“The scepter shall not depart from Judah… until Shiloh come.” Genesis 49:8-10 This prophetic statement was included in a blessing given by Jacob, just before he died, to his third son Judah. The blessing began “Judah, thou art he whom they brothers shall praise”, and continued the bestowal of the Messianic lineage by divine selection rather than by natural birth rite. Judah had no special moral qualifications for this blessing. He had conspired with eight of his brothers to kill his half-brother, Joseph. He had illicit sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. He was not the oldest like Reuben. He was not the favorite like Joseph. And yet the scepter, the symbol of rulership, was given to him.
The Lineage of Judah
“Shiloh” is a Hebrew word literally meaning “whose right it is”, or in practical application “the one whose right it is “. It was used by the prophet Ezekiel Ezekiel 21:27 warning about the invasion of Babylon. He spoke of the Shiloh who would reverse Israel’s troubles, who would put an end to the disciplinary punishment allowed by God through the instrument of invading and contentious neighbors. Perhaps a similar disciplinary condition is being imposed on Israel now by political forces that threaten to drive Israel into the sea.
The Talmudic literature associates Shiloh with the hoped-for Messiah. Jewish rabbis and scholars in the Middle Ages, commenting on the promise given to Judah, explain that it was Jacob’s intention to reveal to his sons on his death bed what would happen in the end times, for Jacob says, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.” Genesis 49:1 He rebukes his oldest sons, Reuben and Simeon, first for their misdeeds and then delivers his message to the next oldest, Judah:
”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. 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? The scepter 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. 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: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.” Genesis 49:8-12
Here we have a depiction of a Shiloh who is praised and successive generations bow before him. He is like a lion’s whelp to be respected at all cost. He stoops down from his high position, reminiscent of the Messiah’s descent into the world of fallen man. Like a crouched lion, he waits strategically to act. In other words, he is like an old lion who, as time goes by, becomes inactive; but in the right situation he will be roused quickly, reminiscent of Messiah’s return. He has a foal and an ass’s colt, reminding us of the Gospel Messiah’s humble entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey. Wine, symbolic of both blood and the spirit of God, is used for washing garments, symbolic of purifying the flesh. His eyes are red because he is filled to the full with wine, symbolizing the complete measure with which he is filled with the spirit of God.
“The scepter”, the ruling lineage of Messiah, “shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from beneath his feet” refers to the succession of Jewish kings who will descend from Judah. “until Shiloh (the one whose right it is) come”, refers to the hoped-for Messiah, the ultimate selection from the lineage of Judah, to whom all the people will be gathered. Note, the use of the expression “until Shiloh come” instead of “until Shiloh comes” does not mean Shiloh is plural; it is an older form of English used to mean “shall come”, placing the emphasis on a distant futuristic event rather than something the is expected to happen any day.
These images of Messiah were recorded by Jewish scribes into the Torah scrolls no later than the return from Babylonian captivity, and yet they foretell historical events far into the future with graphic accuracy. Even if we were to suppose that the Gospel descriptions had been forged to agree with prophecy, we would still be hard-pressed to explain the Gospel Messiah’s charismatic attraction that people from all over the world have had since the first century onward. And we would be even more hard pressed to explain why the historical and archeological records show Israel was ruled successively by kings descended from Judah until this Shiloh appeared on the scene in the first century.
One may argue that a potential break in succession of kings could have occurred when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon blinded King Zedekiah and murdered all his children when he sacked Jerusalem. But there was another eligible heir, Jeroiachin, who was released from prison in Babylon. He was the ancestor of Zerubbabel who became Israel’s political leader at the end of the Babylonian exile.
The only other potential break that could have occurred is when the Romans in the second century BCE dismissed the rightful rulers from the line of Judah and installed lackey Hasmonean kings who were Levites. But even the land was called “Judea” then, meaning the land of Judah. In those days the real Jewish lawmaking body that was accepted by the Jewish people in there every-day affairs was the Sanhedrin, who were composed of descendants of Judah. The Hasmonean kings persecuted members of the Sanhedrin, killing 800 Pharisees at one point, but the Sanhedrin persisted as the lawmaking body of the people. This is all thoroughly documented in historical records.1,2
The Legacy of Moses
According to the Book of Genesis, long before the succession of Judean kings arose, Jacob’s 11 sons and family were relocated to Egypt to save them from famine. They were invited there by the missing son, Joseph, who had been sold off by his brothers and risen to become next in line to Pharaoh. This betrayal upon Joseph and his subsequent forgiveness towards his own people are often considered a foreshadowing of the Messiah.
According to the bible, the twelve tribes lived safely in an Egyptian quarter, expanding in population. When Pharaohs arose who had no sense of loyalty to them, they enslaved them. Four hundred years later the population of a million from the 12 tribes of Israel had had enough. They skipped town enroute back to the land promised to Abraham led by a Levite named Moses.
On their way out, each household under Moses’s direction sacrificed a lamb and spread the blood on their doorposts to keep the Angel of Death from entering in to kill the first born, as would occur throughout the rest of Egypt. Moses became a prophet and priest to them, allowing the Angel of God to rule through him.
The actual Exodus account is so well known that there is no point in going into further detail here. Archeological and historical evidence for the Jewish people residing in Egypt and escaping across the Red Sea, though somewhat controversial among scholars, does exist.3,4 Photos of chariot wheels and bones that have calcified under water near one proposed Red Sea crossing have been taken. The one shown here is gold rimmed and coral encrusted; it was shown to very closely resemble chariot wheels seen in ancient Egyptian depictions. All archeologists agree from many artifacts discovered that early Israelites lived in Canaan, became a predominant people and had a King named David, although they may disagree in how they got there.
In 1887 archeologists discovered “The Amarna Letters”, communications on clay tablets written by Egyptian rulers in Canaan to Pharaoh describing a Semitic group called the “habiru”, believed to be the Hebrew because of the similarity in sound.
Rohl’s theory is that the habiru of the Amarna letters are the Israelites of David. Findings indicated that the three years of drought, famine, and plague of the Amarna letters and those of David’s time may be same. Another theory is that Moses (an individual who is probably much closer to the period in which the Amarna letters are written than David) is ‘the rebel Mesh’ of amelut-sagaz-Mesh (habiru) of the Amarna letters.” 9
These “disruptive habiru” were reported in the Amarna letters to have started unrest in the mid-15th century BCE. This agrees with the dating of the Exodus in the bible Exodus 1-15 as having occurred 480 years after the dedication of Solomon’s Temple1 Kings 6:1. Therefore we have archeological evidence that the Hebrews began starting unrest in Canaan just about the time the bible says they crossed the Jordon into Canaan after their 40-year trek from Egypt.
The Amarna Letters were discovered in the ruins of the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna. One of the criticisms of the historicity of the Exodus is that Egyptians kept good records in their archives preserved in their capital cities of what happened during each Pharaoh’s rule, and that there were no accounts of the Exodus in any of these archives. Thus, they contend, that either the Hebrews seemed to have vanished from the general archives or never existed. It seems to me that the Amarna Letters demonstrate that the general archives were not complete as previously thought, since there were no records in the general archives coinciding with the events recorded in the Amarna letters. The “good records” kept in the general archives may have been accurate in the limited information they contained, but they obviously did not contain everything.
What the archives do show is that in the 15th century BCE, Egyptians performed major building projects in the Nile delta region using forced labor, and there are inscriptions in tombs showing Semitic-looking people working on these projects.
According to the biblical account, part way through their long journey from Egypt to Canaan they began to complain about having to eat the same old manna every day (an addiction to the flesh). So God sent them birds to eat, which attracted poisonous snakes that bit them and would have killed all of them, except that Moses lifted up a snake on a stick, and all who saw it were healed. Hassidic rabbis who are part of the today’s largest denomination of Jewish people called “Chabad”5 still speak of this as a double miracle, that God would not only heal his people but do so using the instrument that made them sick. What is probably unclear to them, since they reject the Gospel (and do so as foretold for the sake of promoting and validating the Gospel by “proof by contradiction” as discussed in part II) is that this was a prophetic foreshadowing of the Suffering Servant Messiah being lifted up on a cross, taking the sins of the world upon him to be crucified, which most of us also recognize as symbolic of submitting man’s lower nature (ego) to a higher spiritual calling.
As Anny Vos pointed out in a recent post “Are There Really Codes in the Bible?” where she discusses the creation story in Genesis, the Hebrew words for snake (nachash) and Messiah (Machiach) both have a value by Gematria of 358, inferring a connection between the involution of the soul (brought about by the snake) and evolution of the soul (brought about by Messiah). If you will accept it, these are both instruments of divinity working through us in our fallen state of dualistic perception. This state is characterized by the premature knowledge of good and evil without the wisdom yet to be attained to transcend its consequences. I am simply intending to add a historical element to Anny’s allegorical explanation, that the nature of the purifying process of the Snake/Messiah, involution and evolution, enfolds through Israel’s biblical and literal history, pointing to a first century biblical and literal Messiah. My hypothesis is that a literal Gospel Messiah linked us through his Man-God connections to enable us to proceed on this path of personal transcendence. One might argue that an allegorical Messiah would be enough to push us symbolic-oriented Homo sapiens through the rift. I would submit that if that were the case, then it would have been unnecessary for there to be one single shred of historical or archeological evidence for fulfillment of Messianic prophecies. In fact, there would be no need for any prophecies at all.
Getting back to Moses, it seems almost too miraculous for the waters of a sea to part so dramatically at Moses’ bidding. We don’t expect such supernatural demonstrations in our material world. So perhaps this is just a story with an allegorical meaning. There are libraries full of allegorical meanings that are probably valid, and I live by some of them. However, there is also a little passage in this biblical account that says that God caused a strong East wind to blow overnight which then resulted in the sudden parting. One group of atmospheric engineers have done a study10 of whether it was feasible for an East wind in that area to have caused the sea to suddenly part and remain parted for a few hours and then suddenly recede. They claim that the biblical name for this sea in the bible, which in the original Hebrew is יַם-סוּף (Yam Supth), actually means “Reed Sea”, not Red Sea; and that one such area further downstream from the Red Sea is heavily populated with underwater reeds. The geography of this area is such that, according to their computer model they used (which is the same standard model used to predict coastal flooding during storms and hurricanes in the American Northeast) predicts that a wind blowing steadily at about 63 mph could indeed create those conditions. There are other scientific models that also predict a parting.
We also tend to think that walls of Jericho could do not come down when hundreds of thousands of soldiers in one accord march around it and blow trumpets. And yet this is what happened when the people of Israel crossed the River Jordon and sacked Jericho. Historical evidence of this, though controversial, has a substantial amount of legitimacy 3,4 which I discuss in a previous post “When the Walls Came Tumblin’ Down”. So there is some evidence that the Hebrews emerged from the Exodus across the River Jordon.
Meanwhile, while preparing to cross the Jordon6 into the land promised to the Jewish People through Abraham, Moses spoke prophecies that concerned Israel’s future. He also told them that when they come into the land, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” Deuteronomy 18:15 . The phrase “like unto me” infers that like Moses this new prophet will be rejected by his own people for a time and will not only be a prophet, but a priest who intercedes for the people. Moses was from the priestly tribe of Levites.
Some may consider his military commander, Joshua, as Moses’s successor as prophet and priest, but Joshua’s job was to obey the Angel of the Lord to win battles and distribute the land until the Jewish People had successfully occupied the land. Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim, not Levi, and he was not a prophet who foretold the future.
The Messiah has a name in Hebrew, the same name the Jewish people use in place of the term translated into Greek as “Jesus”. That name is “Yeshua”, meaning “God grants salvation”, or “God saves”. It occurs in several passages of the Old Testament, such as “Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation (Yeshua) cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. Isaiah 62:11So In comparison, Joshua in Hebrew is “Yehoshuah” which is a variant of Yeshua and means “God is salvation”. Joshua’s name which is similar to Yeshua is a foreshadowing of the Messiah, but he is not the prophet like unto Moses who is a prophet and priest. Some other religious figures in history have claimed to be this new prophet, but they do not quality as a legitimate priest like unto Moses and are not simultaneously descended from Judah.7
As we know, the Gospel Messiah was a prophet. He was also a descendant of Judah. Descendants of Judah are eligible to be kings, but not eligible for the priesthood reserved for the Levites. How then could the Gospel Messiah be a prophet like unto Moses if he is not a Levitical priest? The Messianic prophecy in Psalms provides the clue, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool… The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” Psalm 110:1-4 The Messiah would assume the eternal priesthood that the scriptural figure Melchizedek fulfilled rather than the temporal Levitical priesthood which is a foreshadowing of the eternal priesthood. The Levitical priesthood discontinued when the second Temple was destroyed.
We have seen that the line of succession to the Messiah continued through Judah. The hoped-for Messiah was also identified as the “prophet like unto Moses” who would be raised up in the midst of his people. I should add that the rabbis during the Middle Ages also agreed with this.1 The hoped-for Messiah is thus expected by the Jewish People to be prophet, priest and king. He is also connected both allegorically and historically to the esoterically understood purification process of “hissing8 that leads to healing”.
The historicity of the later period of Genesis and the remaining books of the Torah (Exodus through Deuteronomy) is somewhat controversial, but still plausible. At the very least, all bible scholars agree that the early Israelites lived in Canaan, that Canaan was occupied by Egypt during some periods, that the Egyptians were oppressive, and that the Israelites threw off their yoke to emerge as a dominant nation with David as there most popular king.
In part V we will explore the line of succession to King David through his father, Jesse; and discuss how the hoped-for Messiah would come to be identified paradoxically as both the “branch” and the “root” of Jesse.
This present post has appeared very near and during the traditional Passover from April 3 through April 11, 2015 when Jews around the world clean out the leaven from their homes as a symbol of spiritual purification and eat unleavened bread for a week. They will hold Passover meals in their households according to tradition, telling the story of the Exodus, a story of deliverance from slavery and oppression through the hand of God. The youngest male old enough to speak Hebrew will begin the story by asking his elders “Why is this night different than every other night?” And the elders will reply “Because once we were slaves in Egypt until Moses … “, and continue the story while they eat foods symbolic of events in the story, also partaking of ceremonial drink and song. My grandmother told me “This is a story you eat.” She should know; it took her an entire day to prepare the meal.
This is the same meal that Jesus partook with his disciples in Jerusalem just before his crucifixion, rising at the end of it and taking his followers to the next level:
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Matthew 26:26-30
This “Last Supper” became the model for the Christian “Lord’s Supper” also known as “communion”. Here is a hidden meaning not well understood by mainstream religion. Jesus also says to do this “In remembrance of me”. Luke 22:19 Every time communion is given, it is to remember his sacrifice. The blood poured out is not only from his flesh and blood, but is also symbolic of his spirit that became known to indwell his followers after his resurrection. The spirit, the bible says, is given to believers as a “guarantee” Ephesians 1:14 of the New Covenant to come. Note carefully that it is not the New Covenant; it is simply a guarantee that it is to come.
Here is where the mainstream church gets it wrong. They believe the New Covenant is the New Testament, and all who adhere to the New Testament are now part of the New Covenant. However, what they are now a part of is a transition to the New Covenant, with the spirit given as a guarantee. The New Covenant happens later. It is described in Jeremiah:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NIV)
Notice that there will be no evangelism or teaching people to know God. Everyone will know. His “law” is actually a translation of תּוֹרָה (Torah) meaning way or teaching. Everyone will have the divine way in their hearts. God will no longer be their husband. He will fully inhabit them and in many ways they will fully inhabit him. Israel and Judah, symbolic of a house divided, will now be under one roof, one new covenant, meaning humanly instituted divisions will be reunited. There will no longer be any denominational rivalry.
We do not have to be geniuses to realize that this does not represent the condition of Israel or the church today. What this does represents is a consummation of the transition that believers are now experiencing. We can speculate that this is a worldwide event in the future, perhaps at the end of the age of transition, when Jesus returns. Or we can speculate that it is a metaphor for an event to occur on a global scale inside each individual, perhaps a massive shift in consciousness.
At the end of the Passover meal, before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, Jewish people from around the world who would journey to Jerusalem for the Passover used to greet each other at the end of the meal, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” meaning they would be looking forward to seeing each other at Passover next year again in the same appointed location. The tradition continued after the Diaspora, more as an expression of hope that their homeland would be restored to them. When their homeland was restored to them in 1948, they realized that the Jerusalem they returned to also needed to be restored. So they changed the greeting to “Next year in the New Jerusalem,” perhaps thinking that the old city in all its splendor and the Temple in all its glory would one day be restored. Little do they realize how prophetic that greeting is, in the sense of its unintended allusion to the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation. Since I believe that the New Jerusalem is also allegorical, that it is a metaphorical image of a fulfillment of one’s evolution in consciousness, what is to stop any of us from being there by next year, and in all the years to come?
Happy Passover. Next year in New Jerusalem,
- “What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah, A Study of Genealogy and Prophecy” by Rachmiel Frydland. http://www.amazon.com/What-Rabbis-Know-About-Messiah/dp/0917842030
- The Hasmoneans and their State. A Study in History Ideology and the Institutions Electrum http://www.academia.edu/2362781/The_Hasmoneans_and_their_State._A_Study_in_History_Ideology_and_the_Institutions_Electrum_-_16_Krak%C3%B3w_2010
- 50 People in the Bible Confirmed Archaeologically http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/50-people-in-the-bible-confirmed-archaeologically/
- Archaeology Confirms The Biblical Account http://www.biblestudysite.com/arch.htm
- Chabad is a Hebrew acronym that means “Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge”.
- The Hebrew word for Jordon is derived from a Hebrew word which means “descend”. In relation to this the Jordon River was a place where Jewish people were placed under water during baptism. According to the bible, after the Israelites crossed the Jordon and took possession of the land, they became corrupted by the influences of it, just as Moses had foretold.
- One false Messiah includes the 2nd century Jewish revolutionary, Simon bar Kokhba, who led a courageous but short-lived rebellion against the Romans. The Jewish King Hezekiah was also considered as a candidate for Messiah, many positive reforms having been made during his reign, but he did not fulfill the priestly requirement or attract the Gentiles, who eventually invaded. Many Jewish people have respect for Muhammad and some view him as a potential descendent of Jacob’s half-brother, Ishmael, although this is difficult to prove historically; however the Jewish People as a whole reject the claim that Muhammad was the “prophet like unto Moses” on the grounds that include him not being a Levite, nor a descendent of Judah and David.
- The Hebrew word for snake, nachash, means directly “hissing” and indirectly “biting”, “mesmerizing prior to striking” or “tempting”.