Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Jacob’s Messianic Blessing to Judah


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.
9 Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:
12 His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. (Genesis 49:8-12)

At the end of Jacob’s life, he gave blessings to his children, and the blessing to Judah can be seen as one enormous prophecy of the Messiah to come through Judah’s line.  It is as if Jacob addresses Christ rather than Judah.  Some of the imagery seems very strange, but with a full testimony of Jesus Christ, it can be understood.

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.

The praises due to Christ are unquestionable.  Jesus conquered Satan during His life by resisting every temptation thrown at Him and by suffering the sins and temptations of all mankind as well.  Someday He will subdue all enemies under His feet and the earth will be His, and we will have a chance to bow to Him and acknowledge Him King of the earth, since we have greatly benefitted from His victory.  He knows how to help us conquer our enemies as well.

Judah is a lion’s whelp:
from the prey, my son, thou art gone up:
he stooped down,
he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?

As the lion is considered the fiercest and strongest of beasts, the king of animals, we can see the “lion’s whelp” as Christ, who was the son of Heavenly Father, the King of the universe.

For a lion to get up and leave the prey just caught would be very unusual.  Likewise, it is surprising to us that Jehovah left His premortal glory to come to earth.

“he stooped down” – This speaks of Jehovah’s condescension to be born into mortality like the rest of us.

“he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?” – To me this image of a couching (lying down) old lion speaks of Christ submitting to death as if He were old (although His death was much more painful and early).  I see Him lying in His tomb.  “Who will rouse him up?” reminds us that Christ resurrected Himself.  None could do it but Him.  In another sense, that question asks who is going to dare to challenge His supremacy.  You don’t want to make the lion mad.

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

Shiloh is another name for the Messiah and means “he to whom the right belongs.”  Kings of Judah had the throne through much of Israel’s history, and now that Christ has come His first time, He reigns.  The part about gathering the people should be familiar to us.

Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine;
he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:

If we remember Christ’s discourse “I am the true vine,” we see that the lines about binding his foal to the vine speak of how Christ’s servants (represented as asses and beasts of burden) and their children (the colt and foal) will be tied (sealed?) to the source of nourishment.  The tying process makes me think of covenants and how they tie us to the Lord.  We also get a sense of Christ acting in two different ways.  He’s the good shepherd, leading his people, and He leads them to Himself, the source of nourishment as the vine.  (Kind of a mixed metaphor, but hey, it works.)

“he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes” – We run into this image also in Isaiah, who asks, when He sees the Lord coming in glory, “Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?” (Isaiah 63:2)  I think the image of Christ washing his garments in wine could convey how His sacrifice for sins sanctified Him.  It may also prophesy of the purple robe He was clothed in as the soldiers mocked Him at His trial.

His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.

This is unfamiliar, so it is puzzling, but I think we can get it if we consider the symbolism of the body parts involved and how it relates to Christ’s mission. 

Eyes are about vision and seeing what’s ahead.  The red and wine continues the association with blood and suffering.  Christ constantly had His sacrifice in mind during His ministry and he was always reminding the disciples about it.  We might even say He was drunk with it.

Teeth chew and are needed for starting to digest food.  Milk symbolizes the very basic doctrine of the gospel.  Christ was way into this doctrinal milk (the atonement) and perhaps a modern equivalent might be “he has a milk mustache of doctrinal milk.”

As we can see, Jacob had a thorough testimony of Christ, of His premortal glory, His sacrifice, His ministry, His death, His resurrection, and His final triumphant rule, and he crammed it all in a blessing to Judah using imagery that is so dense with meaning that Isaiah almost seems like a kindergarten reader by comparison.