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.
Thirdly, Jacob used the images of a foal, donkey, a vine and its grapes. What do these images, and others, represent? These imageries foreshadow the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ (Rev. 20:1-6). The 1,000 year reign of Christ will be one of abundance and prosperity.
One commentator writes, “For Judah, grapevines will be so abundant that they will be used for hitching posts; wine will be as abundant as wash water. In Judah, people’s eyes will be red or bright from wine and their teeth will be white from drinking much milk. These are picturesque ways of describing the suitability of Judah’s territory for vineyards. Such opulence will be evident in the Millennium (Isa. 61:6–7; 65:21–25; Zech. 3:10).”
Matthew Henry writes, “Many excellent pens have been admirable well employed in explaining and illustrating this famous prophecy of Christ. It should be a very fruitful tribe, especially that it should abound with milk for babes, and wine to make glad the heart of strong men (v. 11, 12)—vines so common in the hedge-rows and so strong that they should tie their asses to them, and so fruitful that they should load their asses from them—wine as plentiful as water, so that the men of that tribe should be very healthful and lively, their eyes brisk and sparkling, their teeth white. Much of what is here said concerning Judah is to be applied to our Lord Jesus.”
So encouraged to know that this fallen world is ultimately not the eternal home for the believer in Christ. Christ’s rule and reign will eternally be fulfilled when He returns to earth in power, might and glory.
Soli deo Gloria!