8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. 9 Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? 10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. 11 Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.” (Genesis 49:8–12 (ESV)
Immediately following Jacob’s oracle toward Reuben, Simeon and Levi, the patriarch then turned his attention to his fourth eldest son: Judah. Jacob had much to say to Judah. Therefore, it will take us several days to unpack today’s text.
To begin with, Jacob told Judah that his brothers would praise him. This would be an ongoing public expression of thanksgiving. A wordplay was used here because the name Judah means “praise” (Gen. 29:35).
Judah’s brothers, including their descendants, would not only worship him, but he would also have victory over the enemies of Israel. This coincides with Jacob’s expression “your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies.” What does this mean?
One commentator explains, “The expression “your hand on the neck of your enemies” was a token of superiority and triumph. Job makes use of a similar metaphor when he represents God as taking him by the neck and shaking him: “He seized me by the neck and crushed me” (Job 16:12). David wrote, “Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies, that I might destroy them that hate me” (2 Samuel 22:41, KJV). The implication of the expression is much like the later action of victorious soldiers putting their feet on the necks of their enemies: “When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, ‘Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.’ So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks” (Joshua 10:24).”
The Tribe of Judah would be superior to the rest of the tribes; not only more numerous and illustrious, but having a dominion over them. Judah was the lawgiver (Ps. 60:7). That tribe led the caravan through the wilderness, and in the conquest of Canaan (Judges 1:2).
Dr. R .C. Sproul writes, “Recall that Judah sinned grievously when he led the sale of Joseph into Egyptian slavery (Gen. 37:12–28). Later on, he wickedly failed to provide a husband and thus an heir and provider to his daughter-in-law, Tamar (Gen.38:1–23; Deut. 25:5–10). Were this the end of his story, Judah would have lost the greatest portion of Jacob’s favor as well. However, Judah showed himself sensitive to the Spirit when he confessed his evil deeds concerning Tamar (Gen. 38:24–26). Judah’s repentance bore its fullest fruit later on when he offered to sacrifice himself and take Benjamin’s place as Joseph’s slave (Gen. 44). Judah inherits the firstborn’s rights because of his selflessness. Jacob declares in today’s passage that Judah’s brothers will praise Him and that he will have his hand “on the neck” of his enemies (49:8). In other words, Judah will triumph over his foes. Jacob’s other sons will also bow to Judah, according to the same verse.”
Jacob’s prophecy would ultimately be fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Judah sought exaltation but was humbled. When Judah humbled himself, God exalted him. True humility, evidence by Christ (Phil. 2:5-11), results in exaltation.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!