Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise: your hand shall be in the neck of your enemies…
Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise, etc. This dying vision and the utterances of the dying patriarch seem in harmony with all the surroundings in this part of the sacred record. The aged Jacob is dying. He has passed through such changes, such trials and successes, has had such seasons of depression and of exultation, but now his soul is filled with rapture at what will be the future of his children. He saw how he would live in his children, A man should not be indifferent to his name dying out. Some are, but only such as are not of intense nature. As a man nearing the close of life, great importance was attached, by his son, to his utterances. On a farewell festive occasion, Isaac partook of venison before giving his blessing to Jacob and Esau. Jacob called all his sons together, as he was dying, and seems to have had supernatural strength given to utter so many and distinct prophecies. He knew the individual character of his sons, and so could better foretell, almost apart from Divine inspiration, what would be their future. The words uttered on the borders of the other land seemed necessarily inspired. Such a man as Jacob would no more pass away, if possible, without such utterances, than would a millionaire think of dying without a will. No mere offspring of a disordered brain, or over-excited imagination, were these words. They were actual prophecies. Jacob was not only a patriarch, but a prophet. He speaks under the influence of the God of his fathers (Genesis 48:15), and the future bore out what he had foretold. We wish to consider chiefly the utterances concerning one tribe, Judah.
I. A PROPHECY OF POWER. His enemies were "to flee before him," &c. As victor he lays his hands on their necks, that they may be subject and yet live. His brethren were to acknowledge his power. He is to be as a young lion in agility, and as an old lion with the strength of years remaining, whom none will dare to anger. All this seems to be the glorification of mere physical power. Spiritual power is to be desired above the physical. And this we have in Christ.
II. A PROPHECY OF PRECEDENCY. Jacob seems to have come at last upon the one for whom he was seeking. He speaks of Judah as one whom his brethren shall praise. This is said to be "a play upon the name, Judah, as meaning one who is celebrated." And the name of Judah was accepted afterwards by the whole nation. We should have thought that if the firstborn, Reuben, had not been placed first, Joseph would have been. Judah's character, however, was more noble in some things even than that of Joseph. He did not delight in the wrong-doing of the brethren. Jacob may in his mind have blamed Joseph, in that he had not sought to know whether his father was alive before circumstances of death drove aim to know of his still being alive. Judah was always ever ready to sacrifice himself, to be bound for his brother. There seems to have been much that was noble in him. Hence, we can understand, in a measure, the precedency accorded to him. Precedency is not to be sought for its own sake. It is then only another form of vanity. When precedency is forced on men, it is because their worth and their usefulness to others is recognized by others, although not by themselves. How remarkable it is that God often selected the younger before the elder, e.g. Abel, Jacob, Moses, David. Judah is taken before Reuben. A lesson evidently taught in this, viz., that God is no respecter of persons, that he seeth not as man seeth, that the course of spiritual feeling does not always follow the line of birth.
III. PROPHECY OF PERMANENCY. This permanency was comparative in one sense and actual in another. Judah lasted longer than any of the tribes as a distinct power, and, since Christ came of that tribe, may be said to be permanent still. Who thinks of Naphtali, or Zebulun, or Issachar? but Judah is a name most familiar. The "scepter" is the sheik's staff, which, like a marshal's baton, indicates his right to lead. Judah was to lead, and to give the law until Shiloh came; and he did. Shiloh evidently points to the Messiah. It is a mystic name (comp. Genesis 48:16; Psalm 9:6; Psalm 11:1). Some render this passage, "Until he [Judah] comes as the rest-giver;" others, "until he comes to whom it belongs." Christ is the only rightful rest-giver, and to him alone belongs all honor and praise. We see that the aim of God with respect to the descendants of Jacob was to provide a race which should keep alive a knowledge of God in the world until the Messiah should come. When that race had fulfilled this mission, it dropped into line with the rest of the nations. It is no longer to lead. We see that as ten tribes were broken off by Jeroboam from Judah, they were carried captive by the Assyrians, and with that nation swallowed up in oblivion, never, probably, to be known of again. And so with the Jews; they no longer lead. Although still retaining much that is distinctive, they will gradually, we believe, assimilate with other nations, and, accepting Christ, be one with other Christians in that one fold of mercy he has provided. Christ unites us to God and to others, breaks clown middle walls of partition, gives to us also "life eternal," so that when this life shall fail, we shall be received into "everlasting habitations," and know as real a permanency as that of Judah.
IV. PROPHECY OF PROSPERITY. In the eleventh verse, Jacob indicates the sort of territory Judah will have, - one rich in vineyards and olive yards. He foretells his prosperity during the period intervening between the prophecy and the advent of Shiloh. The twelfth verse means, that "his eyes should be redder than wine," i.e. brilliant with joy. The words "white as milk" refer to purity as well as prosperity. Both are found in Christ. True joy and purity shall draw souls to Christ. "Unto him shall the gathering of the people be." His truth has "the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." How much that is foretold of Judah is only typical of Jesus. He is the true conqueror, ruler, object of praise. He is "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5), the "desire of all nations" (Haggai 2:7), the one who if lifted up would draw all unto him (John 12:32), the one in whom all the children of God are to be gathered in one (John 11:52). Learn -
1. We find much to confirm faith in the way in which the prophecy of Jacob was fulfilled.
2. We find much to lead us to seek to be in Christ, through whom Judah obtained such blessings antecedently.
3. We find something to lead us to ask as to whether we have grown in purity, power, and whether our souls prosper and are in health. - H.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.