Advent: The Tribe of Judah.

“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).

As we continue our study of Messianic Old Testament Prophecy, the description of the Messiah and His qualifications continue to be narrowed. He was not only be from the seed of a woman, and the seed of Abraham, but also He would be from the Tribe of Judah. In other words, the kingly tribe of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

There are two primary texts pertinent to this discussion. The first is taken from Jacob’s blessings upon his twelve sons as he neared death. He pronounced specific blessings and curses upon each one of his sons. Regarding Judah, Jacob said, “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.”

A scepter refers to a rod, staff or a club used for smiting and beating. It metaphorically refers to a symbol or mark of authority. The association of smiting and ruling is evident. The kingly authority of Israel would not depart from the Tribe of Judah.

The word Shiloh is best understood as a cryptic but shorthand form of a personal name for the Messiah. The one to whom belongs the true kingship of Israel. It is this One to whom belongs the obedience and servanthood of the people of God: True Israel.

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, Many sources, including the Targum (Aram. paraphrase of the OT), see “Shiloh” as a title of the Messiah. However, the Hebrew word šîlōh should be rendered “whose it is,” that is, the scepter will not depart from Judah … until He comes whose it (i.e., the scepter) is (or as the niv puts it, to whom it belongs).”

One scholar explains that, “As strong as a young lion and entrenched as an old lion, to Judah’s line belonged national prominence and kingship, including David, Solomon, and their dynasty (640 years after this), as well as the one to whom “the scepter shall not depart,” i.e., Shiloh, the cryptogram for the Messiah, the one also called the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5). On the march through the wilderness, Judah went first (Num. 10:14) and had the largest population in Moses’ census (cf. Num. 1:27; 26:22).”

A second Messianic prophecy concerning Messiah’s kinship to the Tribe of Judah is contained in Numbers 24:17. I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.”  

Star and scepter speak of royalty. The ruler of Israel will come from the family of Jacob, and more specifically, Judah. The terms “star” and “scepter” certainly speak of the promise of a king like David, Israel’s greatest king in the historical period. But ultimately these words reach beyond him. The setting of the text is “in the days to come”. It reaches all the way to the Savior.

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “The truth (the prophet) Balaam saw concerned primarily a star and a scepter that would originate in Israel in the future. Since poetically the star is parallel to the scepter, the star must also refer to royalty. This has now been strikingly confirmed in prophetic texts from Mari which describe various kings by the epithet “star.” The connection of this prophecy to that of Jacob, in which he predicted that a ruler over Israel would come from Judah (Gen. 49:10), is unmistakable.”

Another scholar states, “The theme of this verse is Israel has a coming deliverer. This keenly debated verse has been debased by some, devalued by others, and allegorized by still others. We believe this text speaks unmistakably of the coming of the Messiah. That this prophecy should come from one who was unworthy (Balaam) makes the prophecy all the more dramatic and startling.”

Does the New Testament proclaim that Jesus Christ met the qualification of being from the Tribe of Judah? The following texts are set forth for consideration in which each one focuses upon the identity of Jesus Christ.

  • Matthew 1:3 – “…the son of Judah.”
  • Matthew 2:2, 6 – “Where is He who has born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
  • Luke 3:33 – “…the son of Judah.”
  • Revelation 5:5 – “Behold, the Lion from the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”

The New Testament clearly sets forth that Jesus Christ is not only a descendent of Jacob, but also from the specific Tribe of Judah. He is qualified to be the King of the Jews.

Is Jesus Christ your King?

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!




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