The Promise of Jesus (Gen 38; 49:8-12)

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Kevin Pluck – Flickr: The King. (CC BY 2.0)

The book of Genesis has three main themes: 1) How humans and all things came into being (Genesis means “beginning”), 2) How humans (through Adam and Eve) messed everything up by rebelling against God, and 3) How God has faithfully worked to bring reconciliation between Himself and mankind. In summary, God made everything good, sin messed everything up, and God will make it alright. As our study of the book of Genesis draws to a close, we shall learn more about God’s faithfulness to bring a Redeemer (Jesus Christ) through the line of Judah. Consider:

  1. Judah was not Better (Gen 38). God did not bring Jesus into the world through the tribe of Judah because Judah was more righteous than his brothers. Judah was just as complicit in the mistreatment of Joseph as the rest (Gen 37). In Genesis 38, Judah unwisely married a Canaanite woman. Remember that Abraham made his servant swear that he would not get a wife for Isaac from among the Canaanites (Gen 24:3). He lied to his daughter-in-law thinking that she may have some role in the death of his sons (Gen 38:11). He sent her back to her father’s house. Judah was a hypocrite. He committed sexual immorality with his daughter-in-law (thinking she was a prostitute) and then sought to put his daughter-in-law to death when he thought she was a prostitute. Judah was by no means any more righteous than his brothers and his righteousness (or lack thereof) played no role in God’s choice to use him to bring His Son into the world.
  2. Judah was Chosen (Gen 49). God’s choice of Judah did not depend on the righteousness (or lack thereof) of Judah because it was a gracious choice. God determines who receives the promise. He first chose Abraham. Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn son, but Isaac received the promise. Esau was Isaac’s firstborn son, but Jacob received the promise. Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn son from Leah and Joseph was his firstborn son from Rachel, but Judah received the promise. Why was Judah chosen to bring the Messiah into the world? As we saw in the first point, it was not because Judah was any better than his brothers, but because of God’s sovereign choice. In other words, “Our God is in heaven and does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3) and “The Lord does whatever He pleases in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all the depths” (Psalm 135:6). God chose to send His Son Jesus through the line of Judah because He wanted His Son to come from Judah. It is like when your parents answered your question “Why?” with “Because I said so!” God has the right to do whatever He pleases and by faith the children of God accept it.

Choosing Judah by grace, God enables Jacob to prophesy over Judah in order to reveal God’s plan for the tribe. Jacob’s blessing over Judah provides a glimpse into the kings from Judah and the ultimate King of kings, Jesus Christ. Let us see further:

  1. Jesus is Praised (8a). Judah’s name means praise. At his birth, his mother praised the Lord and because of Judah (Gen 29:35). Jacob says that the brothers will praise Judah. He will have leadership and authority. It is also the Lord Jesus Christ who will be praised by His brothers (Heb 2:11, Rom 8:29). The fulfillment of this praise is Jesus Christ: through whom the whole world would be blessed.
  2. Jesus is Strong (8b-9). Using the imagery of a lion, Jacob reveals the strength that will be in Judah and in Jesus. Lions were an ancient symbol for royalty. Jesus is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5). The picture in this section is of a powerful lion who captures the prey, brings it back to the den and is confident in its rest. The whole picture is of strength and power that cannot be defeated or subdued. Jesus is the strongest and most mighty King of all time.
  3. Jesus is King (10). A scepter is a staff that a king has that indicates his right and authority to rule. The scepter will belong to Judah, that is to say will remain in his family. The rule is fulfilled when “Shiloh comes”. There is much debate on what Shiloh means. Shiloh could either refer to a city or a person. For those who say it is a city, refer to Shiloh being the name of the city that held the ark in 1 Samuel 4. Psalm 78 speaks of the ark leaving Shiloh and God rejected Ephraim and chose Judah. Shiloh could also be a name for Jesus Christ. My personal interpretation is that Shiloh refers to Jesus. In other words, the line of Judah will bring the reign of Kings to Israel and the final King will be Shiloh/Jesus. The angel Gabriel told Mary, “[Jesus] will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:32-33).
  4. Jesus is Glorious (11-12). While these two verses may seem confusing to us, in the time it was written it was clearly understood to mean a time of abundance and plenty. It describes a golden age in which there is peace and security. Jesus’ reign will be eternal and glorious.

The study of the book of Genesis is pivotal to understanding who we are, why we see such good and evil around us, what we must do, and where we are going. When you read the book of Genesis, consider John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, so that all who believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”