Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 49:10-12

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.

11 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:

12 His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.

Yesterday we discussed how the tribe of Judah would give rise to the greatest kings of Israel and the Savior, Jesus Christ. This is why Jacob says that the “sceptre shall not depart from Judah, until Shiloh come.” Shiloh, of course, is a title for the Messiah.

Verses 11 and 12 can be interpreted in two ways. The first is that Jacob has gone back to describing Judah, foretelling how his land would be rich and overflowing, using hyperbole like the wine being so excessive that the people of the land would use it to wash their clothing.

Or these verses can be seen as one of the first poetic prophecies we have of the Messiah. Thus, they would be referring to “Shiloh,” who was just mentioned at the end of verse 10. From this perspective the “binding of his foal unto the vine,” would be how Christ integrated his disciples into the living vine of his own teachings. The washing his garments in wine refers to his sacrifice in the Garden of Gethsemane, where blood drained from his pores and must have permeated his clothing.

Of course, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that this description is twofold, meant to describe both Judah and the Savior. Indeed, many prophecies we interpret in a worldly way, and it fits perfectly fine as such, but then one day we realize there was a deeper, spiritual interpretation that was hiding within it this whole time!

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 49:8-10

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.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 46:28-30

28 And he sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. 

29 And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.

30 And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.

Jacob selects Judah to lead the way to Goshen. Previously we have discussed that Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, the three eldest sons of Jacob, had each forfeited their birthright through various sins they committed. And while Judah was by no means a saint, clearly Jacob sees him as the most steady and trustworthy of his elder sons, and so gives him the honor and responsibility that are befitting of a first-born.

I’m amused by the understated description of Jacob and Joseph’s emotional reunion, simply stating that Joseph wept upon his father’s neck for “a good while.” Jacob had been the one to protect and love Joseph, even when all the rest of the household reviled him for his dreams. He had been the boy’s only parental support after his mother, Rachel, had passed away. And then this last great support had been torn prematurely from Joseph’s side. Perhaps it had been necessary, so that Joseph could fully come to rely on God as his support instead, but still, what a joyful reunion to be back with the man who always loved Joseph most.

And as for Jacob, he emphatically declares that he is ready to die. Though he has lost many things in life, by having this one relationship restored at the end he is at peace.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:32-34

32 For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever.

33 Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren.

34 For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father.

Judah has explained how returning home without Benjamin might kill his father for grief, but it is his plea at the end that I find most moving. Judah does not rage against Joseph, he does not stubbornly insist that they’ve got the wrong man, he doesn’t even ask Joseph to let the matter go for pity’s sake.

No, humbly and selflessly, Judah only asks that he be punished in place of the lad. If there is a price that must be paid, let it be taken out on him, and let the boy go free. The symbolism here of the Savior is obvious, and it seems particularly fitting that Jesus would be descended of Judah, who was willing to sacrifice himself that his brother might be restored to his father.

A little while ago we saw a picture of Judah that was far less flattering. He had abandoned his covenant, sullied himself through lust, and was mired in a tawdry family drama. At the end of it came a hint of redemption, though, when he started to acknowledge his folly and accept its consequences. That spark of maturity seems to have continued to grow in him until this time, finally making him ready to fully surrender himself for the good of others.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:24-29

24 And it came to pass when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord.

25 And our father said, Go again, and buy us a little food.

26 And we said, We cannot go down: if our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down: for we may not see the man’s face, except our youngest brother be with us.

27 And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons:

28 And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since:

29 And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.

Judah now relates to Joseph the conversations he hasn’t been privy to, the ones that the brothers had back home with their father. He tries to appeal to Joseph’s pathos by describing the horrible grief that might come upon Jacob if Benjamin is harmed. Little does Judah know that this sympathetic plea would have an especially pronounced effect on Joseph, for Judah isn’t describing some strange Hebrew man being brought to death’s door by grief, he is describing the Egyptian prince’s own father!

Judah also references the loss of Joseph in clearer terms, and the fact that Jacob believes the boy was torn apart by animals. Judah does not, however, admit to the fact that they actually sold their brother into Egypt. These men have grown to admit their sins to themselves, and to accept that they deserve to be punished for them, however they aren’t yet willing to be seen by the outer world for what they truly are.

Even so, it seems that their repentance is near enough to complete for Joseph to accept it. Judah is going to make one final plea, and then Joseph will reveal all.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:18-23

18 Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh.

19 My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother?

20 And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him.

21 And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him.

22 And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die.

23 And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more.

Judah draws near to Joseph and asks to speak with him on a more direct, emotional level. But even at this more intimate range, he still isn’t able to recognize his own brother. He continues to only see an Egyptian lord before him.

Joseph allows this more informal approach and Judah launches into a summary of all that they have gone through. He wants to make the whole picture clear to Joseph. He begins in familiar territory, relating experiences that Joseph already witnessed, but soon he will carry into other scenes that Joseph was not present for.

It would seem that Judah’s objective is to become known to Joseph, to let this powerful magnate see him as he really as, and hopefully find something there to take pity on. And so Judah reminds Joseph what a terrible predicament he had put them in, demanding that they bring their youngest brother to him, even though it might kill their father for grief.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:6-10

6 And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother?

7 And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words: could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down?

8 And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones.

9 I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever:

10 For except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time.

Jacob complains that they ever told the Egyptians about Benjamin. It seems a strange thing to have disclosed, but the sons maintain that the line of inquiry had driven directly to that matter. Very bad luck it might seem to Jacob, but really there was no luck involved in it at all. Joseph knew exactly what he was getting at and intentionally directed the conversation there.

At this point Jacob’s complaints might simply be an attempt postpone the inevitable. I imagine he already knows that he is sending Benjamin with them, but he wants to express his frustration a bit more before doing so.

Now Judah turns to impassioned promises, much like Reuben did earlier. He will be responsible for the lad, and he will answer for anything bad that happens to him. The very same as Reuben has already pledged.

Judah and Reuben. The eldest and youngest of Leah, two blood brothers of Simeon, who still languishes in the Egyptian prison. Reuben who diverted his brothers’ intention to kill Joseph, and Judah who I have suspicions did the same. Thus, both of these men seem to have a track record of brotherly protection, the ones that Jacob could trust most to make good on their promise. And here, in this moment, their brotherly care is twofold. They are pledging protection of one brother, in order that they might rescue a second.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:1-5

1 And the famine was sore in the land.

2 And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food.

3 And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.

4 If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food:

5 But if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.

We don’t know how much corn the brothers bought the first time, nor how long it lasted, but it wasn’t enough. Once again, they found themselves unable to preserve their own lives, and needing outside help. I wonder whether this could have been by design on Joseph’s part. He had the benefit of knowing exactly how long this famine was going to last, and so he might have known that the amount of corn the brothers bought would not be enough to get all the way through. They would have to come back whether they wanted to or not.

Which is exactly the same conclusion that Jacob comes to. The sons must go back to Egypt and must buy more grain. But in his request, he leaves out any mention of Benjamin, and whether the boy will be allowed to go with the rest of his brothers.

Earlier Reuben had made impassioned promises to try and get his father to send Benjamin and it hadn’t worked. Now Judah uses a different tactic. He does not open with pleading or solemn oaths, Judah point-blank refuses the old man’s request unless he consents to send the boy. Jacob must choose between risking Benjamin’s life and risking everyone’s life…including Benjamin’s. No further argument is necessary, the correct choice is obvious.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38-39

I just finished reviewing the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38. When I started going through this chapter I thought it was a strange interruption in the story of Joseph. We had heard about the youth being sold into Egypt in chapter 37, and in chapter 39 we were going to continue to with his service in Potiphar’s house, so why does the narrative divert to a seemingly random and unpleasant story about Judah?

As I came to the end of chapter 38, though, I realized that its placement in the Bible is actually very clever. This chapter is meant to be a companion piece to chapter 39, read together and then compared and contrasted to each other. In each chapter a son of Jacob is being tugged at by depravity and they respond to that temptation in very different ways.

In Judah’s story he elects to leave his father’s house to live among a more carnal people. He adopts their ways, marries one of their women, and arranges for his son to do so as well. He full-heartedly steps into the lewd and filthy world, and as a result endures an icky family drama that is one of the most uncomfortable chapters to read in the entire Bible. At the end he is further tempted by lust, gives in, and finds himself caught in a trap entirely of his own making. Fortunately, in the final verses we see the first sign of remorse from Judah, something that will develop further when he meets Joseph again in Egypt.

As for Joseph, he also leaves his father’s house to live among a more carnal people, though in his case it is entirely against his will. Unlike Judah, he will not adopt their baser customs. He might be immersed in a society that does not follow the commandments of God, but he himself still will. He will similarly be tempted by lust and he will reject it. This will result in him being cast down in society, but will be a great victory for his soul.

Chapters 38 and 39 are together an examination on different ways that we can deal with all that is base and depraved in the world. We can seek it out and become part of its dirtying cycle, or we can keep ourselves holy, even as all around us is not. We are all invited to partake of the carnal but we can also reject it, and our lives will shift according to our choice.

Fortunately, for those of us who identify more with the story of Judah than of Joseph, the narrative does still provide a ray of hope. Judah stumbles, and he slogged through the gutter for a time, but he also came to see the error of his ways and seems to have turned over a new leaf. We will see his chance for restitution in a few chapters, and there still remains a chance for us as well.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38:24-26

24 And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.

25 When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff.

26 And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.

The hypocrisy in Judah is incredible. Three months prior he crept into the tent of a prostitute, but when he hears that his daughter-in-law has herself been a prostitute, he demands that she be burned! Not only is Judah hypocritical in this matter, but also in how he has done nothing but shirk his responsibilities to his daughter-in-law for years, yet once he believes her to be in infraction of her contract also, he immediately seeks justice against her!

Then, at last, the moment of revelation comes. Tamar has shrewdly held onto the signet, bracelets, and staff that she was given by Judah. They are clear markers of his identity and there is no question that she was the prostitute he met along the road, and he is the man who is the father of her child.

I do not know whether levirate law permitted for a widow to be given to his father, but it is worth noting that rather than go to some stranger Tamar had kept the whole affair within the family, and she only did what she did after Judah was a widower, with no other lawful wife. It may still be a shocking course of action, but Tamar deliberately chose to operate within the very limited restrictions that she had, rather than totally abandon her commitments.

All these matters turn Judah’s anger in an instant. He has been found out in front of others, and at last he admits his own unrighteousness. He has lived an unholy and lustful life, which has borne him a most awkward fruit, and at last he owns that shame. “She hath been more righteous than I.”