Parashat Vayechi (And He Lived)
Beresheet (Genesis) 47:28–50:26
In this week’s parasha, we get a clear example of why we must read the entire Word of God as a whole book, rather than as two separate parts. In Genesis 49:1, many of the English translations write, “Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what shall befall you in the days to come.” A more accurate translation would be, “Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather together and I will tell you that which will happen to you in the end of days (the last days).’”
This week I would like to share some thoughts on Genesis 49:8-12, which was Jacob's prophecy to Judah. While this blog entry may be a little longer with many scripture references to support my thoughts, please take the time to read it to the end! I believe you'll be blessed by the richness of the Scriptures' meaning.
Judah, your brothers shall praise (acknowledge) you; your hand shall be on the nape of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff (law maker) from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to Him shall be the obedience (Or gathering in order to obey) of the peoples. “He binds his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, and his robes in the blood of grapes. Red eyes are dull from wine, and teeth white from milk.
Let's start with verse 8:
Judah, your brothers shall praise (acknowledge) you; your hand shall be on the nape of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.
This speaks of the fact that Judah will inherit the place of the older brother, and that all of the brothers will look up to him and will bow down to him. Many commentaries also speak about the fact that Judah will inherit the role of the leader of the children of Israel, which is something that happened from the time of King David. As I was reading this verse, I was thinking about Yeshua our Messiah, and the fact that one day Israel will acknowledge and recognize Him as the promised One:
And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born.
...that at the name of Yeshua EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Then we have verse 9:
Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up?
The image of Judah as a lion in verse 9 is also very important in biblical prophecy. In fact, Messiah is referred to as the "Lion of Judah" in Revelation 5:5:
...and one of the elders said to me, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”
There is no doubt that the next verse (verse 10) clearly speaks about the Messiah:
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff (law maker) from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to Him shall be the obedience (Or gathering in order to obey) of the peoples.
A day is coming when a ruler - the lawmaker and the judge from the house of David — will come, and all the people of the world will gather around Him and obey Him. The name, Shiloh, is also one of the many names of Messiah in Judaism. This verse parallels another amazing verse that speaks about a ruler that will come out of Bethlehem, who was here from the beginning and will rule over Israel:
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.
Micah 5:2 (1 in Hebrew)
The final two verses are very challenging verses to understand in Hebrew; however, I personally believe that they directly point to Yeshua as the Messiah. Let's look at verse 11 first:
He binds his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, and his robes in the blood of grapes.
Zechariah 9:9 speaks of a King that will come to Zion- a humble King who will bring salvation and will ride on a donkey:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Clearly, Yeshua fulfilled this expectation in Matthew 21:1-5:
And when they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Yeshua sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them, and bring them to Me. And if anyone says something to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” Now this took place that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.’”
Furthermore, when one reads of the washing of the garments in wine and with blood of grapes, it ought to direct us to two more places that speak directly about the Messiah. Isaiah 9:1-8 (8:23 -9:7 in the Hebrew Bible) speaks directly about the Messiah and in it, verse 4 reminds me of the words from Genesis 49:11… “For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.” This verse speaks of the Messiah as one that will bring victory in the war of holiness.
Isaiah 63:1-5 also speaks of Messiah in a similar way that is echoed in our portion from Genesis 49:
Who is this who comes from Edom, with garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, this One who is majestic in His apparel, marching in the greatness of His strength? “It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? “I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger, and trampled them in My wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment. For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come. And I looked, and there was no one to help, and I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; so My own arm brought salvation to Me; and My wrath upheld Me.”
The final verse from Genesis 49 is difficult to understand, but I think we can find something relating to Messiah in it: “Red eyes are dull from wine, and teeth white from milk.” While some commentaries speak of the description of the Messiah that will have “red eyes”, I was thinking of the event that took place at the Garden of Gat Shemanim (also known in English as "Gethsemane"). The event took place after the Passover meal, where the disciples would have had 4 cups of wine as prescribed in the traditional feast. We recall that every time Yeshua returned from praying, He found them sleeping since their eyes were “heavy”. Could it be that their eyes were red and dull from drinking wine, which Jacob/Israel prophesied thousands of years before?
This entire portion of Scripture is so rich with references to Messiah! It's a strong reminder that He is the One that the Jewish people waited for, and that He will come again, as the Scriptures foretell. I'm grateful for the Word that our gracious God has given us! Let's be encouraged and hopeful.