Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 2, No. 5 Page 7 May 2000

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Shiloh the Peacemaker


By D. Gene West

Text: Genesis 49:8-12


1.         The fourth and final prophecy dealing with the Messianic theme to be found in the Book of Genesis is found in chapter forty-nine, verses eight through twelve.

2.         This is in the context of Jacob’s final predictions regarding his sons just previous to his death.

3.         If we are counting correctly, this prophecy can be dated somewhere about 1860 B.C.

4.         “Jacob fathered twelve sons. With the prophecy of Genesis 49:10 eleven-twelths [sic] of the lineage of Jacob was eliminated from being the line through which the Messiah would come.”[1]

5.         Up to this point God, through his prophets, has told us that the Messiah would be born of a woman (Genesis 3:15); that he would be divine and dwell in the tents of Shem (Genesis 9:26); that he would come from the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12:3 et al); and in the prophecy of Genesis 49:10, God narrows the tribe from which the Christ would come to that of Judah.

6.         It was normal in the days when these great Patriarchs lived upon the earth for the eldest son to have a special position at the time the inheritance was divided at the death of a father.

7.         However, this was not the case among the descendants of Abraham as we see from noting that Isaac was not the first-born of Abraham, that Jacob was not the first-born of Isaac, since Esau was born some minutes before his twin brother Jacob.

8.         Under the guidance of the blessed Holy Spirit Jacob makes it abundantly clear that the oldest of his three sons, Reuben (due to his incest), Simeon and Levi (because of their cruelty) would not inherit as the oldest. So, primacy, in the matter of the redemption of the world through Christ, would come through Judah, the father of the tribe of Judah.

9.         This inspired prophecy begins, in verses eight and nine, by setting forth four statements concerning the exaltation of Judah. They are:

a)         Judah was to be praised by the other tribes.

b)         Judah was to be victorious over his enemies.

c)         The other tribes, (12 including Levi) would recognize the leadership of the tribe of Judah.

d)         Judah would be like a lion and strike fear into the hearts of those around the tribe.

10.       The whole text of the prophecy reads as follows: (Genesis 49:8-12) (8) “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s children shall bow down before you. (9) Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him? (10) The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people. (11) Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes the blood of grapes. (12) His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.”

11.       The verses to which we will give special attention are as follows: (Genesis 49:10-12) (10) “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people. (11) Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. (12) His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.”

12.       Let us now turn our attention to these verses by first taking notice of the meaning of the word “Shiloh.”


I.          The Meaning of the Name Shiloh. (This has exercised the ingenuity of Bible commentators for many years.)

A.        The word appears as a proper noun, that is a given name, and for that reason it is always capitalized in the English translations of the Bible.

1.         Since “Shiloh” appears to be the subject of the verb, “shall come,” it is to be regarded as a proper name for someone.

2.         Shiloh, then, would be the first proper name given to the Messiah in the Old Testament!

B.         Brother Homer Hailey comments on the meaning of the name “Shiloh” as follows:  “In the promise to Judah quoted above (verse 10) Jacob prophesied that the power of kingship should not depart from Judah’s lineage ‘until Shiloh.’ This phrase is admittedly difficult, but the general meaning of ‘shiloh’ is ‘rest, condition of peace.’ Therefore, until there should come one whose dominion should be one of peace, the rulership would not depart from the tribe of Judah.  In a personal sense, it refers to the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, who would come to establish a kingdom of peace.  Hence, the promise to Judah was that from his seed should come that Prince of Peace who would be the great ruler of God’s kingdom.  In later years, Judah became the leading and ruling tribe of the nation, and through him came David, Solomon and finally Jesus of the family of David.  In our study we see that to this point the Bible has continued to keep intact the history of the descendants of Adam and Eve through whom eventually came ‘the seed of the woman’ who would bruise the head of Satan:”[2]

C.        Dr. James E. Smith further comments on the meaning of the name “Shiloh.”  “This name is etymologically related to the Hebrew root Shala which means to be secure, to rest.  As a proper name Shiloh then would mean Peaceful One, or Rest Bringer.”[3]

D.        So, we can see that the meaning of the name Shiloh is connected with peace, peace-making, rest and the giving of rest.

1.         In this regard, it is necessary for us to look at one of the arguments that was made by the Author of the Treatise of Hebrews as he set forth the concept that the rest promised to the Jews when they left Egypt, referred also to the rest that is in Christ Jesus.

2.         (Hebrews 4:1-11) (1) “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. (2) For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. (3) For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: ‘So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest,’ although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. (4) For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all His works’; (5) and again in this place: ‘They shall not enter My rest’ (6) Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, (7) again He designates a certain day, saying in David, ‘Today,’ after such a long time, as it has been said: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (8) For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. (9) There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. (10) For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. (11) Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience.”

3.         If the Christian is to “. . . be diligent to enter that rest . . .” he must realize that it only comes through Shiloh, or the Rest Giver, and conduct himself accordingly!

E.         Before we leave this matter of coming to the proper understanding of words, we need to look briefly at the word “scepter” in this text.

1.         The word that is translated “scepter” (shebheth) in Genesis 49:10 literally means “a tribal staff.”  This, of course, denoted tribal identity like the American flag being flown over a residence in a foreign country denotes an embassy, or a place where traveling Americans can receive help in the time of need.

2.         But another thing that is involved in the identity of the ancient tribes was their judicial power, or the power to rule.

3.         The Hebrew “Shebheth” is usually translated “tribe.”  About forty times, however, the word means “scepter” which is the rod held in the hand of a king that denotes his right to reign over his subjects.  Though the Monarch of England is not always present in Parliament, yet her scepter is always present there to remind Parliament of her right to reign.  The Septuagint translation (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible par. mine DGW) and the Aramaic Targums render “shebheth” by words suggesting royal power.

4.         Hence, “Shiloh” was a divine name for one who would come with divine and royal power to redeem for himself a people whom he would gather into his kingdom of peace.


II.        The Ancestry of Shiloh and the Time of His Coming.

A.        This prophecy clearly points out that the Shiloh would come from the tribe of Judah which descended from Judah the fourth son born to Jacob and Leah.  (They had six sons in all.)

1.         The New Testament confirms that Christ descended from Judah in several places, but we will mention only two:

a)         (Matthew 12) “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.”  This statement comes from the genealogy of our Lord as recorded by Matthew.

b)         (Hebrews 7:14) “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.”

2.         Christ, according to the New Testament genealogies descended from this great man Judah.

B.         Brother Homer Hailey gives us some interesting insight into the life and character of Judah in the following words: “Throughout Judah’s life, as recorded in Genesis, his personal leadership among the family had been demonstrated.  These include: 1) His influence in hindering his brothers from killing Joseph that preserved the lads life; 2) he prevailed in persuading his father to send Benjamin to Egypt so that Simeon might be released (43:3-10); 3) he served as spokesman before the governor of Egypt on behalf of Benjamin (44:16:34); and 4) he acted as guide in bringing Jacob into Goshen (46:28).  His greatest demonstration in leadership growth, which exemplified his ability to rise above his sins, was when he interceded on Benjamin’s behalf before Joseph (unknown as his brother), offering himself as a slave in his younger brother’s stead (44:18-34).  In his eloquent speech, he demonstrated an unselfish vicarious intercession on behalf of another.  Surely, his effort must have won the praise and respect of his brothers and the favor of Jehovah; and it continues to command the admiration of all who read it. . . .Years later in the tribe of his descendants, Judah’s leadership traits and pre-eminence can be observed. 1) While yet at Sinai, Jehovah instructed Moses to number the men of fighting age in each tribe.  After the count was completed, Judah’s potential army was larger than that of any of the twelve (Num. 1). 2) When the tribes left Sinai, moving from one location to another, Judah was assigned the front position of the caravan (Num. 2:3). 3)  Soon after the nation entered Canaan, the question was asked, ‘Who shall go up for us first against the Canaanites, to fight against them?’ Jehovah answered, ‘ Judah shall go up; behold, I have delivered the land into his hands’ (Judges 1:1-2).  And 4) Othneil, the nephew of Caleb of the tribe of Judah (Num. 34:19) was the first judge to deliver the people from oppression (Judges 3:9).  These facts are significant only in foreshadowing the things to come as set forth in Genesis 49:8.”[4]

C.        Brother Hailey continued his beautiful tribute to Judah by saying,

1.         “In Genesis 49:9, Jacob praised the lion-like courage and character of Judah. 1) ‘Judah is a lion’s whelp,’ not a cub, but the young lion that has reached maturity and can face his prey with the fullness of his strength and prowess. 2) ‘From the prey, my son, thou are gone up,’ as a lion to his lair or mountain cavern where he feels secure and no one dares disturb him, enjoying the spoils of conquest without fear. 3) ‘He stooped down, he couched as a lion; exercising the wisdom, leadership, and fierceness of the older lion.’ 4) ‘And as a lioness; who shall rouse him up?’ In this figure is set forth the fierce, protective character of the female lion in defending her cubs.  Who dares disturb one in whom resides these lion-like characteristics?  These were foreshadowed in Judah the man, and in his tribe of descendants: but it was not until David appeared that the traits were developed and vividly expressed in the family.”[5]

D.        We need to look at one more important point that is made by brother Hailey as we further consider the ancestry of Shiloh about whom this prophecy revolves.  “Jacob’s three lion-like characteristics of Judah looked far beyond Judah and David to Jesus, the descendant of both.  The Revelation of John demonstrates that Jesus Christ exemplified them to the highest degree.  It states that until the conflict and victory of Christ over Satan, his exaltation and crowning as King, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the scheme of redemption had been a mystery ¾  a sealed book with no one to break the seals and make known the content.  When John realized this he wept, but he was told, ‘Weep not; behold, the lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath overcome to open the book’ (Rev. 5:5).  Jacob’s prophecy looked from Judah to David to Jesus, reaching its ultimate fullness in Him.”[6]

E.         Let us now look at the time of the coming of Shiloh.  (We do not refer to the second coming of the Messiah, but to his first coming to be Redeemer of the world, and to establish his kingdom.)

1.         The royal dignity of Judah remained until 587 B.C. when King Zedekiah was captured and sent to Babylon and Judah as a kingdom ceased to exist.

2.         In the Post-exilic period, from about 538 B.C. Judah was governed by Zerubbabel of the tribe of Judah.

3.         During the intertestamental period, the entire land of Israel was called Judea after the tribe of Judah.

4.         The political power of Judah came to an end when Judea was made a Roman province in A.D. 6.

5.         It was in “. . . the days of these kings . . .” (Daniel 2:44) that the God of Heaven sent his Son to die for the redemption of mankind, and to “. . . set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed . . .”

6.         On this important point, brother Hailey has the following to say: “Once that kingship and rule was vested in him, it would not depart or be taken away, ‘Until Shiloh come.’  This does not mean that it would cease at that time, but that it would continue to that point.  The fact is, it would then take on a new significance and would continue until the end of time.  That this promise had its primary fulfillment in David is without question, but that its ultimate fulfillment was in Christ Jesus is equally certain.”[7]

7.         We have one more important quotation from brother Homer Hailey, and then we shall turn to other matters.  “The books of Chronicles were written after Israel’s return from the Babylonian captivity and detail the chronology from Adam (I Chron. 1:1) to 536 B.C., the year the exiles returned from Babylon (II Chron. 36:22-23).  The writer of I Chronicles stated the reason Reuben did not receive the birthright and why it was given to Joseph (I Chron. 5:1).  He said, ‘For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the prince; but the birthright was Joseph’s’ (5:2).  Consider this statement in connection with Genesis 49:8-10, Judah rose above his brethren in power as a leader and warrior.  Writing after the return from Babylon, the author said, ‘Of him came the prince [chief ruler, KJV].’  He could have been speaking primarily about David, a descendant of Judah, who was the first of the tribe to bear the scepter, the rod of rule (Gen. 49:8-10).  This rule was to continue ‘Until Shiloh come,’ and it continued unbroken in David (except for the six years that Athaliah usurped the throne), until the Babylonian captivity.  The crown was removed by the captivity until it was rightly given to Jesus Christ, the seed of David, of the tribe of Judah.  The Shiloh of Jacob’s prophecy clearly pointed to the Christ.”[8]

F.         There are students of the Bible who take the position that this prophecy refers to the city of Shiloh which is mentioned thirty-two times in the Old Testament as the name of a town about thirty miles north of Jerusalem in the land of Ephraim.

1.         They say that the translation should read, “Until he comes to Shiloh.”

2.         They say this refers to Judah coming to the city of Shiloh.

3.         But this translation and position has some very hard difficulties connected with it.  They are:

a)         Of the thirty-two times the name of the town is mentioned in the Old Testament, not once is Judah connected with it.

b)         Furthermore, of the things mentioned in the prophecy by Jacob: the praising by Judah’s brothers, the conquest of his enemies, the lion-like qualities, the scepter rule, and the obedience of the peoples, cannot be associated with Judah in the city of Shiloh.

c)         In addition to these things, Jacob talked about a person!  Following the phrase, “Until Shiloh come,” he continues to talk about a person because he refers to him as him.

d)         Notice the whole of verse ten: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.

e)         This language can only refer to a person!


III.       The Rule of the Shiloh.

A.        When Shiloh would appear the tribal dominance would expand into world dominion in some sense or another.  Notice:

1.         “And to him shall be the obedience of the people.”

2.         The word “people” in this sentence is plural as is indicated by the KJV which translates the word “peoples.”

3.         The term “peoples” could refer to the tribes of Israel, but there is nothing in the context to suggest that God intended for this statement of rulership to be limited to the tribes of Israel.  Consequently, we should take the word in its broadest connotation to include the “peoples of the earth.”

4.         Leupold says: “In other words, the nations of the world shall willingly submit, for yiqqehath (obedience in the NKJ) refers to inner submission cheerfully tendered.  This, then, is an attractive description of the conquests of the Gospel, and so the critical objection falls to the ground which charges that the term Shiloh, if construed as above, is ‘at most a negative word, denoting mere tranquillity.’  For in the first place, we are justified in construing the word personally as ‘Rest-bringer,’ and secondly, that this one is not merely passive appears from the conquests that he makes among ‘the peoples’ the world over.”[9]

B.         We now wish to ask, “How long will Shiloh rule in his kingdom?”

1.         (1 Corinthians 15:24-26) (24) “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (25) For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. (26) The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.”

2.         Of the “Righteous king” who should come after him, Solomon said, (Psalms 72:8-11) (8) “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth. (9) Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him, And His enemies will lick the dust. (10) The kings of Tarshish and of the isles will bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba will offer gifts. (11) Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; All nations shall serve Him.”


1.      In the Book of Genesis, we have four outstanding and thrilling prophecies of the coming of the Savior of mankind.

2.      How deeply thankful we ought to be for these testimonies of the coming of the Christ, and how thankful we ought to be that Shiloh has come to make our redemption possible, and to give us citizenship in his matchless Kingdom.

3.      How eagerly we should await his second coming when he will “. . . deliver up the kingdom to God the Father . . .” because as citizens of that Kingdom of which there is no end, we shall be forever blest in that sweet homeland of the soul which we call Heaven!


[1] Greg Litmer, Messianic Prophecy, Faith and Facts Press, Indianapolis, n.d., p. 48.

[2] Homer Hailey, From Creation to the Day of Eternity, Nevada Publications, Las Vegas, 1982, pp. 34-35.

[3] James Edward Smith, What the Bible Teaches About the Promised Messiah, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, 1993, p. 55.

[4] Hailey, From Creation to the Day of Eternity, p. 28.

[5] Ibid., pp. 28-29.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., pp. 30-31.

[9] H.C. Luepold, D.D., Exposition of Genesis, Vol. 2, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1942, p. 1180.

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