The scepter shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh come

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Explanation of Genesis 49:10. The scepter 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. We begin this explanation with looking to what the Hebrew text has. There you read: Lo-yasur shevet miyhudah, umechokek miben raglaw; ad ki-yavo shiloh, welo yikhat amim. Translated does this become: The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and to him shall the people be obedient.


Table of contents

Scepter, what it means

Calvin, Commentary on Genesis

Calvin, Commentary on Haggai

Dutch Statenvertaling

Matthew Henry, Commentary

Gillís Exposition of the Bible

Commentary of Vanoosterzee

Solutions for Objections

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Scepter, what it means

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To have the scepter, what does that mean? The scepter, whereof is it a symbol? Some claim that the scepter symbolizes merely the right to rule, and not the actual ruling. They claim such a thing without proof. Why are they doing that without proof? Probable because there is no proof? We will now search the Scriptures, and see what the scepter means. To do that we turn to the clearest places.

Esther 4:11. All the king's servants, and the people of the king's provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden scepter, that he may live.

Here the scepter is in the hand of an actual ruling king. Itís the same in Esther 5:2 and 8:4.

Psalm 2:9. Thou shalt break them with a rod (Hebr. shevet, scepter) of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

Here the scepter belongs not only to one that has the right to rule, but also to one that actually rules. How does it appear that he actually rules? It appears because he does break them with that scepter of iron, and dash them in pieces. To do such a thing, you need rule actually.

Psalm 45:6. Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter.

Here the scepter belongs to God. And as we all know, God is a perpetual King, and rules always and everywhere.

Psalm 110:2. The LORD shall send the rod (Hebr. shevet, scepter) of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.

This rod or scepter of strength makes him actually rule in the midst of his enemies.

Isaiah 14:5. The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers.

This scepter is the scepter of the rulers; not merely of such as have the right to rule. You find the same in Ezekiel 19:11,14.

We may conclude that the scepter is used in conjunction to such persons as rule. Not, as some hold, such people as have merely the right to rule.

Calvin, Commentary on Genesis

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"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and to him shall the people be obedient."

"The scepter shall not depart." Though this passage is obscure, it would not have been very difficult to elicit its genuine sense, if the Jews, with malignity, had not endeavored to envelop it in clouds. It is certain that the Messiah, who was to spring from the tribe of Judah, is here promised. But whereas they ought willingly to run to embrace him, they purposely catch at every possible subterfuge, by which they may lead themselves and others far astray in tortuous by-paths. It is no wonder, then, if the spirit of bitterness and obstinacy, and the lust of contention have so blinded them, that, in the clearest light, they should have perpetually stumbled. Christians, also, with a pious diligence to set forth the glory of Christ, have, nevertheless, betrayed some excess of fervor. For while they lay too much stress on certain words, they produce no other effect than that of giving an occasion of ridicule to the Jews, whom it is necessary to surround with firm and powerful! barriers, from which they shall be unable to escape. Admonished, therefore, by such examples, let us seek, without contention, the true meaning of the passage. In the first place, we must keep in mind the true design of the Holy Spirit, which, hitherto, has not been sufficiently considered or expounded with sufficient distinctness. After he has invested the tribe of Judah with supreme authority, he immediately declares that God would show his care for the people, by preserving the state of the kingdom, till the promised felicity should attain its highest point. For the dignity of Judah is so maintained as to show that its proposed end was the common salvation of the whole people. The blessing promised to the seed of Abraham (as we have before seen) could not be firm, unless it flowed from one head. Jacob now testifies the same thing, namely, that a King should come, under whom that promised happiness should be complete in all its parts. Even the Jews will not deny, that wh! ile a lower blessing rested on the tribe of Judah, the hope of a bette r and more excellent condition was herein held forth. They also freely grant another point, that the Messiah is the sole Author of full and solid happiness and glory. We now add a third point, which we may also do, without any opposition from them; namely, that the kingdom which began from David, was a kind of prelude, and shadowy representation of that greater grace which was delayed, and held in suspense, until the advent of the Messiah. They have indeed no relish for a spiritual kingdom; and therefore they rather imagine for themselves wealth and power, and propose to themselves sweet repose and earthly pleasures, than righteousness, and newness of life, with free forgiveness of sins. They acknowledge, nevertheless, that the felicity which was to be expected under the Messiah, was adumbrated by their ancient kingdom. I now return to the words of Jacob.

"Until Shiloh come", he says, the scepter, or the dominion, "shall remain in Judah." We must first see what the word "shiloh" signifies. Because Jerome interprets it, "he who is to be sent," some think that the place has been fraudulently corrupted, by the Hebrew letter "he" substituted for the Hebrew letter "cheth"; which objection, though not firm, is plausible. That which some of the Jews suppose, namely, that it denotes the place (Shiloh) where the ark of the covenant had been long deposited, because, a little before the commencement of David's reign, it had been laid waste, is entirely destitute of reason. For Jacob does not here predict the time when David was to be appointed king; but declares that the kingdom should be established in his family, until God should fulfill what he had promised concerning the special benediction of the seed of Abraham. Besides the form of speech, "until Shiloh come," for "until Shiloh come to an end," would be harsh and constrained. F! ar more correctly and consistently do other interpreters take this expression to mean "his son," for among the Hebrews a son is called "shil". They say also that the Hebrew letter "he" is put in the place of the relative "waw"; and the greater part assent to this signification. But again, the Jews dissent entirely from the meaning of the patriarch, by referring this to David. For (as I have just hinted) the origin of the kingdom in David is not here promised, but its absolute perfection in the Messiah. And truly an absurdity so gross, does not require a lengthened refutation. For what can this mean, that the kingdom should not come to an end in the tribe of Judah, till it should have been erected? Certainly the word "depart" means nothing else than to cease. Further, Jacob points to a continued series, when he says the scribe shall not depart from between his feet. For it behaves a king so to be placed upon his throne that a lawgiver may sit between his feet. A kingdom is t! herefore described to us, which after it has been constituted, will no t cease to exist till a more perfect state shall succeed; or, which comes to the same point; Jacob honors the future kingdom of David with this title, because it was to be the token and pledge of that happy glory which had been before ordained for the race of Abraham. In short, the kingdom which he transfers to the tribe of Judah, he declares shall be no common kingdom, because from it, at length, shall proceed the fulness of the promised benediction. But here the Jews haughtily object, that the event convicts us of error. For it appears that the kingdom by no means endured until the coming of Christ; but rather that the scepter was broken, from the time that the people were carried into captivity. But if they give credit to the prophecies, I wish, before I solve their objection, that they would tell me in what manner Jacob here assigns the kingdom to his son Judah. For we know, that when it had scarcely become his fixed possession, it was suddenly rent asunder, and nearly i! ts whole power was possessed by the tribe of Ephraim. Has God, according to these men, here promised, by the mouth of Jacob, some evanescent kingdom? If they reply, the scepter was not then broken, though Rehoboam was deprived of a great part of his people; they can by no means escape by this cavil; because the authority of Judah is expressly extended over all the tribes, by these words, "Thy mother's sons shall bow their knee before thee." They bring, therefore, nothing against us, which we cannot immediately, in turn, retort upon themselves.

Yet I confess the question is not yet solved; but I wished to premise this, in order that the Jews, laying aside their disposition to calumniate, may learn calmly to examine the matter itself, with us. Christians are commonly wont to connect perpetual government with the tribe of Judah, in the following manner. When the people returned from banishment, they say, that, in the place of the royal scepter, was the government which lasted to the time of the Maccabees. That afterwards, a third mode of government succeeded, because the chief power of judging rested with the Seventy, who, it appears by history, were chosen out of the regal race. Now, so far was this authority of the royal race from having fallen into decay, that Herod, having been cited before it, with difficulty escaped capital punishment, because he contumaciously withdrew from it. Our commentators, therefore, conclude that, although the royal majesty did not shine brightly from David until Christ, yet some pre! eminence remained in the tribe of Judah, and thus the oracle was fulfilled. Although these things are true, still more skill must be used in rightly discussing this passage. And, in the first place, it must be kept in mind, that the tribe of Judah was already constituted chief among the rest, as preeminent in dignity, though it had not yet obtained the dominion. And, truly, Moses elsewhere testifies, that supremacy was voluntarily conceded to it by the remaining tribes, from the time that the people were redeemed out of Egypt. In the second place, we must remember, that a more illustrious example of this dignity was set forth in that kingdom which God had commenced in David. And although defection followed soon after, so that but a small portion of authority remained in the tribe of Judah; yet the right divinely conferred upon it, could by no means be taken away. Therefore, at the time when the kingdom of Israel was replenished with abundant opulence, and was swelling with ! lofty pride, it was said, that the lamp of the Lord was lighted in Jer usalem. Let us proceed further: when Ezekiel predicts the destruction of the kingdom, (chap. 21: 26,) he clearly shows how the scepter was to be preserved by the Lord, until it should come into the hands of Christ: "Remove the diadem, and take off the crown; this shall not be the same: I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, until he come whose right it is." It may seem at first sight that the prophecy of Jacob had failed when the tribe of Judah was stripped of its royal ornament. But we conclude hence, that God was not bound always to exhibit the visible glory of the kingdom on high. Otherwise, those other promises which predict the restoration of the throne, which was cast down and broken, were false. Behold the days come in which I will "raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof, and I will raise up his ruins." (Amos 9: 11.) It would be absurd, however, to cite more passages, seeing this doctrine occurs frequently in the prophets. ! Whence we infer, that the kingdom was not so confirmed as always to shine with equal brightness; but that, though, for a time, it might lie fallen and defaced, it should afterwards recover its lost splendor. The prophets, indeed, seem to make the return from the Babylonian exile the termination of that ruin; but since they predict the restoration of the kingdom no otherwise than they do that of the temple and the priesthood, it is necessary that the whole period, from that liberation to the advent of Christ, should be comprehended. The crown, therefore, was cast down, not for one day only, or from one single head, but for a long time, and in various methods, until God placed it on Christ, his own lawful king. And truly Isaiah describes the origin of Christ, as being very remote from all regal splendor: "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." (Isaiah 11: 1.) Why does he mention Jesse rather than David, except because! Messiah was about to proceed from the rustic hut of a private man, ra ther than from a splendid palace? Why from a tree cut down, having nothing left but the root and the trunk, except because the majesty of the kingdom was to be almost trodden under foot till the manifestation of Christ? If any one object, that the words of Jacob seem to have a different signification; I answer, that whatever God has promised at any time concerning the external condition of the Church, was so to be restricted, that, in the mean time, he might execute his judgments in punishing men, and might try the faith of his own people. It was, indeed, no light trial, that the tribe of Judah, in its third successor to the throne, should be deprived of the greater portion of the kingdom. Even a still more severe trial followed, when the sons of the king were put to death in the sight of their father, when he, with his eyes thrust out, was dragged to Babylon, and the whole royal family was at length given over to slavery and captivity. But this was the most grievous trial o! f all; that when the people returned to their own land, they could in no way perceive the accomplishment of their hope, but were compelled to lie in sorrowful dejection. Nevertheless, even then, the saints, contemplating, with the eyes of faith, the scepter hidden under the earth, did not fail, or become broken in spirit, so as to desist from their course. I shall, perhaps, seem to grant too much to the Jews, because I do not assign what they call a real dominion, in uninterrupted succession, to the tribe of Judah. For our interpreters, to prove that the Jews are still kept bound by a foolish expectation of the Messiah, insist on this point, that the dominion of which Jacob had prophesied, ceased from the time of Herod; as if, indeed, they had not been tributaries five hundred years previously; as if, also, the dignity of the royal race had not been extinct as long as the tyranny of Antiochus prevailed; as if, lastly, the Asmonean race had not usurped to itself both the ran! k and power of princes, until the Jews became subject to the Romans. A nd that is not a sufficient solution which is proposed; namely, that either the regal dominion, or some lower kind of government, are disjunctively promised; and that from the time when the kingdom was destroyed, the scribes remained in authority. For I, in order to mark the distinction between a lawful government and tyranny, acknowledge that counselors were joined with the king, who should administer public affairs rightly and in order. Whereas some of the Jews explain, that the right of government was given to the tribe of Judah, because it was unlawful for it to be transferred elsewhere, but that it was not necessary that the glory of the crown once given should be perpetuated, I deem it right to subscribe in part to this opinion. I say, in part, because the Jews gain nothing by this cavil, who, in order to support their fiction of a Messiah yet to come, postpone that subversion of the regal dignity which, in fact, long ago occurred. For we must keep in memory what I hav! e said before, that while Jacob wished to sustain the minds of his descendants until the coming of the Messiah; lest they should faint through the weariness of long delay, he set before them an example in their temporal kingdom: as if he had said, that there was no reason why the Israelites, when the kingdom of David fell, should allow their hope to waver; seeing that no other change should follow, which could answer to the blessing promised by God, until the Redeemer should appear. That the nation was grievously harassed, and was under servile oppression some years before the coming of Christ happened, through the wonderful counsel of God, in order that they might be urged by continual chastisements to wish for redemption. Meanwhile, it was necessary that some collective body of the nation should remain, in which the promise might receive its fulfillment. But now, when, through nearly fifteen centuries, they have been scattered and banished from their country, having no po! lity, by what pretext can they fancy, from the prophecy of Jacob, that a Redeemer will come to them? Truly, as I would not willingly glory over their calamity; so, unless they, being subdued by it, open their eyes, I freely pronounce that they are worthy to perish a thousand times without remedy. It was also a most suitable method for retaining them in the faith, that the Lord would have the sons of Jacob turn their eyes upon one particular tribe, that they might not seek salvation elsewhere; and that no vague imagination might mislead them. For which end, also, the election of this family is celebrated, when it is frequently compared with, and preferred to Ephraim and the rest, in the Psalms. To us, also, it is not less useful, for the confirmation of our faith, to know that Christ had been not only promised, but that his origin had been pointed out, as with a finger, two thousand years before he appeared.

"And unto him shall the gathering of the people be." Here truly he declares that Christ should be a king, not over one people only, but that under his authority various nations shall be gathered, that they might coalesce together. I know, indeed, that the word rendered "gathering" is differently expounded by different commentators; but they who derive it from the root up, to make it signify the weakening of the people, rashly and absurdly misapply what is said of the saving dominion of Christ, to the sanguinary pride with which they puffed up. If the word obedience is preferred, (as it is by others,) the sense will remain the same with that which I have followed. For this is the mode in which the gathering together will be effected; namely, that they who before were carried away to different objects of pursuit, will consent together in obedience to one common Head. Now, although Jacob had previously called the tribes about to spring from him by the name of peoples, for th! e sake of amplification, yet this gathering is of still wider extent. For, whereas he had included the whole body of the nation by their families, when he spoke of the ordinary dominion of Judah, he now extends the boundaries of a new king: as if he would say, "There shall be kings of the tribe of Judah, who shall be preeminent among their brethren, and to whom the sons of the same mother shall bow down: but at length He shall follow in succession, who shall subject other peoples unto himself." But this, we know, is fulfilled in Christ; to whom was promised the inheritance of the world; under whose yoke the nations are brought; and at whose will they, who before were scattered, are gathered together. Moreover, a memorable testimony is here borne to the vocation of the Gentiles, because they were to be introduced into the joint participation of the covenant, in order that they might become one people with the natural descendants of Abraham, under one Head.

Calvin, Commentary on Haggai

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Haggai 1:1. In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,

[...] Zerubbabel is called the son of Shealtiel: some think that son is put here for grandson, and that his father's name was passed over. But this seems not probable. They quote from the Chronicles a passage in which his father's name is said to be Pedaiah: but we know that it was often the case among that people, that a person had two names. I therefore regard Zerubbabel to have been the son of Shealtiel. He is said to have been the governors of Judah; for it was necessary that some governing power should continue in that tribe, though the royal authority was taken away, and all sovereignty and supreme power extinguished. It was yet God's purpose that some vestiges of power should remain, according to what had been predicted by the patriarch Jacob, 'Taken away shall not be the scepter from Judah, nor a leader from his thigh, until he shall come;' &c. (Gen. 49: 10.) The royal scepter was indeed taken away, and the crown was removed, according to what Ezekiel had said! , 'Take away the crown, subvert, subvert, subvert it,' (Ezek. 21: 26, 27;) for the interruption of the government had been sufficiently long. Yet the Lord in the meantime preserved some remnants, that the Jews might know that that promise was not wholly forgotten. This then is the reason why the son of Shealtiel is said to be the governor of Judah.

Dutch Statenvertaling

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The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and to him shall the people be obedient.

The scepter, that is the ruling power. See this explanation in Isaiah 14:4, The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers. See also Ezekiel 19:11,14, And she had strong rods for the scepters of them that bare rule. And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit, so that she hath no strong rod to be a scepter to rule. Further see Zechariah 10:11 and Esther 8:4. So, the scepter shall not depart from Judah. That means, the ruling power shall not depart from Judah.

The lawgiver. Understand the one who has the power to dictate and prescribe the laws of the government. See Proverbs 8:15, By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. The lawgiver shall not depart from between his feet, that means, the one which has the power to dictate and prescribe the laws of the government shall not depart from between his feet.

Until Shiloh come. So the scepter shall not depart from Judah, and a lawgiver shall not depart from between his feet. Both are true, with respect to governments of two sorts. The one sort has the power over crimes that are worthy of punishment. The other sort has only power over civil disputes, and disputes of religion. For, some years before Jesus Christ came, Pompejus took the first form of government away from the Jews. But the other form is left them, when Christ appeared in the flesh. See John 18:31, Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.

Matthew Henry, Commentary

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Genesis 49:10.

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and to him shall the people be obedient.

Here is prophesied that Judah will be the royal tribe. The tribe from which Messiah, the Sovereign will originate, verse 10. The scepter shall not depart from Judah, until Shiloh come. Jacob foresees and predicts here:

  1. That the scepter will be in the tribe of Judah. And this is fulfilled in David. The crown moved to his family.
  2. That Shiloh of that tribe will be his seed, the promised Seed. In Him will the earth be blessed. That peaceable and prosperous one, or the Savior, as others render it, will spring from Judah. So has the dying Jacob Christís day seen at a great distance. And it was comfort and support for him on his deathbed.
  3. That the scepter, after having come in the tribe of Judah, would remain in that tribe. At least that there would be an own government until the advent of the Messiah. In Him, as the King of the church and the great High Priest, did it become that both priesthood and kingship would finish. From Davidís time until the exile has the scepter always been in Judah. And later were the governors of Judaea from that tribe. Or they were from the Levites, who belonged to Judaea (and therefore were they equal with them), until Judaea became a province of the Roman Empire. This happened exactly at the time of the birth of our Savior. It was then described as one of those provinces, and as being liable to pay tax, Luke 2:1. And at the time of His death have the Jews expressly admitted: We have no king but Caesar, John 19:15.

From this is irrefutably deduced against the Jews, that it is our Lord Jesus, Who would come. And that we have none else to expect. For He did exactly come at the appropriate time. Many excellent writers have eminently explained and clarified this renowned prophecy concerning Christ.


Gillís Exposition of the Bible

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The scepter 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.

The scepter shall not depart from Judah.

Some understand this of the tribe, that Judah should not cease from being a tribe, or that it should continue a distinct tribe until the coming of the Messiah, who was to be of it. And He indeed was of it. And that it might appear he sprung from it. But this was not peculiar to this tribe. For the tribe of Benjamin continued, and so did the tribe of Levi unto the coming of Christ. Besides, by Judah is meant the tribe. And to say "a tribe shall not depart from the tribe", is not only a tautology, but has scarcely any sense. It rather signifies dominion, power, and authority, as the scepter always does. For the scepter is an emblem of dominion, power and authority. See Numbers 24:17 and Zechariah 10:11. And this intends either the government, which was in the heads and princes of the tribe. This commenced as soon as it became a tribe, and lasted as long as it remained one, even unto the times of the Messiah. Or this intends the kingly power and government, which the ! scepter is generally thought to be an emblem of. This kingly power and government first commenced in David, who was of the tribe of Judah. This power and government continued unto the Babylonish captivity. Then another sort of governors and government took place. This is designed in the next clause.

Nor a lawgiver from between his feet.

This may be rendered disjunctively, "or a lawgiver". This means any ruler or governor that has jurisdiction over others, though under another. So the word is used in Judges 5:14, out of Machir came down governors, or lawgivers. The sense is, that till the Messiah came there should be in the tribe of Judah, either a king, a scepter bearer, as there was unto the captivity; or a governor, though under others. As there were unto the times of Christ under the Babylonians, Persians, Grecians, and Romans; such as Gedaliah, Zorobabel, etc. And particularly was there the sanhedrim, a court of judicature. The members thereof chiefly consisted of the tribe of Judah. And the ayvn, or prince of it, was always of that tribe. And this retained its power to the latter end of Herod's reign, when Christ was come. And though it was greatly diminished, it had some power remaining, even at the death of Christ. But quickly after had none at all. It can be that by the "lawgiver" i! s meant a scribe or a teacher of the law. All the Targums, Aben Ezra, Ben Melech, and others interpret it that way. This scribe or teacher of the law used to sit at the feet of a ruler, judge, or prince of the sanhedrin. If by the "lawgiver" is meant such a scribe or teacher of the law, then it is notorious there were of these unto, and in the times of the Messiah. In short, it matters not for the fulfillment of this prophecy what sort of governors those were after the captivity, nor of what tribe they were. What sorts of governors those were matters not. Only they were in Judah, and their government was exercised therein. And that was in the hands of Judah. They and that did not depart from thence till Shiloh came. Since those that were of the other tribes, after the return from the captivity all went by the name of Judah.

Until Shiloh come.

All the three Targums interpret Shiloh of the Messiah. As many of the Jewish writers do, both ancient and modern {Zohar in Gen. fol. 32. 4. & in Exod. fol. 4. 1. & in Numb. fol. 101. 2. Bereshit Rabba, fol. 98. sect. 85. 3. Jarchi & Baal Hatturim, in loc. Nachmanidis Disputat. cum Paulo, p. 53. Abarbinel. Mashmiah Jeshuah, fol. 10. 1. R. Abraham Seba, Tzeror Hammor, fol. 36. 4. & 62. 2}. It also is the name of the Messiah in their Talmud { T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 2}, and in other writings {Echa Rabbati, fol. 50. 2}. This name Shiloh well agrees with him. For it is coming from a root that signifies to be "quiet", "peaceable", and "prosperous". These qualifications well fit him, for he was of a quiet and peaceable disposition. He came to make peace between God and men, and made it by the blood of his cross. And he gives spiritual peace to all his followers. He brings them at length to everlasting peace and happiness. He is doing all this, b! ecause he has prospered and succeeded in the great work of their redemption and salvation he undertook.

And unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

The gathering of the people, here mentioned, shall not be of the Jews, though there were great gatherings of them to hear him preach, and see his miracles. Likewise were there great gatherings of all his people to him at his death. And there are great gatherings in him as their head and representative. As is written in Eph 1:10, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him. But the gathering of the people to him,, shall be of the Gentiles; upon his death. The Gospel was then being preached to all nations, and multitudes among them were converted to Christ. They embraced his doctrines, professed his religion, and abode by him. See Isaiah 11:10, and in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. Some render it, "the obedience of the peo! ple". {Yikhat amim, "obedientia populorum", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Ainsworth. With these agree the Targums of Onkelos and Jerusalem, Aben Ezra, Kimchi in Sepher Shorash. Yikhat díar.} They render it "obedience" from the use of the word in Proverbs 30:17, The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it. This sense agrees with the former. For those who are truly gathered by the ministry of the word yield obedience to his doctrines and ordinances. Others read, "the expectation of the people" {prosdokia eqnwn, Sept Theodotion; "expectatio Gentium", V. L.}, because the Messiah is the desire of all nations, Haggai 2:7, And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.

This, with what goes before, clearly shows that the Messiah must be come, since government in every sense has departed from Judah for 1900 years or thereabout. And the Gentiles have embraced the Messiah and his Gospel the Jews rejected. The various contradictory senses they put upon this prophecy show the puzzle and confusion they are in about it, and serve to confirm the true sense of it. Some apply it to the city Shiloh, others to Moses, others to Saul, others to David. Nay, some will have Shiloh to be Jeroboam, or Ahijah the Shilonite, and even Nebuchadnezzar. There are two senses they put upon it which deserve the most notice. The one is, that "Shebet", we render "scepter", signifies a "rod". And so it does, but such a rod as is an ensign of government, as it must here, by what follows. See Ezekiel 19:11, and she had strong rods for the scepters of them that bare rule. But they would have it to signify either a rod of correction {R. Joel Ben Sueb apud Menasseh,! Ben Israel. Conciliator in Gen. Quaest. 65. sect. 8}. Or they would have it to signify a staff of support. But what correction or affliction has befallen the tribe of Judah peculiar to it? Was it not in a flourishing condition for five hundred years, under the reign of David's family? And when the rest of the tribes were carried captive and never returned, Judah remained in its own land. And, when carried captive, after seventy years returned again to it. Add to this, that this is a prediction, not of affliction and distress, that should abide in the tribe of Judah, but of honor and glory to it. And besides, Judah has had a far greater share of correction since the coming of the true Messiah than ever it had before. And what support have the Jews now, or have had for many hundred years, being out of their land {written about 1750. Ed.}, destitute of their privileges, living among other nations in disgrace, and for the most part in poverty and distress? The other sense is t! his, "the scepter and lawgiver shall not depart from Judah for ever, w hen Shiloh comes {Vid. Menasseh, ib. sect. 3.}. But this is contrary to the accents which separate and divide the phrase, "between his feet", from that, "for ever", as this version renders the word. Though the Hebrew word ëad never signifies "for ever", absolutely put, without some antecedent noun or particle. Nor does the Hebrew ki signify "when", but always "until", when it is joined with the particle ëad, as it is here. Besides, this sense makes the prophecy to pass over some thousands of years before any notice is taken of Judah's scepter, which, according to the Jews, it had thousands of years ago, as well as contradicts a received notion of their own, that the Messiah, when he comes, shall not reign for ever, but for a certain time, and even a small time; some say forty years, some seventy, and others four hundred {T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 99. 1.}.


Commentary of Vanoosterzee

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The scepter, the sign of dominion, shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver, the rod of the ruler, from between his feet; the dominion will stay in Judah, until Shiloh (rest, peace) come, and to him shall the people be obedient.

The scepter is the sign of dominion and of power. The word lawgiver indicates the maintenance of the dominion. The expression between his feet does not mean that the rod will lie calmly between the feet of Judah; but it indicates, in connection with Deuteronomy 28:57, the descent in a straight line. The right translation of the two Hebrew words miben raglaw, is therefore: "from his legal offspring".

Until Shiloh come. How should we understand this condition? For, everything depends on it. When we consult the oldest Jewish scholars, then we see that they with exceptional unanimity have found here an indication of the Messiah. Even one newer scholar (Jarchi), while he had enough reasons (as we may easily understand) to feel himself urged to seek for another explanation, has followed them herein.


Solutions for Objections

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Some objections against the true and genuine explanation of Genesis 49:10 are in the book of Shmuel Golding, A Counselor's Guide, Jewish answers to the missionary problem, third edition 1989, copyright 1986. This book is available on the network. A few pages of quotes of this book are copied here.


<quote> "The scepter shall not depart from Judah until Shilo comes." (Gen. 49.10)

<quote> This is considered to be a messianic prophecy Ö


<quote> Ö and is understood to mean that when Messiah comes, the kingship of Judah will terminate.

Disagreed. Christians do not understand this prophecy in such a way that, when Messiah comes, the kingship of Judah will terminate. But Christians understand precisely what the text has, and nothing else: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes." The text has not that, when Shiloh has come, that then the scepter will depart. But the text says that the scepter will remain in Judah, until Shiloh comes. What happens with the scepter after the arrival of Shiloh, is not expressed in the text. So, Christians understand that the scepter remains in Judah until the coming of Shiloh, the Messiah. They do no pronouncement upon what will happen with the scepter after His coming.

<quote> Christianity teaches that Jesus was the Messiah Ö


<quote> Ö and since he took the scepter, there have been no kings in Judah to the present day.

Correction. Not only Christians do not teach that, but also history does. At present there are no kings in Judah, as history teaches clear enough.

<quote> The incorrect belief that the scepter departs from the Kings of Judah when Shiloh comes shows that the Christians misunderstood the text.

This belief indeed would be incorrect. Thatís why we donít hold it. From now on Golding engages in refuting a belief that he incorrectly ascribes to Christians.

<quote> In fact, the text teaches exactly the opposite. "The scepter shall not depart from Judah" is what is written in the first part of the verse.

This indeed is what the first part of the verse has. Note: the first part. If the writer goes to state that the scepter shall not depart from Judah, then let us look to history. History shows that the scepter has departed from Judah.

<quote> In other words, the scepter the right to rule Ö

Here is deception. Golding suddenly jumps from the term scepter to the explanation the right to rule. Without proving it, he makes this shift. Of course he needs to make this hidden shift, lest his story appears to be made up. Further, he cannot prove what he says. The scepter does not merely mean the right to rule, but it indicates the actual ruling. See for proofs above; consult the table of contants at the top of this document.

<quote> In other words, the scepter the right to rule belongs to Judah, no matter what impostor sits on the throne (and there have been a number, such as Herod and Agrippas, in Jesus's time).

Right; there have been impostors sitting on the Judaean throne. Then we are at least agreed on this, that in Jesusí time another king, not of Judah, sways the scepter. This means that the scepter has departed from Judah. Yet, the text says that this would not happen until Shiloh would come. The scepter being removed implies that Shiloh has come in that time.

<quote> They cannot be regarded as legitimate kings, because the scepter will not be taken away from Judah.

Will the scepter not be taken away from Judah? History shows something else, whatever Golding says.

<quote> If Judah disappears and after 2,000 years returns, Ö

This is pure speculation.

<quote> Ö no matter who in the meantime has been sitting on the throne, the right to rule belongs only to the Tribe of Judah. To say that with the arrival of Jesus, the scepter became his, is to speak out of ignorance.

Golding is still speaking about the right to rule. Without proof he catches at this subterfuge. As long as he does this, the rest of what he is saying is irrelevant.

<quote> The mistake is made because the missionaries do not understand the meaning of "ad" "until". Therefore, we must see the word used elsewhere in the Bible:

Good idea. Letís have a look.

<quote> "I will not leave you "ad" until I have done that which I have spoken of." (Gen. 28.15)

<quote> Does one assume that, after doing what he has spoken of, God will then leave Jacob?

<quote> "No man shall be able to stand before you "ad" until you have destroyed your enemies." (Deut. 7.24)

<quote> Is one to assume that, after destroying their enemies, men would be able to stand against them again?

<quote> By using comparisons, one understands better the meaning of the Shilo text. The right to the scepter belongs to Judah and not to any other tribe, until Shilo comes, when it will go on belonging to Judah.

Golding is still using his hidden shift and deception, as mentioned above. He still maintains that the scepter merely means the right to rule, and not the actual ruling itself.

<quote> Read through a Hebrew concordance, under the adverb "ad" and see that it can also mean forever, everlasting and forevermore. See in Hebrew, Isa. 45.17; Isa. 57.15; Hab. 3.6; Ps. 132.12.

Let's check his proofs. In Isaiah 45:17 the word "ad" is used in conjunction with "olam". The text has "ad-olmey ad". As we all know, the word "olam" may mean forever, everlasting and forevermore. So this text is no proof for the adverb "ad" meaning forever. The proofs from Isaiah 57:15 and Habbakuk 3:6 are agreed with. Also the proof taken from Psalm 132:12 is right, though the term there used is not merely "ad", but "adey ad".

<quote> By making these comparisons, the text of Gen. 49.10 reads:

<quote> "The scepter will not depart from Yehudah forever, because Shilo will come."

It is difficult to understand how one can come up with such a translation, that is in so flagrant contradiction with the Hebrew text. The Hebrew punctuation does not allow this translation. Here is the Hebrew text again.

Lo-yasur shevet miyhudah, umechokek miben raglaw; ad ki-yavo shiloh.

You see that there is an accent, or punctuation mark, between the Hebrew words miben raglaw and ad ki-yavo shiloh. In the translation does this mean that there should be a comma or semicolon between between his feet, and until Shiloh come.

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet <punctuation mark> until Shiloh come.

But the translation Golding gives requires the Hebrew accents be put between ad and ki-yavo. But since there is none accent on that place, the translation he gives is not possible.

What astonishes me still more is, how a Hebrew speaking person can come up with such an impossible translation, that contradicts the Hebrew text to such a large extend. It seems me that he is willfully catching at every opportunity to suppress the true sense of this verse. In doing so he does not shun deception. If one, who is ignorant of Hebrew, would do such a thing, I would forgive it him, thinking he would make a mistake, though a great one.

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