The Messiah would be the coming one to whom the scepter belongs

by Jews for Jesus | January 01 2018

Reference: Genesis 49:10
Fulfillment: Matthew 2:6, Matthew 2:11, Romans 1:5, Romans 15:18, Romans 16:26, Hebrews 7:14, Revelation 5:5

This prophecy is part of Jacob’s prophetic blessings on his sons; the full blessing on Judah is found in Genesis 49:8–12, in which Jacob speaks of the preeminence of that tribe. We can mention three highlights of the prophecy blessing:

1. The promise of the “scepter” and “ruler’s staff” indicates that Judah would exercise rulership. This was fulfilled in King David and his descendants, ultimately being fulfilled in the rule of the Messiah. In the New Testament, Hebrews 7:14 explicitly traces Yeshua’s descent from Judah, while Revelation 5:5 calls Yeshua “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Matthew 2:6 also cites Micah 5:2 (Hebrew, v. 1), which speaks of a coming ruler from the land of Judah.

2. One phrase in the blessing is not easy to translate. Depending on your particular Bible translation, you may see “until Shiloh comes,” or “until he comes to whom it [that is, the scepter] belongs,” or “until tribute comes to him,” or some other variation for Genesis 49:10. These variations should not be a major concern; they all refer to the rulership of Judah. If the verse means “until he comes to whom the scepter belongs,” then it refers to the Messiah’s ultimate, final rule which is very different from the rule of secular authorities. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17), said Jesus, when asked if it was right to pay the temple tax to Rome. To rephrase it, “Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” Caesar may have ruled with an oppressive iron scepter, but the scepter that belongs to the Messiah is one of peace, justice, and righteousness.

Or if the phrase means, “until tribute comes to him,” we remember that the magi from the East brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Yeshua and his family (Matthew 2:11). Since the magi were not Jewish, this intimates that the Gentiles, and not only the Jews, will worship Jesus the Jewish Messiah. This leads into the third highlight.

3. The ruler from Judah will receive the “obedience of the peoples”—that is, nations that are not Jewish. Paul, known as the apostle to the Gentiles, could well have been thinking of this verse when he wrote, “…we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Romans 1:5), and, “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed.” (Romans 15:18; see also Romans 16:26).

The word “until,” by the way, does not imply that Judah’s rulership will end when the ruler arrives. The compendium Hard Sayings of the Bible notes that: “The until is used not in an exclusive but in an inclusive sense. That is, the coming of Shiloh does not mark the limits of Judah’s domination over the nation of Israel, for if it did it would constitute a threat and not a blessing. Instead, the idea is that the sovereignty of Judah is brought to its highest point under the arrival and rule of Shiloh.”