The Tribe of Tribes
Join us as Dr. Marty Baker examines prophecies of Christ as the leader above all leaders in Genesis 49.
What is the statistical probability of the blind, random formation of one enzyme, which is the building block of the gene, which, in turn, is the building block of the gene? It is 1 in 1040,000. Concerning this staggering figure, Chandra Wickramasinghe, the professor of applied mathematics at the University of Cardiff, Whales, states, “The translation of that figure is that it would require more attempts for the formation of one enzyme than there are atoms in all the stars of all the galaxies in the entire known universe.” Put succinctly: It could never happen. How did it happen? A highly complex structure, like an enzyme, could only be created by a being of greater complexity. That being is God, and His fingerprints are all over the cosmos if you are paying attention.
God speaks clearly and loudly through the creation of an enzyme, and He also seeks to get our attention through precise prophecies on how to identify the divine Messiah. The prophetic trajectories are easy to trace. In Genesis 3:15, God prophesied a prolonged spiritual battle between good and evil, truth and error, and the coming of the divine Seed who would destroy the Devil. Gradually and progressively, God revealed piecemeal fulfillment of this prophecy by showing how the Seed was coming, despite the Serpent’s opposition, through Noah’s son, Shem, and then through Abraham, who would be the father of the nation of the Seed (Gen. 12:-25:18). When Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, God revealed how the Seed promise would come through Isaac, but not through Ishamel (Gen. 26:3-5), and then through his son, Jacob, but not through Esau, his brother (Gen. 35:9-15).
Arriving at Genesis 49, we encounter the deathbed prophetic farewell of Jacob to his twelve sons who would form the nation of Israel, through which the Seed would one day come. Studying Jacob’s prophetic word about the Seed in verses 8 through 12 is most exhilarating because it not only gives us hope of what the Seed will do but it gives us convincing evidence as to why we should believe in God. After all, the prophetic details here are so precise there is no way Jacob could have known what would transpire with his son, Judah, hundreds of years before the fact. Suppose Jacob died in 1876 B.C., as proposed by Eugene Merrill in his Bibliotheca Sacra article titled Fixed Dates in Patriarchal Chronology. In that case, the fact the tribal line of Judah did become the regal line starting with David in 1011 B.C., some 876 years later, should leave us dumbfounded.
How could a father know what a given son’s genealogical line would do some 876 years before the fact? You probably don’t know what your sixteen-year-old son will do in two years when he graduates from high school. This level of prophetic precision unequivocally demonstrates that God was working strategically to bring the Seed to earth to fulfill His prophesied mission.
The prophecy of Genesis 49, verses 8 through 12, is, therefore, worth our careful analysis this Christmas because it verifies the mission of the Messiah. This verification, in turn, strengthens our faith as Christ-followers, and it calls unbelievers to become believers in the Seed who came to secure salvation, defeat the Devil, and bring His people into His kingdom. What do we learn about the Seed from this almost 3,000-year-old prophecy?
The Messiah Will Be The Leader Of Leaders (Gen. 49:8-12)
Moving chronologically through the birth order of his sons, Jacob gave each one a prophetic word that spoke to them personally and tribally. The first three sons, Reuben (vv. 3-4), Simeon, and Levi (vv. 5-7), received a negative prophetic word based on their sinful choices in life. Sinful behavior is always costly, so don’t be duped. Reuben, the firstborn, should have received a double portion of his father’s blessing. Still, he didn’t because he sexually sinned by committing adultery and incest (Gen. 35:22). Simeon and Levi, who enjoyed a close relationship among the brothers, were known for their hot-tempers and utter cruelty. Their sinful demeanor and activity cost them when it came to their father’s prophetic blessing of their respective tribal lies.
In verse 8, the prophetic mood changes as Jacob reveals how Judah would become the premier tribe within the nation, which at this point had not been formed. Again, how could Jacob know any of this without divine intervention? The statistical improbability of this is something akin to an enzyme forming by blind, random chance. God, therefore, had His holy hand in this because He, who cannot lie, moved to fulfill His promise concerning the Seed of Genesis 3, verses 14-15. In Genesis 17, verses 6 and 11, God prophetically informed Abraham how he would become the father of nations and kings. Further, before the final patriarchal narrative occurs in chapters 37-50, the Holy Spirit talks about how kings ruled over the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, Isaac’s son. Of course, the patriarchs were left wondering how God would fulfill Genesis 3, verse 15, with a royal Israelite dynasty based on Genesis 17, verses 6 and 11. In Jacob’s prophecy to Judah, they received their definitive answer. The Seed, or the Messiah, would be the leader of all leaders.
Three movements in this ancient prophecy validate this intriguing and inspiring point:
The Messianic Leader Will Bring Complete Dominance (Gen. 49:8-9)
Watch how Jacob develops this jaw-dropping prophetic point:
8 Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father's sons shall bow down to you. 9 Judah is a lion's whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? (Gen. 49)
In the Hebrew text, Judah’s name occurs at the head of the sentence for emphasis, and the following pronoun is also emphatic. The stress, therefore, is upon the fact that Judah, whose name means “to praise,” would, in turn, be praised by none other than his brothers. His mother, Leah, gave him this name because she praised God for the birth of this boy (Gen. 29:35). With this statement, Jacob demonstrates, against all odds, and by using a play on words. . . יְהוּדָ֗ה אַתָּה֙יוֹד֣וּךָ . . . how Judah’s brothers would praise him for how God would work in and through his life and the lives of his tribal members. Once again, how could Jacob know this would be the case after his death? No parent could see this precision about a child unless God gave you the insight.
The reasons why the brothers in the other eleven tribes would praise this man and his tribal progenitors are spelled out clearly:
8 Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down to you.
The verb, shall be, is not in the original text on purpose. This is called an ellipsis and is purposefully done to draw strict attention to what is communicated. Here the emphasis rests upon the fact that this particular tribe will be known as the ultimate warrior among all the other tribes, their special ops tribe, as it were.
Was it historically true that the tribe of Judah became the dominant tribe on the battlefield, fighting against the foes of God? The answer is a definitive yes. Was it historically true that the other tribes bowed before the military prowess of this particular tribe? Again, the answer is a classic, yes. When the Israelites recognized David’s military acumen (he was of the tribe of Judah), we read how they reacted in 2 Samuel chapter 5:
1 Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, "Behold, we are your bone and your flesh. 2 Previously, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and in. And the LORD said to you, You will shepherd My people Israel, and you will be a ruler over Israel. 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them before the LORD at Hebron; then they anointed David king over Israel (2 Sam. 5).
From a modern-day Marine Corps perspective, David was the Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller of his day (He was awarded five Navy Crosses for valor in battle). Not only did he, as a teen, take out the giant Philistine killing machine named Goliath (1 Sam. 17), he went on to do the unthinkable: he and his men defeated the Jebusites in their fortress in what became Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:6ff). He also defeated Philistine forces in the Valley of Rephaim (2 Sam. 5:17f), and in 2 Samuel 8, we read about his many successful military campaigns. No wonder the Israelite tribes loved and bowed down before David, and by so doing, they recognized the partial fulfillment of this 876-year-old prophecy.
The preeminence and military ability of this tribe also surfaced in the fact that it was chosen by God to be the tribe that encamped just outside the tabernacle entrance during the wilderness wanderings (Num. 1), and according to Numbers 10, verses 14-16, this tribe which always walked point as the nation moved toward the land of promise, Israel. In addition, when Moses numbered Israel’s forces in the wilderness, you can guess which one had the most soldiers: Judah. Out of 603,500 soldiers over twenty-years-old, 74,600 came from Judah (Num. 1:26-27). I have to ask you again: How could Jacob have to know any of this? Answer? God told him that the Messiah would come through this tribe, and He did as we read in His geneoological lists in Matthew 1 and Luke 3.
During the period of the kings (1051-586 B.C.), and especially during the division of the kingdom in 930 B.C. when the Southern Kingdom represented the line of Judah, at least there were moments where Israel enjoyed definitive victories. Of their twenty kings from the tribe of Judah, eight led them to victory: Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah (1 and 2 Kings). These victories brought partial fulfillment to Jacob’s prophecy. Still, they also left Israel looking for the final Judahite/Davidic king who would bring complete and final triumph over the forces of evil. King David foretold the coming of this leader of leaders, and king of kings, the Messiah, in Psalm 2.
Regarding the military prowess of this tribe, from which David originated, Jacob added this predictive analysis:
9 Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He crouches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up (Gen. 49)?
The imagery is of a young, powerful loin which has returned from a successful hunt. He heads to his favorite place to take a nap and relax, knowing no one would be foolish enough to attempt to awaken him, the king of the jungle. With a weight of between 420 to 600 pounds, tooth size of 3.2 to 4 inches, a bite force times that of a human, and the ability to lift ten times what man could, it is no wonder Jacob asked who would dare wake a beast like this. Just as the lion is the ultimate apex predator, so it would be true of Judah. They would lead the way of the other tribes as they fought in a pack, just like lions do in their pride family formation.
As Israel’s most prominent tribe in the wilderness, it is no wonder Moses blessed them before his birth for their part in the coming conquest of the Promised Land (Deut. 33:7-11). Post-conquest Judah rightfully became the first tribe to receive their allotment of land by General Joshua (Joh. 15:1), presumably because God had designated them as the leaders in the battle for the land God had promised to them (Jud. 1:2-4). Add this information to all we have just said about this particular tribe one can readily see how the imagery of a mighty and brave lion suited them well.
Again, how could Jacob have known any of this? God had to tell him.
Interestingly enough, the lion-like nature of this tribe eventually was applied to the Messiah, Jesus. He, according to John, was and is the only one qualified to take the title deed to the earth out of the hand of the father and use his warrior abilities to kick the sinful squatters off of the land He created and promised to His people. Here is how John portrays Jesus just before the Tribulation:
4 And I began to weep greatly, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it; 5and one of the elders said to me, Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals (Rev. 5).
First, the Lord came as the suffering Servant (Isa. 42) and sacrificed for sin (Isa. 53), but the next time He comes as the mighty Lion of Judah to deal with Satan and sinners in a definitive fashion. This lion metaphor provides a perfect segue to how the Messiah will bring cosmic victory. In verse 10, we encounter how . . .
The Messianic Leader Will Bring Final Kingship (Gen. 49:10)
This is exactly what this fantastic prophetic verse states:
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Gen. 49)
“The scepter” in Hebrew denotes the long staff a ruler placed between his feet as he sat on his throne. It rested on his shoulder as he gave his decrees, or he held it in his hand as he spoke. The parallel word, “staff,” in Hebrew says of a club that warriors used in battle. Both terms are used by Israelite warriors and leaders in Judges 5:13-15. Of course, the prophecy had near and far fulfillment. As we have stated, kings from Judah who came from the line of David did enjoy political and military power, as prophesied.
The temporal preposition “until” (עַ֚ד ) demonstrates how the verse looked forward to a ruler/warrior who would come in time and space and bring final kingship and rule over all of the people on the planet. And who was coming? Shiloh. The word speaks of rest and peace since it is related to the word shalom, but here it refers to One who will come and bring final rest through his regal, warrior abilities. We know a person is in view because the last clause refers to Shiloh with the phrase “to him.”
Who is capable of bringing worldwide peace? All of this is only realized in the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ, who came from the tribe of Judah and from the royal line of David. In this first coming, through His death and resurrection, He provides sinners with the ability to find spiritual peace with Him. Regarding this, Paul remarks:
1 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Rom. 5).
Are you at peace with Him? He waits to forgive your sin and give you real life, victory, and hope. In His second coming, as we see in the book of Revelation, He comes as the Lion from the tribe of Judah to deal definitively with Satan and sin (Rev. 19), so He can bring His kingdom to earth as prophesied (Psalm 2, 89; Isa. 2; 9:1-6; Rev. 20). Will you be with Him when He returns? Will you be there for the messianic kingdom?
If you’d like to read and validate how Shiloh or Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6), will fulfill the prophecy of Jacob, then just read Isaiah 11:
1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; 4 But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. 5 Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist. 6 And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them. 7 Also the cow and the bear will graze; their young will lie down together; and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den. 9 They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. 10 Then it will come about in that day that the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious. 11 Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people, who will remain, From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. 12 And He will lift up a standard for the nations, and will assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. 13 Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, and those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim. 14 And they will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west; together they will plunder the sons of the east; they will possess Edom and Moab; and the sons of Ammon will be subject to them. 15 And the LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt; and He will wave His hand over the River with His scorching wind; and He will strike it into seven streams, and make men walk over dry-shod. 16 And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant of His people who will be left, just as there was for Israel In the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt (Isa. 11 ).
The King of Kings is coming. Are you prepared for His glorious arrival? The first time He came as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes as He rested in a manger of straw. We await His next coming as the mighty, courageous Lion.
The emphasis of verse 10 also provides a perfect segue with the content of the closing verses of this unique prophecy:
The Messianic Leader Will Bring Amazing Abundance (Gen. 49:11-12)
In these two verses, Jacob recounts the spectacular earthly impact of Shiloh’s victory over the forces of evil at the end of time:
11 He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey's colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, and his robes in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes are dull from wine, and his teeth white from milk. (Gen. 49).
Other prophetic Old Testament passages, which we will cover in a later study, speak of how the Messiah’s presence after the seven-year Tribulation brings jaw-dropping changes to the world as we know it. Water bursts forth in dry, desolate deserts (Isa. 35:6-7), there is abundant food for animals and mankind (Isa. 30:23-24; Jer.31:12), and rainfall will be off-the-charts (Ezek. 34;25-27). Of course, this will result in super-abundance. The earth has never seen anything like this, but it will when Shiloh comes again.
In Genesis 49, the impact of Shiloh’s presence makes you want to smile. What we will have is a return to Eden pre-fall. Jacob pictures a person who dismounts his donkey and doesn’t think twice about tying it up to an expensive vine of grapes. Even if the donkey gets unruly and breaks this vine, there are plenty of choice wine-producing vines. Lush vineyards were located just north of our home when we lived in California. If your car went off the road and took out any of these choice vines, you could face a $40,000 charge per vine. Believe me, that reality kept your eyes glued to the road. In the kingdom age, however, losing one choice view will be no big deal, for they will be everywhere.
Not that I’m a wine drinker ( I think it all tastes the same, sorry), but when Shiloh comes, there will be so much wine you will be able to wash your soiled clothing in the expensive juice if you would like to. Can you imagine this? Let’s put it in perspective. Here is a short list of some of the most expensive wines in the world:
- Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France: $40,836 per bottle.
- Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France: $30,011 pe bottle.
- Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Criots-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France: 28,248 per bottle.
Can you comprehend washing your clothes in any of these costly wines? In the kingdom age, this wine will be as plentiful as anything Gallo produces for the masses today. Also, along these lines, don’t you find it interesting that when Shiloh came the first time, His first miracle involved turning purification water containers, holding a total of 120 gallons, into wine at a wedding when they ran out? And He made the good stuff, as we read in John 2 verse 10. This was a small taste of the spectacular transformation that will come when He comes again as the victorious Warrior/King. Who would want to miss any of this?
Lastly, Jacob prophesied that when Shiloh finishes His mission, there will be so much wine that people’s eyes would be dulled by it and so much milk that their teeth wouldn’t need bleaching trays. No. He’s not saying people will live to get drunk, which is a sin. He’s just speaking hyperbolically to underscore the fantastic abundance when Shiloh sets up His kingdom on a renewed earth.
During this Christmas season, we rightfully worship the Babe of Bethlehem, who came to fight against Satan and sin. As prophesied by Jacob, He was victorious, but He is not finished, for there is the day when He will bring His glorious kingdom to earth. Eden lost, then, will be Eden regained when Shiloh reigns from His magnificent throne. No wonder, then, do we sing with great gusto . . .
Joy to the world! The Lord is come: let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room, and heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n and nature sin
We are singing because of who He is, what He has done for us as our Savior of Peace, and what He will do when He appears again. Why not start singing now? Why not make sure you know Him as your Prince of Peace by coming to Him in saving faith?
 Chandra Wickramasinghe, quoted by Norman Geisler, A. F. Brooke, and Mark J. Keosh, The Creator in the Courtroom (Milford, Mich.” Mott Media, 1982), 149.
 Eugene H. Merrill, Fixed Dates in Patriarchal Chronology,” Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 137 (1980): 241-251.