8 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. 9 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? 10 The sceptre 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.
Judah receives a far more promising blessing than Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. We have previously seen that after the three oldest brothers had tarnished themselves and Joseph was taken away, Judah was the one that Jacob relied upon as if he were the firstborn. The man has not been perfect, but he has also proven himself to have a working conscience from time to time.
Jacob foretells that all the other brethren will praise Judah. He even describes the two ways in which this will come true. First, when Israel’s greatest kings, David and Solomon, will come of Judah, and secondly, when our Savior, Jesus Christ, will be born of Judah as well. In fact, to this very day we refer to Christ as “the lion of Judah,” an image that is first suggested right here in Jacob’s blessing.
For a moment let us look more closely at this imagery of a lion. Judah is compared both to a whelp, or a young lion, and then to an old one. He is compared to the youth in terms of having taken his prey, and to the old in how he is now at peaceful repose. Thus, Judah is a warrior returned from successful battle, now able to rest in contentment. He is able to act when the moment requires, but then has the self-confidence to not have to prove himself thereafter. He knows that he has what it takes and is calm and sure in that knowledge.
This is the image of the warrior-poet. This is David, who was able to ride fearlessly into battle, and slay giants, but then go home and write beautiful psalms. This is Jesus, who could scatter the moneychangers at the table with a whip, but then invite the little children to come and be blessed. Judah is the nation of people that possess a deep-rooted and self-confident strength.