Genesis 49:8
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.
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(8) Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise.—Judah had received his name, Praise, because at his birth Leah had praised Jehovah (Genesis 29:35). It is now to have another justification in the noble history of his race, which, taking the foremost place by reason of the disqualification of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, finally was destined to win freedom and empire for Israel. We have seen that “the excellency of power” ought to have belonged to Reuben; it now falls to Judah’s lot, is to be attained by exploits that shall deserve the praise of all the tribes, and is to be exercised over not only the descendants of Leah, but all Jacob’s children.

Genesis 49:8. Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise — As thy name signifies praise, and God was praised for thee, (Genesis 29:35,) and shall be praised by and in thee, so shalt thou have praise and honour from thy brethren. The tribe of Judah led the van through the wilderness, Numbers 10:14, and, in the conquest of Canaan, by the appointment of God, went first up against the Canaanites, after the death of Joshua, Jdg 1:1-2. They had the first lot assigned them in the division of the country, and a lot that was very extensive and fertile. Othniel, the first judge, was of this tribe; and Caleb, whose reputation was not much inferior to that of Joshua. And all the kings that ever God granted the Jewish nation in mercy were of them. In short, in every age, this tribe was more honoured than any of the others. Thy hand shall be on the neck of thine enemies — An expression which signified victory over their enemies, and was remarkably fulfilled in David, Psalm 18:40. Thy father’s children shall bow down before thee — They shall not only acknowledge thy dignity above that of the other tribes, and pay such honour to thee as is wont to be conferred on the firstborn; but shall submit to the regal authority and power which shall be vested in thee. This was verified in God’s choosing the tribe of Judah, and David out of it, to govern the Hebrew nation, and in settling the kingdom of Israel in his stock for ever; but especially in the Messiah’s being born of this tribe, whose kingdom is everlasting, and to whom every knee shall bow.

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.Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, comes in for the supremacy after the three former have been set aside. His personal prowess, the perpetuity of his dominion, and the luxuriance of his soil are then described. "Thee shall thy brethren praise." This is an allusion to his name, which signifies praise Genesis 29:35. As his mother praised the Lord for her fourth son, so shall his brethren praise him for his personal excellence. Ardor of temperament, decision of character, and frankness of acknowledgment are conspicuous even in the blemishes of his early life. Tenderness of conscience, promptitude in resolve, capacity for business, and force of eloquence come out in his riper years. These are qualities that win popular esteem. "Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies." They shall flee before him, but shall not escape his powerful grasp. They shall be compelled to yield to his overwhelming power. "Thy father's sons shall bow down to thee." Not only his enemies, but his friends, shall acknowledge his sway. The similar prediction concerning Joseph Genesis 37:6-8 was of a personal nature, and referred to a special occasion, not to a permanent state of affairs. It had already received its main fulfillment, and would altogether terminate with the lifetime of Joseph. The present announcement refers to Judah not as an individual, but as the head of a tribe in Israel, and will therefore, correspond in duration with that commonwealth.Ge 49:8-12. Judah—A high pre-eminence is destined to this tribe (Nu 10:14; Jud 1:2). Besides the honor of giving name to the Promised Land, David, and a greater than David—the Messiah—sprang from it. Chief among the tribes, "it grew up from a lion's whelp"—that is, a little power—till it became "an old lion"—that is, calm and quiet, yet still formidable. Or rather,

Thou art

Judah, thy brethren shall praise or celebrate thee. So the expression is like that 1 Samuel 25:25.

As his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him, or in him. So here the sense is, As thy name signifies praise, Genesis 29:35, so shalt thou have praise or honour from thy brethren. He alludes to his name, and to the occasion of it, but with an elegant variation. Thou art deservedly called Judah, not only because thy mother praised God for thee, but also because thy brethren shall praise and bless thee for the reasons here following. But this, as also the other blessings or predictions, do not so much declare the state of Judah or the rest in their own persons, as in their posterity.

Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies, i.e. thou shalt overthrow and subdue them. This was fulfilled in part, Judges 1:1,2,4 3:9,10; but more fully in David, 2 Samuel 8:1, and Solomon, 1 Chronicles 12:9; and most eminently, though spiritually, in Christ. The phrase is taken either,

1. From the practice of warriors, who use to assault their enemies in that part, that they may throw them down at their feet; of which see Job 15:26 16:12. Or,

2. from the custom of conquerors, who are said to put the yokes upon the necks of the conquered. See Genesis 27:40 Deu 28:48 Isaiah 10:27 Jeremiah 27:8 28:14.

Thy father’s children, i.e. all thy brethren, and my posterity; he saith not thy mother’s children, for his sons had divers mothers;

shall bow down before thee, i.e. shall own thee as their superior and lord, upon whom I have devolved this part of the right of the first-born. By this and the following words we plainly see that these blessings and predictions were not distributed according to Jacob’s affections and inclinations, (for then Judah should never have been advanced above his worthily beloved Joseph,) but by the direction of God’s Spirit.

Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise,.... His name signifies praise, and was given him by his mother, her heart being filled with praises to God for him, Genesis 29:35 and is here confirmed by his father on another account, because his brethren should praise him for many excellent virtues in him; and it appears, by instances already observed, that he had great authority, and was highly esteemed among his brethren, as his posterity would be in future times for their courage, warlike expeditions and success, and being famous for heroes, such as David, and others; and especially his famous seed the Messiah, and of whom he was a type, should be praised by his brethren, who are so through his incarnation, and by divine adoption, and who praise him for the glories and excellencies of his person, and the blessings of his grace:

thine hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; pressing them down by his superior power, subduing them, and causing them to submit to him, and which was verified in David, who was of this tribe, Psalm 18:40 and especially in the Messiah, in a spiritual sense, who has conquered and subdued all his and his people's enemies, sin, Satan, the world and death:

thy father's children shall bow down before thee; before the kings that should spring from this tribe, and should rule over all the rest, as David and Solomon, to whom civil adoration and respect were given by them; and before the King Messiah, his son and antitype, in a way of religious worship, which is given him by the angels, the sons of God, and by all the saints and people of God, who are his father's children by adoption; these bow before him, and give him religious adoration as a divine Person, and submit to his righteousness as Mediator, and bow to the sceptre of his kingdom, and cast their crowns at his feet, and give him the glory of their whole salvation. This in some Jewish writings (n) is applied to the time of the Messiah's coming.

(n) Zohar in Gen. fol. 127. 2.

Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall {g} bow down before thee.

(g) As was verified in David and Christ.

8. praise] The word contains a play on the name Judah, which cannot be reproduced in a translation. See note on Genesis 29:35.

The transition from the sombre oracles concerning the previous three tribes to the outburst of the eulogy upon Judah is very marked.

Thy hand … neck] i.e. as Judah pursues the fleeing foe, he shall grasp them by the neck (cf. Job 16:12). The point of this clause lies in the geographical position of the tribe of Judah. Their territory was beset on the west and south-west by the Philistines, and on the south and south-east by the Edomites and the Amalekites. The Philistines and the Edomites were the bitterest and most persistent of Israel’s foes. But they were within reach; and in their flight and retreat they are overtaken and smitten down by the victorious tribe.

bow down before thee] A reference to the Davidic monarchy which united the tribes of Israel.

8–12. Judah is the recipient of a special blessing, which is distributed as follows: (1) he is the object of national eulogy, Genesis 49:8; (2) he is strong as a lion, and has won success, Genesis 49:9; (3) to him belong the monarchy and the ideal king, Genesis 49:10; (4) his territory is blessed with fertility, Genesis 49:11-12.

Verses 8-12. - Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise - literally, Judah thou, will praise thee thy brethren, the word יְהוּדָה being a palpable play on יודוך (cf. Genesis 29:35). Leah praised Jehovah for his birth, and his brethren should extol him for his nobility of character, which even in his acts of sin could not be entirely obscured (Genesis 37:26; Genesis 38:26), and certainly in his later days (Genesis 43:8; Genesis 44:18-34) shone out with undiminished luster. Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies (i.e. putting his foes to flight, Judah should grasp them by the neck, a prediction remarkably accomplished in the victories of David and Solomon); thy father's children shall bow down before thee. Fulfilled in the elevation of the house of Judah to the throne, which owned as its subjects not simply Judah's mother's children, i.e. the tribes descended from Leah, but also his father's, i.e. all the tribes of Israel Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched down as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? By a bold and striking figure Judah is compared to a young lion, ripening into its full strength and ferocity, roaming through the forests in search of prey, repairing to his mountain den (ἐκ βλάστοῦ ἀνέβης, LXX.) when his booty has been devoured, and there in quiet majesty, full of dignified repose, lying down or crouching in his lair, and calmly resisting all attempts to disturb his leonine serenity. The effect of the picture is also heightened by the alternative image of a lioness, which is particularly fierce in defending its cubs, and which no one would venture to assail when so employed. The use of such figures to describe a strong and invincible hero is by no means infrequent in Scripture (vide Psalm 7:3; Psalm 57:5; Isaiah 5:29; Ezekiel 19:2-9). The scepter shall not depart from Judah, - literally, a scepter (i.e. an emblem of regal command, hence dominion or sovereignty; ἅρχων, LXX., Theodotion; ἐξουσία, Symmachus) shall not depart from Judah - nor a lawgiver from between his feet - literally, and a legislator (sc. shall not depart)from between his feet; מְחֹקֵק, the poel part of חָקַק, to cut, to cut into, hence to decree, to ordain, having the sense of one who decrees; hence leader, as in Judges 5:44, dux (Vulgate), ἠγούμενος (LXX.), or lawgiver, as m Deuteronomy 33:21 and Isaiah 33:22 (Calvin, Dathius, Ainsworth, Rosenmüller, Murphy, Wordsworth, 'Speaker's Commentary'). In view, however, of what appears the requirement of the parallelism, מְחֹקֵק is regarded as not the person, but the thing, that determines or rules, and hence as equivalent to the ruler's staff, or marshal's baton (Gesenius, Furst, Keil, Lange, Bleek, Tuch, Kalisch, and others), in support of which is claimed the phrase "from between his feet," which is supposed to point to the Oriental custom, as depicted on the monuments, of monarchs, when sitting upon their thrones, resting their staves between their feet (cf. Agamemnon, 'Iliad,' 2:46, 101; Layard s 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 195). But the words may likewise signify "from among his descendants," "from among his children's children" (Onkelos), ἐκ τῶν μηρῶν αὐτοῦ (LXX.). Until Shiloh come. This difficult clause has been very variously rendered. 1. Taking Shiloh as the name of a place, viz., Shiloh in Ephraim (Joshua 18:1, 8, 9, 10; Joshua 19:51; Judges 18:31; 1 Samuel 1:3, 9, 24; 1 Samuel 2:14, &c.), the sense has been explained as meaning that the leadership of Judah over the other tribes of Israel should not cease until he came to Shiloh (Rabbi Lipmann, Teller, Eichhorn, Bleek, Furst, Tuch, Delitzsch). But though וַיָּבלֺא שִׁלה, and they came to Shiloh, a similar phrase, is found in 1 Samuel 4:12, yet against this interpretation maybe urged

(1) the improbability of so obscure a locality, whose existence at the time is also problematical, being mentioned by Jacob, Zidon, the only other name occurring in the prophecy, having been, even before the days of Jacob, a city of renown (Genesis 10:19); and

(2) the inaccuracy of the historical statement which would thus be made, since the supremacy of Judah was in no way affected, and certainly not diminished, by the setting up of the tabernacle in Shiloh; to obviate which objection Kalisch proposes to read סא עַד כִּי "even if," or "even when," and to understand the prediction as intimating that even though a new empire should be established at Shiloh, as was eventually done, Judah should not forfeit her royal name and prerogative - only this sense of עַד כִּי is not clearly recognized by the best grammarians (Gesenius, Furst), and is not successfully supported by the passages referred to (Genesis 28:15; Psalm 110:1; Psalm 112:8), in every one of which the received rendering "until" is distinctly preferable.

2. Regarding Shiloh as an abstract noun, from שָׁלָה to be safe, like גִּלה from גָּלָה, the import of the prophecy has been expressed as asserting that the scepter should not depart from Judah, either until he (Judah) should attain to rest (Hofmann, Kurtz), or until tranquility should come, i.e. until Judah s enemies should be subdued (Gesenius), an interpretation which Rosenmüller properly characterises as "languidum et paine frigidum." Hence -

3. Believing Shiloh to be the name of a person, the majority of commentators, both Jewish and Christian, and ancient as well as modern, agree that the Messiah is the person referred to, and understand Jacob as fore-announcing that the time of his appearance would not be till the staff of regal power had dropped from the hands of Judah; only, the widest possible diversity exists among those who discover a Messianic reference in the prediction as to the exact significance of the term Shiloh. Some render it his son, or progeny, or (great) descendant, from an imaginary root, שִׁל, which, after Chaldee and Arabic analogies, is supposed to mean "offspring" (Targum of Jonathan, Kimchi, Calvin, Ainsworth, and others); others, deriving it from שָׁלַח, to send, compare it with Siloam (John 9:7) and Shiloah (Isaiah 8:6), and interpret it as qui mittendus eat (Vulgate, Pererius, A Lapide, Grotius); a third class of expositors, connecting it with שָׁלָה, to be safe or at rest, view it us a nomen appellatum, signifying the Pacificator, the Rest-giver, the Tranquillizer, the Peace (Luther, Venema, Rosenmüller, Hengstenberg, Keil, Gerlach, Murphy, &c.); while a fourth resolve it into אֲשֶׁר לו, and conjecture it to signify, he to whom it (sc. the scepter or the kingdom) belongs, or he whose right it is, as in Ezekiel 21:27 (LXX., ἕως ἐὰν ἔλθῃ τα ἀποκείμενα αὐτῷ; Aquila and Symmachus, ῷ ἀπόκειται; Onkelos, Syriac, Saadias, Targum of Jerusalem, et alii). It seems indisputable that the preponderance of authority is in favor of the last two interpretations, and if שִׁילֹה be the correct reading, instead of שִׁלֹה ( = שֶׁלֹּה = אֲשֶׁר לו), as the majority of MSS. attest, it will be difficult to withhold from the former, "the Tranquillizer," the palm of superiority. The translations of Dathius (quamdiu prolem habebit, ei genres obedient), who professes to follow Guleher, who understands the words as a prophecy of the perpetuity of Judah's kingdom, fulfilled in David (2 Samuel 7.), and of Lange ("until he himself comes home as the Shiloh or Rest-bringer"), who also discerns in Judah a typical foreshadowing of the Messiah, may be mentioned as examples of ingenious, but scarcely convincing, exposition. And unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Not "καὶ αὐτὸς προσδοκία ἐθνῶν (LXX.), ipse erit expectatio gentium (Vulgate), with which also agrees the Syriac, or "to him nations will flock" (Samaritan), σύστημα λαῶν (Aquila), but to him, i.e. Shiloh, will be not aggregatio populorum (Calvin), but the submission or willing obedience (a word occurring elsewhere only in Proverbs 30:17) of nations or peoples (Onkelos, Targum of Jonathan, Kimchi, Aben Ezra, Dathius, Rosenmuller, Keil, Kalisch, Gerlach, Murphy, Tayler Lewis, 'Speaker's Commentary'). Binding his foal unto the vine, i.e. not Shiloh, but Judah. The verb אֹסְרִי has the archaic י appended, as in Genesis 31:39; Deuteronomy 33:16; Zechariah 11:17 - and his ass's colt unto the choice vine. The שׂרֵקַה (fem. of שׂרֵק) was a nobler kind of vine which grew in Syria, with small berries, roundish and of a dark color, with soft and hardly perceptible stones (Gesenius, p. 796). בְּנִי is an archaic form of the construct stats which occurs only here. He washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. The word סוּת is a ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, and is either put by aphaeresis for כּסוּת which occurs in the Samaritan Version, or is derived from סָוָה, an uncertain root, signifying to cover (Gesenius, Kalisch). His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. Otherwise rendered "redder than wine," and "whiter than milk" (LXX., Vulgate, Targum of Jerusalem, et alii), as a description of Judah's person, which scarcely seems so appropriate as the received translation (Calvin, Rosenmuller, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Lange, and others), which, completes the preceding picture of Judah s prosperity. Not only would Judah s soil be so fertile that its vines should be employed for trying asses and colts to their branches, but the grapes of those vines should be so plentiful and luscious as to make wine run like the water in which he washed his clothes, while the wine and milk should be so exhilarating and invigorating as to imp-art a sparkling brilliance to the eyes and a charming whiteness to the teeth. The aged prophet, it has been appropriately remarked, has here no thought of debauchery, but only paints before the mind's eye a picture of the richest and most ornate enjoyment (Lange). Minime consentaneum esse videtur profusam intemperiem et projectionem in benedictione censeri (Calvin). Genesis 49:8Judah, the fourth son, was the first to receive a rich and unmixed blessing, the blessing of inalienable supremacy and power. "Judah thou, thee will thy brethren praise! thy hand in the neck of thy foes! to thee will thy father's sons bow down!" אתּה, thou, is placed first as an absolute noun, like אני in Genesis 17:4; Genesis 24:27; יודוּך is a play upon יהוּדה like אודה in Genesis 29:35. Judah, according to Genesis 29:35, signifies: he for whom Jehovah is praised, not merely the praised one. "This nomen, the patriarch seized as an omen, and expounded it as a presage of the future history of Judah." Judah should be in truth all that his name implied (cf. Genesis 27:36). Judah had already shown to a certain extent a strong and noble character, when he proposed to sell Joseph rather than shed his blood (Genesis 37:26.); but still more in the manner in which he offered himself to his father as a pledge for Benjamin, and pleaded with Joseph on his behalf (Genesis 43:9-10; Genesis 44:16.); and it was apparent even in his conduct towards Thamar. In this manliness and strength there slumbered the germs of the future development of strength in his tribe. Judah would put his enemies to flight, grasp them by the neck, and subdue them (Job 16:12, cf. Exodus 23:27; Psalm 18:41). Therefore his brethren would do homage to him: not merely the sons of his mother, who are mentioned in other places (Genesis 27:29; Judges 8:19), i.e., the tribes descended from Leah, but the sons of his father-all the tribes of Israel therefore; and this was really the case under David (2 Samuel 5:1-2, cf. 1 Samuel 18:6-7, and 1 Samuel 18:16). This princely power Judah acquired through his lion-like nature.
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