering the animals of burden and vintage wine will be as commonplace as wash water. By Jesus turning water into wine was signifying that the kingdom was at hand—the creation of the abundance of wine signaled the Messiah was present (John 2:1-11).


Verse 12His eyes are dull from wine, and his teeth white from milk—These images reveal that Israel’s experience of thorns and sweat will give way to shouting and feasting. Understood as a symbols of abundance, the dark or red eyes would be from drinking wine, and the white teeth from drinking milk. This one is a picture of vigor and strength. This prophecy is the first of many that follow in the Old Testament that associates bumper crops with the golden age of future blessing.


An Application—Everything in the Bible is leading to the emergence of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Everything God is doing in the world is moving to that conclusion. The curse on the earth will be removed. Believers should focus on the supremacy of Jesus Christ and His ushering in of that kingdom rule. Believers should be living in such a way that they are preparing for that eternal rule by how they conduct their lives here in earth. Remember, the only thing you are taking with you into eternity is your own discipleship.


A Review of the History of the Tribe of Judah  

The blessing of Jacob upon Judah was a series of prophecies pronounced upon him about his life and future. Judah’s subsequent history is a marvelous record of God’s plan to inaugurate the Messiah who would be the fulfillment of the promises made to the patriarchs and their posterity.


Genesis 38 in Review

·      Judah and his brothers had tried to prevent Joseph from gaining prominence over them by selling him into Egypt. Now Judah attempted to prevent Tamar from fulfilling her levirate rights in his family. Tamar intervened with her disparate actions which God used as a corrective for Judah. God’s plans cannot so easily be thwarted—whether the ones he had for Joseph, or the ones He had for Judah’s line.


Verses 1-4Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in to her (v. 2)—Genesis 24:2-4 Abraham determined to find a wife for Isaac. Genesis 28:1 prohibited marrying Canaanite women. Moses said the same in Deuteronomy 7:1-4. Judah had separated himself from his brothers and married a Canaanite woman anyway. This act was out of harmony with the will of the patriarchs to not marry a Canaanite woman. From this marriage Judah had three sons.


Verses 6-11Now Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar.... Then Judah said to Onan, "Go in to your brother's wife… then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, "Remain a widow in your father's house until my son Shelah grows up"; for he thought, "I am afraid that he too may die like his brothers." So Tamar went and lived in her father's house.Er and Onan both did evil in the sight of the Lord. Er, Judah's firstborn, was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord took his life (v. 7). No details are given but that he was wicked was warrant enough for his untimely death. This word evil describes something deserving of divine judgment as in Genesis 6:5 where God said every intent of the thoughts of his [mankind] heart was only evil (deserving of judgment) continually. Whatever Er was doing brought divine justice. Judah then asked Onan to take Tamar. He was willing to use the custom of marrying the elder brothers widow, Tamar, only to have her to sexually gratify himself, but not raise up a child through it and spilled his seed on the ground. God took his life also. This attitude of gratification without responsibility has been repeated from generation to generation in immoral people.

PT—Both fought against Gods plan in some way. Now Judah withheld his youngest son from marrying Tamar, fearing that he might lose this son as well.


An Application—Evil is a wickedness that God will judge. He did so at the flood then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart (Genesis 6:5-6). Two of the six things God hates is a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil (Proverbs 6:18). Paul warned believers to abstain from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Enough said. But if you ignore this warning, expect God to hold you accountable.


Verses 12-23So she (Tamar) removed her widow's garments and covered herself with a veil, and wrapped herselffor she saw that Shelah had grown up, and she had not been given to him as a wife… So he gave them to her and (Judah) went in to her, and she conceived by him. —The scene continues to show Judah as profane while portraying Tamar as taking a great risk to obtain what was her right. After the death of Judah’s wife, Tamar lured Judah into what was for him an immoral union with an unknown prostitute. Judah had negotiated payment with Tamar for a kid from the flock for the tryst. Until he could send the payment, though, he had to give his pledge—his tokens of identification—his seal, cord, and staff. Tamar conceived as a result. Even though she did what justice and the death of her husband demanded of her—it was a very dangerous scheme.

PT—Scripture does not cast any moral judgment upon Tamar. She is presented in the Bible in a favorable light. Boaz said of her moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the Lord will give you by this young woman" (Ruth 4:12). What we can say is that she had the right to have a child by the nearest kin to her deceased husband. She played on the vice of Judah to bear this child, and her deception worked.


Verses 24-26Now it was about three months later that Judah was informed, "Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot, and behold, she is also with child by harlotry." Then Judah said, "Bring her out and let her be burned!" And she said, "Please examine and see, whose signet ring and cords and staff are these?" Judah recognized them, and said, "She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah."—This scene adds hypocrisy to Judah’s lack of integrity. Judah condemned her to be burned until he found out he was the guilty party. Then, rather than be included in any punishment, he simply exonerated her by saying she is more righteous than I for he did not fulfill his responsibilities. Although Tamar’s method was desperate, she did nothing the law did not entitle her too.

PT—Tamar’s risky ploy came to light, but she was exonerated by being in the right. Judah’s reputation suffered another blow—he was both immoral and hypocritical. As is often the case. A desperate act to set things right will reveal the reason for the act, namely, that someone else has been responsible or faithless.


Verses 27-30It came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb. He put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, "This one came out first." But it came about as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out. Then she said, "What a breach you have made for yourself!" So he was named Perez. Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah.God granted twins to Tamar—the line of Judah continued because of her. The births, however, were unusual. The second child broke out first and was name Perez, ‘he who breaks through’ signifying the completion of Tamar’s struggle and depicted the destiny of the predominance of Perez’ tribe. The second child, whose hand had been the first to emerge from the womb was named Zerah. In Judah’s family, in spite of Judah’s irresponsible ways, twins were born and the younger surpassed the elder.

PT—Through this exceptional birth God worked out the principle that his plan for the younger to be subservient to the elder could not be frustrated. Whether that had to do with Judah and his brothers submission to Joseph, or Judah’s jeopardizing of his line by marrying Canaanite women. God was providentially protecting the tribal family from the corruption in the family line, thereby ensuring the line’s integrity. Gods plan could not so easily be set aside.

·      The way the entire event works out is ironic; the thing that Judah tries to prevent happened, and it was his means of correction. If it had been left up to Judah, the family would have assimilated with Canaanites. But Tamar retrieved the line and served as a corrective. In the midst of corruption and faithlessness, the faithful may have to take risks to do what is right.


An Application—We should not engage in any attempt to subvert the revealed will of God. We may attempt to modify Gods will, engaging in schemes to concoct an alternative outcome. But this will be a violation of God’s will, and then force God to act to preserve His revealed will. James said therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4-5). The world urges us to love ourselves, to put our pleasures before God’s pleasures. God does not want you to have the pleasures from the association with the world but from choosing righteousness.


2 Samuel 7 in Review

·      David, of the tribe of Judah, is given what has been called the Davidic Covenant. This covenant defines David’s descendants, prescribes the line of Christ, the Messiah of Israel, and guarantees a future for the people of Israel.


Verses 8-9—"Now therefore, thus you shall say to My servant David, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts, "I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you –Nathan, after reminding David that God said He had never dwelt in a house, and He never asked David to build one for Him (apparently, God is not house-oriented [Isaiah 66:1-2]), reminds David of God’s provision in his life. That included taking him from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel. God had been with him all along the way, and God had cut off David’s enemies.


Verses 10-11 … and I will make you a great name, like the names of the great men who are on the earth. I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly, even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you.Then God talked about what He was going to do.

·      I will make you a great name, like the names of the great men who are on the earth. 

·      I will also appoint a place for My people Israel so they will not be disturbed again

·      I will give you rest from all your enemies.

·      The LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you—a dynasty.

Some of God’s promises to David would find fulfillment during his lifetime (vv. 8-11a) and others after his death (vv. 11b-16). The promise of a great name is reminiscent of God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:2), and suggests (though the word ‘covenant’ nowhere appears in these verses) that the Davidic kingship is being incorporated into the Abrahamic covenant. This is reinforced by the reference to God’s people Israel dwelling in their own place, undisturbed by enemies (v. 10), a reference to Genesis 15:18-21 and Deuteronomy 11:24. The point—there will be an everlasting royal dynasty and kingdom for David and his heirs.


Verses 12-17 (1) I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. (2) He shall build a house for My name, and (3) I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever…. (4) Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; (5) your throne shall be established forever."'" The rest of Nathan’s revelation was an elaboration on this fourth promise, the Davidic Covenant. The covenant included five basic promises:

1.      David’s descendants would establish a kingdom after his death. The future kings of Israel would always be of the blood line of David, as Jesus was through David and Bathsheba’s son Nathan (Luke 3).

2.      David’s son (Solomon) shall build a house for My name.

3.      I will establish the throne of his (Solomon’s) kingdom forever. So, all of the future kings of Israel would be connected to the throne of Solomon (as Jesus was through Joseph’s marriage to Mary). The angel intervened to ensure the marriage happened.

4.      Whenever any of this line of kings commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men but My lovingkindness [loyalty to the blood line of David] shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul (v. 15).

5.      Unlike every other kingdom of the earth, David’s kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever (v. 16). This last promise is finally fulfilled by Jesus Christ (Luke 1:31-33) who will take the throne at His second coming (Matthew 1:11; 19:28; Acts 15:16-18) and reign on earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20). Forever here is in the sense of as long as the earth lasts, since it is destroyed after Christ’s 1000-year reign (Revelation 21:1-3).


PT—The Davidic Covenant guarantees, not just a king but a kingdom, not just a future for David’s line, but a future for the genealogical nation of Israel in their ancient homeland.


An Application—The church does not fulfill the Davidic covenant, progressively or any other way. The throne of David will be established on earth during the 1000-year kingdom described in Revelation 20, after the church has been removed (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Romans 11: 17-24).


Observations from the Tribe of Judah

·      While the tribes were marching through the wilderness, it was the tribe of Judah that went first the standard of the camp of the sons of Judah, according to their armies, set out first (Numbers 10:14).

·      After the Israelites conquered the land of Canaan and began to possess it the lot for the tribe of the sons of Judah according to their families was allocated and received first (Joshua 15:1). The tribe of Judah also received and possessed one of the largest and most important sections in the southern part of the land of Canaan (Joshua 15:2-63).

·      The census of Numbers 1 at the beginning of the wanderings, and the list in Numbers 26 at the end have the largest numbers of tribal population for Judah their numbered men of the tribe of Judah were 74,600 (Numbers 1:27) and these are the families of Judah according to those who were numbered of them, 76,500 (Numbers 26:22).

·      The greatest conqueror in the history of Israel was King David of the tribe of Judah. He extended the boundaries of Israel when he subdued the Philistines, the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Edomites so David made a name for himself… and the Lord helped David wherever he went…  So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people (2 Samuel 13-15). David’s son, Solomon, extended the boundaries of the kingdom to their greatest limits as he consolidated his father’s conquests now Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt; they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life (1 Kings 4:20-25).

·      All legitimate kings of Israel throughout their history were descendants of David. The succession of 20 kings in the northern kingdom, beginning with Jeroboam in 930 BC and ending with Hoshea in 721 BC, were illegitimate and rejected by God. Even though some of Judah’s kings were evil, they were still in the royal line of succession. The prophecy of Jacob stating the symbols of royalty, the scepter and the lawgiver’s staff, would never depart from Judah did not mean that a king will always reign in Judah. However, the right of kingship will always be in this tribe and in no other.


Application—We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.