In our previous program we looked at a couple of prophecies about the Messiah, prophecies that not everyone realises are Messianic prophecies. Jewish Bible teachers, Rabbis and students have long known them to be about the Messiah but not necessarily the Christian world. We looked at the prophecy about the Messiah being born of a virgin in Isaiah 7:4, and then a detailed description of that child who would be born as the Messiah and all His titles in Isaiah 9:6-7. We finished off by quite an obscure Messianic prophecy in Haggai 2:6-9 that describes the Messiah as the ‘desire of all nations’.
Here’s another obscure Messianic prophecy that doesn’t usually get listed among the more well-known prophecies. Jacob was old and knew he was about to die and he called his 12 sons to his bedside and he told them (and their descendants) what would befall them in the future, and he prophesied over each one. To some of his sons he said things that were not so encouraging but some things he said were really good. This is a small portion of what Jacob said to his son Judah.
Genesis 49:10, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”
A scepter was understood to mean a tribal identity, authority, like a staff or a rod of authority. To the Jews, this meant that they believed they had the right from the law of Moses to enforce the law and when necessary to call a judgment of authority over matters where the law had been broken, the pinnacle of that authority was seen in cases of capital punishment and this was the foundation of their system of government.
Remember the story of Esther, how she had to approach the king – her own husband – and doing so without a royal invitation could have resulted in her death. She was depending on the king extending his scepter to her, the symbol of his authority, to allow her to live and not die. That’s why she said, …”And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4: 16) Esther 5:2, describes Esther approaching the king, he extended his scepter toward her and she touched it. His authority granted her, her life.
The ‘scepter’ was the promised authority that was given by God to the Jewish people that was instituted when the Law was given to them by Moses.
Also, with regard to who ‘Shiloh’ was, there is a very long standing connection in ancient Jewish writings and teachings that ‘Shiloh’ is referring to Messiah – it’s an undisputed understanding and therefore, this prophecy by Jacob to Judah was basically stating that the Jewish right to govern and even adjudicate the Law would not cease until the arrival of Messiah and the assumption was that Messiah would come through the line of Judah.
Mark Eastman re-words the prophecy of Jacob to make it a little easier to understand and he wrote it like this;
“The [national identity of Judah, which includes the right to enforce Mosaic law, including the right to administer capital punishment upon the people, as called for in the Torah] shall not depart from [the Southern Kingdom of] Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh [the Messiah] comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.”
A very interesting thing happened in 6-7 AD in Judea; the Jews were of course under the domination of the Roman Empire and Rome was the occupying force in their land. King Herod’s son and successor, Herod Archelaus, was dethroned and exiled to Vienna, a city in Gaul and Rome didn’t replace him with another Jewish or pseudo-Jewish puppet king such as the various Herod’s were, instead they appointed a Roman procurator named Caponius.
Why is this a big deal? Well, when Caponius took the seat of power of Judea, the authority over capital cases was given over to him by Caesar and Josephus recorded this taking place.
“And now Archelaus’ part of Judea was reduced to a province, and Caponius, one of the Equestrian order of the Romans, was sent as a procurator, having the power of life and death put into his hands by Caesar.” (War of the Jews, Bk 2, ch 8)
Ancient Jewish rabbis have long believed that since God made the world in six days and then rested on the seventh day, that the world would last for seven thousand years, and Rabbi Elias who lived 200 years prior to Jesus said, “The world endures 6000 years: two thousand before the Law, two thousand with the Law and two thousand with the Messiah.”
Because there was an expectation that the Messiah was supposed to arrive around the four thousand year mark of history explains a little more why there was an increased expectation around the time of the first century because it was in fact the four thousand year mark in the history of the world from creation. So when Caponius took power and the right over capital offenses was taken from the Jewish people the reaction of the Sanhedrin was one of utter devastation. The Talmud records their reaction. They put on sackcloth and ashes which is a sign of repentance and intense grief and moaned through the streets of Jerusalem saying, “Woe unto us for the scepter has departed from Judah and the Messiah has not come!”
The unthinkable, the impossible, the unimaginable had happened…the Torah…the Word of God…had been broken! Chuck Missler has talked about this event in his teaching as well.
They were half right because the scepter had indeed departed from Judah; they had lost the right to adjudicate their Law including capital crime offenses, but they were also half wrong. Jesus was born in approximately 4 BC and Caponius took the seat of procurator in 6-7 AD which means that when the scepter departed from Judah, Jesus was around 10 years of age and He was living with His earthly family in Nazareth and Joseph, His step-father would have already been teaching Him a trade.
So yes, the scepter had departed from Judah, but Shiloh had most definitely come.
There’s a lesson in this for everyone and it’s this: no matter what you don’t see happening around you, you can trust that God will always honour His Word and see that it is fulfilled right down to the tiniest detail. The Sanhedrin in Jerusalem at the time of Caponius appointment couldn’t ‘see’ Messiah, they couldn’t ‘see’ that God had indeed kept His promise to send Shiloh before the scepter departed Judah…but He did! God is obligated only to Himself to fulfill His Word and we as His children are obligated to trust Him to fulfill it in His way and in His time. God revealed His calling and message to Jeremiah the prophet and said this…
Jeremiah 1:12, ‘Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My Word to perform it.”‘
When God says something, He not only guards it, but He promises to perform it and that means every word of Scripture is trustworthy.
As a point of interest only, if the ancient rabbis are correct (and I’m not saying they are) that human history is supposed to last seven thousand years for God’s plan of redemption, and that the first two thousand years were without the Law, the next two thousand years were with the Law and the next two thousand years were with Messiah…then we’re almost at the end of the six thousandth year and the seven thousandth year – the Millennium year of rest and peace (a millennial Sabbath) – is almost upon us.
It’s just speculation, but it’s a nice thing to speculate!
Researched in part from a study by Mark Eastman and also by Chuck Missler