Bible passage: Genesis 49:10
Written: As early as 1400 BC
In Genesis 49, Jacob, who is near death, calls together his 12 sons and addresses each of them, in the order of their birth, giving them prophecies about the future of their descendants. The 12 sons are the patriarchs of the 12 Tribes of Israel.
When Jacob addresses his fourth son, Judah, he says:
The sceptre 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. (Genesis 49:10, KJV)
This historically has been regarded as a Messianic prophecy by a variety of Christian and Judaic sources.
Christians view this is a prophecy that Jesus will establish an everlasting kingdom in the future. Jesus was born about 2000 years after Jacob died, and his ancestry is traced back to Judah in Luke 3:23-34 and in Matthew 1:1-16.
The Hebrew word that is rendered as "Shiloh" in the KJV English translation is sometimes translated in other ways. The NIV English translators, for example, use the word "he." Regardless of how the word is rendered into English, Christian and non-Christian commentators have traditionally regarded the passage as Messianic.
The prophecy also gives a timeframe in which the Messiah was to appear, that he would appear after a succession of rulers from the line of Judah.
Justin Martyr, a Christian writer who lived during the second century of this era, described this prophecy as meaning that the descendants of Judah were to have a continuity of rulers and lawgivers until the Messiah arrived:
It is yours to make accurate inquiry, and ascertain up to whose time the Jews had a lawgiver and king of their own. Up to the time of Jesus Christ, who taught us, and interpreted the prophecies which were not yet understood, [they had a lawgiver] as was foretold by the holy and divine Spirit of prophecy through Moses, "that a ruler would not fail the Jews until He should come for whom the kingdom was reserved" (for Judah was the forefather of the Jews, from whom also they have their name of Jews). - Justin Martyr, "The First Apology of Justin," Chapter XXXII.
Some commentators have suggested that the Jews had a continuous succession of rulers, in various forms, whether as kings or as governors, etc., from the days of King David through the time of Jesus, and that this continuity was broken during the time of Jesus. Martin Luther, for example, suggested in his writings that it was the reign of King Herod, an Idumean who had been appointed by the Romans to govern the Jews, that marked the break in the continuity of rulers.
And, as Justin mentioned in his writings, the Jews lost all forms of civil government during the century in which Jesus lived. About 40 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, the Romans completely destroyed Jerusalem, the Temple, and many towns throughout the land of Israel. The Romans also forced many Jews out of their homeland and into exile.
Non-Christian sources of commentary also have regarded Genesis 49:10 as being Messianic. In the Talmud, for example, the word "Shiloh" is seen as a reference to the Messiah:
R. Johanan said: For the sake of the Messiah. What is his [the Messiah's] name? — The School of R. Shila said: His name is Shiloh, for it is written, until Shiloh come. - "Babylonian Talmud," Tract Sanhedrin, Chapter XI, as translated by H. Freedman.
The Talmud is a collection of Judaic writings that were compiled in written form beginning sometime after the first century of this era.
- Research and commentary is based on the book 100 Prophecies. © Ray Konig and AboutBibleProphecy.com.