Genesis 49:10

Sermon preached on December 10, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

When I was a kid I used to love Christmastime. Getting presents was really fun. When the presents were put under the tree we could try to guess what they were from the size of the package. We'd try to see through the wrapping paper to see if we could see the markings on the box inside. Or perhaps there was a corner that wasn't wrapped well and we'd be able to see a little of the box and tell what it was. It was very exciting.

But now that I'm older it's not the same. Now those of you who don't know me very well are probably expecting me to say it's different because I'm more mature and older or something like that. But that's not the reason. It's because of Heather. She's one of the people that gives me presents. But Heather gives presents in a very different way. For example, the other day she said to me,

"Dad, I ordered your Christmas present, but it's not from the Apple Store."

That took a lot of fun out of it. Much of the excitement and anticipation about her present was gone. For now I know it's not going to be a new Mac Pro, a new MacBook, a new MacBook Pro. I know it's not going to be a video iPod, or a iPod Nano or an iPod Shuffle. I mean, there's not much left that is really good. A that point I thought her gift was probably going to be something boring like an article of clothing. It's just not the same when you get a hint and the clue is disappointing, revealing to you that you're not going to get what you want or need.

Thankfully God doesn't treat us that way. When He started telling His people about the greatest gift He would ever give—the Messiah who would save them—He gave clues that showed how wonderful and glorious He was and the great things He would do on their behalf.

We have one of those clues before us. In our text we have
possibly the first reference to the name of the Messiah. Jacob is blessing Judah and in verse 10 he says, (NASB)

"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."

Shiloh. It could be the Messiah's name or it could be a description of Him. The NIV renders it,

"The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs
and the obedience of the nations is his."

Either way, whether it is a name or a description, we are given information about the Messiah. What I want to do this morning is to look at what this passage taught the ancient people about Jesus.

But before we start looking at it in detail, I want you to understand that this prophecy

this should strengthen and encourage you in your faith.

John Calvin writes,

"To us, also, it is not less useful, for the confirmation of our faith, to know that Christ had been not only promised, but that his origin had been pointed out, as with a finger, two thousand years before he appeared."

The world today thinks that Christianity is anti-intellectual and that those who follow it really don't have any basis for their faith. They give the impression that we're following fables and myths and that we're not being rational or reasonable. The apostle Peter knew we would face these charges and he wrote about them in 2 Peter 1:16. He said,

"We did not follow cleverly invented stories
when we told you about the power
and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,"

Peter knew the gospel was true and he wanted his readers to be assured of it. It was the same way with the apostle Paul. You'll recalled that when He preached Christ to King Agrippa, Festus interrupted Paul and accused him of being insane. But Paul replied that he was not insane, and what he was saying was, (Acts 26:25)

"true and reasonable."

Christians, why do you believe? Are you foolish for believing? Peter didn't think so. Neither did Paul. According to them, Christianity was eminently reasonable. Their belief was due, in part, to the many predictions that were given to God's people over the years. Christianity did not begin 2000 years ago with the birth of Jesus. No, it was spoken about from the earliest of times. The first promise of a coming Redeemer was given in Genesis 3:15 when God said to Satan,

"And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel."

Gradually, over the ages, God revealed what the Messiah would be like and what He would do for His people. A second reference to a Redeemer was when Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac. But instead of Isaac being killed, God provided a ram and it was killed instead of Isaac. The place was called, (Genesis 22:14)

"The Lord will provide."

God showed Abraham that He Himself would provide a sacrifice that would take away his sin.

As the Old Testament progressed the ancient Israelites were told more and more about the Redeemer who was to come. In Genesis 49 we have one of the great predictions of the Messiah. The main thing the ancient people were told was that

the Messiah would be a wonderful and appreciated ruler who would come from the tribe of Judah.

How this should strengthen your faith.

Jacob comes to the blessing of his son, Judah, and tells everyone that the Messiah would come from him. Rueben, Simeon and Levi had been passed over because of their failings. But Jacob gives Judah the place of rule and promises a great ruler who would come from his descendants. He said,

"The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,"

John Calvin writes,

"It is certain that the Messiah, who was to spring from the tribe of Judah, is here promised."

Jesus was descended from Judah. This was proved in both Matthew's and Luke's gospels. Before the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. the Jews kept very accurate genealogies that could easily be verified. Both Matthew and Luke showed that Jesus came from the tribe of Judah.

Secondly, Jacob tells us that the tribe of Judah would have the supremacy, the right of rule. The
scepter symbolizes rule and dominion. The ruler's staff would not depart from between his feet. Harold G. Stigers writes,

"It is the picture of a ruler on his throne, hold his regal scepter, its foot resting on the floor and braced against his feet."

It says that the scepter would not depart from Judah until Shiloh appears.

But to view this from a mere earthly perspective would be a mistake.

His rule is transcendent, heavenly, spiritual, exceeding and going beyond that of our earthly king.

There are many things in Israel's history that show us this. These things need to be studied to be appreciated. Many people don't believe because they don't study the Scriptures. They don't believe because they let Satan blind their eyes at the first objection that is raised, at the first sign of complexity that they see. God's plan of salvation is complex—as we see in our text—but it's complex to teach us truths and to strengthen our faith.
God often does things in surprising ways. Sometimes His reason is that we should see that salvation comes from His power and not the power of man and human efforts. Sometimes the reason is that we would appreciate how much He has done for us and that we need to see that there is a spiritual, heavenly component to things—and that when Jesus fought for us, He didn't just do it on an earthly level.

Let's consider some of these things.

The first problem is that the first king of Israel,
King Saul, was not from the tribe of Judah, but Benjamin. So didn't the scepter depart from Judah then? Wasn't it given to Benjamin?

What we must remember is that the people of Israel sinned in asking God for a king before the proper time. The Scriptures make that clear. So God gave them a tall, impressive king from the tribe of Benjamin, in part, to punish the people for their sin in not waiting for God's timing. God told them that the king was going to oppress them. He wasn't going to be the righteous King that God had in mind for them. So God gave them this sinful king who would oppress them and kill the priests of the Lord.

But in the background, young David was appointed by Samuel to be king. The scepter was properly with Judah. It was David who killed Goliath and delivered the Israelites. King Saul had merely quivered in fear. The people of Israel thought they knew what was best. But God showed them that His way was best. The scepter was with Judah. Everyone who had open eyes could see that.

The second problem is that the kingdom of Judah was eventually destroyed. Didn't the scepter depart from David's line when Jerusalem was taken by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.? You'll recall that King Zedekiah tried to escape but the Babylonians caught up with them on the plains of Jericho. In Jeremiah 39:6 we read,

"There at Riblah the king of Babylon
slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah
before his eyes
and also killed all the nobles of Judah.
Then he put out Zedekiah's eyes
and bound him with bronze shackles
to take him to Babylon."

Didn't the scepter depart from Judah then? Wasn't in extinguished for over 500 years?

If you read about
Alexander the Great's exploits as he went conquering the then known world in the late 300's B.C.—you'll find that he had a great battle in Tyre against the people of Tyre, then he went on to Egypt. Most accounts won't even mention anything significant about him passing through Israel on his way to Egypt. It was because it was insignificant, with no king to oppose Alexander.

But had the scepter departed from Judah? No. God punished Judah because of their unfaithfulness but even at the lowest point—the promise held true. We see even before the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed. We see in it the of
Isaiah 11:1 and Jeremiah 33. Isaiah 11 says that the Messiah would come from a shoot which would spring up from the stump of Jesse. But the seed was there. John Calvin asks,

"Why does he mention Jesse rather than David, except because Messiah was about to proceed from the rustic hut of a private man, rather than from a splendid palace? Why from a tree cut down, having nothing left but the root and the trunk, except because the majesty of the kingdom was to be almost trodden under foot till the manifestation of Christ?"

In the Old Testament times there were many low points in the reign of Judah when it seemed that all was lost, that God's promise couldn't be fulfilled. But it was. God's promises never fail.

It was that way in Abraham's time. Abraham was told that the promise would be through Isaac. He waited so long for his birth. Yet after he was born God told him to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham had been told that only through Isaac would all the nations of the earth be blessed. He was the child of promise. Yet Abraham saw him on the altar, tied and ready to be sacrificed. The Scripture tells us that he believed that God would raise him from the dead.(Hebrews 11:19f) But in fact, Isaac was not killed. God provided a ram.

In the same way, we may ask, where was the royalty in Israel just before Jesus' birth? It was in Joseph and Mary. It seemed so insignificant. Yet Herod in his palace was terrified when he heard about Jesus birth. Herod had the trappings and pomp of power—but he was deathly afraid of that baby in a manger. Herod marshaled all his power to put that baby to death—but God protected the royal baby.

God's rule is not always seen with earthly eyes. But Simeon and Anna in the temple could see the glory of the baby.

Christians, God's promises never fail.
You need to trust even when it seems that God's promises can't come true. Revelation tells us that terrible things are going to happen before the end comes and that things will be such that John wrote, (Revelation 13:10)

"This calls for patient endurance
and faithfulness on the part of the saints."

Even though Jesus rules, even though all authority and power has been given to Him, there will be captivity and violent death awaiting many of His people. But God will continue to care for His people. Christians, no matter how dark things look—maintain hope. Jesus is building His church. He will be with us, as He said in the Great Commission, to the very end of the age. He will bring us into His kingdom. Be faithful. Be righteous. Be hopeful.

There are many reasons you should be like that.

First, implicit in Jacob's words is the fact that the fact that once He arrived,

the Messiah would rule forever.

Jacob told us that the Messiah would reign. The scepter would not depart from Judah 'until' Shiloh comes. That didn't mean that Judah was going to have authority just up to the point until Shiloh comes—but as Kidner says,

"still more from that time onwards."

In other words, the promise finds its ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah. We don't have a direct statement here about the everlasting reign of the Messiah, like we do in Isaiah 9—but it's implied. John Calvin writes about Jacob's words,

"After he has invested the tribe of Judah with supreme authority, he immediately declares that God would show his care for the people, by preserving the state of the kingdom, till the promised felicity should attain its highest point."

H. C. Leopold add,

"Judah's capacity for rule and sovereignty shall not be lost; it fact, it shall come to a climax in a ruler so competent that he shall be able to achieve perfect rest, and who shall because of his achievement in this field of endeavor be called 'Rest' or 'Restgiver' — Shiloh…"

Not only that, but Jacob intimated that

the Messiah would be a wonderful and appreciated ruler.

There are four things in our text that point to this.

Verse 8 begins. Jacob said,

"Judah, your brothers
will praise you;"

Then it says,

"your hand will be
on the neck of your enemies;"

Verse 8 ends with the words,

"your father's sons will
bow down to you."

Then in verse 10 we are told that,

"the obedience of the nations is his."

All these things point to the Messiah being a wonderful ruler that peoples would love and appreciate. Leopold writes,

"He shall be so great that men will readily yield him obedience."

He goes on to tell us that the Hebrew word that is used here,

"refers to inner submission cheerfully tendered."

People will not submit to His rule grudgingly, unhappily, made to by force—quite the contrary, these four references point to the delight, happiness and benefit that will come to people because of His rule. They will praise Him for His rule, for the deliverance He provides, they will bow down before Him because He is their great King. All peoples will give willing obedience to Him.

Messiah's rule would not prompt jealously by the other tribes. We know that this happened during the reign of David. You'll remember that when David was fleeing Jerusalem during Absalom's rebellion, Shimei, a man from the same clan as Saul's family came out and pelted David and his men with stones. He cursed David and said, (2 Samuel 16:7-8)

"Get out, get out,
you man of blood, you scoundrel!
The LORD has repaid you
for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul,
in whose place you have reigned."

He was a Benjamite and he was jealous of David and his rule. The same thing happened later, just after Absalom's rebellion was put down. Sheba, another Benjamite, rebelled against David. He sounded the trumpet and issued the call, (2 Samuel 20:1)

"We have no share in David,
no part in Jesse's son!
Every man to his tent, O Israel!"

Again, the same thing happened after Solomon's death. Solomon was a great king. But he worked his people hard. After he died, the people came to his son Rehoboam and asked him to lighten their load. But he refused, so they rebelled and followed Jeroboam. The 10 northern tribes broke away. They said the same thing that Sheba's followers did. (1 Kings 12:16) David, Solomon, and their descendants ruled, but at times the other tribes didn't praise them, but rather hated them and were in rebellion against them.

But Jacob says that it wouldn't be that way under the Messiah. Rather than being envious and being in competition—they would appreciate the deliverance He provides. He is one who would have his hand on the neck of His enemies. H. C. Leopold writes,

"the reason for the brothers' praise is… it shall be particularly evident that God achieves victories through him."

Indeed, Judah is called a lion three times in verse 9. He is like a great lioness, like a lion returning from her prey. All this reminds me of the scenes that we have in Revelation 4 and 5. The central figure there is revealed in 5:5f. We read that one of the elders said to John,

"Do not weep!
See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah,
the Root of David, has triumphed.
He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.
Then I saw a Lamb,
looking as if it had been slain,
standing in the center of the throne,
encircled by the four living creatures and the elders."

John had been weeping because there was no one worthy to open the scroll. If the scroll wasn't opened, there would be no salvation. But the lion of the tribe of Judah was found worthy.

Chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation are all about praising God. In chapter 4 John saw a throne in heaven but his glimpse of it was incomplete because all he said was that he saw 'someone' sitting on it. (4:2) Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones on which were seated the twenty-four elders. Since the church was founded on the twelve apostles who correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel, some have suggested that the twenty-four elders represent the people of God of both the Old and New Testaments. If that is the case eleven of them represent the other eleven tribes of Israel. What do they do there in glory? We read that whenever the four living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, the twenty-four elders fall down before the throne and worship God. We read, (Revelation 4:10f)

"They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
'You are worthy,
our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.'"

It is then that the Lion of the tribe of Judah is introduced—looking as if it had been slain. After He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, (Revelation 5:8f)

"fell down before the Lamb.
Each one had a harp and
they were holding golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints.
And they sang a new song:
'You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood
you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom
and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.'"

Notice how mention is made of every tribe, language, people and nation. The obedience of the nations will be His. After the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders praise Jesus, the angels follow suit. Then Revelation 5 continues, (verses 13f)

"Then I heard every creature in heaven
and on earth and under the earth
and on the sea,
and all that is in them, singing:
'To him who sits on the throne
and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!'
The four living creatures said,
and the elders fell down and worshiped."

This is the fulfillment of Genesis 49's prophecy about the Messiah. There we are told that this is what His rule will be like. His brothers will praise Him. His hand will be on the neck of His enemies. As Vern Poythress writes, (Revelation, p. 109)

"His lionlike characteristics assure all the people of God that he will be strong and fierce and triumphant in fighting enemies."

Jesus has fought and defeated our enemies. He defeated Satan. He defeated death. He defeated hopelessness. How worthy of praise He is. His brothers will bow down to Him. The obedience of the nations will be His.

What a wonderful Ruler the Lion of the tribe of Judah is!

Indeed, the last thing we see here is that

He is the rightful ruler of everything.

The world today tells us that we're deluded, that we're not being intelligent, that we're not using our minds properly. But no, it's not us who are wrong. It's them. Consider what Jacob says about the Messiah. He is Shiloh, which means,

"until he comes, to whom [it belongs]"

(See Ezekiel 21:27) The Messiah is the rightful ruler of all things. To Him belongs authority. All owe Him obedience. Everyone should be praising Jesus.

Although he was being false and deceptive,
Herod's words to the wise men showed the truth of what Jacob spoke. Herod said to the wise men, (Matthew 2:8)

"Go and make a careful search for the child.
As soon as you find him,
report to me,
so that I too may go and worship him."

Herod's words about him worshiping the child born in Bethlehem declared the same truth that Jacob did—all owe Him allegiance and obedience. John Calvin writes about Jacob's words that the obedience of nations is his:

"Here truly he declares that Christ should be a king, not over one people only, but that under his authority various nations shall be gathered, that they might coalesce together."

The Messiah is not some local king, some national king, or even a multi-national king. He is the One to whom rightful rule belongs. All owe Him allegiance. All owe Him praise. As the apostle Paul wrote about Him in Colossians 1:15f,

"He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For by him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things were created by him and for him.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body,
the church;
he is the beginning and the firstborn
from among the dead,
so that in everything
he might have the supremacy.
For God was pleased to have
all his fullness dwell in him,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace through his blood,
shed on the cross."

If you're not a Christian, you need to give your allegiance to Jesus. He created you for His glory. He is your rightful ruler. You owe Him allegiance.

But even more than that, you need Him. You need the lion of the tribe of Judah. Only He can deliver you from the great forces that are against you—your sin, Satan and the powers of evil, the righteous anger of God. Only the Lion of Judah is strong enough to save you. Go to Him. Find salvation in Him.