The Lion Of Judah—Genesis 49:8-10

Series: Uncommon Prophecies Of A Coming Savior

 

THE FAMILY OF THE LION

 

There are many prophecies of a coming Savior in the Old Testament. We are familiar with some of them 1. For example,

 

14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, And shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

 

Another from Isaiah that we all know is–

 

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: And the government shall be upon his shoulder: And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

 

These are the “Christmas Card” prophecies of Christ. They are well-known and well-loved…they are common.

 

In this series of sermons, however, we are going to consider the uncommon prophecies of a coming Savior. You don’t find them on Christmas cards. In fact, you may not have even realized some of them were prophecies of the coming Messiah.

 

The first one that we will ponder in found in Genesis 49. But we need to lay down some background before we go there.

 

After Adam and Eve plunged mankind into sin, God promised a future Redeemer in Genesis 3:15, and continued to work in the affairs of mankind. 

 

Centuries passed, with things getting so bad at one point, that God flooded the entire globe and started over with Noah and his family. But sin runs deep in the human nature, and it wasn’t long before mankind was running headlong into sin again. 

 

Still there was no Savior on the horizon…then God chose Abraham.

 

Abraham became God’s focal point of his work on earth. He promised Abraham a land and numerous descendants. You might think that isn’t such a big deal for us, but God also promised Abraham, in Genesis 22, 

 

18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Genesis 22:18)

 

God’s promises to Abraham would come to bless us! How would God bless all nations through Abraham? By sending the Savior through one of his descendants. And, as God promised them, Abraham and Sarah, after many long years of waiting, had a son, Isaac. 

 

Isaac had two sons—Jacob and Esau. A small problem here: through which one would the line of the Messiah run? God chose Jacob (Romans 9:7-13). 

 

Jacob would have twelve sons. A bigger problem here: through which one would the line of the Messiah run? That is the question that is answered by Genesis 49, where we find Jacob on his deathbed about pronounce a blessing on all his sons.

 

1 And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. 2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; And hearken unto Israel your father.  (Genesis 49:1,2)

 

At this point Jacob “blesses” Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. Their “blessings” are rather negative because of the great sins they had committed. Then he turns to Judah:

 

8 Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; Thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. 9 Judah is a lion’s whelp: From the prey, my son, thou art gone up: He stooped down, he couched as a lion, And as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? 10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh come; And unto him shall the gathering of the people be.  (Genesis 49:8–10)

 

Let’s unpack Judah’s blessing and see what it will teach us about the coming Messiah.

 

THE LEADERSHIP OF THE LION (49:8-9)

 

Genesis 49:8 Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; Thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. 

 

Jacob says that Judah will be praised by his brothers because of his superior ability in warfare. Judah’s tribe did become the leader among the other tribes, especially in the time of David.

 

But even before David, Judah’s tribe was starting to take charge. We can see this in the era of the wandering in the wilderness,

 

14 In the first place went the standard of the camp of the children of Judah according to their armies…(Numbers 10:14)

 

Then Judah would take the lead in the conquest of Canaan (Judges 1:1-5). 

 

Eventually, the tribe of Judah would produce the greatest warrior of the Old Testament—King David, who praised God and said:

 

40 Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; That I might destroy them that hate me. (Psalm 18:40)

 

Just over six hundred years after Jacob’s prophecy, King David would secure the dominant leadership position of Judah.

 

Jacob goes on to compare Judah’s leadership to that of a lion:

 

Genesis 49:9 Judah is a lion’s whelp: From the prey, my son, thou art gone up: He stooped down, he couched as a lion, And as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?

 

Judah is compared to a “lion’s whelp” (or cub) and an “old lion” (many think this is a lioness). A young lion is full of strength and vitality.

 

An “old lion” is king of the jungle…he is dangerous. You do not want to “rouse him up,” lest you find yourself facing a grumpy lion!

 

All this is saying is that Judah’s descendants would be king. The focal point of Israel—Jerusalem—would be established by a king from Judah in Judah’s territory. 

 

Eventually, the nation of Israel would split, with the ten Northern tribes calling themselves Israel. Eventually, they would be captured, removed from their land, and would disappear forever. 

 

In the south, Judah would remain until after the coming of Messiah. His name would be attached to the religion of the Hebrews: Judaism.  In fact, the name Jew is a derivative of the name Judah.

 

What does all this mean for the Messiah? It sets up the future (at that time) arrival of Jesus. He would be born in Bethlehem, a village just outside of Jerusalem in Judah. He would be born of the line of David. Of his many titles, one the Messiah would wear would be “The Lion of Judah” (Revelation 5:5).

 

In Jesus’s first coming, he came as a Lamb, sacrificed for the sins of the world. John the Baptist declared, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

 

But when Jesus returns, it will be also as a Lion, ready to unleash judgment on the unbelieving world. 

 

Turn to Revelation 5—

 

5 And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. (Revelation 5:5)

 

The seven seals will unleash the first of many judgments in the Tribulation Period. 

 

But there is something different about this Lion that we need to see. Look at the next verse:

 

6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain… (Revelation 5:6)

 

The Lion is a Lamb! What’s more, this is a lamb that has been slain. Slain, as we know, for the sins of the world…for your sins. 

 

But is this Lamb lying crumpled up in a heap on the ground? No, the verse says that the Lamb “stood.” 

 

In other words, this Lamb is much like a Lion. The Lion-Lamb will put his hand on the necks of his enemies in triumph.

 

Are you an enemy of the Lord? Or a follower? He is gracious and patient in his waiting for you to come, repent of your rebellion, and to receive his gracious gift of salvation. 

 

Be careful not to rouse this Lion! His patience with you will run out one day. If, on the day of your death, you still have not decided to follow the Lion-Lamb, your time will be up. There are no more opportunities to repent after you die—

 

27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27)

 

After your death, if you haven’t repented, the sacrifice of the Lamb will be forever hid from you. The Lion of Judah is all you will see.

 

In the next verse, Genesis 49:10, we find…

 

THE NAME OF THE LION (49:10)

 

Genesis 49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh come; And unto him shall the gathering of the people be. 

 

Allow me to briefly explain this verse and then we’ll focus on the name of “Shiloh.” The “sceptre,” refers to ruling power. This power would not depart from Judah until the coming of Shiloh—which is a name for the coming Messiah.

 

Judah lost her power to rule around the time of Jesus. The Romans wielded control over all non-religious matters. That’s why the Jewish leaders had to go to Pilate in order to get Christ crucified. They had lost the right to use capital punishment around AD 7, roughly a decade after Jesus was born—their last element of self-rule was removed after Shiloh had come. 2

 

What does “Shiloh” mean?

 

It is a name of a town, a few miles northeast of Jerusalem, that became a prominent city in Israel.

 

Some suggest it is the city that Jacob refers to, not a name of the Messiah. As we study the meaning of Shiloh, however, you’ll come to see that, here, it’s got to refer to the Messiah. 

 

The the meaning of the name itself is difficult to nail down precisely. Some of the attempts to do so however, can provide us with some teaching about the Messiah. 3

 

(1) Shiloh may mean “sent,” because it is similar to the Hebrew word for send—shalach. It would mean “the sent one” here. 

 

This is a perfect meaning for the Messiah. The verse in Isaiah 61 that Jesus quoted as he began his ministry fits well here:

 

1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; Because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to them that are bound; (Isaiah 61:1)

 

(2) A popular meaning for Shiloh for a long while is that it has the same root word as shalom, so that it means “the one who brings peace.”

 

Jesus is the one who brings peace between God and man. The Bible says,

 

1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (Romans 5:1) 

 

Not only does Jesus solve the problem of reconciling us to God, he also provides us with peace in our daily lives. 

 

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7)

 

(3) A final meaning of Shiloh comes in a different way than the others. With the other meanings, someone found a different Hebrew word that sounded like Shiloh. This last meaning breaks down the Hebrew parts of the word to get the meaning— “he to whom.”

 

The KJV shows us the full meaning in Ezekiel 21—

 

27 I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him. (Ezekiel 21:27)

 

Shiloh then means “until he come whose right it is.” This meaning of Shiloh fits in the context of the passage the best because it’s referring to the Messiah’s right to rule. It looks to the day when everyone will bow before him.

 

The last sentence in Genesis 49:10 reads,  “And unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Shiloh, the one whose right it is to rule, will have people gather unto him. As Paul says of Jesus in Philippians—

 

9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9–11)

 

THE COMMANDS OF THE LION

 

Have you submitted to the rule of Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah? As a Christian, do you bow the knee to the Lion in the way you live your life?  

 

Here’s a brief list of what Jesus, in the Gospels, commands us to do. I’ll read them quickly without much comment. Which of his commands do you have trouble obeying?

  • Repent—Matthew 4:17, Luke 13:3
  • Let not your heart be troubled—John 14:27, John 16:33, Matthew 6:25-26, Philippians 4:6-7 
  • Follow me—Matthew 4:19
  • Rejoice [in suffering and persecution]—Matthew 5:12, (Also 2 Corinthians 6:10, 12:10, James 1:2-4)
  • Let your light shine—Matthew 5:16
  • Honor God’s law—Matthew 5:17-19
  • Be reconciled [to one another]—Matthew 5:24-25
  • Do not commit adultery—Matthew 5:27-30 
  • Keep your word—Matthew 5:33-37
  • Go the second mile—Matthew 5:38-42
  • Love your enemies—Matthew 5:44
  • Practice secret disciplines (giving, praying, fasting)—Matthew 6:1-18
  • Lay up treasures in heaven—Matthew 6:19-21 
  • Seek first the kingdom of God—Matthew 6:33 
  • Judge not—Matthew 7:1-2…
  • Ask, seek, and knock—Matthew 7:7-8
  • Do unto others [as you would have them do unto you]—Matthew 7:12
  • Choose the narrow way—Matthew 7:13-14
  • Beware of false prophets—Matthew 7:15
  • Pray for those who spread the word—Matthew 9:37-38
  • Be as shrewd as serpents—Matthew 10:16. (Also Romans 16:19)
  • [be as harmless as doves—Matthew 10:16]
  • Fear God. Do not fear man— Matthew 10:28 (Also Luke 12:4-5)…
  • Take my yoke—Matthew 11:29
  • Honor your parents—Matthew 15:4
  • Beware of false teaching—Matthew 16:6, 11-12
  • Deny yourself—Luke 9:23 (Also Matthew 10:38 and Mark 8:34)
  • Do not despise little ones—Matthew 18:10 
  • Go to Christians who offend you—Matthew 18:15 (Also Galatians 6:1)
  • Forgive offenders—Matthew 18:21-22 (Also Proverbs 19:11)
  • Beware of covetousness—Luke 12:15
  • Honor marriage—Matthew 19:6, 19:9
  • Lead by being a servant—Matthew 20:26-28…
  • Pray in faith—Matthew 21:21-22, John 15:7 
  • Bring in the poor—Luke 14:12-14
  • Render unto Caesar—Matthew 22:19-21 
  • Love the Lord—Matthew 22:37-38
  • Love your neighbor—Matthew 22:39
  • Be born again—John 3:7
  • Await my return—Matthew 24:42-44
  • Celebrate the Lord’s supper—Matthew 26:26- 27
  • Watch and pray—Matthew 26:41
  • Make and baptize disciples—Matthew 28:19 
  • Teach disciples to obey—Matthew 28:20
  • Keep my commandments—John 14:15… 4

These are Jesus’s commands as found in the Gospels. We  are also responsible for obeying the commands in the rest of the New Testament and those that apply to us in the Old Testament as well. 

 

Which of his commands do you have trouble obeying? We don’t get to pick and choose—if the command applies to Christians, then it’s a command we must obey.

 

This Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. There doesn’t seem to be much of a lion in a baby. People don’t obey babies. But when the Wise Men came to visit the Christ child, what did they do? 

 

11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him… (Matthew 2:11)

 

What about you? Do you worship and obey Christ? 

 

Have you obeyed his command to repent and receive him as your Savior?

 

If you are a born again Christian today, are you walking in obedience to the Lion of Judah?

 

————————

 

1 The very first messianic prophecy in the Bible is Genesis 3:15. After Adam and Eve fell into sin because of Satan’s deception, God cursed Creation. In part of that curse, he turned to Satan, the serpent, and said:

 

15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

 

What this prophecy said is that one day an opponent to Satan would be born of a woman. This opponent, the Messiah, would have his heel bruised by Satan. This happened when Christ died on the cross. But Christ rose again from the dead and, in doing so, has defeated Satan. The battle still rages; Satan still is a roaring lion; but his doom is sure.

2 David Guzik, Genesis, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible (Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik, 2013), Ge 49:8–12.

3 See James Montgomery Boice, Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 1197-99.

4 Edited, found at http://www.swapmeetdave.com/Bible/Commands/Commands-list.pdf

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