Genesis 49:8-14 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:37 mins 35 secs

The Lion of Judah; Zebulon; Issachar. Genesis 49:8-14

Genesis 49:8 NASB ", your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father's sons shall bow down to you. [9] Judah is a lion's whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? [10] The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him {shall be} the obedience of the peoples. [11] He ties {his} foal to the vine, And his donkey's colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes. [12] His eyes are dull from wine, And his teeth white from milk."

This is a very long prophecy. The other long one is related to Joseph near the end of the chapter. There are four distinct prophecies embedded here. The first is that Judah would be the leader of the twelve. The second is that he will be a conqueror. Third, an eternal ruler will come from him—Shiloh. And the fourth is that there will be a judgment coming that is associated with the coming of Shiloh.

The first chapter of Judges gives a summary of the conquest of the land as each tribe begins to take control of their particular inheritance. Judah is the first mentioned in Judges 1:2 NASB "The LORD said, 'Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.' [3] Then Judah said to Simeon his brother, 'Come up with me into the territory allotted me, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I in turn will go with you into the territory allotted you.' So Simeon went with him." Notice they are closely connected because the allotment of Simeon is within that of Judah, so that is why Judah and Simeon ally themselves together in Judges chapter one to go up against the Canaanites. [4] "Judah went up, and the LORD gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hands, and they defeated ten thousand men at Bezek. [5] They found Adoni-bezek in Bezek and fought against him, and they defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites." Adoni is the name for lord; Bezek is the name of the town, and so the dynastic name or the title of the leader was Adoni-bezek. [6] "But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes." This was one of the early disarmament policies. Without thumbs and toes he couldn't hold a sword or a spear, and his balance would be off and he couldn't engage in hand-to-hand combat. But what was the mandate of God in this holy war? Did God tell them to disarm the Canaanites. No, God told them to kill the Canaanites. So right away we see that Judah and Simeon begin to compromise the standard of God, and they adopt pagan practices of maiming and disarmament. [8] "Then the sons of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire." So they were the first to conquer Jerusalem, but it wasn't really within their territory. Jerusalem is right on the border with Judah and Benjamin and even though Judah conquered Jerusalem it was the responsibility of Benjamin to hold it and to occupy it, and they failed. The Jebusites came back and regained control and it wasn't until the time of David that Jerusalem was finally conquered and taken under the control of the Jews. [9] "Afterward the sons of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country and in the Negev and in the lowland. [10] So Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (now the name of Hebron formerly {was} Kiriath-arba); and they struck Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai. [11] Then from there he went against the inhabitants of Debir (now the name of Debir formerly {was} Kiriath-sepher)."

Judah and Simeon fight together in verse 17 and attack the Canaanites: "Then Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they struck the Canaanites living in Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. So the name of thecity was called Hormah." [19] Now the LORD was with Judah, and they took possession of the hill country; but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had iron chariots." The Jews didn't have that technology yet, and rather than trusting God, now they begin to get defeated. God would have given them the victory but they had compromised already. So in Judges chapter one there is this progressive compromise that takes place among the Jews. We read also that in terms of his conquest, 2 Samuel 22:41, a quote of this passage regarding their military prowess: NASB "You have also made my enemies turn {their} backs to me, And I destroyed those who hated me." 

In Genesis 49:9 we read something different about Judah: "Judah is a lion's whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?" A lion is a majestic animal, powerful, fast and strong. The emphasis is on leadership and the idea that no one could be as powerful as Judah—"who dares rouse him?" In 49:10 we see that this is the tribe that will be the ruling tribe. From the very beginning we see that God intended for Israel to have a human king. In Deuteronomy there are laws related to the king. The king was responsible to take a copy of the law and handwrite his own copy of the law in front of the priests. This was part of his training to make sure that the king would read the law.

There is some debate over that the particular phrase, "until Shiloh comes." Arnold Fruchtembaum takes a position from Ezekiel 21:27 that Shiloh isn't a title for the Lord Jesus Christ, it really should be read differently: "A ruin, a ruin, a ruin, I will make it. This also will be no more until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it {to Him.}" There is a parallel, a similarity between the Hebrew word there for Shiloh. The trouble is you have to change one letter in the text to make that work and so there is doubt that that particular interpretation can be supported. Shiloh is supported as a name of the Messiah in the Talmud, and the most ancient Jewish commentary on the book of Genesis also takes the name Shiloh here to be a title for the Messiah. It could be a derivative of the word shalom, the word for peace, and of course, the Prince of Peace is one of the titles for the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6 and Micah 5:5. The last metaphor here suggests two different things. One thing that is suggested here is prosperity and health, v. 12, but in v. 11 the language is so reminiscent of want happens with the Messiah. He is binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey's colt to the choice vine. That is reminiscent of the fact that the Messiah enters into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey.

But then there is this other phrase: "He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes." This seems to pick up the same imagery as is in Isaiah 63:3 which is a picture of the violence and the bloodshed that occurs when Jesus Christ returns at the second coming and destroys His enemies down in Edom and rescues the Jews who have fled into the wilderness. Then the Lord leads them as an army against the Antichrist up to Jerusalem. "I have trodden the wine trough alone, And from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger And trampled them in My wrath; And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, And I stained all My raiment." This is also the imagery picked up in Revelation 19:3 when the Lord Jesus Christ returns on a white horse. It says He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood. This is not a little dip, this is a picture of Him coming with His garments dripping with blood because He has slain and destroyed His enemies. So when we look at this prophecy in Genesis 49:11, 12 it seems that it is an allusion to the role of then Messiah at the second coming to establish His kingdom.

The past part, in v. 12, "His eyes are dull from wine, And his teeth white from milk," is a metaphor for health and prosperity again. So this gives us an idea of the future for Judah.

Then we get to Zebulun, the sixth son of Jacob and Leah. In Genesis 30:14 we read of a rather bizarre episode: NASB "Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, 'Please give me some of your son's mandrakes.' [15] But she said to her, 'Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son's mandrakes also?' So Rachel said, 'Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son's mandrakes.'" Mandrakes were thought to be a form of aphrodisiac. [16] "When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, 'You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son's mandrakes.' So he lay with her that night. [17] God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son." The fifth son was Issachar. The sixth son was Zebulun, and instead of taking them in order Jacob goes to Zebulun first and then he will talk about Issachar. Genesis 30:20 NASB "Then Leah said, 'God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.' So she named him Zebulun." So Zebulun has to do with staying, a place of haven, a place of rest. So Leah is thinking that as she had given Jacob six sons, nobody else has done that good so he is going to stay with her. She obviously had a tremendous love for Jacob but it was unrequited and Jacob gave all his attention to Rachel.

In the prophecy of Genesis 49:13 NASB "Zebulun will dwell at the seashore; And he {shall be} a haven for ships, And his flank {shall be} toward Sidon." So Zebulun's allotment is between the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee, the area later known as Galilee. Nazareth is in the tribal allotment of Zebulun. Zebulun did expand until he had land along the Mediterranean. This is reflected also in Moses' blessings on the tribe in Deuteronomy 33:18 NASB "Of Zebulun he said, 'Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going forth, And, Issachar, in your tents.[19] They will call peoples {to} the mountain; There they will offer righteous sacrifices; For they will draw out the abundance of the seas, And the hidden treasures of the sand.'" That picks up the same theme, that there would be prosperity for Zebulun as a result of trade. The location of the tribe of Zebulun also takes in the Esdraelon Valley which is also known as the plain of Armageddon. One of the foremost men mentioned in Numbers 1:9 and 2:7 was Eliab the son of Helon, and he represented Zebulun when Moses ordered a census of the tribe, and he was also the commander of the troops. During the time of the Judges, after the conquest, the most famous man from the tribe of Zebulun was Elon who judged Israel for ten years—Judges 12:11, 12. There is a huge battle described in Judges chapter five and the tribe of Zebulun is specifically singled out for praise because of their response to the call to battle and because of the way they conducted themselves in the battle.

Later on in Scripture in 1 Chronicles 12:32, 33 there is a mention of both Issachar and Zebulun in terms of their military efforts. NASB "Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs {were} two hundred; and all their kinsmen {were} at their command. [33] Of Zebulun, there were 50,000 who went out in the army, who could draw up in battle formation with all kinds of weapons of war and helped {David} with an undivided heart." There is also a mention of Issachar, the next one we come to in our study of Genesis 49. This is one of the very few references to Issachar in all of Scripture and of the tribe, but they were perceptive and understood what was happening in terms of the military condition, the invasion of foreigners in Israel, they understood the times and so they knew exactly what to do and how to conduct themselves in a military operation.

Genesis 49:14 NASB "Issachar is a strong donkey, Lying down between the sheepfolds. [15] When he saw that a resting place was good And that the land was pleasant, He bowed his shoulder to bear {burdens,} And became a slave at forced labor." The imagery here is an imagery of strength, an imagery of service. A donkey is a beast of burden, he carries things, and so Issachar is pictured as a labor force. The donkey has two saddle bags across his back filled to capacity. The point of this is that Issachar became a worker, but eventually would end up becoming enslaved. This is a reference to what took place during the Assyrian invasion in 722 BC. Little is known historically about the man Issachar.