Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise: your hand shall be in the neck of your enemies…
The first verse of Jacob's blessing on Judah begins with the final triumph of the tribe and victory over all its foes. It then descends to details as to how this victory will be accomplished. As we look at it let us read in it the history of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. There are consecutive stages in the verses, beginning with the highest in the first line of the first verse of the text: "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise." The order of these verses is one of constant occurrence in the Bible. The issue, great, grand, and glorious, is first stated, then we descend to the details by which it is brought about. "Thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise." Praise is the final note and the never ending one to the Lord Jesus Christ. It begins when the soul is first brought to know experimentally the Lord Jesus Christ, in His Person and in His work, as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Praise for the pardon of all guilt and the forgiveness of all sin through the precious blood of Jesus. Praise for that wondrous love that has stooped down to our lowest condition and lifted us up out of the pit of corruption to His throne of glory. And whence is the source of all this joy and praise now and hereafter? We have it in the next clause: "Thy hand shall be in the neck of Thine enemies." It is that hand of which we read so much in God's Word. "He laid His right hand upon me." "And Jesus stretched forth His hand." These and such passages tell us what it means. It is Christ putting forth His power over every foe. He conquered death and hell. He conquers still every foe thou hast. Therefore it is that "Thy Father's children bow down to Thee." For whom have we in heaven or on earth like Him! There is none like Thee! Lord, to whom shall we go? Let every tongue be vocal with Thy praise, every heart bow down at Thy feet. Let all our powers, all that is nearest and dearest, be laid there. Yes, "the father's children shall bow down before Him." The whole of Israel and Judah shall bow down before Jesus. He is their Messiah and their King. But observe further how this is brought about. "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?" The words point to something far greater and deeper in spiritual import. In this graphic picture we behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the young lion ripening into full strength as a growing lion, and becoming the ancestor of the lion tribe, we see the growth of this Lion from infancy to manhood. "He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground." "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old from everlasting. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as alien among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver" (Micah 5:2-8). "He couched; he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion; who shall stir him up?" (Numbers 24:9). In all these passages we see the Lion of the tribe of Judah going forth at the head, and as the Leader of His people Israel. And what is the meaning of the lion seizing its prey and then ascending to its lair in the mountains? What but that same Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Son of God from heaven, seizing its prey and conquering it, when He laid down His life on the cross. There He met every foe, and gained His great victory over the devil, over sin and death and the grave. There He seized the prey, and from that great fight and victory "He went up" — up to His Father's throne as man's great Representative. And so we have Him brought before us (Revelation 5:5, 6) in the double character as the Lamb of God, the Sin-bearer of the human race, and in the royal dignity of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Yes, our Jesus went up from the prey, and as He went up, ten thousand times ten thousands of angels uttered their voices, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, mighty in battle. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of Glory" (Psalm 24:7, 8, 10). But there is another figure in the picture drawn by Jacob. The figure of a lion is followed by that of a lioness, peculiarly fierce in defending its young. Have we not here the Lion of the tribe of Judah as the Avenger of His people, coming forth to execute judgment upon the nations? At present we see this Lion " stooping down," "couching," waiting for that moment when He shall come forth to seize upon the prey. "From the prey" He has indeed "gone up"; but He is to return again as the Lion of the tribe of Judah to "take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Romans 11:26; John 14:2, 3; Acts 1:11; Revelation 19:11-15; Matthew 23:39; Amos 3:11; Revelation 1:7; Hebrews 9:28; Isaiah 11:10, 11; Philippians 3:20, 21; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; Zechariah 14:4, 5). But to pass on to the remaining portion of the text: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, till Shiloh come, and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be." A sceptre is the symbol of regal command, and, in its earliest form, it was a long staff which the king held in his hand when speaking in public assemblies; when he sat upon his throne he rested it " between his feet" inclining towards himself. The idea is that Judah was to have the rule, the chieftainship, till Shiloh came. We must also bear in mind that the coming of Shiloh was not to terminate the rule of Judah. It would then only attain to full dominion in the Person of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Judah was to bear the sceptre with victorious lion-courage until, in the future Shiloh, the obedience of the nations came to Him, and through Him eventually widening into the peaceful government of the world. The term " Shiloh" is strikingly confirmatory of this view in relation to Christ and His work. Critically it means "rest," "peace," "quietness." So Christ is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). "In His time," it is said, "there shall be abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth" (Psalm 72:7). Again, "This Man shall be our peace" (Micah 5:5). Of Christ, it is said, "peace on earth" was sung by angels at His birth. His own words were, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you": "Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest": and again, "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me: and ye shall find rest unto your souls": again, "These things have I spoken unto you that in Me ye might have peace." Peace, rest, and quietness, these are the meaning of "Shiloh," and they are all fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. But let us mark another expression of Jacob's with reference to this Shiloh: "unto Him shall the gathering of the people be." Two meanings are wrapped up in these words. First, Shiloh is the Gatherer; and secondly, He gathers to Himself. Mark how our blessed Lord confirms this Himself: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." This the Lord Jesus is doing now in grace; but the full accomplishment has not yet taken place. The time is drawing near when "all kings shall bow down before Him, all nations shall serve Him." "As I live, saith the Lord, to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess." And the time is at hand. We can even now hear the sound of His chariot wheels in the distance. The Church's journey is nearly done. All things tell us that the morning is at hand, and with that morning the joyous greeting and the eternal gladness, the sun that shall no more go down, and the hallelujahs of a multitude that no man can number meeting in the house of their Father to go no more out. Blessed morning, long expected! Hasten thy dawning upon our troubled world; Yea, "come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!" But to revert once more to Jacob's blessing on Judah. Observe the superabundance of Judah's blessings, and their deep spiritual import: "binding his foal unto the vine; and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes." "His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk." Judah is here depicted as having attained, even before the coming of Shiloh, to a rest acquired by victory over surrounding foes, and enjoying in peaceful repose the abundance of his inheritance. But such a view is far from exhausting the words here brought before us. Indeed, in no full sense were they ever realized in the tribe of Judah. It is to the many and great spiritual blessings of the Lion of the tribe of Judah these words refer. We read of "the love of Christ that passeth knowledge"; of "joy unspeakable and full of glory"; that if all the things about Jesus were to be written "the world itself could not contain the books that should be written;" that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man to conceive, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him." And let us notice, every one of these blessings are directly connected with Christ Himself. The word "His," which runs through these verses, shows us this. "His eyes red"; "His teeth white"; "His garments washed in wine"; "His clothes in the blood of grapes." Such expressions remind us of the Song of Solomon, in which the Beloved is described in similar language. They all show us the preciousness of the Person of the Lord Jesus; just as the beloved apostle loved to dwell upon it in his description in Revelation 1:13-16.
(F. Whitfield, M. A.)
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.