Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Genesis 49:8-12 Jacob's Blessing: Judah, The Lion King

"Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father's sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion's cub, O Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness -- who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs
and the obedience of the nations is his.
He will tether his donkey to a vine,
his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes will be darker than wine,
his teeth whiter than milk."

Genesis 49:8-12 (NIV)


Judah's name means "praise".  He was the fourth son of Jacob's wife Leah.  Jacob now gives him this amazing blessing.  Some observations about this blessing:
  • Judah's brothers would praise him.  We will hear more about Judah and his descendants as we continue to follow the story of the Israelites.  Already Judah has distinguished himself as being willing to make hard decisions and take personal consequences for his decisions.  Remember when Judah offered himself to his father as surety for Benjamin?  Soon afterwards he offered himself as the substitute for Benjamin when the silver cup of Joseph was found among Benjamin's belongings and it looked as though Benjamin would be taken as Joseph's slave.  Such an attitude of self-sacrifice and the ability to take decisive action in a crisis are indications of the character of true leadership.
  • Judah would be victorious.  Like a lion he would return from his hunt having obtained his objective.  There is a sense of quiet dignity about his bearing which inspired respect from others.
  • His brothers would bow down to him.  We are used to hearing these type of words in connection with Joseph, whose dreams indicated that his brothers would bow down to him, and they did.  Joseph might hold the position of the favored firstborn, but to Judah would come the kingly right of being the head of all the tribes of Israel.
  • Verse 10 is a prophecy of the continued rule of the tribe of Judah "until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his."  This prophecy has been traditionally understood as being Messianic.  I will do another post on this verse specifically, because there are too many important details to cover here.
  • Prosperity would be the result of his reign.  His vines would be robust enough to allow them to be used as tethers for a donkey or young horse.  Plentiful grapes would allow him to wash his clothes in wine, if he so desired, for wine would be as abundant as water.  His eyes would be darker than wine -- not from excessive drinking, but an indication of health and strength.  His teeth would be white and strong, for milk would be abundant as well.  Altogether, these images indicate divine blessing upon his land.
  • Judah is called "a lion's cub" (v.9).  Doesn't that give you the idea that there is someone in his line who is actually the Lion -- that is, someone who is even greater than Judah?  Yes, I think it is time to stop this post and go on to a fuller explanation of verse 10, as promised.

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