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EXEGESIS > Old Testament > Pentateuch > Genesis > Gen. 49:8-12

Until Shiloh Comes
Gen. 49:8-12


In Gen. 49 Jacob is close to death and is pronouncing a blessing on each of his sons; connected with the blessings are words regarding the future of each son and his tribe, so at times it may be difficult to separate what applies to the son and what applies to the tribe; the two perspectives are blended together.

Of the statements to the sons, one of the longer statements belongs to Judah and his tribe; and most striking in the words to Judah is the reference to “Shiloh” (“The scepter shall not depart from Judah . . . until Shiloh comes”); what does it mean?

Surely this lone word ties Judah and Jesus together, ties together the OT and the NT, so that the one anticipates the other, and the one fulfills the other; this single word creates one of the unifying themes of Scripture.

Judah – the Son and the Tribe

Position of Judah

It is said that “the scepter shall not depart from Judah nor a lawgiver from between his feet” (v. 10); a scepter is the symbol of authority and rule, and it speaks of dominion.

Additionally, Jacob indicates that “your father’s children shall bow down before you” (v. 8); this indicates a reign over others; it speaks of reverence and submission on the part of the others toward Judah.

Power of Judah

The prediction is that “your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies” (v. 8); the tribe will lead in battle and will have success.

 Also, Judah is said to be “a lion’s whelp” (v. 9); the association with the lion signifies power and courage, an intimidating image; the symbol of the Davidic line was the lion.

Praise of Judah

It is predicted that Judah will be “he whom your brothers shall praise” (v. 8); the other sons and tribes will recognize the prominence and capabilities bestowed on this tribe.

Jesus – the Lion of the Tribe of Judah

The Question regarding Shiloh – Meaning of the Word; Possible Answers

One, understand “Shiloh” as a proper name and, therefore, simply used it as the name for the individual who is referenced in the text.

Two, understand “Shiloh” as a place, a city in Ephraim where the Tabernacle first stood and where Hannah prayed for a son; thus the text is speaking of someone who will come to Shiloh, the place—“until he comes to Shiloh”; a variation would be the leadership of Judah would come to Shiloh.

Three, understand the word as a reference to tribute; the ESV has the following translation: “until tribute comes to him”; thus a veiled reference to the removal of the ark from Shiloh and its eventual placement in Jerusalem by David (II Sam. 6:12-19).

Four, translate the word; if so, the meaning is: “until He comes to whom it belongs”; the scepter, the rule, belongs to Judah, to David, and finally to Christ, who is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5; see: Ezek. 19:1-7; Micah 5:8); an almost identical concept is found in Ezek. 21:26-27.

The Messianic Meaning of the Text

Shiloh is a person; the natural reading of the Text implies this; to take the word as a place or a thing is a forced reading.

The scepter is awaiting Shiloh; when He comes He will be the “lawgiver” (NKJV) and/or receive “the ruler’s staff” (NASB); with either translation the point is the same, the rule and the right to rule will belong to the One coming.

Individual words require a person: “comes” – someone is coming; “until” – the coming is in the future; “to Him” – obviously a reference to a person; “to Him shall be the obedience of the people” – the One coming will be followed, He will receive the obedience of the people.

All of the above has been used to support the fact that this is a Messianic Text—it is a reference to the coming Christ; this has been the view of both Jews and Christians; and Christians believe that the Christ is Jesus who is associated with Judah (Matt. 1:1-2; Heb. 7:14; Rev. 5:5).

Judah and Jesus

Jesus has the Position of Judah: He is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 19:16).

Jesus has the Power of Judah: He will rule with a “rod of iron” (Rev. 19:15).

Jesus has the Praise of Judah: Phil. 2:9-11.


In the book of Genesis Jesus is the Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15; see: Protoevangelium); He is of the nation of Abraham (Gen. 12:3; Matt. 1:1); and He is of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10; Matt. 1:2; Heb. 7:14; Rev. 5:5).

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