By Henry Mahan
Before the written word was given, God spoke to the fathers in various ways about the coming Messiah. Who can say what Abel understood as he, by faith, brought the blood sacrifice?
Who knows what Enoch understood (Jude 14), or Abraham, of whom Christ said, 'He rejoiced to see my day'?
In this chapter the dying Jacob (Israel) called his twelve sons together for the purpose of prophesying future things relating to the twelve tribes which descended from them. He had a word for all of them; but Judah is praised and good things are prophesied of him, particularly that 'Shiloh,' or the Messiah, should spring from him. From the tribe of Judah came David, Solomon, and the Lord Jesus. The Israelites are called Jews.
Over Christ's cross was written, 'Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.' Paul wrote, 'He is a Jew which is one inwardly' (Rom. 2:28-29). What Jacob said of Judah, he spoke with regard to the Lord Jesus.
v. 8 'Thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise.' The name Judah means 'praise.' His mother gave him that name when he was born and said, 'Now I will praise the Lord' (Gen. 29:35). Christ Jesus, our Messiah and King, is worthy of, deserving, and shall have the sincere praise of his people.
'Now to the Lord, that makes us know
the wonders of his eternal love,
be humble honors paid below
and strains of nobler praise above.
To Jesus our atoning priest,
to Jesus our superior King
be everlasting praise confessed,
and every tongue his glories sing.'
Nothing is more inconsistent with faith than murmuring and unhappiness.
v. 8 'Thy hand shall be on the neck of thy enemies.' When one has his hands securely on the neck of his enemies, he can stop the breath and destroy them. Christ shall be victorious over his enemies (Heb. 1:13).
1. Our Lord met Satan and defeated him.
2. Our Lord took our sins to the cross and conquered.
3. Our Lord met death, lay in a tomb, and arose triumphantly.
4. There is no enemy of his, his people, nor his kingdom that shall not finally be destroyed.
v. 8 'Thy father's children shall bow down before thee.'
It is true that the nation Israel bowed before David and Solomon and the kings of Judah, and this prophecy refers immediately to that; but the greater honor and glory, is reserved for David's son, before whom not only believers shall bow but the entire universe (Phil. 2:9-11). He is Lord by his deity, by the Father's design and decree, and he is Lord by death (Rom. 14:9; 10:9- 10).
v. 9 'Judah is a lion's whelp.'
The Lord Jesus is compared to a young lion because of his strength, power, and courage. The lion is called the king of the jungle. Our Lord is called 'the lion of the tribe of Judah' (Rev. 5:5).
'From the prey, my son, thou art gone up.' He left heaven and came to this earth to engage the enemy and redeem a people by his mighty arm. He has accomplished that work ('it is finished') and ascended to the right hand of majesty.
'He stooped down.' Was ever such a stoop as this? He made himself of no reputation, took on himself the form of a servant. He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:7-8).
'As an old lion, who shall rouse him up?' He stooped, he conquered, he arose, he ascended, he sat down, having accomplished his pleasure. Who shall disturb him? Who shall question him? Who shall interfere or stand against him? Like an old lion who has killed and devoured his prey, who shall rouse him?
v. 10 'The sceptre shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh come.'
Here is the great and glad word! Here is the great prophecy! The Messiah shall come through the tribe of Judah, the family of Jesse, and the house of David. Where did Jacob get that name?
God gave him a special name for a special person and a special time. Here are some of the meanings given to the word by various writers.
1. Shiloh means sent (John 9:7).
Some point out the likeness between Siloam and Shiloh. Christ is truly the sent one. 'As my Father sent me...'
2. Shiloh means the son, others say (Isa. 9:6-7).
He is the true Son of God, the Son of David, and the Son of man.
3. Shiloh means 'the one to whom it belongs' (Ezek. 21:25-27).
The sceptre, the crown, the throne, and the worship belong to him. All others are imposters (Col. 1:14-18).
4. Shiloh means peace.
It is said that the word comes from the same word as 'Salem, King of Peace.' The Lord Jesus is our peace (Rom. 5:1). He made peace through the blood of his cross.
v. 10 'To him shall the gathering of the people be.' The object of his covenant, his cross, and his coming to earth was to redeem a people and gather them to himself forever.
They shall come! In repentance, faith, and love, they shall come! (John 6:37-39; John 10:14-16; John 17:1-10).