The Blessing of Judah

Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler.—1 Chronicles 5:2

Wilfred Price (Australia)

Genesis 49 records the blessing by Jacob on his twelve sons. Of these he singled out Judah for the most prominent blessing. It is the object of this study to look in depth on this special blessing which Jacob bestowed upon Judah.

"Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? 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. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk".—Genesis 49:8-12

Judah’s main cause for prominence was that God had designed that it would be from his tribe that the chief ruler, Messiah, would come and "unto him shall the gathering [obedience] of the people [including Gentiles] be." In due time Jesus was born from the tribe of Judah through the line of David, Judah’s first king.

A Couching Lion

Giving this prophecy is Egypt, Jacob uses the family symbol of the Egyptian pharaohs—the lion, the king of the forest. Other nations such as Great Britain have used both the lion and the unicorn. In Revelation 5:5 the Lord is depicted as "the lion of the tribe of Judah." Strong’s concordance defines the word translated crouching (Strongs #7257) as "having all four legs folded, like a recumbent animal." The description seems to be of one that is waiting the due time for its task, implying the delay from the giving of the prophecy to the assumption of the rulership role by "the lion of the tribe of Judah."

In contrast the word "Shiloh," meaning "tranquil," in verse 10 is an epithet for the Messiah laying stress, not on his conquering nature but of the tranquil, kingdom which he will introduce as the "Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6).

The Scepter

The word translated "scepter" (Strongs #7626) is open to two diverse thoughts. Literally it means "to branch off, a scion" and is suggestive of Jesus as the "branch" of the house of David (Isa. 11:1-3). As such it is frequently translated "tribe" in the Old Testament. It is also the word for the scepter of a king, literally "a stick for punishment." In this sense it conveys the thought of the right to rule, the title to all power (Matt. 28:18). This full power is delegated to him at his second advent, as we read of the diadem in Ezekiel 21:27 . . . "until he come whose right it is, and I will give it to him." (See also Dan. 7:13, 14). This is referred to again in Zechariah 9:9: "Rejoice greatly ... O daughter of Jerusalem . . . thy King cometh unto thee . . . having salvation, lowly and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass." (See Matt. 21:2-5). The literal fulfillment is given in Mark 11:7: "And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him [the colt], and he sat upon him." A preferred reading in Matthew 21:7 phrases it thus: "And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon." The word "clothes" here agrees with the same word in Genesis 49:11, though in a different language.

Jesus is associated with both the "she ass" and the "colt," or "foal," a male. It is the "colt" only which he ties twice, once to the vine and again to the branches. Speaking of himself Jesus says in John 15:1: "I am the true vine," and again in verse 5, "I am the vine, ye are the branches."

What part then does the she ass fulfill? As the ass was the mother of the foal, so the Sarah covenant was the mother that produced our Lord as the seed of promise, the colt. The branches, then, in this prophetic picture, represent how the church is also under this Sarah covenant as shown in Galatians 3:29. The church are children of the free woman, Sarah, just as was Christ their head (Gal. 4:28-31).

In John 15:1-5 our Lord Jesus is identified in the vine and the church is associated with him: "I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing."

In our text in Genesis it is no ordinary vine, but "the choice vine." The word "choice" (Strongs #8321) is in the sense of redness. It describes a vine stock yielding the richest variety of purple grapes. It is the only one which produces blood red wine, a symbol of the blood that is associated with our Lord’s sacrifice and the sacrament of the Last Supper (Matt. 26:27, 28). the only other place that uses this word "choice" is Isaiah 5:2 where we read of the "choicest vine"—the typical vineyard of the Lord.

Washing His Garments

"He washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes." Note the two separate washings. Even the words "garments" and "clothes" are from two different words. We are here introduced to the sin offering of the Day of Atonement of Leviticus 16 during the entire Gospel age. We see our Lord, as the High Priest typified by Aaron, with the two sacrificial offerings of the blood of animals.

The word for "washing" (Strongs #3526) means cleansing "by stamping the feet." This is exactly the ways that grapes are crushed if there are no mechanical means. In the Middle East this custom is still in practice today. This washing represents the atoning blood for "the life is in the blood" (Lev. 17:11). Our Lord was lowly and "contrite," which literally means "to crush" (Strongs #1793). As such "he made his soul an offering for sin" (Isa. 53:10).

According to Professor Strong (#3850), while the word for garments means just that it can be used as an euphemism for a wife. These are the garments the Lord was wearing and are referred to prophetically in Zechariah 3:3, 4: "Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment."

Joshua was the high priest of Israel soon after their return from the Babylonian captivity, about B.C. 500. He is shown here receiving a change of garments. The name Joshua in Hebrew is Jesus in the Greek language.

This is the picture we have in Leviticus 16:6. "And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering for himself . . . and his house." Aaron was imperfect and needed the blood for washing. His "house" would be the Priesthood and the Levites, the household of faith. However when Christ offered up himself he was not sinful, but it was for his "house," his wife, the Bride of Christ. We recall that the garments did not cover the head but did cover all of the body members. These are now covered with the "robe of righteousness . . . as a bride adorneth herself" (Isa. 61:10). This is what Christ accomplishes during this Gospel age.

His Clothes

"He washed his clothes in the blood of grapes." This is the second washing. What are the clothes that are here washed? Remember Jesus in the triumphal entry: "And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them [the animals] their clothes, and set him thereon" (Matt. 21:7). It was the admirers who cast their clothes on the animals for Jesus to ride in comfort. These are the clothes which are washed in the blood of grapes.

The grapes are produced by the branches which abide in the vine for their life. "Ye are the branches . . . the same bringeth forth much fruit" (John. 15:5). This blood is the offering of the church. "If any man shall be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24); "For if we be dead with him we shall also live with him" (2 Tim. 2:11); "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord" (2 Cor. 4:10); ".. . appointed unto death . . ." (1Cor. 4:9; " . . . a witness [martyr] of the sufferings of Christ" (1Peter 5:1); " . . . ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings" (1 Peter 4:13); "And fill up [Strongs #466, `supplement’ or `complete’] that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ for his body’s sake" (Col. 1:24); " . . . planted together in the likeness of his death" (Rom. 6:5); "We are all members of Christ" (1 Cor. 12:12; 6:15); "Else . . . why are they the baptized for the dead?" (1 Cor. 15:29).

As the branches have no life except they be in the vine, so all merit comes from our Lord Jesus Christ. The church has no intrinisic merit at all. It is Christ’s merit that passes through the church giving her justification, making her right in God’s eyes. "It is one cup, though it be the juice of many grapes. . . . The grapes cannot maintain themselves as grapes if they would give the life-giving spirit" (Daily Heavenly Manna, April 12).

The Final Verse

The last verse of the blessing, only thirteen words long, shows how the lion of the tribe of Judah, "Shiloh," shall come. "And unto him shall the gathering (obedience) of the people be" (Gen. 49:10).

The Atonement Day picture is completed in verse 11. The merit of Christ as passed through the church. The church is now with her Lord in glory. Now is the time for the fulfillment of Hebrews 9:27, 28: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."

The church, appointed to die voluntarily, had been under the covenant of sacrifice (Psa. 50:5). Now to the waiting world Christ (head and body) "shall appear the second time [as Aaron did] without sin [or, a sin offering] unto salvation." (See Lev. 9:22, 23).

Eyes Red as Wine

The word "red" in verse 12 (Strongs #2447) means "dark, flashing; in a good sense; brilliant, as stimulated with wine." Weymouth’s rendering is "his eyes darker than wine."

This figure of flashing eyes is used frequently of the Lord. "His eyes were as a flame of fire" (Rev. 1:14); "In righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire" (Rev. 19:11, 12); "His throne was like the fiery flame . . . a fiery stream issued and came from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him" (Dan. 7:9, 10).

Our Lord is pictured with penetrating eyes, able to discern right from wrong, properly judging matters. "And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding . . . with righteousness shall he judge the poor" (Isa. 11:2-5). He will also be a consuming fire destroying the works of Satan. In this way his eyes flash "in a good sense." This fiery time will inaugurate the kingdom. As a surgeon, he only wounds to heal (Rev. 19:13; Psa. 45:3-6; Isa. 63:1-4).

White Teeth

Leeser, along with other translations, has this phrase: "His teeth shall be white from milk." This is apparently the correct thought. We read in Joel 3:18: "In that day . . . the mountains will drop new wine [the joys of the kingdom], and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters."

When mankind returns from the grave they will, in the main, be totally void of any knowledge of God. They will have to initially be fed with milk, as babes. As Paul says of the early church: "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat . . . ye were not able to bear it, neither are ye now" (1 Cor. 3:2). Again, speaking prophetically, we read: "Ho! Come . . . buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Isa. 55:1).

Why the teeth? It is said that the United Nations does not have the teeth to keep the peace. Neither did the Roman beast have teeth for peace and righteousness. "It had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue" (Dan. 7:7). In contrast, the Lord’s white teeth will deliver milk and the waters of life (Ezek. 47:1-5).

"Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing" (Song of Solomon 6:6). As in Genesis 49:11 the word "garment" was used as a euphemism for a wife, so in the Song of Solomon the "flock of sheep" refers to the church, the wife, the bride of Christ. In John 10:4 we read: "the sheep . . . know his voice;" and in Romans 8:36: "we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."

As the teeth are in the head so these "teeth," the church, are controlled by our Lord, the head of the church. The milk and waters of life pass through them. Milk is always supplied by the mother: "Queens [shall be] thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee" (Isa. 49:23). The church will be the "nursing mothers" for mankind. "The Spirit and the bride shall say, Come . . . whosoever will, let him take of the waters of life freely" (Rev. 22:17). All the families of the earth will eventually be blessed.

Another prophecy, in Zechariah 8:23 reads: "Ten men . . . shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you." Just as it was with Jesus’ admirers who placed their coats on the colt for Jesus to sit on, so the only ones in the Millennium (despite the ransom and re-trial for all) who will finally receive the full benefits from the ransom and sin offering will be those who admire the Lord and walk in his ways. This will be the time "when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe .. . in that day" (2 Thess. 1:10).


In summary, then, these prophetic words of Jacob being with the Abrahamic covenant and the producing of the promised seed of promise who later becomes the lion of the tribe of Judah. Then it proceeds with the ass that bore the colt representing the Sarah covenant being the spiritual mother of our Lord. The two separate washings with wine and the blood of grapes show the flowing of the blood of Christ through the church to the world. In verse 12 our Lord’s second presence is introduced with heavy judgment against the apostasy and the world in order to establish his kingdom, with its laws enforced by the "iron rod." After this will come the finality of blessing—"the tents of Judah first," then Israel, and then the gentiles (Zech. 12:7).

This is pictured by the merit of the ransom passing through the church as shown by the Lord’s teeth and mouth. The Lord’s sheep eventually become his milky teeth through which the waters of life and the milk for babes will flow for the blessing of all the families of the earth (Song of Solomon 4:2; 6:6).