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).
Secondly, Jacob likened Judah to a lion’s cub. The lion would become an iconic image for not only Judah, but also for the tribe bearing his name.
Additionally, the image of the lion would translate into Judah becoming the kingly tribe of Israel. Jacob indicated that the scepter, the staff and rod of a king, would never leave Judah. Consequently, tribute and obedience would be given to Judah and his progeny.
However, Jacob’s oracle point to a greater king to come. The greater king would be known as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. This would be none other than the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 5:1-5).
The Tyndale Bible Dictionary explains, “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is a title of the Messiah that appears only in Revelation 5:5: “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has conquered” (nlt). This is an allusion to the messianic promise of Genesis 49:9–10, “Judah is a young lion.… The scepter will not depart from Judah” (nlt). The expression summarizes the OT hope that the Messiah would come as a conquering hero, delivering his people from every form of spiritual, political, and social evil. The OT frequently employs the lion as a symbol of power and the complete ability to subdue one’s enemies (Job 10:16; Ps. 10:9; Ezek. 1:10; Dan. 7:1–4). The author of Revelation expressed the belief of all Christians—that Christ is the deliverer who would defeat all the powers of evil. However, in contrast to the OT hope, the deliverer comes not as the conquering Lion of military power, but rather as the Lamb, who suffers and is sacrificed for the sins of his people (Rev. 5:6).”
Matthew Henry writes, “God was praised for him (Gen. 29:35), praised by him, and praised in him; and therefore his brethren shall praise him. Those that are to God for a praise shall be the praise of their brethren.”
May each of us in Christ find our praise by God, praise in God resulting in praise and honor from fellow believers to the glory of God. Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!