Summary: Jacob blessed his sons, but the blessings were prophecies that shaped the future of Israel. Judah's blessing changed the world forever.
20181222 Parsha Vayechi – The Scepter Will Not Pass From Judah
Readings Genesis 49: 8-12
Matthew 1: 18-25
Today is 22 December 2018. I want to thank God for a miracle that occurred 28 years ago on this date. About 5pm I was working on a couple of wooden boxes for my boys and was cutting strips of hard maple and alternating with walnut. In an instant of inattention, I got my left hand too close to the table saw and instantly cut off three fingers. It is a long story that Pat would be happy to regale you with all the gory details. Suffice it to say, the prognosis was not good, infection, gangrene, amputation. But my heavenly Father had a different plan. Against all natural odds, he healed my fingers, much to the amazement of the surgeon. Just three months after the accident I was back on full duty. There is seldom a day goes by that I don’t thank God for this hand. There is a God in Israel and he is still in the healing business!
In today’s world we don’t do blessings on our children like was done by our forefathers. Perhaps something is lost as a result. We are much more legalistic and formal. We don’t lay our hands on our sons and pronounce a blessing/prophecy over them. No, we write out a will and let all the kids fight over our estate after we are gone.
You know the old saying. Where there’s a will there’s….relatives.
Our Parsha this week describes the blessings given to the sons of Jacob. The blessings were separate from birthright. Anyone could get a blessing. But generally speaking, the birthright was for the first born. That meant that he received a double portion of the father’s estate.
In the case of Jacob’s sons, they all received a blessing, but Joseph’s two sons Manasseh and Ephraim received the birthright. With Ephraim, the youngest, receiving the greater share.
The blessings outlined in Genesis Chapter 49 were actually quite prophetic. Reuben forfeited his natural position of prominence as the firstborn because of serious sin. The tribe of Reuben dwindled down to almost nothing.
Reuben not only lost his position as the head of the clan, he lost his position as the priest. Levi would eventually occupy that position after supporting Moses at Sinai.
Similarly, Simeon, because of his violent nature would eventually dwindle to almost nothing.
Genesis 49:8-12 Judah, so you are—your brothers will praise you: Your hand will be on your enemies’ neck. Your father’s sons will bow down to you. (9) A lion’s cub is Judah—from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He crouches, lies down like a lion, or like a lioness—who would rouse him? (10) The scepter will not pass from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs will come. To him will be the obedience of the peoples. (11) Binding his foal to the vine, his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he washes his garments in wine, and in the blood of grapes his robe. (12) His eyes are darker than wine, and teeth that are whiter than milk.
Judah was given a very good blessing. Whereas the three previous blessings prophesied problems for the recipients, Judah was all positive. Judah would become the leader of the tribes. He led all the other tribes when they would march from one place to another while in the wilderness.
However, Judah himself was not the most sterling of characters. Remember, he was the brother that suggested selling Joseph rather than killing him, so they could make a profit. Then later, he dealt unfaithfully with his daughter-in-law Tamar. But then he showed good character when he interceded and offered himself as a substitute for Benjamin. Overall, this blessing is an example of God’s grace to an undeserving individual.
This blessing/prophecy of Judah is a description of Judah’s greatest descendant, Yeshua HaMashiach. Charles Spurgeon said “The dying patriarch was speaking of his own son Judah; but while speaking of Judah he had a special eye to our Lord, who sprang from the tribe of Judah. Everything therefore which he says of Judah, the type, he means with regard to our greater Judah, the antitype, our Messiah Yeshua”.
Jacob continued his blessing. You are a lion…The scepter will not pass from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,…. To him will be the obedience of the peoples. Each of these refer to the ruling position Judah will have among his brethren. He inherited the leadership aspect of the firstborn’s inheritance. This leadership position among his brothers meant that the eventual kings of Israel would come from Judah and that the Messiah – God’s ultimate leader – would eventually come from the tribe of Judah.