The Lion of Judah – Part 2

Intro: Read again the prophecy of Gen 49:8-12 – Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? 0 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding his donkey to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, And his teeth whiter than milk.

  • Quoting from the Artscroll Tenach Commentary, an orthodox Jewish commentary, one of the editors, Rabbi Zlotowitz, makes this remark: “The general consensus [with a few exceptions] of rabbinic interpretation is that this phrase refers to the coming of the Messiah. This passage accordingly constitutes the primary Torah source for the belief that the Messiah will come.” (Zlotowitz, vol. 6, p. 2152) That is intriguing to me, as there are so many ways that the fulfillment of this prophecy points to Jesus, the Christ. Even the time of his coming is connected to this prophecy.

This morning we noticed some of the specific predictions Jacob made to his 4th son, Judah.

  • Judah would be praised by his brothers
  • He would become a conqueror among his brothers, subduing his enemies
  • Judah is compared to a young lion who grows stronger, overcomes his prey, and exhibits the confidence and protective prowess of the lioness as she oversees her cubs. There is no one who dares to arouse or challenge her.
  • Jacob’s picture pointed forward to Judah himself, and his tribe as his descendants took a prominent role is leading the nation of Israel. The nation of Israel itself, took on the characteristics of the fierce lion who subdued his enemies.
  • Finally we noticed the emergence of David, the son of Jesse, from the tribe of Judah, who was appointed to the throne over all of Israel. He certainly fit the prediction of Jacob made 700 years earlier. But of course, the rest of the text makes our connection of these events even more sure.

Is there more? Who is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah? Let’s continue…

I. The Lion is a King: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” (49:10)

A. “The scepter shall not depart from Judah (vs. 10) The word scepter, from the Hebrew shëbet, means “rod, staff,” which also “denotes a sceptre, the mark of authority. Thus it is the symbol of rulership” (TWOT, I 897). The image seems to be of a king or ruler sitting on a throne with his scepter or staff between his legs, making judgments, or executing laws. Judah himself would never ascend to a throne. Looking at the historical development of Israel as a nation, we notice that there was no physical throne for another 670 years. Thus we look forward to the first king from the tribe of Judah, which was David. It seems obvious that the character and destiny of the tribe of Judah would be linked to their first king; David. But again, this is not all that is here.

B. Nor a Lawgiver from between His feet… the Hebrew word for Lawgiver here is from a root word that means to engrave, or cut in stone. When the Jewish mind contemplated this term the immediate reference would be to Moses (THE lawgiver) who gave them the engraved stone tablets (God’s law) But was Moses the one being predicted here? As it turned out, Moses did not arise from the tribe of Judah, but the tribe of Levi. The Lawgiver who would come from Judah was another, better Lawgiver.

II.Until Shiloh Comes…” – The authority would not depart or be taken away, “Until Shiloh come.”

A. note first, that the word “until” can point to a time when something will cease, or it can mean that it would continue to that point uninterrupted.

1. The fact is, the physical kingship that emerged in the tribe of Judah did come to an end. There is no king from the lineage of David ruling in Jerusalem. The prophecy of Jeremiah concerning Coniah, the last king to rule in Jerusalem before the destruction of the city by the Babylonians – Jer 22:30Thus says the Lord: ‘Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, And ruling anymore in Judah.'”

2. But the spiritual kingship of Judah (the throne of David) under discussion in this prophecy would not cease, but take on a new significance and would continue until the end of time.

A. What or who is Shiloh? That question has been the focus of much investigation and discussion. Though there is near unanimous agreement that this is a Messianic prophecy, there is great diversity as to the exact rendering of the Hebrew term and its meaning. The Hebrew word has grammatical root in the word SHIYLOH (SHEE-LOO) that means to be at peace, rest, or tranquil ( peace – shalam) Another possible etymological root may be a term that mean “sent” or “one who is sent“, or “to whom it belongs.” The most common use of the term in the OT is the name of a city.

        • Is Shiloh a PLACE to which Judah or his descendants will come? IT is an AGE that was to come? Or is Shiloh a PERSON who is to come Himself. What we can notice is that all three of these views provides a picture of the Messiah.

1. PLACE The word Shiloh appears 32 times in the OT as the name of a town 30 miles north of Jerusalem. It was the sanctuary of Israel after the conquest of the land until the days of Samuel. The Ark of the Covenant was there (God among His people) until it was abandoned by God and allowed to be destroyed by the Philistines when the ark was captured. Although some translations retain the concept of Shiloh as a material place, the time period of its existence and prominence does not fit the meaning of the passage.

a. It is possible that “Shiloh” is a reference to the city as a representative of the Messiah in that He would have similarities associated with the city, Shiloh.

              • Not only did The Ark resided there; Eli, the High Priest and his sons resided there; the congregation of Israel assembled to worship and offer sacrifices in Shiloh; Furthermore, it was there that Jehovah revealed Himself to Samuel and made known His word to him.
              • Jesus is the One who came as a Covenant to His people, and a personal Bond between God and man. Our High Priesthood resides in Him. Through Him is revealed God’s word. We all must come to Him to worship and offer our spiritual sacrifices.

2. An AGE: Many Rabbis consider this to be a prediction of an age or time of material peace that is yet to come. After the conquest of the land, the ark rested at Shiloh, and so Israel will be at rest again.

a. again, if Shiloh is to be recognized as a time of peace, or rest, it would also point to Jesus, as our rest. Paul says in Eph 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, …17 -And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.

3. PERSON: The NIV renders the phrase (until Shiloh comes) as “until he comes to whom it belongs“. This rendering points to the coming of a PERSON, beyond Judah and David to Christ, as the One who rightfully owns the scepter and to whom it belongs. First note that the expectation of a personal Messiah was in place at the time of the Patriarchs. We viewed that in our study of Gen. 3:15 , and in the promise of Noah to his son, Shem.

a. This is the most accepted view of the term in its use here. Keil stated…But just as many other names of cities are also names of persons, e.g., Enoch (Gen 4:17), and Shechem (34:2); so Shiloh might also be a personal name, and denote not merely the place of rest, but the man, or bearer, of rest. We regard Shiloh, therefore, as a title of the Messiah, in common with the entire Jewish synagogue and the whole Christian Church, in which, although there may be uncertainty as to the grammatical interpretation of the word, there is perfect agreement as to the fact that the patriarch is here proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. (from Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament. pg. 397) Alfred Edersheim, himself a Jew, wrote: “[W]e state it as our deliberate conviction, that the term Shiloh can only refer to a personal designation of the Messiah, whatever the derivative meaning of the word may be” (p. 183).

4. The time of His Coming and the Prophecy of Jacob. Judah’s right to rule will not end until the Messiah comes, the one who has the full right to the scepter. All those who reign on the throne of David look with anticipation toward this One who is to come. He is the true King, Shiloh.

a. The timing of the Messiah’s appearance is a prominent part of this promise. When did the tribe of Judah lose its prominence and identity? Two historical events may apply here:

1) AD 7 – Under Herod and the Romans, the Jews’ right to capital punishment – a small but remaining element of their self-governance – was taken away. This was viewed by the Jews at the time as a signal event. Reportedly, rabbis walked the streets of Jerusalem and said, “Woe unto us, for the scepter has been taken away from Judah, and Shiloh has not come.” Yet God’s word had not been broken. Shiloh had arrived.

2) AD 70 – The records of tribal identities were kept and maintained in the Temple. All of these records were lost with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Since the tribe of Judah lost its preeminence and identity in 70 AD, it can clearly be seen that Messiah must have come sometime before 70 AD.

5. The remaining description of the Lion of Judah in Gen. 49 seems to be a picture of prosperity and peace when Shiloh arrives. The produce will be so abundant that Shiloh can wash his garments in wine.

III. Jesus is Shiloh, the Lion of Judah: It is not difficult to trace the fulfillment of this prophecy to Jesus.We mentioned this morning the prophecy of Balaam, and the promise God made to David concerning one coming to sit upon His throne and reign over His kingdom.

A. The connection with peace, or a peacemaker points us to the words of God in 1 Chron 22:9-10, when God promises to establish the throne of David. Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies all around. His name shall be Solomon (shlomoh), for I will give peace (shaalowm) and quietness to Israel in his days. 10 He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’ It might be suggested that the name of David’s son was chosen to refer to the prophecy of Gen. 49 – the promise of Shiloh. This is clearly more than just a prediction of Solomon’s peaceful reign, but also a prediction of the coming Messiah.

B. Later Isaiah speaks of the coming Messiah – Isa 9:6-7For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

C. The Apostles connected consistently the promise made to Judah, and to his descendant, David, to Jesus, the Messiah. He was raised from the dead to sit on David’s throne. He is the one who has a right to the scepter.

        • Acts 2:29-32Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.
        • Heb 1:5-8 – I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son”? 6 But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” 7 And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.” 8 But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. These words come right out of the promise of God to David of Judah.

D. “And unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be.” Jesus is the Lion of Judah, because He is the One to whom every nation is accountable. He must be obeyed by all.

        • Solomon wrote of the coming King – Psalms 72:8-11 8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth. 9 Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him, And His enemies will lick the dust. 10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles Will bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba Will offer gifts. 11 Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; All nations shall serve Him.
        • Revelation 1:5 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.
        • Revelation 17:14 – 14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”

Conclusion: But as we mentioned this morning, the most prominent, and direct NT reference to Jesus as the Lion of Judah is found in the dramatic scene of Revelation 5 – Read it. A magnificent scene takes place in heaven. John sees God sitting on the throne with a scroll written inside and on the back and sealed with seven seals. Then a strong angel appears proclaiming with a loud voice so as to reach throughout the whole universe asking, Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. Therefore, John wept because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll. .. But one of the elders said to John, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” As John looks he beheld “in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (5:6-7). The elder was explaining to John that there is One who had won the victory and had triumphed; therefore this One had the right to open the scroll and make known what was to shortly come to pass. It was the Lion of Judah who is the Lamb of God.

  • As the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Christ will rise up as a fierce and ferocious lion when He is aroused by the enemies of His people and their cries.
    • Joel predicted, “The Lord also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the Lord will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel” (3:16).
    • Persecuting Rome was brought to ruin and finally overthrown by the judgments of the Lion of Judah. The Lion is fearless and conquering and has slain all His enemies. But He is not just a lion, but He is a slain lamb. Absolutely no one who has failed to embrace the sacrificial Lamb will be able to escape the fierce Lion of Judah. If you do not know Jesus as the Lamb of God and embrace Him as your Savior then you will know the ferocity of the Lion in the Day of Judgment (Matt. 25:46). Which will it be? Only you can make that decision!