Genesis 49:8-10 New King James Version (NKJV)
8 “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s children shall bow down before you.
9 Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
Jacob had gone up to live in Egypt after Joseph saved them (and most of the world) from the famine. For 17 years Jacob stayed there making him 147 years old at this point. (He considered himself young, which is understandable considering if you look at this timeline, he could have personally known the grandsons of Noah, who were many many hundreds of years old.)
So Jacob knows he is going to die soon and he calls all twelve of his sons to him. There he prophesies over them, in order of age. He starts with Reuben, who will be mighty, but never excel because of his sins. (Gen 49:3-4) Simeon and Levi were next, who were cruel and will therefore “be scattered in Israel. (Gen 49:5-7) Then he comes to Judah.
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
There is a reason Jesus is referred to as the Lion of Judah: this prophecy. It refers to Judah as like a Lion. This is important for a few reasons. 400 years later, when God establishes the law through Moses, the sons of Levi would become the Priests. Yet the Messiah would not come through Levi, but rather Judah, as a Lion.
If you carried a scepter it denoted your standing. Generally, scepters were held by rulers. Judah, who wasn’t the oldest of the sons, but would be the greatest, held the scepter. This also would prophesy how the Nation of Judah after the divide between the ten tribes of Northern Israel and the two tribes of Southen Judah would be the just and righteous nation. They would be spared destruction by the Assyrians, later as well.
Until Shiloh comes;
The Hebrew word שִׁילֹה (shiyloh) which translates to Shiloh is used quite frequently in the Pentateuch, (the first five books of the Bible) Here, however, is the only time Strong (the author of Strong’s Concordance, which has a definition for every single Hebrew and Greek word in the bible) defines it as “an epithet of the Messiah”. Every other time, it refers to the city which bears the same name. Both names mean “peace.”
This is interesting because there is a double meaning going on here. Later on, during the conquest of Canaan, the Ark of the Covenant had been held at Gilgal (Joshua 17:1) but would be held in the City of Shiloh from the end of the conquest to the time of The Prophet Samuel. Shiloh would fall into the territory of the Tribe of Judah.
The other definition is very powerful. Shiloh means peace or tranquility, and with it being translated “until Shiloh comes” lends itself to the meaning of Shiloh referring to the Messiah. Jesus is predicted to come through the line of Judah. He even comes from a very small town in the lands of Judah, a town called Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6)
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
Look at how God sets things us from the beginning. Even right away, with the serpent tempting Adam and Eve, He was setting the World up for the Messiah. This providence is powerful. Look back in your life and see where He been setting you up for successes and failures. Remember that it’s all in His hands, and He has a plan for you. Pray today that you can trust in His plan for you, and that He grant you the wisdom to trust in Him.
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
– Jeremiah 29:11 New Living Translation (NLT)