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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 49

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

Verse 10


Genesis 49:10. 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.

THERE was a series of predictions relative to the Messiah from the very beginning of the world; and, as the time for the accomplishment of the prophecies drew near, the predictions concerning him were more particular and minute. About seventeen hundred years before his appearance, the time of his coming was fixed with great accuracy and precision. At the very first moment that the sons of Jacob were made heads of different tribes, it was foretold, that the continuance of Judah’s power should extend beyond that of the other tribes, and that the Messiah should arrive before its expiration. In explaining this prophecy we shall of necessity be led to speak of,


The time of his advent—

This, according to the text, was to precede the departure of Judah’s sceptre—
[Judah is here represented as a lion gorged with his prey, and couching in his den with a sceptre between his feet; a sceptre, which none should ever wrest from him, until he should come, whose right it was. “The sceptre” does not import dominion over the other tribes, but only the same kind of separate and independent jurisdiction which was vested in Dan, and in all the other tribes [Note: 6.]. Nor does the term “lawgiver” mean a person who should enact laws; but rather, one who should execute and enforce them. Moses was the only lawgiver of the Jews; and even the kings were required to write a copy of his law, and to obey it in all things. Now it was here foretold, that this particular power should remain with Judah after that the other tribes should have been deprived of theirs; and that it should continue vested in persons belonging to that tribe till the Messiah should come. The precise import of the term “Shiloh” is not certainly known; but it is thought by most to mean, The Peacemaker. All however are agreed that it is a name for the Messiah, whose advent was to precede the dissolution of the Jewish polity.]

The event exactly corresponded with the prediction—
[The ten tribes were spoiled of their power when they were carried captive to Assyria. But the tribe of Judah retained both their ecclesiastical and civil polity even in Babylon. If they did not exercise it to the same extent as before, they had by no means wholly lost it. As they had possessed it in Egypt, and retained it the whole time of their Egyptian bondage [Note: Exodus 34:31-32.], so they still nominated their chiefs and elders, yea and appointed fasts and feasts, while they were oppressed with the Chaldean yoke [Note: Moses and Aaron were sent to the elders of the people, Exodus 3:16; Exodus 4:29; and these were heads of houses, Exodus 6:14; and rulers of the congregation, Exodus 16:22. Compare Numbers 1:3; Numbers 1:16. See Sherlock’s third Dissertation, pp. 342, 346, 6th edition.]. Their bondage in Babylon was indeed, on the whole, exceeding heavy; but many of them were suffered to build houses and plant gardens, and to live rather as a colony than as slaves [Note: Jeremiah 29:5; Jeremiah 29:7.]. On their return from Babylon, their own chiefs and elders were appointed to superintend the execution of Cyrus’ decree [Note: Ezra 1:5; Ezra 1:8.] ; and, after that period, they continued to enjoy their privileges till the time of our Lord’s advent. Soon after that, they were reduced to the state of a Roman province; but still exercised the same powers, only in a more limited manner [Note: Compare John 18:3; John 18:31.]. But, forty years after the death of Christ, when his Gospel had been fully preached, and people of all nations had been gathered to him, their city and temple were utterly destroyed; and they themselves were dispersed into all lands. From that time their sceptre has utterly departed from them; nor can the smallest vestige of their former power be traced. They are therefore living proofs throughout the whole world that their Messiah is indeed come.]

The time of Christ’s advent being thus clearly ascertained, let us consider,


The consequences of it—

The last clause of the text is by some applied to Judah, to whom the tribe of Benjamin was attached, and the few of the other ten tribes, who returned after their dispersion by the Assyrians, were gathered [Note: 1 Chronicles 9:3.]. But the sense of that clause is both more clear, and infinitely more important, as applied to Shiloh. And, if it be understood, as it may well be, as a further limitation of the time beyond which Judah should not retain this power, it will mark, with most astonishing accuracy, the precise period at which his sceptre was to depart.

But, taking it according to its general acceptation, it declares the calling of the Gentiles to the knowledge of Christ—
[The Scriptures speak much upon this glorious subject. Without noticing the innumerable passages that declare God’s intention to convert the Gentiles, we will confine our attention to two or three that speak of it almost in the very same terms as those in the test. Isaiah, representing Christ as standing for an ensign to the people, says, “To him shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious [Note: Isaiah 11:10.].” There was a remarkable prophecy to the same effect unwittingly uttered by Caiaphas the high-priest. While he designed nothing more than to instigate the Jews to destroy Jesus, God overruled his mind to declare that Jesus should die for the whole world, and should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad [Note: John 11:52.]. Our Lord himself also, foretelling the same glorious event, said, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me [Note: John 12:32.].” Nor is only the mere circumstance of their conversion declared in the test; the manner also of their coming to him is strongly intimated. They “shall be a willing people in the day of God’s power,” and as the prophet describes at large, shall fly to him as a cloud, or as doves to their windows [Note: Isaiah 60:3-8.].]

This part of the prediction also has received, and is daily receiving, its accomplishment—
[No sooner had our Lord given up the Ghost, than the centurion, the first fruits of the Gentiles, was led to acknowledge him as the Son of God. Presently, not Judea only, but the whole Roman empire, was filled with those who were gathered unto him. And, at this moment, “all who are taught of God come unto him” as the one foundation of all their hopes, and the only fountain of all their blessings. There is a period still future, when this prophecy shall be fulfilled in its utmost extent; when “all kings shall bow down before him, and all nations shall serve him.” Blessed period! may “God hasten it in its time!” may his “Gospel run and be glorified,” and “his glory fill the whole earth!”]

Let us now ADDRESS a few words,

To those who are yet dispersed, and at a distance from the Lord—

[We need not here turn our eyes to Jews, but reflect how many are there even in this Christian land, who have no more fellowship with Jesus than if he had never come into the world! But what account will they give to him when they shall stand at his tribunal in the last day? Are not the words of our text a direction, as well as a prophecy? Are they not equivalent to an express command? Has not Christ himself enforced this command by repeated invitations and promises, “Look unto me, and be ye saved;” “Come unto me, and ye shall find rest unto your souls?” Has he not even sworn that all shall come to him, or perish for their neglect [Note: Isaiah 45:22-25.] ? Why then should we not all gather ourselves around him as in the days of his flesh? Why should not the blind, the lame, the leprous, the possessed, come to him for deliverance? Why should not the poor trembling sinner press through the crowd, and “touch the hem of his garment?” Surely none should find it in vain to come unto him; “Virtue should go forth from him to heal them all.” O let the prophecy then receive a fresh accomplishment this day; and may God so “draw us by his Spirit that we may run after him,” and abide with him for ever!]


Those who, through grace, have been gathered to him—

[The sceptre is now passed into the hands of Jesus. He is the true lion of the tribe of Judah [Note: Revelation 5:5.], to whom all power in heaven and in earth has been committed. What then have ye to fear, who are under his protection? Who shall ever pluck you from his hands [Note: John 10:28.] ? When, or to whom shall his sceptre ever be transferred? His mediatorial kingdom will indeed be put down, when there shall be no more occasion for it [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:24. This relates to the peculiar mode of administering the affairs of his kingdom as our Mediator.]. But though he will cease to mediate between God and man, his sovereign dominion shall exist to all eternity; “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; of thy kingdom there shall he no end [Note: Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 2:44; Hebrews 1:8.].” Rejoice then, believers, in your Lord; “let the children of Zion be joyful in their king.” Cherish his attractive influences: gather yourselves around him yet daily and hourly: spread before him your every want: commune with him on every occasion: consult him; listen to him; obey him: cleave to him with full purpose of heart: so will he keep you steadfast unto the end, and admit you to the richer fruition of his presence in his kingdom above.]

Verses 22-24


Genesis 49:22-24. Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him. But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob: from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel.

PECULIAR care is to be used in unfolding the types, lest, by indulging our own imagination, we bring the very truth of God itself into contempt. Where the Scriptures themselves have marked the typical reference, we may proceed without fear; but when once they cease to guide us, we should not venture one step but with fear and trembling. This observation is peculiarly applicable to the subject before us. It does not appear that Joseph is anywhere declared to be a type of Christ, notwithstanding the circumstances wherein they resemble each other are as numerous and remarkable, as in almost any other instance whatever. We forbear therefore to assert any thing on this subject with confidence; while, in compliance with the opinion of the most judicious commentators, and indeed with the almost irresistible conviction of our own mind, we proceed to trace the resemblance of Joseph to Christ, in,


His distinguishing character—

Joseph is represented as “a fruitful bough”—
[Every tribe is distinguished by something characteristic, either of the patriarchs themselves, or of their descendants. The distinction assigned to Joseph, is that of peculiar fruitfulness: and to him it eminently belonged. All his brethren indeed were honoured with being heads of distinct tribes: but Joseph had both his sons chosen of God, and appointed to be Leads of separate tribes; and thus two tribes sprang from him, while one tribe only sprang from any of his brethren.]
To our Lord also is a similar title frequently ascribed—
[Jesus was that “beautiful and glorious branch,” which was in due time to spring from the stem of Jesse [Note: Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1.], the fruit whereof was to fill the whole earth [Note: Isaiah 27:6.]. It was not one tribe only, or two, that was to acknowledge him as their head, but all the tribes; yea, Gentiles as well as Jews, even all the ends of the earth: his fruit was to shake like the woods of Lebanon, and they, who should spring from him, were to be numerous as the piles of grass [Note: Psalms 72:16.], the stars of heaven [Note: Genesis 15:5.], and the sands upon the sea-shore [Note: Genesis 22:17.]. And so abundantly has this prediction been already verified, that we may say of this Branch as the Psalmist did of that which typically represented it, “It has taken deep root, and filled the land: the hills are covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof are like the goodly cedars; it has sent forth its boughs unto the sea, and its branches unto the river [Note: Psalms 80:9-11.].”]

But the resemblance will more fully appear, while we consider,


His grievous sufferings—

Joseph was for many years very grievously afflicted—
[He was eminently the beloved of his father [Note: Genesis 37:3.] ; and, being utterly averse to sin himself, he would reprove, and lay before his father, the misconduct of his brethren [Note: Genesis 37:2.]: he also, unreservedly, communicated to them all the repeated intimations, which he had had in dreams, respecting his future exaltation above his whole family [Note: Genesis 37:5; Genesis 37:9.]. For these reasons he was envied, hated, and persecuted by his brethren [Note: Genesis 37:4; Genesis 37:11.]. And when he came to them from his father, upon an errand of love, they conspired against him to kill him [Note: Genesis 37:18-20.]. An opportunity offering at the moment, they sold him into the hands of strangers for twenty pieces of silver [Note: Genesis 37:28.]. After that, he was accused of a crime he utterly abhorred, and, without any one to plead his cause, was cast into prison [Note: Genesis 39:12-20.], where, for a time at least, “he was laid in irons,” and galled with heavy fetters [Note: Psalms 105:18.] ; so “sorely did the archers grieve him, and shoot at him, and hate him.”]

And can we err in tracing here the sufferings of our Lord?
[Jesus was, infinitely above all others, the well-beloved of his Father [Note: Matthew 3:17.] ; and, while he faithfully reproved the sins of his brethren, declared to them his future exaltation and glory [Note: Joh 7:7 and Matthew 26:64.]. Filled with envy and wrath against him, they said, as it were in malignant triumph, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him [Note: Matthew 21:38.] ;” so cruelly “did they reward him evil for good, and hatred for his love [Note: Psalms 109:3-5.].” When he was come to them from his Father with the most benevolent design, behold, one of his own disciples sold him, and that to strangers too, for thirty pieces of silver [Note: Matthew 26:15-16.]. He was accused of blasphemy against God, and of rebellion against his king; and, without any one appearing to speak on his behalf [Note: Isaiah 53:8. See Bp. Lowth’s translation and note, and Psalms 69:20.], was instantly condemned; and thus, though “none could convince him of sin,” “was numbered with the transgressors.” Could there have been such a coincidence of circumstances between his lot and Joseph’s, at least is it probable there would have been, if it had not been particularly ordained of God?]

We may pursue the comparison yet further, in,


His unshaken constancy—

Joseph was marvelously upheld under all his trials—
[Though he besought his brethren with cries and tears, we read not of any reproachful language that he used: when he entreated Pharaoh’s butler to intercede for him, he did not so much as mention either his brethren, who had sold him, or his mistress, who had falsely accused him [Note: Genesis 40:14-15.]: nor, while he was enduring his hard lot, did he once murmur or repine at the providence of God: through the whole of his trial he possessed his soul in patience: nor, when he had it in his power to revenge himself, did he render any thing but love for hatred, and good for evil. The apparent unkindness of his deportment, which he adopted for a time, was a violence done to his own feelings, in order that he might discern the real state of their minds, and reveal himself to them afterwards to better effect [Note: Genesis 42:7; Genesis 42:9; Genesis 42:12.]. When the proper season was arrived, he fully evinced the tenderness of his heart, and the delight he took in the exercise of mercy; and, so far from upbraiding his brethren, he said all he could to extenuate their crime, and referred the whole event to the overruling providence of God [Note: Genesis 45:5.]. So effectually were “his hands strengthened by the mighty God of Jacob,” that in no instance was he “overcome of evil, but at all times overcame evil with good.”]

Our blessed Lord also shone like him, only with infinitely brighter lustre—
[Never did an inadvertent word drop from the lips of Jesus under all his persecutions: “When he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously [Note: 1 Peter 2:23.].” “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so opened he not his mouth [Note: Isaiah 53:7.] ” either in menaces, or complaints. His meekness was uniform, his fortitude undaunted, his patience invincible. He sought nothing but the good of those who were daily conspiring against his life: he wept over them, when they resisted all his overtures of mercy [Note: Luke 19:41.]: he even prayed for them, and apologized for their crimes, when they were in the very act of putting him to death [Note: Luke 23:34.]: and, after his resurrection, commanded that the offers of salvation through his blood should be made first to the very people who had so lately shed it [Note: Luke 24:47.].]

There is yet one more feature of resemblance to be noticed, in,


His glorious advancement—

After all his trials Joseph was exalted to a throne—
[Through the good providence of God, Joseph was enabled to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, and was, on that account, brought from the dungeon, and made, next to Pharaoh, the supreme governor of the Egyptian kingdom [Note: Genesis 41:14-15; Genesis 41:41.]: all were ordered to bow the knee to Joseph [Note: Genesis 41:43.] ; and all, who came for a supply of corn, received this direction, Go to Joseph [Note: Genesis 41:55.]. Thus did God exalt him to be both “the shepherd and the stone of Israel,” that he might not only provide for Egypt and the neighbouring kingdoms, but be an effectual support to all his kindred, and preserve the lives of those very persons who had sought his destruction.]

Can we reasonably doubt but that in this he was a type of Jesus?
[Jesus was raised from the prison of the grave by the effectual working of God’s power: “he was highly exalted; and had a name given him above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow [Note: Philippians 2:9-11; Psalms 72:8-9; Psalms 72:11.]:” “all power was committed to him in heaven and in earth; and all things were put under him, he only excepted, who did put all things under him [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:27.].” Whatever we want for our souls, we must receive it all out of his fulness [Note: John 1:16.]: the direction given to every living creature is, Go to Jesus, Look to Jesus [Note: Isaiah 45:22; John 7:37.]. And how does he exercise his power? Behold, he calls his sinful brethren from a land of want and misery, and brings them to his own land of peace and plenty. There he nourishes them with the bread of life, and “reigns over the house of Jacob for ever and ever.” Thus, as “the great Shepherd of the sheep,” he both feeds and rules his flock, while as “the foundation” and “cornerstone” he supports and connects, confirms and dignifies, all the “Israel” of God [Note: Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:6.].]

By way of improvement we observe,

The purposes of God, whatever may be done to frustrate them, shall surely be accomplished—

[We are amazed at the variety of incidents, that seemed to put the elevation of Joseph, and of Christ, almost beyond the reach of Omnipotence itself. Yet God’s purposes were accomplished by the very means used to defeat them. Thus shall it be with us also, if we confide in the word of God. Whatever means Satan, or the world, may use to “separate us from God,” they shall not prevail. “What God has promised, he is able also to perform.” Let us therefore trust in him; for He will work, and who shall let it? He hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? His counsel shall stand; and he will do all his pleasure [Note: Isaiah 43:13; Isaiah 14:27; Isaiah 46:10.].]


God’s dearest children must expect many trials in their way to glory—

[Joseph, and Christ, endured much before their exaltation. And we also “through much tribulation shall enter into the kingdom.” The number and weight of our trials are no grounds of concluding ourselves to be objects of God’s displeasure: they should rather, especially if they be sanctified to us, be considered as tokens of his love [Note: Hebrews 12:6.]. As the Captain of our salvation was, so also must we be, made perfect through sufferings [Note: Hebrews 2:10.]. Let us then “arm ourselves with the mind that was in Christ.” We shall surely have no reason to regret the difficulties of the way, when we have attained the rest prepared for us.]


We should not labour to control events, but study rather to accommodate ourselves to the circumstances in which God has placed us—

[How often might Joseph have escaped from the house of Potiphar, or sent to his brethren the news of his exaltation in Egypt! But he left all in the hands of God, endeavouring only to fulfil his duty, whether as a slave or a steward, whether as a jailor or a prince. Thus did our Lord also, when he could in ten thousand ways have changed the course of events. Let us do likewise. Whatever be our circumstances or condition in life, let us be more desirous of glorifying God under them, than of contriving, by any means, to alter them. God’s time and manner of accomplishing his own ends will be found infinitely better in the issue, than any we can devise [Note: Isaiah 55:8-9.]. Let us then tarry his leisure, and leave ourselves wholly to his disposal, and approve ourselves to him as faithful, and obedient children.]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 49". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/genesis-49.html. 1832.
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