This Week's Focus Passage

‘Until Shiloh come.’

Focus Passage: Genesis 49:10

‘Until Shiloh come.’

These words formed only a very small portion of the blessings that the patriarch, Jacob, bestowed upon his twelve sons, and in correspondence, their many descendants. This blessing began with something of a calling in the first verse of that chapter, forty-nine, where we read:

And Jacob called unto his sons, and said: Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the latter days. Assemble yourselves, and hear, ye sons of Jacob: and hearken unto Israel your father. —Genesis 49:1-2

Beginning from that point, Jacob proceeds with Reuben, his firstborn, to pronounce both good things and evil about this son begotten by him of Leah. After having referred to the pre-eminence that Reuben should have enjoyed, his father then speaks of the grounds upon which his pre-eminence would be revoked. Subsequent to that his direction turns to the siblings of Reuben, namely Simeon and Levi, also begotten by Jacob of Leah. These sons also received admonishing from their father for their wickedness. They were rebuked for their violence; for their anger; for their wrath. This was Jacob’s reference to the vengeful behavior of these two sons against Shechem because Shechem had violated their sister, Dinah. And it was not solely for the vengeance that they exacted, but the fierceness and cruelty of it. Perhaps this was speaking of the deceit that Simeon and Levi employed in their slaughter of those in Shechem. Not only did they murder Shechem and his father, Hamor, but they slew all the males of their city with the edge of the sword. The inspired penman informs us that the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father with guile, and spake, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.

Now at this point, Jacob’s thoughts are turned to his fourth-born son of Leah, namely Judah. The language utilized by Jacob to speak of the future of this son, Judah, is remarkable at the very outset for its positive nature; very much contrary to the pronouncements for Rueben, Simeon, and Levi, his brethren through the same mother, Leah. Though they may not be clearly understood, even by himself, Jacob has wonderful and remarkable things to declare about Judah. He begins:

Judah, thee shall thy brethren praise: Thy hand shall be on the neck of thine enemies; Thy father’s sons shall bow down before thee. 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 a lioness; who shall rouse him up?

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh come; And unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be. Binding his foal unto the vine, And his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; He hath washed his garments in wine, And his vesture in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, And his teeth white with milk. —Genesis 49:8-12

So what is Shiloh? What does the name mean? It may be that the question should rather be, ‘Who is Shiloh?’ Among the latest biblical encyclopedias available, one contribution to the question surrounding ‘Shiloh’ is to say that, ‘Shiloh in this passage has been taken traditionally as a reference to the Messiah. The name would then have to be derived from shala, “to be at ease,” and would mean something like “the peace-giver.” This derivation, however, is linguistically difficult. Shiloh is not elsewhere in the Bible as a personal name and, significantly, the passage is not cited Messianically in the N. T.’ This encyclopedia evidently dismisses tradition. Another study tool, Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, appears to disagree with this dismissal, claiming that ‘The most approved derivation of this most difficult word in Genesis 49:10, is that which deduces it from shala, to be at rest, to be in peace and prosperity; and so Shiloh is the Pacificator, or Prince of peace, the promised seed of the woman, who should destroy the rule and dominion of Satan, and establish peace in the world in the place of the tyranny of evil. There can be no doubt that Shiloh is a name of the Messiah, so understood by the ancient Jewish interpreters, though variously explained by them.’ Strong’s concordance aligns itself with that thought, saying simply, ‘It [Shiloh] is an epithet for the Messiah.’

And while it is true that of the 32 occasions of the use of the term Shiloh in the Scriptures, 30 of those are referring to the place, the village, the city of Shiloh; it is rather intriguing that of the two that remain, one is that here in question from Genesis 49, while the other is found in Psalm 78:60-61. Hear what Asaph has said in this psalm, So he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, The tent which he placed among men. And delivered his strength into captivity, And his glory into the adversary’s hand. One may wish to contend that this also speaks of the place, the village, or the city of Shiloh. But it is not said that he forsook the city of Shiloh, but that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men. Who was it that was the tent, or tabernacle that God placed among men? Who was it whose strength was delivered into captivity? Was not our Savior, the Messiah, the Seed of the woman delivered into captivity? Is not the Christ the Glory of the Father? Is this intended in saying that He delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the adversary’s hand ? But Asaph insists that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh. Did God forsake His tabernacle which He had placed among men? Did He deliver His Strength into captivity? Did He deliver His Glory into the adversary’s hand? Was it not the Christ Himself who declared this reality from the cross, when that unforgettable cry resounded from Golgotha, My God, my God, Why hast thou forsaken me? Our Lord of Glory understood that He was forsaken for the sake of His people to whom the stroke was due. And has not the Apostle to the Gentiles taught us in his epistle to the church at Rome that, He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things ?

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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