Ancient Road Publications


“Until Shiloh Comes”

By Kyle Pope


efore Jacob died, Genesis forty-nine records that he blessed each of his sons. The blessing of a patriarch was more than just hoping that his children’s lives would be blessed, it was a prophetic declaration of what would happen to them and their posterity. Within the blessing to Judah he declared, “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” (Gen. 49:10, NKJV). Several things are striking about this declaration.

The Scepter

     A scepter was a rod or staff which today as in ancient times represents royal authority. A king holds the scepter as a sign of his right to command. In the book of Esther, King Ahasuerus held out his golden scepter to her saving her life when she came unsummoned into his presence (Esther 4:11; 5:2). When Amos prophesied doom to Syria and the Philistines he rebuked the leaders of both addressing them as the “one who holds the scepter” (Amos 1:5-8). Yet, Jacob’s words come long before a king would rise in Israel. And even then, the first king would come from the tribe of Benjamin—Saul, the son of Kish (1 Samuel 9:1-10:1). This is no misstatement, however. The Lord revealed to Jacob centuries before it happened, that God would set a king over Israel. After Saul sinned, he would be told, “now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you” (1 Samuel 13:14). This “man after God’s own heart” was David, the son of Jesse—of the tribe of Judah (1 Samuel 16:1-13).

     Jacob’s words pointed to David’s reign, but that wasn’t where they ended. He declared, “the scepter shall not DEPART from Judah” (emphasis mine). David began a royal line, which Jacob foretold would continue. Yet, one from Judah would not simply bear the “scepter” but would also be…

A Lawgiver

     This is even more striking because Jacob’s words come before any recorded written law had been given. The “Lawgiver” of Israel would be the Levite, drawn out of the Nile—Moses (Exodus 2:1-10). Of him, Israel would declare, “Moses commanded a law for us, a heritage of the congregation of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4). Yet, the Psalms twice would echo Jacob’s blessing—“Judah is My Lawgiver” (Psalm 60:7; 109:8). Isaiah would recognize that the true source of Divine Law was not, Moses—instead, “the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us” (Isaiah 33:22). When did a “Lawgiver” come from Judah? Does this speak merely of the administrative laws of Davidic kings? Or, does Jacob foreshadow the coming of a Divine Lawgiver, descended from Judah?   

     One might argue that the term “Lawgiver” is just another way of describing royal authority parallel to the first term—“Scepter.” But Jacob claims that neither will depart from Judah “until” the coming of…


     Shiloh was a city in the Israelite territory of Ephraim where the tabernacle stood from the time of Joshua (Joshua 18:1) through the time of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:24). However, it is unclear if the city bore this name as far back as the time of Jacob. There is no mention of it in Genesis. If this refers to the city, some would argue that Jacob foreshadows Judah, through the rise of David “coming to Shiloh.” The problem with this is that Jacob describes authority not departing from Judah “UNTIL Shiloh comes” (emphasis mine). It would not be until the time of David that royal authority would come to Judah. Through David and his son Solomon Jerusalem (not Shiloh) would become the place of worship (2 Samuel 7:5-13). In other words, royal authority doesn’t start for Judah until after David comes to Shiloh.

     Then what (or who) is the Shiloh of Jacob’s blessing? The Hebrew word shylho found here may be a contracted form of shello, a compound of sh- the relative pronoun “whom,” with -l the preposition “to,” and  -o the third person singular pronominal suffix “he.” Altogether, that would mean, “he to whom it belongs.” If this is correct, although it would constitute an unusual and unique construction, Hamilton tells us it is supported by “the almost unanimous testimony of ancient versions” including the Septuagint and the Hebrew Targums.[*] This may parallel the wording of Ezekiel 21:27. In this text, God rebukes the “wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come” (21:25). After promising that the king of Babylon would come to punish him (21:18-24), the Lord declares of his power, “Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to Him.”

     If this interpretation is correct, what would it tell us about Jacob’s blessing? Jacob prophesied a King from the line of Judah, before a king was even imagined in Israel. Jacob prophesied a Lawgiver from Judah, before written law was revealed, using a title Scripture applies to the Divine “Lawgiver.” Finally, he prophesies that this authority will stand “until he comes to whom it belongs” (NIV). Does this mean that when this one comes, such authority will pass away? No, “to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” The Septuagint and the Vulgate both understood the Hebrew word here amyim—“people” to express the sense of “nations” (i.e. more than just Israel). Who would descend from Judah, be both a King and a Lawgiver, to whom the right of royal authority “belongs,” and to whom would be “the obedience of the nations” (NIV)? Hundreds of years before His birth Jacob prophesied the coming of Jesus Christ, of the tribe of Judah, King, Lawgiver, and Shiloh, “He to whom (the right to rule the nations) belongs.”   

[*] Victor P. Hamilton, “ShilohTheological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 2, eds. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke. Chicago: Moody Press, 919.

Pope, Kyle. "Until Shiloh Comes" Truth Magazine 53.7 (July 2009): 26-27  

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