“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes” (Genesis 49:10).
These words were proclaimed by Jacob to his son Judah. They were said not long before Jacob died. The words are an enigma. However, “From the earliest of times the passage has been regarded as Messianic” (I.S.B.E. Vol. 4, p. 2768).
Let’s study . . .
1. The scepter shall not depart from Judah.
A scepter is “a rod held in the hands of kings as a token of authority” (Zondervan’s Pictorial Dictionary, p. 758). “A rod or mace used by a sovereign as a symbol of royal authority” (I.S.B.E. Vol. 4, p. 2702). “A symbol of kingship” (The NKJV, New Open Bible Study Edition footnote on Genesis 49:10). One might recall the scepter of the Persian king, Ahasuerus (Esther 4:11; 5:2; 8:4).
It shall not depart from Judah. Royalty was in Judah. Israel’s second king was David, who was of the tribe of Judah (Matthew 1:1-ff). God established through David a royal seed line. It would not be removed, as it was from Saul (2 Samuel 7:12-17 cf. 1 Samuel 15:28; 28:17-18; Notice the words “for the sake of my servant David” – 1 Kings 11:13; 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19; 19:34; 20:6). Starting with David and continuing through Jesus the right to kingship belonged to Judah.
2. …Nor the lawgiver from between his feet.
These words are parallel to the previous words. The term “lawgiver” is synonymous with “scepter”. Remember that the king was not only of the executive branch of government, but also the legislative branch of government, and the judicial branch. Our ideal of a strictly separated three-fold division of government did not exist at that time.
The words “from between the feet” are used synonymously with “depart from Judah”. What is meant by the words “from between his feet”? There are two possibilities: (a) It is possible that the words refer to “the ruler’s staff which was customarily placed between his feet” (The New Bible Commentary, edited by F. Davidson). (b) It is possible that the words “from between his feet” refer to offspring (ibid, cf. Deut. 28:57).
3. Until Shiloh comes.
The word “until” is a preposition of time. It refers to a point in time. It may refer to a terminal point (e.g., Genesis 27:45). However, it does not always refer to terminal point (e.g., Genesis 8:5; 46:33-34; 1 Samuel 15:35; 2 Samuel 6:23; Acts 23:1; Romans 8:22). It can mean simply up until that point without regard to what follows.
The term “Shiloh” has been understood from ancient days to be a reference to the Messiah. What does the term mean?
(a) Some have suggested that the word is related to the Hebrew word “shalom”, which means “peace”. Matthew Henry said that the reference was to “that peaceable … one”. This is a common view. I have heard people speak of the irony that a civil war battlefield is called “Shiloh”. The battle of Shiloh (Tennessee) resulted in 23,746 casualties. The New World Encyclopedia says, “This total … represents more than the American battle – related casualties of the American Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican-American War combined” (www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Battle_of_Shiloh).
(b) Others believe that “Shiloh” relates to the Hebrew word “shalach”, which means “sent”. Adam Clark so thought saying “Shiloh, signifying the Apostle, as Christ is styled, Hebrews 3:1”. He also connected the word with John 9:7, where Jesus told a man “Go wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which is translated, sent).” He saw a connection in these words.
(c) Still others, suggest that the word is from the Hebrew word “Shelloh”, which means “whose is it” (I.S.B.E.), or “he whose it is” (The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon). This position seems to have the most going for it. It “has in its favor the fact that this is evidently the reading presupposed in the LXX, the Pesh. and the Jewish TGS. and seems to be alluded to in Ezk. 21:27” (I.S.B.E.).
Facts to Remember
1. Jesus has a scepter (Hebrews 1:8).
2. Jesus has given us law (Galatians 6:2).
3. Jesus is from the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14 cf. Matthew 1).
4. Jesus is “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). It is through Him that man can have: (a) peace with God (Ephesians 2:17-18); (b) peace with man (Matthew 5:9; Romans 12:18; Ephesians 2:14-16; Hebrews 12:14); (c) peace internally (John 14:1-3; 16:33; Philippians 4:7).
5. Jesus is God’s Apostle (Hebrews 3:1). Jesus was sent (John 3:17; 4:34; 5:23-24, 30, 36-38; 6:29, 38-40, 44, 57; 7:16, 18, 28-29, 33; 8:16, 18, 26, 29, 42; 9:4; 10:36; 11:42; 12:44-45, 49; 13:16, 20; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5;17:3, 18, 21, 23, 25; 20:21/notice esp. John 13:16, 20 cf. 14:24).
6. All things belong to Him. “All times were created through Him and for Him: (Colossians 1:16). Man rejected God as their king, desiring an earthly king (1 Samuel 8:-1-7). Now rulership is restored to the one “whose it is”.