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by Robert Dean
Series:Holiday Specials
Duration:57 mins 28 secs

Scepters, Shiloh, a Star, and a Booth


Is it really important that we believe that Old Testament prophecies predict a Messiah? There are those who over past centuries who have challenged that, both in evangelicalism and outside of evangelicalism. Another question: If the Messiah came, how would we know Him? What the various Old Testament passages do is send out various identification marks so that the people of God—Israel of the Old Testament—would be properly prepared so that when this individual appeared on the scene they would be able to identify Him. So the presupposition that we see, the assumption that is made at the every beginning of the Gospel accounts is that the readers, the hearers of the message of John the Baptist, of Jesus, and the apostles when they were initially sent out to the house of Israel would understand these things. They knew who the Messiah was, what the kingdom of God was that they were announcing daily. They understood because this had become such a major part of the teaching that they received in the synagogues. In the section that is called the Song of Mary of the Magnificat of Mary in Luke chapter one we see that Mary had such a deep understanding of the Old Testament. Almost every phrase, every line in that song is tied to an Old Testament passage. What this shows us is that Mary—who was very young, probably 15 or 16 which was standard at that time—had such an in-depth understanding of the Old Testament that she just weaves together these Old Testament statements about the Messiah in expressing her praise to God for having chosen her to be the mother of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Genesis 49 is a record of Jacob's final prophecy, his benediction, as it were, over his sons. Genesis 49:1 NASB "Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, 'Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come [in the last days].'" So what is the time frame that we are looking at for the fulfilment of these prophecies in Genesis 49? Not in the near future of the descendants, not in the period of the Old Testament canon, but in the last days of Israel. We always have to distinguish between the last days in God's plan for Israel and the last days of God's plan for the church age. We are in the last days of the church age and have been ever since Jesus ascended—"in these last days," the church age. But in the last days of Israel we are talking about the period of Daniel's seventieth week.


Jacob begins by addressing his oldest son, Reuben, in verse 3. Then he addresses Simeon and Levi in v. 5, and the point is that these three, the eldest, are disqualified from the primary inheritance, the double blessing. They Are disqualified because of their behaviour, because of their sin, because in Reuben's case he was undisciplined in the area of sexual immorality, and for Simeon and Levi because of their cruelty in the event involving their sister Dinah and the men of Shechem.

Then he comes to Judah in Genesis 49:8 NASB "Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies [conquest and power]; Your father's sons shall bow down to you [be seen as a ruler, the one in authority]. [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? [10] The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff [law-giver] from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him {shall be} the obedience of the peoples." The question is: What does Shiloh refer to? Shiloh was the name of a small village north of Jerusalem which housed the ark of the covenant for a number of years before the monarchy was established, after the ark was brought back to the land of Israel from the land of the Philistines. So long before Saul and David the ark leaves Shiloh and Shiloh is an inconsequential village from that point on. So this is not really talking about this village. So what is Shiloh?

The view that most of us have heard is that Shiloh is a title for the Messiah. That is one of the options that we find. What has been discovered is that the interpretation and meaning of Shiloh is very disputed and controversial. Four options have been presented for identifying the meaning of Shiloh. The first is that Shiloh is a place name. This is the interpretation published by the Jewish Publication Society in their 1917 translation. But the spelling of the text is different from the city of Shiloh. So a) it is not the same spelling, and b) as just pointed out by the time of the monarchy the ark had left Shiloh. The second interpretation is that Shiloh is a proper name or title for the Messiah. This has been understood historically by both Jewish rabbis as well as Christians. In the Talmud, Sanhedrin 98b, the question is asked: What is the Messiah's name? The answer is: Shiloh is His name—"until Shiloh comes." This is also supported in other ancient Jewish writings. The problem is that doesn't necessarily work out when we take a more detailed look at the text and all of these other documents and ancient Greek translations of the text which are uniform in their translation of Shiloh over against the Masoretic Text. The third option is, Shiloh means "his son." In this view the root of that word, the shil would be interpreted as his son. This was the view of John Calvin as well as the Jerusalem Targum and some rabbis. The problem with it is that there is no attestation in any other document or Hebrew text that we have that the word shil relates to the meaning of son. So that has just no support whatsoever from anything else. The fourth view is that Shiloh means "until what belongs to him comes." Arnold Fruchtenbaum makes the claim that this is the interpretation here and that this is supported by its use in Ezekiel 21:27. A large number of English translations recognize this as an alternative translation for Shiloh.

In the ESV margin there is the note: By a slight revocalization (to change the vowels, not the consonants), a slight emendation yields—Cf. LXX, Syriac translation, Targums—the translation "to whom it belongs." Heb. "until Shiloh comes" or "until he comes to Shiloh."

NASB margin: "Until he comes to Shiloh; or, Until he comes to whom it belongs."

The Jewish Publication Society in 1985: "Until he comes to Shiloh" or "Until he comes to whom it belongs."

Where are they getting that translation? That is the question. But there is support for this in other ancient documents. Thirty-eight ancient MSS support this reading, including the LXX. All are against the Masoretic Text vowel points. The ancient MSS see this as the first letter shi as an ancient or antiquated preposition translated "who," a relative pronoun, and the later most common Hebrew preposition is ashur. Shi is used instead of ashur in a number of passages, including Judges 5:7; Genesis 6:3. But it is a very antiquated pronoun and as the text was modernized (and that doesn't have any problem for inspiration, it is just updating spelling and substituting a modern word for an antiquated word that people wouldn't understand) there was the shift from shi to ashur. So instead of Shi-loh there would be Ashur-loh. They would mean the same thing. That is the point that was left out. This is also supported by the Qumran text which has in its translation "until the Messiah of righteousness, the Branch of David comes. For to him and to his descendants the covenant of the kingship of the people has been given to the generations of eternity." So the interpretation of Genesis 49:10 at Qumran is that this is a messianic reference: "until he comes to whom it belongs comes." That fits with the use of this phrase in Ezekiel 21:24-27.

Why is this important? In the Torah, in the Old Testament going back to the most ancient of documents that we have there are clear messianic prophecies. It is something where by you can ask: How do I really know Jesus is the Messiah? This is how you know that what you believe is true. And that really ought to be a motivating question for everybody. It is great to believe in all kinds of things, but we'd better makes sure that what we believe in true and not something that just makes us feel comfortable. Another problem that we have is when we believe something is true and it is not, in order to disprove something that is false, often we have to take hours of explanation whereas the positive statement of the false idea is very simple and can be stated very simply, and it then takes hours of technical detailed analysis and study to refute this simple statement.

What we see here is that the Old Testament truly does interpret itself. To understand these messianic prophecies of Genesis 3—the serpent, the seed, the crushing of his head, the curse on him that he will eat the dust of the ground—we have to understand how they are interpreted and expanded on in the Psalms, in the prophets, and in the writings. The same thing is true of Genesis 49. If we are unclear as to what that means it is explained further in the prophets—Ezekiel interprets this as a messianic prophecy.

In Ezekiel chapter twenty-one God is personally addressing the last king of the southern king of the southern kingdom of Judah, Zedekiah.  Ezekiel 21:24 NASB "Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, 'Because you have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your deeds your sins appear—because you have come to remembrance, you will be seized with the hand." Is the word "iniquity" singular or plural? From the English you don't know. That is why we have to now the original languages. It is a plural. Look at "Because you." It is "Because you all." It doesn't shift to a singular until verse 25: 'And you, O slain, wicked one, the prince of Israel, whose day has come, in the time of the punishment of the end.'" So who is God addressing in terms of you all. One option would be the nation, but in that you would be wrong. He's talking to Zedekiah as the last king in the Davidic line, the last king of Judah, and He is addressing the house of David that has failed to be obedient to God in it leadership over the southern kingdom of Judah. That is why the southern kingdom of Judah has been taken out in divine discipline in 586 BC. So He is addressing Zedekiah and through Zedekiah the entire house of David in verse 24. He is saying that the house of David has failed, so "you're out."   

Ezekiel 21:26 NASB "thus says the Lord GOD, 'Remove the turban and take off the crown; this {will} no longer {be} the same. Exalt that which is low and abase that which is high." This is the divine judgment, the end of the ruling of the house of David. What about the Davidic covenant? What about the promise that David is going to have a descendant who will reign forever and ever?

Ezekiel 21:27 NASB "A ruin, a ruin, a ruin, I will make it. This also will be no more until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it {to Him.}" In the Hebrew this is ashurloh. Ashur at that time was a more modern equivalent to shi which was the antiquated term. Shilohwas used in Genesis 49:10. Ashurloh is what is now used in Ezekiel 21:27. We have a direct connection here back to Genesis 49:10. Ezekiel is connecting the prophecy for Judah in Genesis 49:10 to the one whose right it is, and He is the one, the true Davidic seed who is the Messiah—"until He comes." He connects for us this messianic promise from Genesis to the line of David and shows that the line of David would not be restored and the kingdom would not be established until the messianic God-appointed King, the descendant of David, would come. 

Balaam's fourth and last prophecy is a future hegemony of Israel over both Moab and Edom. He predicts that at one point in the future Israel's power base and authority is going to control all of that area because that is the land God promised them, and Israel's power will be over Moab and Edom. That is the context. The time frame for the fulfilment of this prophecy is, again, in the latter days. Numbers 24:14 NASB "And now, behold, I am going to my people; come, {and} I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the days to come [latter days]."

Numbers 24:7 NASB "Water will flow from his buckets, And his seed {will be} by many waters, And his king shall be higher than Agag, And his kingdom shall be exalted." In Agag the consonants are g and g; no vowels in the original. Agag was the king of the Amalekites at the time of Saul. Samuel killed Agag the king of the Amalekites because that is what he was supposed to do. It is what Saul should have done. If this is Agag then all this prophecy does is talk about the fact that David would be higher than Agag, but that is this anti-messianic influence on the Masoretic text. All the other ancient documents without exception translated this as Gog. Who is Gog? Remember the Gog and Magog assault on Israel at the end times in Ezekiel 38 & 39? Gog is a term that summarizes the enemies of Israel and the enemies of God. If this is translated "Gog" we have "…And his king shall be higher than Gog, And his kingdom shall be exalted." Again, it is clear that it is talking about the Messiah.

Numbers 24:9 NASB "He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him? Blessed is everyone who blesses you, And cursed is everyone who curses you." The lion: Genesis 49:10. Numbers comes after Genesis; this is connecting the dots for us that the King who will be higher than Gog is the lion. Then he connects it to the Abrahamic promise: "Blessed is everyone who blesses you, And cursed is everyone who curses you."

Numbers 24:17 NASB "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth." This will happen in the latter days. "A star shall come forth from Jacob"—the star in the heavens led the Magi to the birthplace of Jesus. A star had the same sort of connotation it has to day as a celebrity, a power figure. Star and sceptre are in synonymous parallelism here. The prediction is that the Messiah is the one who is going to come and establish this rule, this hegemony over Moab and Edom.

This is fulfilled in the end times. But Amos also talks about this. In Amos 9:11, 12 NASB 'In that day [End times] I will raise up the fallen booth of David [House of David], And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins And rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom And all the nations who are called by My name,' Declares the LORD who does this."

Amos 9:13 NASB "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "When the plowman will overtake the reaper And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; When the mountains will drip sweet wine And all the hills will be dissolved." This is the establishment of the Millennial kingdom.

In verse 12 when it talks about "its breaches" and "raise up its ruins" the "its" there is a feminine plural. The term for the tabernacle or the booth of David is a feminine noun, so it is referring back to the house of David, not David. Now what has happened? Amos is living just before Isaiah, about 760 BC. He is addressing the northern kingdom and is prophesying that the house of David will collapse and be in ruins. Repairing its damages means there is going to be a restoration of the house of David. "I will raise up its ruins"—again it is a feminine plural; "rebuild it as in the days of old," but it is not a feminine plural there; it shifts to a masculine singular. So it is not talking about the house of David anymore, it is talking about Him, about the second David which is a term that is applied to Jesus just as He is referred to as the second Adam. Jesus or the Messiah as the second David is the one who will rebuild, just as in the days of old—the reestablishment of the Davidic house which is the promise of the eternal Davidic son. As David is dead by the time of Amos this must refer to the second David, as He is referred to in Hosea 3:5, when God raises up the house of David from the ashes of destruction and restores it under the Messiah.

In Amos 9:12 the phrase "that they may possess" is the same word that is used for the possession of Moab and Edom back in Numbers 24. So Amos connects this to the Davidic covenant in v.11 and connects the Messiah's reign to the prophecy of Numbers 24 in terms of the domination over Moab and Edom.

All of this reminds us that God set up this plan for the Messiah in intricate ways in the Old Testament and works this out in detail. This is not just chance. All of these technical minutia and details that we see in the Old Testament are fulfilled precisely in Jesus. What confidence that gives us! Our belief in Jesus as the Messiah isn't just tradition or something that we believe as Christians but it is grounded in some of the most intricate details that are given in these prophecies in the Old Testament. The encouragement for us is that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. He fulfils over 100 prophecies. There were over 300 prophecies about the Messiah but they were not all fulfilled at the first coming; but over 100 were fulfilled. The rest will be fulfilled when Jesus comes to establish His kingdom.