Judah's brothers, the other tribes, are to bow down to Judah in the last days. Verse 8 invokes the image of a subject showing deference to his monarch, an image that sharpens in verse 10 with the use of a “scepter,” a symbol of a ruler's sovereignty, implying dominion, power, and authority. The symbol reinforces the point that Judah has a responsibility to rule, to lead.
If we are to believe what God predicts here, then we must ask, “Which nations have kings, queens, and leaders who have Judah as an ancestor?” According to God, when we find such a nation, we have a candidate for one of the tribes of the house of Israel.
Some commentators restrict these verses by claiming that the scepter image applies only to David, Solomon, and Jesus Christ. However, as Genesis 49:1 indicates, this prophecy is not just about history or the distant future, but it is specifically about today—the last days. In Genesis 49, God describes the identifying traits of each tribe, of each nation they have become, as they exist in our day.
David Guzik writes about Genesis 49:10 in his commentary on the Bible: “Each of these refer to the ruling position Judah will have among his brethren. He inherited the leadership aspect of the firstborn's inheritance.” This scepter promise was not only about rulership, but more precisely, that God gave Judah the gift of leadership.
It should not be surprising, then, that those who have Judah as an ancestor are often leaders in the fields they choose to enter. For example, in fields as diverse as politics, science, finance, business, entertainment, art, etc., we find descendants of Judah overrepresented as leaders, despite comprising only 2% of the American population. Even in the area of wealth, they represent 20% of the wealthiest 400 Americans. While some cry conspiracy, those who believe God and Genesis 49 instead see a God-ordained gift of leadership and fulfilled Bible prophecy.
In verse 10, Judah receives a special blessing and prominence. To Judah goes the promise of rulership culminating in the greatest and final ruler—Jesus Christ. The day will come when every knee will bow to a Jew—Jesus Christ (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10). While Judah was not promised physical greatness and prosperity, it received a promise of special prominence by being chosen as the tribe that would produce the Messiah, as well as rule and exercise leadership among the tribes of Israel.
The Nation of Israel—Biblical Israel? (Part Two)
About Judah, Jacob asserts, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes." Judah was to remain the princely tribe indefinitely.
Searching for Israel (Part Two): Blessings in Faith
The patriarch Jacob had twelve sons, and God had to choose from which tribe His Son would descend. He proclaims His choice through Jacob's prophecy in Genesis 49:10: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people." Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew, as many scriptures record (Matthew 1:2; Luke 3:33; Hebrews 7:14, etc.).
This fact also has spiritual implications for us. Jesus says to the woman at the well, "For salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). Paul explains what this means:
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28-29)
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Born of a Woman
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Genesis 49:10:
2 Samuel 7:11-16
1 Kings 11:11-13
1 Chronicles 29:23