The Twelve Tribes of Israel
Judah is the ruling tribe and the scepter belongs to this tribe. Jacob blessed Judah in Gen 49:10 (NIV) by prophesying,
"Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons will bow down to you. You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness--who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff (a lawgiver, KJV) from between his feet, until he comes (until Shiloh come, KJV) to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk."
The name JUDAH means PRAISE, and the first part of Jacob's prophecy in Gen 49 is that Judah's brethren shall praise him. Now, there must be a reason for praise being given to Judah. Rotherham translates it this way,
"Judah, as for thee, thy brethren shall praise thee when thy hand is in the neck of thy foes."
This is why Judah's brethren pay honor to him. When the Judahites were defeated and discouraged, the rest of Israel had nothing to do with them. But when God begin to give the Judahites triumph over their enemies the rest of the Israelites were ready to sing their praises. Judah is known by his HANDS because it is his hand that is on the neck of his foes.
Thus, every Judahite will be noted by the use of their hands. If we could see the twelve tribes as the figure of a man we would see Judah making up the arms and hands. Some Judah's talk with their hands, some work with their hands, some rule with their hands, some play musical instruments with their hands, but one sure sign of Judahites is the strength of their hands. The neck speaks of the will, for to be stiff necked is to be obstinate-willed. So Judah's hands always manage to get hold of the will of the foe. This would indicate that Judah is not after the life of his adversaries, nor is he vindictive. He only wants to locate and take hold of the will of his enemies so that he might change that will into the will of God. As a result, Judah's brothers bow themselves to him recognizing that he is primarily a leader, a warrior, a conqueror in and through the Lord Jesus. Their bowing to him symbolizes their recognition of the anointing that rest upon Judah.
Next, Judah is likened to a lion's whelp, a lion, and an old lion. This indicates that there are three stages of development in Judah's lion-like characteristics. The lion's whelp or young lion is fearless and dangerous. It has not lived long enough to have learned some of the lessons necessary in a lion's life. A young Judahite is much like Peter who was always eager to say what was on his mind without considering the effect on the minds and feelings of those who heard. Judahites who are young in the Lord lack maturity, are fearless in nature and will tackle most anything. Because of their lack of wisdom and experience the results will often be to their own damage or the damage of others.
In due time the young lion will mature to a lion that stoops. The Hebrew meaning of 'stoops' is to bow or bend the knee. Time and experience will mature a Judahites character which will change them from the reckless one into a place of humility where he knows that daring faith must be mixed with humility and wisdom. This would indicate that Judah is not after the life of his adversaries, nor is he vindictive. He only wants to locate and take hold of the will of his enemies so that he might change that will into the will of God. As a result, Judah's brothers bow themselves to him recognizing that he is primarily a leader, a warrior, a conqueror in and through the Lord Jesus. Their bowing to him it symbolizes their recognition of the anointing that rest upon Judah.
The third stage of mentioned here is the old lion, and "Who shall raise him up?" The old lion has gone through the stages of daring and then humility and with these lessons learned, he is willing to take the place of couching. This is the place of rest and watchfulness. The Judahites always have the lion-like nature, but some are more matured than others which comes by experience and time. Judahites must learn to be patient until this process is complete.
The prophecy continues with regards to the scepter, which speaks of rulership, Judah is the ruling tribe. Again the hands of Judah are brought into focus, for it is the hand that holds a scepter, thus we see Judah's hand is a ruling hand. Judah means praise and praise itself is a powerful ruling force in all circumstances. The prophecy continues and says,
"The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff (or a lawgiver) from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. "
The Hebrew word for lawgiver means a graver--one who decrees a thing and engraves it deeply that it be not effaced. Judah's scepter position is also a position of decreeing things and seeing them come to pass. Judahites are marked by this power of decreeing things into existence. Their mouth works with their hands in bringing to pass their decrees of both righteousness and unrighteousness. An immature Judahite will often decree things that are better off not decreed! So, the ruling hand of Judah is confirmed by his decreeing mouth.
Then comes the strange statement that has been a point of controversy through the years: "Until Shiloh come." Without a doubt, this refers primarily to Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace, for Shiloh means tranquillity or place of rest.
Jesus is called the "LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH." Rotherham's translation says,
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah until he come in as a Shiloh."
This not only refers to Christ, Himself, but also to the body of Christ. As a result the scepter and law-giver shall not depart from Judah until Judah comes in as peace and rest. The Judahites are energetic, daring, rugged individuals, marked by the power and use of their hands. They are very forceful, domineering, take charge individuals. In the process of their purification and maturity, the Lord finally brings them to the place of becoming peace and rest to all that are around them. How Glorious!
The next part of Jacob's prophecy gives us a picture of Judah's sacrifice. He binds his ass to the vine and his ass's colt to the choice vine, which is a strange statement. The Hebrew word for ass means strength and endurance. Judah's are known for their strength, not necessarily physical strength but strength of character, will, assurance, etc. The time comes when every Judahite must sacrifice his strength to God. Notice that he tied his strength to the Vine. What is this vine? Jesus said in John 15:1,
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener."
Judahites and all of their offspring's must come to a place in their spiritual maturing where they sacrifice all their strength and ability to the Lord and allow Him to be in control. When this is done a cleansing takes place that Judahites never knew before. Judahites will be led by the Holy Spirit to a place where they will wash their garments in wine, which is a type of blood. The garments speak of that which covers a person, and at present time we are clothed with mortality.
There is only one way of changing this and that is by being washed by the blood out of the True Vine. We are to be so joined to Christ that even our very blood becomes clean and filled with His life so that bodies comes into purity. Our bodies will then be redeemed and mortality will be swallowed up by His life. Rotherham says he washes his mantle in the blood of grapes. "And in the blood of grapes his mantle."
The mantle is a type of authority or anointing of God. Even though you may have this authority or anointing of God you will still have to undergo the cleansing of His blood which will cause your blood to be changed. This God-given authority must be given back to Him as a sacrifice. He will return it to Judah again and nevermore will it be used for any other purpose than to honor the Lord.
The next statement concerning Judah is,
"His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk."
And Paul said in Eph 1:18,
"The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints"
So the eyes of Judah's understanding shall be red, literally, refreshed or fiery, with wine. Wine speaks of the blood and again signifies that the changing and purifying of the bloodstream will bring the understanding of Judah to the place of being refreshed or made new. This is not only true of Judah but of all those who are looking for that enlarged understanding of the things of God. The blood feeds the brain and as the blood is purified so also shall our understanding and knowledge be clarified and no longer shall we see through a glass darkly. Then indeed shall the eyes of understanding and knowledge be brought into a higher level. The NIV version states this passage this way,
"His eyes will be darker than wine,"
This means that our knowledge will be very deeply imbedded in Christ and out of this knowledge will flow rivers of understanding. Then indeed shall the eyes of the understanding not only be refreshed but a refreshing to our whole body. Through these fiery eyes of understanding we will be a refiners soap to the rest of the body of Christ. What a blessed promise! And all of these things are happening even as I speak. The next thing said about Judah is very strange.
"His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk."
The teeth speak of that which chews or meditates. To mall over in your mind. White speaks of purity. Therefore, the teeth of Judah are pure with milk. Milk is easily gathered and is a perfect food and does not require chewing. Many people want to chew the meat of the Word before they have taken enough of the milk of the Word. They try to build with no foundation. The teeth of Judah are prepared to chew because they have taken their share of the rudimentary elements of the Word. Milk is the main source of calcium that produces strong teeth with which to chew. Moses said of Judah in Deut. 33:7 (KJV)
"And this is the blessing of Judah: and he said, Hear, LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people: let his hands be sufficient for him; and be thou an help to him from his enemies"
Moses first mentions the voice of Judah which is interesting because all Judah's are vocal. The Hebrew word for 'voice' is 'gol' which means bleating, crackling, cry, fame, lowing, noise, proclamation, sound, thunder, and thundering. This gives quite a variety of meaning for it signifies anything from the sound of a sheep to the crackling of a fire, from the lowing of cattle to sure proclamation, from a crying to the sound of thunder. Some of this sounds terribly noisy and some more subdued, and that is the way the voice of Judah is.
Some Judah's roar and thunder, some are more muted like the lowing of cattle, whereas still others are as the snapping and crackling of a roaring fire. Judah's are known by their voice, be it a voice of singing or a voice of thunder, be it quietness or shouting from the housetop. Judahites are a combination of all kinds of voices. At times this is very irritating to others. Moses asked the Lord to listen and hear the voice of Judah which indicates the importance of Judah's voice.
The next thing said of Moses to the Lord is, "Bring him to his people." People of the tribe of Judah are rugged individualists and as such they tend to be independent, which is fine in its place, but they also have to be brought to the rest of the people. The word 'bring' is literally bring in or cause to come in, and thus the Judahites must be caused of God to come in, or enter into, the company of the rest of Israel.
Judah was always in the vanguard of battle, showing their raggedness, and this holds true of his offspring but Judahites must learn to be a part of the whole. Likewise, all of Israel must recognize Judah's unique place and accept them for what they are. Again we are faced with another fact concerning Judah's hands:
"Let his hands be sufficient for him."
The Hebrew word for 'sufficient' is the word 'reb' which means abundant, enough, great, many, mighty, plenteous, etc. and is the root of such words as: captain, chief, archer, lord, and master. Thus, Judah's hands are not simply sufficient for him , but they are great and mighty, the hands of archers, captains, chiefs and masters. Hands speak of labor, strength and dexterity and all of this is true of Judahites.
David, who was of Judah, not only knew how to handle the sword, but also to play skillfully on the harp. What a contrast! But this is the contrast found among the Judah's, for their hands are varied and mighty in whatever they undertake. Hands can hold the scepter as well as the sword, or bear the signet right of the king or the staff of the shepherd.
Moses' blessing ends with these words,
"Be thou an help to him from his enemies."
This statement infers that Judah has enemies and how true! Many from the other tribes of Israel are jealous of Judah because of his many talents and abilities. This often causes bitterness and resentment to cause them not to accept Judah and his many talents. Moses knew this and asked the Lord to be a help to Judah from those who don't take the time to understand him.
The word for enemy is the Hebrew 'tsar' which literally means an adversary, distresser, or strainer. Judah deals quit well with ordinary enemies but this strong kind that brings inward and outward distress and straightness is something else. It is here that Judah needs special help from the Lord against this bitterly hostile or antagonistic, hateful, intensely irritating, obnoxious, or harsh type.
Let me encourage you Judahites for yours is not an easy lot, and there will always be those who rise against you, even from your loved ones, but in such places the Lord will be your help. Remember, the Lord teaches your hands to war against the giants, but He also teaches the skillfulness of harpist's hands that you might drive out evil spirits by songs of praise. God is your help at all times!
Let me briefly sum up the characteristics and blessings of Judah because even if you are not of the tribe of Judah you will still gain spiritual lessons from him. Judah's outstanding mark is his HANDS. Hands of dexterity, hands of war, hands of might and talent.
The next thing that marks Judah is his voice because it can be as tender as a shepherd speaking to a lambkin or as loud and harsh as the roar as a loin after prey. Judahites are in nature like a lion, some as daring as a young lion; others watchful as an old one. Judah knows the value of sacrifice and willingly binds his strength to the True Vine. His understanding always proves refreshing as well as fiery insights, and many times that fire can be seen in his eyes. Judah is always an individualist that must become merged into the rest of God's people. He is the recipient of God's help because of being constantly assailed by enemies, within and without. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah forever prevails and is found worthy to open the even-sealed book and also the seals of your inner being.
All of us have a part in the Tribe of Judah because we are in Jesus Christ and He is The Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Here are some interesting notes on the Tribe of Judah. The Tribe of Judah is always first. It is the first stone on the breastplate. In the Book of Judges it was the first tribe to go to war. In the Tabernacle of Moses, Judah was the first tribe to move out or to lead. Judah was camped by the door of the Tabernacle. Jacob's sons, by order of birth, were Reuben, Simeon, Levi then Judah. Yet Judah moved from fourth place to first place.
Judah is the first stone on the breastplate of the high priest and the stone is a sardius. Sardius or sardine or a sard stone is a deep red or a brownish red stone and is a variety of the carnelian stone which means flesh colored. It has always been a favorite stone used by the engravers to engrave seals upon. It is a stone that is really worked upon. Notice that the color of wine is red and so is this stone.