The Messiah’s Kingdom
“Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea; he shall become a haven for ships, and his border shall be at Sidon” (Gen. 49:13).
Before we examine Jacob’s blessing on Zebulun, we need to discuss the important words spoken over Judah (Gen. 49:8–12). With good reason, interpreters throughout history have regarded Judah’s blessing as one of the earliest predictions of the Messiah.
That a king par excellence would come from Judah is found in Genesis 49:10. “The scepter,” the symbol of kingly authority, will remain in Judah’s hand “until tribute comes to him” (or “until Shiloh comes” nasb). The Hebrew wording behind this phrase is picked up in Ezekiel 21:27, which speaks of Israel’s crown being restored to “the one to whom judgment belongs” after God in His wrath exiles the nation from the Promised Land. Ezekiel understands Genesis 49:10 to be a messianic passage connected to the restoration of the Davidic monarchy, which was the prophetic hope (Amos 9:11–15).
In sum, Jacob in Genesis 49:10 says that the royal authority of Judah’s tribe will remain until the Judahite that God appoints appears. There will be a traceable, royal lineage culminating in the birth of the Anointed One who fulfills this promise. But He is not only Judah’s son, He is also Judah’s Lord. This One is the King of the Jews, Jesus the Christ, David’s greatest son (Matt. 2:2; see 1:1–17).
This Messiah will rule like a lion who kills its prey and then sits down to enjoy its meal, leaving other animals at ease because it has satisfied itself (Gen. 49:9). God’s kingdom is established as He defeats Satan, sin, death, and all other enemies, but He will not always be on the prowl. He will reign until all enemies are under His feet, and then He will deliver up the kingdom to God the Father, and His people will live confidently in His presence forever (1 Cor. 15:20–28). Matthew Henry comments: “Judah is compared, not to a lion rampant, always tearing, always raging, always ranging; but to a lion couchant, enjoying the satisfaction of his power and success, without creating vexation to others: this is to be truly great.”
Judah’s reign incorporates Zebulun, about whom little is known except that sea trade will enrich this tribe (Gen. 49:13). Greater still will be the riches for those sons of Zebulun who trust the Messiah.
Ambrose of Milan comments on today’s passage, saying Jesus “is the Lord by nature but a brother by grace” (The Patriarchs, 4.17). God is not a person with whom contact is impossible; He is not “wholly other.” Without sacrificing His kingly rule, God chose to become incarnate as one of us, yet without sin, in order to defeat sin and death and reconcile His people. In coming as a son of Judah, the Son enables us by faith to be His brother and friend (John 15:15).
Passages for Further Study
- Josh. 19:10–16
- Matt. 4:12–17
- Mark 3:31–35
- Rev. 5
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