The Shiloh Prophecy
Genesis 49:10
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come…

There are, you perceive, three parts of the blessing, each taking up and repeating the happy name of Judah: "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise," &c.; "Judah is a lion's whelp," &c.; and, "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah," &c. Let us take these three parts in their order.

I. "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." There are here two things the relation of Judah to his brethren in Israel and his relation to the enemies of Israel. His relation to his brethren in Israel is expressed in the first and last clauses, "Thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise" — "thy father's children shall bow down before thee." Now that there is a general reference here to the supremacy of Judah among the tribes is beyond doubt; but I cannot avoid the conclusion, a conclusion which has been strengthened by a very close examination of the principal words in this verse, that a greater than Judah is here, even Jesus, whose praise is sung by all the true Israel of God, before whom all the children of Abraham according to the spirit bow down and worship. This is supported by several considerations. The name "Judah " means "Praise of God," or " Glory to God." And there is, I cannot help thinking, something more than curiosity in the fact that if Hebrew equivalents were given for the Greek words in the hymn which was sung by angels over Bethlehem's plains, when the great Son of Judah was born there, a Prince and a Saviour, it might read thus, "Judah in the highest, on earth Shiloh"; "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace." This view is still further strengthened by the fact that the word here rendered "praise" — "thy brethren shall praise" — is used almost exclusively of praise to God. And if we are right in our view as to the clauses which refer to the relation of Judah to his brethren in Israel, it follows that in that clause which refers to his relation to the enemies of Israel we see not only the victories of Judah over the nations around him, but the victories of the great Son of Judah over His enemies all over the world. We have in fact here the germ of those numerous prophecies of which the second Psalm may be taken as a specimen.

II. "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?" We have here Judah's supremacy and strength set before us in a lively figure, the figure of a lion. You observe of course the gradation in the prophecy: first the young lion rejoicing in his growing strength; then the adult lion in the full development of his power; and lastly, the old lion reposing in quiet majesty, satisfied with former triumphs, enjoying the fruit of them, but retaining his terrible strength, so that even the boldest dare not rouse him up. Here again we have the basis and explanation of not a little of subsequent prophecy. We find the Lion of Judah again in Balaam's prophecy (Numbers 24:9; also 23:24). We find it in prophecies where perhaps we little expect it, e.g., Isaiah 29:1, 2, where Ariel, you must remember, is the Hebrew for "Lion of God." So, too, the lamentation of Ezekiel 19. is all founded on this prophecy. The reference throughout all these is obvious, to the lion strength and prowess of the royal tribe of Judah. But is this all? Perhaps some of you may be ready to say, "Yes, it is all." Surely it cannot be said that there is any of the testimony of Jesus in a passage like that. It certainly seems as unlikely as any other prophetic passage in the whole Bible. Yet even here, if we take the Scripture for our guide, comparing Scripture with Scripture, the testimony of Jesus is not absent. And if you wish proof, follow me to two passages far apart from each other and from this, and yet evidently related to each other and to this. First, let us turn to that chapter about Ariel, "the Lion of God" (Isaiah 29.). Read especially verses 11 and 12, and compare them with Revelation 5:1-5. The Ariel of the Old Testament here appears as the "Lion of the tribe of Judah " in the New. Who is the "Lion of the tribe of Judah"? No one reading that chapter in Revelation can hesitate about the answer. After all it is ,Jesus, the meek and lowly, and yet the great and terrible Jesus, the Lamb slain, and also the Lion slaying. He is the "Lion of the tribe of Judah!" We may not forget that there is such a thing as "the wrath of the Lamb."

III. "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh come," &c. Who is Shiloh? Most clearly He is "the Seed of the woman." I set aside the translation, "until Judah come Shiloh," i.e., the place where the tabernacle was set up after the conquest of Canaan; I set it aside, because though grammatically possible, it is contrary to the scope of the prophecy, Judah having no more relation to the place long afterwards called Shiloh than any of the other tribes, and less than Joseph, in whose territory the place was; because it exhausts the prophecies in the early history of the tribes of Israel, whereas the patriarch says at the beginning that he is about to speak of that which shall happen "in the last days"; and because the supremacy of Judah over the other tribes, and her lion-like conquests, are to be found after, and not before, the children of Israel came to Shiloh. Besides, there is no evidence that any place of the name of Shiloh was known at this time, and there was certainly no gathering of the nations (the word in the Hebrew is not the singular, "people," but the plural, "peoples" or "nations") to Shiloh. Without any hesitation, then, we adhere to our own translation. And then the question comes: if Shiloh be the Messiah, as He evidently is, what is the meaning of the name? The vast majority of interpreters have always, and do still connect the word " Shiloh" with that well-known family of Hebrew words signifying "peace," "rest," so that "Shiloh" will signify "the One who brings peace," "the One who gives rest." There is almost everything in favour of this interpretation. It connects beautifully with the image of peace set forth in verses 11 and 12 which follow, and is strongly contrasted with the war-like metaphor of that which precedes (ver. 9). It agrees with the circumstances under which the name "Shiloh" was given to the place where the Tabernacle of God was set up by the children of Israel after God had given them rest from their enemies. Then in 1 Chronicles 5:2, we find, in explanation of the elder tribes being set aside, these words, "For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and from him the chief ruler (or the prince)was to come," which you may compare with that beautiful passage in Isaiah 9:6, "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, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Then, too, the name which David gave to his son Solomon (a name closely connected with the name "Shiloh" — it does not appear in English so distinctly as in the original); in that name we can scarcely fail to recognize the expectation of David, that in his just and peaceful reign there would be a type of the reign of the Prince of Peace — a position which is fully borne out by those Psalms of the kingdom, of which the well-known 72nd Psalm may be taken as a specimen. We have already referred to the angel doxology, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace," where the words "Judah" and "Shiloh" come into a connection with each other very similar to what we find in this prophecy. Then we cannot help thinking of such precious words as these of our Shiloh, "Come unto Me, ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." And not to multiply passages, for many more might be given, do we not find at the close of the Word of God, in the Book of Revelation, "the Lion of the tribe of Judah," and "the Lamb," the one the emblem of strength, and the other the emblem of gentleness and peace, close beside each other, and referring to the same glorious Saviour? We have already spoken of the "Lion of the tribe of Judah" — well, the Lamb is the Shiloh of our text. It is, then, the "Prince of Peace" whose coming is spoken of here. "And unto Him shall the gathering of the peoples be." The meaning of this is surely very obvious now. The Shiloh is the Seed in whom all nations of the earth are to be blessed. Here is the culmination of the royalty of Judah. The true idea is that the royalty is never to pass away from Judah, but is to culminate in the everlasting kingdom of the "Lion of the tribe of Judah," "the Root of David," "King of kings and Lord of lords." The sceptre is not to depart at all. The kingdom is to be an everlasting kingdom. The royalty of the tribe of Judah will last through all eternity, because the "Lion of the tribe of Judah," the "Prince of Peace," the Shiloh of God, in whom that royalty culminates, is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever," "King of kings and Lord of lords " for evermore! And then began the " gathering of the peoples." It may be interesting to take a passing glance at this prophetic gathering, as actually realized already in history. To begin with, we have an earnest of it in the long journey of the wise men of the East to worship the child Jesus. There we have the first-fruits of the great ingathering of the long excluded Shemites. Then again you remember the Syro-Phoenician woman, who, when Jesus came into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, fell down at His feet and worshipped Him, and besought Him for a blessing for her child. There we see the first-fruits of the great ingathering of the Hamites. Yet again, you remember how, when Jesus was at one of the feasts in Jerusalem, there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast, who came to Philip of Bethsaida in Galilee, earnestly asking, "Sir, we would see Jesus." There we see the first fruits of the great ingathering of the sons of Japheth. So ranch for the first fruits; now for the harvest. And here we find that saying true, "The last shall be first, and the first last;" for when Shiloh came the very Jews refused to gather to Him; that very tribe of Judah from which, according to the prophecy, He sprung, despised and rejected Him; and accordingly, in the just displeasure of God, they were set aside "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Romans 11:25). Thus it is that the very Jews themselves are the last of all the peoples to gather unto their own Shiloh.

(J. M. Gibson, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs. To him will the obedience of the peoples be.

The Prophecy Respecting Shiloh
Top of Page
Top of Page