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 gathering of the people be.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) The sceptre shall not depart from Judah.—Heb., a sceptre. The staff, adorned with carvings, and handed down from father to son, soon became the emblem of authority (see Note on Genesis 38:18). It probably indicates here tribal rather than royal rank, and means that Judah would continue, until the time indicated, to be a self-governed and legally-constituted tribe.

Nor a lawgiver from between his feet.—Most modern critics translate ruler’s staff, but “lawgiver” has the support of all the ancient versions, the Targums paraphrasing it by scribe, and the Syriac in a similar way by expounderi.e., of the law. Ruler’s, staffs has the parallelism in its favour, but the ancient versions must not be lightly disregarded, and, besides, everywhere else the word means law-giver (see Deuteronomy 33:21; Judges 5:14; Isaiah 33:22). From between his feet” means, “from among his descendants.” The Targum of Onkelos renders, “from his children’s children.”

Until Shiloh come.—Many modern critics translate, “until he come to Shiloh,” but this is to be rejected, first, as being contrary to all the ancient versions; and, secondly, as turning sense into nonsense. The town of Shiloh was in the tribe of Ephraim, and we know of no way in which Judah ever went thither. The ark was for a time at Shiloh, but the place lost all importance and sank into utter obscurity after its destruction by the Philistines, long before Judah took the leading part in the commonwealth of Israel.

Shiloh.—There are several interpretations of this word, depending upon different ways of spelling it. First, Jerome, in the Vulg., translates it, “He who shall be sent.” He read, therefore, Shalu’ch. which differs from the reading in the Hebrew text by omitting the yod, and putting the guttural π for h (Heb., π) as the final letter. We have, secondly, Shiloh, the reading of the present Hebrew text. This would mean, Peaceful, or Peace-maker, and agrees with the title given to the Messiah by Isaiah (Genesis 9:6). But, thirdly, all the versions excepting the Vulg. read Sheloh. Thus, the LXX. has, “He for whom it is laid up” (or, according to other MSS., “the things laid up for him.”). With the former reading, Aquila and Symmachus agree; with the latter, Theodotion, Epiphanius, and others, showing that Sheloh was the reading in the centuries immediately after the Nativity of our Lord. The Samaritan transcript of the Hebrew text into Samaritan letters reads Sheloh, and the translation into Aramaic treats the word as a proper name, and renders, “Until Sheloh come.” Onkelos boldly paraphrases, “Until Messiah come, whose is the kingdom;” and, finally, the Syriac has, “Until he come, whose it is.” There is thus overwhelming evidence in favour of the reading Sheloh, and to this we must add that Sheloh is the reading even of several Hebrew MSS. We may, in fact, sum up the evidence by saying that the reading Shiloh, even in the Hebrew text, has only modern authority in its favour, and that all ancient authorities are in favour of Sheloh; for even Jerome omits the yod, though he changes the aspirate at the end into a guttural.

Sheloh literally means, Whose it is, and is an Aramaic form, such as that in Genesis 6:3, where we have observed that these Aramaisms are a proof either of extreme antiquity, or of a very late date. We find another in Judges 5:7, in the song of Deborah, confessedly a very ancient composition; and the form is quite in its place here in the elevated phraseology of this blessing, and in the mouth of Jacob, who had lived so long in a land where an Aramaic dialect was spoken.

Finally, Ezekiel, Ezekiel 21:27 (Heb., 32), quotes Jacob’s words, using however the Hebrew idiom, “Until he come, whose is the right.” And St. Paul (Galatians 3:19) refers to it in the words, “Until the seed come to whom it is promised,” where the latter words seem to be a free rendering of the phrase in the LXX., “for whom it is laid up.”

The passage has always been regarded as Messianic, not merely by Christians, but by the Jews, all whose ancient writers, including the Talmud, explain the name Shiloh, or Sheloh, of the Messiah. But the Targum of Onkelos would of itself be a sufficient proof, as we have there not the opinions or knowledge of one man, but the traditional explanation of the Pentateuch, handed down orally from the time of Ezra, and committed to writing probably in the first century of the Christian era. The objection has, indeed, been made in modern times that the patriarchs had no Messianic expectations. With those who believe in prophecy such an objection can have no weight; but independently of this, the promise made to Abraham, and solemnly confirmed to Jacob, that in his seed all the kindreds of the earth should be blessed, was pre-eminently Messianic: as was also the name Jehovah; for that name was the embodiment of the promise made to Eve, and beginning with her cry of hope that she had gotten the Coming One, had become by the time of Enoch the symbol of the expectation of mankind that God would appear on earth in human nature to save them.

Unto him shall the gathering of the people be.—The word used here is rare, and the translation “gathering” was a guess of Rashi. Really it means obedience, as is proved by the one other place where it occurs (Proverbs 30:17). For “people” the Heb. has peoples. Not Israel only, “the people,” but all nations are to obey Him “whose is the kingdom.” This is the rendering of Onkelos, “and him shall the peoples obey;” and of the Samaritan Version, “and at his hand shall the peoples be led.” The LXX., Syriac, and Vulg. agree in rendering, “and he shall be the expectation of the nations.”

Genesis 49:10. The sceptre — The dominion or government, which is expressed by this word, because it was an ensign of government. It is true, the word שׁבשׂ, shebet, here used, also signifies a rod, or staff of any kind, and particularly the rod or staff which belonged to each tribe, as an ensign of its authority, whence it is transferred to signify tribe, as being united under one rod or staff of government. It seems evident, however, from what has been observed on Genesis 49:8, that dominion, or authority, is also and especially here intended. But it is asked, How could it be said with propriety, the dominion, or authority, shall not depart from Judah, when Judah had none? To this it must be answered, that Jacob had just foretold that his father’s children should bow down to Judah, and that he, therefore, should have this authority or dominion. After which, it is predicted that it should not depart till Shiloh came. Nor a lawgiver from between his feet — The word מחקק, mechokek, here rendered lawgiver, means also ruler, or judge, and the prophecy certainly implies, not only that, while the other tribes should be captivated, dispersed, and confounded with each other, the tribe of Judah should be kept entire until Christ came; but that rulers and magistrates, descended from Judah, or called by his name, should succeed each other at least for a time, and that both the civil and ecclesiastical power should continue till Shiloh should come, and then should be taken away, or rather should devolve on him. Now, as it will readily be acknowledged that the authority remained with Judah till the captivity, so it must be observed, that even in Babylon, the Jews appear to have been under a kind of internal government, exercised by the family of David. “And after their return from Babylon, Zerubbabel, of David’s race, was their leader; and the tribe of Judah, and those who were incorporated with them, had regular magistrates and rulers from among themselves, under the kings of Persia and Syria, and afterward under the Romans.” The great council of the Jews, termed “the Sanhedrim, constituted chiefly of the tribe of Judah, and the other courts dependant on it, possessed great authority till the coming of Christ, according to the concurrent testimony of ancient writers. The tribe of Judah was likewise preserved distinct, and could trace back its genealogies without difficulty.” So that, “in all respects, the sceptre, though gradually enfeebled, did not depart: nor was the regular exercise of legislative and judicial authority, though interrupted, finally suspended till after that event.” — Scott. Till Shiloh come — It is not perfectly agreed among the learned what is the precise meaning of the word. But it is pretty certain, according to its derivation, it either signifies he that is sent, or, the seed, or, the peaceable and prosperous one. And that the Messiah is intended, Jews as well as Christians generally acknowledge; the word being expounded of him by all the three Chaldee paraphrasts, the Jewish Talmud, and many of the latter Jews also. Till he came Judah or Judea possessed considerable authority and power, but at or about the time of his birth, it became a province of the Roman empire, and was enrolled and taxed as such, Luke 2:1; and at the time of his death the Jews themselves expressly owned, “We have no king but Cesar.”

Hence it is undeniably inferred against the Jews, that our Lord Jesus is “He that should come,” and that we are to look for no other; for he came exactly at the time appointed. Unto him shall the gathering of the people be — After he came, and the sceptre was departed from Judah, the gathering both of Jews and Gentiles was to him, as to their King and Saviour. The pale of the church was enlarged, the partition between the Jews and Gentiles broken down, and the converted Gentiles, along with the converted Jews, became his subjects and worshippers. He became the “desire of different nations,” Haggai 2:7, and being “lifted up from the earth,” drew myriads unto him, John 12:32, and the “children of God that were scattered abroad” met in him as their centre of unity. This was the case, in a great degree, for many centuries, and we are taught to believe that it shall be the case more and more till the earth shall be filled with his glory; for of “the increase of his government, as well as peace, shall be no end.” The fulness of the Gentiles shall come in, and then “ungodliness shall be turned away from Jacob, and all Israel shall be saved.” And when “he shall come in his glory, all nations shall be gathered unto him,” and at last the innumerable multitudes of the redeemed shall be gathered into his everlasting kingdom.49:8-12 Judah's name signifies praise. God was praised for him, chap. 29:35, praised by him, and praised in him; therefore his brethren shall praise him. Judah should be a strong and courageous tribe. Judah is compared, not to a lion raging and ranging, but to a lion enjoying the satisfaction of his power and success, without creating vexation to others; this is to be truly great. Judah should be the royal tribe, the tribe from which Messiah the Prince should come. Shiloh, that promised Seed in whom the earth should be blessed, that peaceable and prosperous One, or Saviour, he shall come of Judah. Thus dying Jacob at a great distance saw Christ's day, and it was his comfort and support on his death-bed. Till Christ's coming, Judah possessed authority, but after his crucifixion this was shortened, and according to what Christ foretold, Jerusalem was destroyed, and all the poor harassed remnant of Jews were confounded together. Much which is here said concerning Judah, is to be applied to our Lord Jesus. In him there is plenty of all which is nourishing and refreshing to the soul, and which maintains and cheers the Divine life in it. He is the true Vine; wine is the appointed symbol of his blood, which is drink indeed, as shed for sinners, and applied in faith; and all the blessings of his gospel are wine and milk, without money and without price, to which every thirsty soul is welcome. Isa 55:1.From his physical force we now pass to his moral supremacy. "The sceptre," the staff of authority. "Shall not depart from Judah." The tribe scepter did not leave Judah so long as there was a remnant of the commonwealth of Israel. Long after the other tribes had lost their individuality, Judah lingered in existence and in some measure of independence; and from the return his name supplanted that of Israel or Jacob, as the common designation of the people. "Nor the lawgiven from between his feet." This is otherwise rendered, "nor the judicial staff from between his feet;" and it is argued that this rendering corresponds best with the phrase "between his feet" and with the parallel clause which precedes. It is not worth while contending for one against the other, as the meaning of both is precisely the same. But we have retained the English version, as the term מחקק mechoqēq has only one clear meaning; "between the feet" may mean among his descendants or in his tribe; and the synthetic parallelism of the clauses is satisfied by the identity of meaning.

Lawgiver is to be understood as judge, dispenser or administrator of law. Judah had the forerank among the tribes in the wilderness, and never altogether lost it. Nahshon the son of Amminadab, the prince of his tribe, was the ancestor of David, who was anointed as the rightful sovereign of all Israel, and in whom the throne became hereditary. The revolt of the ten tribes curtailed, but did not abolish the actual sovereignty of Rehoboam and his successors, who continued the acknowledged sovereigns until some time after the return from the captivity. From that date the whole nation was virtually absorbed in Judah, and whatever trace of self-government remained belonged to him until the birth of Jesus, who was the lineal descendant of the royal line of David and of Judah, and was the Messiah, the anointed of heaven to be king of Zion and of Israel in a far higher sense than before. "Until Shiloh come."

This is otherwise translated, "until he come to Shiloh," the place so called. This is explained of the time when "the whole assembly of the children of Israel was convened at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there" Joshua 18:1. We hold by the former translation:

1. Because Shiloh has not yet been named as a known locality in the land of promise.

2. Judah did not come to Shiloh in any exclusive sense.

3. His coming thither with his fellows had no bearing whatever on his supremacy.

4. He did not come to Shiloh as the seat of his government or any part of his territory; and

5. The real sovereignty of Judah took place after this convention at Shiloh, and not before it.

After the rejection of the second translation on these grounds, the former is accepted as the only tenable alternative.

6. Besides, it is the natural rendering of the words.

7. Before the coming of Shiloh, the Prince of Peace, the highest pitch of Judah's supremacy in its primary form has to be attained.

8. On the coming of Shiloh the last remnant of that supremacy was removed, only to be replaced by the higher form of pre-eminence which the Prince of Peace inaugurates.

And unto him be the obedience of the peoples. - "Unto him" means naturally unto Shiloh. "The obedience" describes the willing submission to the new form of sovereignty which is ushered in by Shiloh. The word is otherwise rendered "gathering;" but this does not suit the usage in Proverbs 30:17. "The obedience" intimates that the supremacy of Judah does not cease at the coming of Shiloh, but only assumes a grander form.

Of the peoples. - Not only the sons of Israel, but all the descendants of Adam will ultimately bow down to the Prince of Peace. This is the seed of the woman, who shall bruise the serpent's head, the seed of Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed, presented now under the new aspect of the peacemaker, whom all the nations of the earth shall eventually obey as the Prince of Peace. He is therefore, now revealed as the Destroyer of the works of evil, the Dispenser of the blessings of grace, and the King of peace. The coming of Shiloh and the obedience of the nations to him will cover a long period of time, the close of which will coincide with the limit here set to Judah's earthly supremacy in its wider and loftier stage. This prediction therefore, truly penetrates to the latter days.

10. until Shiloh come—Shiloh—this obscure word is variously interpreted to mean "the sent" (Joh 17:3), "the seed" (Isa 11:1), the "peaceable or prosperous one" (Eph 2:14)—that is, the Messiah (Isa 11:10; Ro 15:12); and when He should come, "the tribe of Judah should no longer boast either an independent king or a judge of their own" [Calvin]. The Jews have been for eighteen centuries without a ruler and without a judge since Shiloh came, and "to Him the gathering of the people has been." The secptre, i.e. the dominion or government, which is oft expressed by this word, as Numbers 24:17 Psalm 45:6 Isaiah 14:5 Ezekiel 19:11,14 Am 1:5,8 Zec 10:11, because it is an ensign of government, Esther 4:11. So it is a figure called a metonomy of the sign, than which nothing more frequent. The sense is, That superiority or dominion over his brethren, which I said he should obtain Genesis 49:8 he shall keep; it shall not depart from him. Others, the tribe, as the word shebet signifies, 1 Samuel 10:19-21 1 Kings 11:32, &c. So the sense is this, Whereas the other tribes shall be captivated, dispersed, and confounded, the tribe of Judah shall be kept entire and distinct until Christ come. This is a great and important truth, and a singular demonstration of the all-disposing providence of God, and of the truth and Divine authority of the Scriptures; but it seems not to be the meaning of this place,

1. Because both the foregoing and following words do evidently speak of Judah’s power and greatness, and particularly this shebet, or sceptre, is explained and restrained by the following lawgiver.

2. Because this renders the phrase improper and absurd; for the tribe had not departed from Judah, nor had they ceased to be a tribe, if the other tribes had been mixed with them in their land, as indeed they were sometimes. See 2 Chronicles 11:16.

3. Because this is not peculiar to the tribe of Judah; for in this sense the tribe did not depart from Levi, nay, that tribe was kept more distinct than that of Judah; thus also the tribe did not depart from Benjamin, as appears from Ezra 1:5 10:9 Nehemiah 11:4. Nay, it is questionable whether in this sense the tribe departed from any of the other tribes, not only because there is a distinct mention of the several tribes, Ezekiel 48:1-35, which was written after the dispersion and supposed confusion of the other tribes, and which speaks of the times after the coming of the Messiah, but also because of the great care which the Israelites generally took in distinguishing, not only their tribes, but their several families, in exact genealogies, of which we have many proofs and instances, as 1 Chronicles 4:33 5:1,7,17 7:7,9,40 9:1,22 Ezr 2:62 8:1,3 Ne 7:5,64. The Jews indeed have another device to avoid the force of this text. They say shebet signifies a rod, to wit, a rod of correction, as the word is taken Proverbs 22:15. And so they say the sense is, The tyrannical sceptre, or the rod of the oppressor, shall not cease or depart from Israel till the Messiah come, who shall save them from all their oppressors and enemies. But this is a vain and frivolous conceit; for,

1. The following sentence, which expounds the former, as it is usual in Scripture, plainly shows that this shebet, or rod, is such as is proper to the lawgiver, and therefore is a rod of authority, or a sceptre, which is called also a rod, Ezekiel 19:14, and not a rod of affliction.

2. This is contrary to the whole context, wherein there is nothing prophesied of Judah, but honour, and dominion, and victory, and safety.

3. There was no reason why the rod of affliction should be appropriated to Judah, which was common to all the tribes, and came sooner, and fell heavier, and abode longer upon the other tribes than upon Judah.

4. This interpretation is confuted by the event or history, both because the rod of correction did depart from Judah, and from them more than from the other tribes, for many generations before the coming of the Messiah; and because that rod is not removed from them, but hath continued longer and more dreadfully upon them since the coming of the Messias than ever before; which one consideration hath been the occasion of the conversion of many Jews.

5. Howsoever the modern Jews pervert this word and text out of enmity to Christ and Christians, it is certain that the ancient Jews, the LXX., and the Chaldee Paraphrast, with many others, take the word as we do, as the learned have proved out of their own writings. See my Latin Synopsis.

A lawgiver; so the Hebrew word signifies, as here, so also Numbers 21:18 Deu 33:21 Psalm 60:7 108:8 Isaiah 33:22. And the verb from whence this word comes signifies to make laws, as Proverbs 8:15, &c.; and the Hebrew word chok, which comes from the same root, constantly signifies a law or statute. Some render it the scribe, and that either the civil scribe, who belongs to the ruler; or the ecclesiastical scribe, the interpreter of the law; and so it signifies, that both the civil and the ecclesiastical power should continue in Judah till Christ came, and then should be taken away, both which the event did verify. But indeed the Hebrew word for scribe is sopher, not mechokek, which never is so used in Scripture, but always for a lawgiver, as I have showed; and so Kimchi and Aben Ezra, two late and learned Jews, with others, expound it.

From between his feet; from his posterity, or from those that come from between his feet, i.e. that are begotten and born of that tribe. And thus Kimchi, and the Chaldee Paraphrast, and other ancient Jews, understand this place. And the truth of this interpretation may appear, by comparing this with other texts of Scripture, as Deu 28:57, where

the young one is described to be one that cometh from between her (the woman’s) feet; and Ezekiel 16:25, and with those places where the word feet is used for the secret parts, as Isaiah 7:20, the hair of the feet, not properly so called, for hair seldom grows there; and 2 Kings 18:27 Isaiah 36:12, where the water which comes from the secret parts is called the water of the feet. And possibly that phrase of covering the feet, applied to them that eased their bellies, may note so much, because the Jews in that action were not to hide their feet properly so called, but their secret parts, which without due care might be discovered upon that occasion.

Shiloh, i.e. the Messias; which we need not stand to prove, because it is so expounded by all the three Chaldee Paraphrasts, and by the Jewish Talmud, and by divers of the latter Jews themselves. And the word signifies, either a peace-maker, or saviour; or, as others, her son, or one that came out of the woman’s womb, or out of that skin in which the child in the womb is wrapped, which this word, or one near akin to it, signifies. So it notes that the Messias should be born of a woman, though without the help of man. Or, as others, the sent, he who was oft promised and to be sent. And this signification may seem to be warranted by comparing John 9:7, with those places of the New Testament in which the Messias is described by that periphrasis of one sent, or to be sent, as John 3:34, &c. And the phrase here used is remarkable, till the Shiloh come, for the Shiloh, or Messiah, oft goeth under the name of him that was to come, as Matthew 21:9 Luke 7:20 13:35. And hence the kingdom of the Messiah is called the world or kingdom to come, i.e. of him who was to come, Hebrews 2:5 6:5.

Unto him shall the gathering of the people be; they shall be gathered together, or united both among themselves, and with the Jews, under him as their Head. Others, the reverence, obedience, or worship; which comes to the same thing, for they that are gathered to him, do also reverence, obey, and worship him. The Hebrew word is used only here and Proverbs 30:17.

The people, i.e. the Gentiles, as the Jews themselves understand it. And so it is a plain prophecy of the conversion of the Gentiles by and under the Messiah; signifying, that whereas the ordinances of God, and means of worship and salvation, were confined to the Jews before Christ’s coming, Psalm 147:19,20, when the Messiah should come, the pale of the church should be enlarged, the partition-wall between Jews and Gentiles taken down, and the Gentiles should worship the true God and the Messias. And this is no more than is foretold and promised in other prophecies, as we shall see hereafter. The sum of this verse is, The sceptre or dominion shall be seated in the tribe of Judah, though he doth not determine when it shall come thither; but when once it shall come, it shall not depart from thence till the Messiah come; and then Judah shall lose this sceptre and other privileges, and the Gentiles shall come into the stead of the Jews, and shall embrace that Messiah whom they shall reject. So now here is an undeniable argument to prove against the Jews that the Messiah is already come, and that the Lord Jesus Christ is he, because he was to come during the time wherein the sceptre was in the hands of Judah; and about that time when Jesus Christ came the sceptre was taken away from Judah and the Jews, and hath now been lost for sixteen hundred years together. The Jews are mightily perplexed and confounded with this argument; one evidence whereof is their various and contradictory expositions of the place, whilst some of them affirm this Shiloh to be Moses, others Saul, others Jeroboam, others Nebuchadnezzar, which neither need nor deserve confutation; others David; which, though some of the acutest of the Jewish doctors assert, is as contemptible as any of the rest, it being ridiculous to say the sceptre departed from Judah under him by whom it first came into that tribe, having been till David’s time in other tribes. But the great difficulty is, how this was accomplished; for if the event fully agrees with this prophecy, the cause of the Jews is lost, and Christ must be owned as the true Messias. The sceptre was for a time in other tribes; as in Moses of the tribe of Levi; in divers of the judges, who were of several tribes; and lastly in the tribe of Benjamin under Saul; but the sceptre departed from all these. But this is prophesied as Judah’s privilege, that when once the sceptre or government came into that tribe, which it did in David’s time, it should not depart from it till Christ came, and then it should depart. And thus it came to pass. Concerning the time from David unto the captivity of Babylon there is no dispute, there being a constant succession of kings in that tribe all that time. For the time of the Babylonish captivity, wherein there may seem to be more difficulty, it is to be considered,

1. That the sceptre or government was not lost or departed from Judah, but only interrupted, and that but for seventy years at most, which in so long a space of time as above a thousand years is little to be regarded. As none will say the kingdom was departed from the house of David, because of those interreigns or interruptions which sometimes fell out in that family. Add to this, that God hath given them an absolute promise and assured hope of the restoration of Judah’s sceptre; so that this was rather a sleep than the death of that government.

2. That within these seventy years there were some remainders and beams of Judah’s sovereignty in Jehoiachin, 2 Kings 25:27; in Daniel, who was of that tribe, Daniel 2:25 5:13, and of the king’s seed, Daniel 1:3; and in the successive heads or governors of the exiles, of whom the Jewish writers say so much; and they affirm that they were always of the house of David, and were more honourable than the governors of the Jews which were left in the land of Israel.

3. All that was then left of the sceptre of the Jews was in the tribe of Judah; nor was the sceptre departed from Judah to any other tribe; and that is the thing which seems especially to be respected in this prophecy: for Judah is here compared with the rest of the tribes; and it is here signified, that the power and dominion which was in Judah, when once it came thither, should not shift from tribe to tribe, as it had done, but whilst there was any sceptre or supreme government among the Jews, it should be in that tribe, even till the coming of the Messias. But if there should happen any total, but temporary intercision or cessation of the government among all the tribes, which now was the case, that was no prejudice to the truth of this promise, nor to the privilege granted to Judah above the rest of the tribes. After the captivity, the state of the Jews was very various. Sometimes they had governors put in by the Persian king, as Zorobabel, who was also of the tribe of Judah, and, as it is supposed, nephew of Jehoiachin; and Nehemiah, whom Eusebius affirms to have been of the tribe of Judah. And though he may seem to be numbered among the priests, Nehemiah 10:8, yet a diligent reader will find that he is even there distinguished from them by his title the Tirshatha, Genesis 49:1, and the word priests, Genesis 49:8, relateth only to the rest there mentioned besides him; especially if this be compared with Nehemiah 9:38, where the princes (among whom surely Nehemiah was the chief) are distinguished from the priests. And sometimes the people chose governors, or captain-generals, as the Maccabees, and others. But under all their vicissitudes, after their return from Babylon, the chief government was evidently and unquestionably seated in the great council called Sanhedrim or Synedrium, wherein, though some of the tribe of Levi were mixed with those of the tribe of Judah, yet because they, together with other members of that council, had their power both from that tribe by which they were chosen, and in it, and for it, the sceptre did truly remain in the tribe of Judah; even as it was rightly called the Roman empire, when Trajan a Spaniard, or other foreigners, administered it; or as we call it the kingdom of Poland, when they choose a king of another nation. How great and venerable the authority of this council was among the Jews, may easily be gathered,

1. From the Divine institution of it, Numbers 11:16, whereby indeed it was at first to consist of persons indifferently chosen out of all the tribes; but now the other tribes being banished and dispersed in unknown places, and Benjamin and Levi being as it were accessions to the tribe of Judah, and in a sort incorporated with it, it now becomes as it were appropriated to the tribe of Judah, as acting in its name, and by its authority; and the whole land is called Judea, and all the people Jews, from the predominancy of that tribe above the rest.

2. From the great power and privileges anciently granted to it, Deu 17:8, &c.; 2 Chronicles 19:8,11 Psa 122:5.

3. From the testimony of Josephus, and other Jewish writers, which is most considerable in this argument, who largely describe and magnify the power and authority of it; who tell us that the power of their king was subject to that of this council; and therefore one of them addressing his speech to that council, where also the king himself was present, first salutes the senators, and after them the king. They affirm also that the power of making war or peace was vested in that council, and that Herod was tried for his life by it. If it be said that the power of this council was in a great measure taken away, which the Jews confess, John 18:31, and that the sceptre of Judea was in the hand of the Romans, and by them given to Herod, who was no Jew, but an Idumean, and this before the coming of the Messias, which is the only remaining difficulty; to this many things may be said:

1. That this happened but a few years before the coming of Christ, when Christ was even at the doors, and about to come, and therefore might well be said to be come; especially in the prophetical style, whereby things are oft said to be done which are near doing.

2. That the Jewish senators did long struggle with Herod about the government, and did not yield it up to him till his last year, when they took an oath of fealty to him, which was after Christ was born. Nor indeed was the sceptre quite gone from them then, for that council still had the power, though not of life and death, yet of civil and ecclesiastical matters. See John 18:31. So that if the sceptre was gone, the

lawgiver remained there still. Nor was their government and commonwealth quite destroyed until the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. And therefore some translate the place thus, and that with great probability, The sceptre shall not depart—until the Shiloh come, and until (which word is repeated out of the former member, as it is most usual in the Scripture)

the gathering of the people be to him, i.e. until the Gentiles be converted and brought in to Christ. And this interpretation receiveth countenance from Matthew 24:14, The gospel shall be preached in all the world, —and then shall the end come; not the end of the whole world, as it is evident, but the end of the commonwealth and government of the Jews, when the sceptre and lawgiver should be wholly taken away from that tribe and people. The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,.... Which some understand 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 was, 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 scarcely sense; it rather signifies dominion, power, and authority, as the sceptre always does, it being an emblem of it, see Numbers 24:17 and this intends either the government, which was in the heads and princes of the tribe, which commenced as soon as it became a tribe, and lasted as long as it remained one, even unto the times of the Messiah; or kingly power and government, which the sceptre is generally thought to be an emblem of, and which first commenced in David, who was of the tribe of Judah, and continued unto the Babylonish captivity, when another sort of governors and government took place, designed in the next clause:

nor a lawgiver from between his feet; which may be rendered disjunctively, "or a lawgiver"; any ruler or governor, that has jurisdiction over others, though under another, as the word is used, Judges 5:14 and the sense is, that till the Messiah came there should be in the tribe of Judah, either a king, a sceptre 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, &c. and particularly the sanhedrim, a court of judicature, the members of which chiefly consisted of the tribe of Judah, and the or prince of it, was always of that tribe, and which 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: and if by the "lawgiver" is meant a scribe or a teacher of the law, as all the Targums, Aben Ezra, Ben Melech, and others interpret it, who used to sit at the feet of a ruler, judge, or prince of the sanhedrim; it is notorious there were of these unto, and in the times of the Messiah: in short, it matters not for the fulfilment of this prophecy what sort of governors those were after the captivity, nor of what tribe they were; they were in Judah, and their government was exercised therein, and that was in the hands of Judah, and 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; which all the three Targums interpret of the Messiah, as do many of the Jewish writers, ancient and modern (p); and is the name of the Messiah in their Talmud (q), and in other writings (r); and well agrees with him, coming from a root which signifies to be "quiet", "peaceable", and "prosperous"; as he was of a quiet and peaceable disposition, came to make peace between God and men, and made it by the blood of his cross, and gives spiritual peace to all his followers, and brings them at length to everlasting peace and happiness; having prospered and succeeded in the great work of their redemption and salvation he undertook:

and unto him shall the gathering of the people be; not of the Jews, though there were great gatherings of them to hear him preach, and see his miracles; as there were of all his people to him at his death, and in him as their head and representative, Ephesians 1:10 but of the Gentiles; upon his death, the Gospel being preached to all nations, multitudes among them were converted to Christ, embraced his doctrines, professed his religion, and abode by him, see Isaiah 11:10 some render it, the obedience of the people (s), from the use of the word in Proverbs 30:17, which sense agrees with the former; for those who are truly gathered by the ministry of the word yield an obedience to his doctrines and ordinances; and others read, "the expectation of the people" (t); the Messiah being the desire of all nations, Haggai 2:6 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 "sceptre", 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, but they would have it to signify either a rod of correction (u), or 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 which, that this is a prediction, not of affliction and distress, that should abide in the tribe of Judah, but of honour 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 (v), destitute of their privileges, living among other nations in disgrace, and for the most part in poverty and distress? the other sense is this, "the sceptre and lawgiver shall not depart from Judah for ever, when Shiloh comes (w)"; 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 never signifies "for ever", absolutely put, without some antecedent noun or particle; nor does signify "when", but always "until", when it is joined with the particle 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 sceptre, 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 (x).

(p) 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 Jesbuah, fol. 10. 1. R. Abraham Seba, Tzeror Hammor, fol. 36. 4. & 62. 2.((q) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 2.((r) Echa Rabbati, fol. 50. 2.((s) "obedientia populorum", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Ainsworth; with which agree the Targums of Onkelos and Jerusalem, Aben Ezra, Kimchi in Sepher Shorash. rad. (t) , Sept Theodotion; "expectatio Gentium", V. L. (u) R. Joel Ben Sueb apud Menasseh, Ben Israel. Conciliator in Gen. Quaest. 65. sect. 8. (v) Written about 1750. Ed. (w) Vid. Menasseh, ib. sect. 3.((x) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 99. 1.

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until {i} Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

(i) Which is Christ the Messiah, the giver of prosperity who will call the Gentiles to salvation.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10. The sceptre] Lit. “rod.” Either a king’s sceptre, or a general’s baton. LXX ἄρχων = “ruler”; Lat. sceptrum. The rendering of the LXX, which gives a personal explanation, is unsupported by any evidence.

the ruler’s staff] R.V. marg., as A.V., a lawgiver. The same word is found in Numbers 21:18 (“the sceptre,” marg. “the lawgiver”) and Psalm 60:7, “Judah is my sceptre” (marg. “lawgiver”). LXX ἡγούμενος = “leader”; Lat. dux; Syr. Pesh. “an interpreter”; Targ. Jerus. “scribe.” The parallelism of the clauses makes it almost certain, that we have in this clause “the lawgiver’s staff” corresponding to “the ruler’s sceptre” in the previous clause.

Whether the “sceptre” and the “staff” are the insignia of national monarchy or tribal government, has been much debated. The picture of a person bearing these emblems is most suitable to the Oriental conception of a king.

from between his feet] The literal explanation is the simplest and the most picturesque. The lawgiver seated on his throne holds the wand emblematical of his office between his feet. Another explanation, illustrated by Deuteronomy 28:57, makes the expression refer to the descendants of Judah. So LXX ἐκ τῶν μηρῶν αὐτοῦ; Lat. de femore ejus.

Until Shiloh come] These are among the most difficult and controverted words in the book. The alternative renderings in the R.V. text and marg. represent the different lines of interpretation which have been followed. (1) “Until Shiloh come.” This rendering was not known until a.d. 1534, when it was first suggested by Sebastian Münster, possibly on the strength of a Talmudic tradition. There is no allusion elsewhere in the O.T. to “Shiloh” either as a personal name, or as a Messianic title. Except for this passage, the use of “Shiloh” as indicating a person would be devoid of meaning to the Hebrew reader. True, the song is full of obscurities. But the improbability of this late interpretation is so great, that it may be dismissed from consideration. (2) “Till he come to Shiloh,” i.e. “till he, Judah, comes to Shiloh.” Shiloh was the resting-place of the Ark, in the centre of the tribe of Ephraim, e.g. 1 Samuel 1:24. It was destroyed by the Philistines, and its sanctuary desolated; see Jeremiah 7:12-15. The theory, that the prediction in this verse received its fulfilment in Joshua 18:1; Joshua 18:8-10, is difficult to comprehend. The Davidic monarchy began after the days of Shiloh. The reference to a place in the tribe of Ephraim is quite unsuitable in this context. (3) LXX ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ τὰ ἀποκείμενα αὐτῷ, until that which is his shall come, and Old Latin donec veniant quae reposita sunt ei. This rendering gets rid of the difficulty of a proper name. It assumes that the disputed word represents a dialect form of Hebrew words meaning “that which to him.” The sense may then be Messianic. The rule of Judah shall continue until “that which is reserved for him,” i.e. the age of perfect prosperity, shall come to him. (4) “Till he comes whose it is” (so Syr. Pesh.). This is also supported by Targ. Onk., “Until Messiah comes, whose is the kingdom”; cf. Symmachus ᾧ ἀποκεῖται = “he for whom it is reserved.” This rendering may be illustrated from Ezekiel 21:27, “Until he come whose right it is.” This last seems the most probable interpretation. Like many other passages in the song, the clause is obscure and oracular. No proper name is given1[60]

[60] The suggestion that “Shelah,” Judah’s third son (Genesis 38:5), is intended obscurely to indicate the future hope, is most improbable.

. The objection, that in such early days the Messianic hope did not exist, is a petitio principii. If this rendering be correct, the Messianic hope is here indicated in its earliest and simplest form, although its primary application may be to the dynasty of David. Many scholars, in perplexity as to the right meaning of the words, are of opinion that there is some corruption of the original Hebrew text, and that the restoration of the true text cannot be expected. There have been many emendations proposed, e.g. môsh’lôh, “his ruler” (Giesebrecht). Lat. qui mittendus est follows another reading (?).

the obedience of the peoples] The domination over foreign nations was to be the sign of Judah’s ideal sovereignty. LXX προσδοκία, Lat. expectatio, have missed the meaning.Reuben, my first-born thou, my might and first-fruit of my strength; pre-eminence in dignity and pre-eminence in power. - As the first-born, the first sprout of the full virile power of Jacob, Reuben, according to natural right, was entitled to the first rank among his brethren, the leadership of the tribes, and a double share of the inheritance (Genesis 27:29; Deuteronomy 21:17). (שׂאת: elevation, the dignity of the chieftainship; עז, the earlier mode of pronouncing עז, the authority of the first-born.) But Reuben had forfeited this prerogative. "Effervescence like water - thou shalt have no preference; for thou didst ascend thy father's marriage-bed: then hast thou desecrated; my couch has he ascended." פּחז: lit., the boiling over of water, figuratively, the excitement of lust; hence the verb is used in Judges 9:4; Zephaniah 3:4, for frivolity and insolent pride. With this predicate Jacob describes the moral character of Reuben; and the noun is stronger than the verb פחזת of the Samaritan, and אתרעת or ארתעת efferbuisti, aestuasti of the Sam. Vers., ἐξύβρισας of the lxx, and ὑπερζέσας of Symm. תּותר is to be explained by יתר: have no pre-eminence. His crime was, lying with Bilhah, his father's concubine (Genesis 35:22). חלּלתּ is used absolutely: desecrated hast thou, sc., what should have been sacred to thee (cf. Leviticus 18:8). From this wickedness the injured father turns away with indignation, and passes to the third person as he repeats the words, "my couch he has ascended." By the withdrawal of the rank belonging to the first-born, Reuben lost the leadership in Israel; so that his tribe attained to no position of influence in the nation (compare the blessing of Moses in Deuteronomy 33:6). The leadership was transferred to Judah, the double portion to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:1-2), by which, so far as the inheritance was concerned, the first-born of the beloved Rachel took the place of the first-born of the slighted Leah; not, however, according to the subjective will of the father, which is condemned in Deuteronomy 21:15., but according to the leading of God, by which Joseph had been raised above his brethren, but without the chieftainship being accorded to him.
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