Jacob Proclaims Judah the Leader of the Tribes of Israel
“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.” (Genesis 49:8)
When the people of Israel came out of slavery in Egypt, Judah became God’s “holy ones”:
“When Israel came forth out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language; Judah became His sanctuary [kodesh], Israel His dominion [memshalah].” (Psalm 114:1–2)
The word translated sanctuary is k’dosho (קָדְשׁוֹ), meaning holiness or holy portion. It comes from the word kadosh (קדוש), which means holy or set apart.
In Judah, we see the call to holiness. Although he showed lapses of holiness and good judgment at times, he saved Joseph’s life from his brother’s wrath after they threw him in a pit. And, later, Judah was the only brother willing to enslave his own life in order to free his brother Benjamin.
These actions revealed character traits similar to our Messiah—the One who saves us from spiritual death and releases us from spiritual enslavement.
When we are not sure what to be thankful for, we can praise and thank Him for these gifts of freedom. In fact, the Hebrew word for Jew comes from Judah (Yehudah יהודה), from the root YDH (ידה), which means to thank.
Leah, Jacob’s wife, used a play on words in naming her last son Judah, saying that now she would praise (thank) the Lord (Genesis 29:35).
And the apostle Paul said that a true Jew, inwardly, is one who praises (thanks) the Lord, whether Jewish or Gentile (Romans 2:28–29).
Jacob also likens Judah to a lion cub; therefore, the tribe of Judah is known as Gur Ariyeh (lion cub).
“Judah is a lion’s whelp [Gur Ariyeh]; 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?” (Genesis 49:9)
Indeed, from the royal tribe of Judah came forth kings, legislators and the promised Redeemer, Messiah, the anointed King of Israel—Yeshua HaMashiach!
As prophesied, one day, the dominion of His authority will extend to the entire world. To Him, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Philippians 2:10).
Jacob Prophesies the Coming of Messiah
“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.” (Genesis 49:10)
The meaning of the word Shiloh as it is used in this verse has been the subject of much debate among Bible scholars. Literally, it means that is his or he whose it is. This word is, perhaps, also a Messianic title and has been used as a synonym for the Messiah.
Just as this verse prophesied, the Messiah did come before the Rome ruined Jerusalem and essentially exiled Judah. After that, the scepter departed from Judah and their sovereignty over Israel ended.
It is interesting to note that Jacob’s prophecy—that the scepter shall not depart from Judah—contains every letter of the Hebrew alphabet except one—the letter zayin (ז), which represents the Hebrew word for weapon.
This, perhaps, indicates that when the Messiah would come the first time, He would not come with physical weapons. Indeed, Yeshua held the sovereign staff of God Himself, releasing spiritual oppression and setting the captives free through God’s Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh).
With God’s staff in hand, Yeshua came as the suffering servant (Mashiach ben Josef).
The Jewish leadership of Yeshua’s day, however, were looking for a scepter to be raised by a military leader who would conquer the Roman oppressors with weapons and force (Mashiach ben David), so many completely missed their Messiah.
Over time, as Christianity developed and Christians persecuted Jews in the name of the Messiah, a majority of the Jewish People came to define themselves as people who reject that Yeshua is the Messiah.
Yet there have always been Jewish Believers. Today many Messianic Believers remain true to Jewish culture and traditions, standing strong against the pull of assimilation.
According to Rabbinic Jewish commentators in the Talmud (Oral Law), Jacob wanted to reveal the Messiah’s coming at the end of days but was prevented by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).
“Jacob wished to reveal to his sons the end of days [ketz ha-yomin], whereupon the divine presence departed from him.” (Talmud Pesachim 56a)
In His sovereignty, the Ruach has revealed those end days through Yeshua’s many teachings (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) and the vision of the apostle John in the book of Revelation, as well as other Bible prophecies.
Further signifying Judah’s prophetic call as God’s “holy ones,” the name Judah uses all four letters of the proper name of God, YHVH (יהוה) with the addition of one Hebrew letter dalet (ד), which stands for delet or door.
Yeshua, who died in the Land of Judah on the Roman execution stand and rose again, became the door to salvation.
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)
Yeshua HaMashiach is the One His Jewish brothers will one day praise and thank.
“In this way, all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob’” (Romans 11:26; Isaiah 59:20)
Come Adonai Yeshua…