What is significant about the Genesis 49:8-12 prophecy (often called the ‘Shiloh prophecy’) is that it reveals the office that the Messiah would hold according to the tribe in which He would appear. The scepter would not depart from Judah until ‘Shiloh’ came. Built into the prophecy was the history of the Kings of Israel. There was, however, an expressly eschatological element to the promise.
Of the multitude of Messianic prophecies that stand out in the book of Genesis, Gen. 3:15, 12:1-3 and Gen. 49:8-12 are arguably the most significant. After our first parents fell, the Lord promised to send a Redeemer into the world. This Redeemer would be the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham and the Lion of the tribe of Judah. As redemptive history was carried along through human lineage, the seed promise was strategically placed in the tribe of Judah for the faith of God’s people. The promise that the Redeemer would come from the tribe of Judah is paramount to understanding so much of what we read in the books of Moses, the prophets, the Gospel narratives, the epistle to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse. We find a preeminently eschatological dimension to this promise that helps us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.”
Genesis 49:8-10 and Eschatology
What is significant about the Genesis 49:8-12 prophecy (often called the ‘Shiloh prophecy’) is that it reveals the office that the Messiah would hold according to the tribe in which He would appear. The scepter would not depart from Judah until ‘Shiloh’ came. Built into the prophecy was the history of the Kings of Israel. There was, however, an expressly eschatological element to the promise. Geerhardus Vos observed the significance of the eschatological language, “the last days,”–that stood at the head of Jacob’s departing words to his sons–when he wrote:
The “blessing of Jacob,” Genesis 49, contains an approach to this point of view in what it predicts concerning Judah, vs. 10. The “Shiloh,” that is “the One to whom Judah’s scepter and ruler’s staff belong” appears here as the ultimate embodiment and virtually as the eternalizer of Judah’s preeminence among the tribes. In other words, the One later called the Messiah is a Consummator in more than purely a chronological sense.1
John Fesko has also helpfully traced out the use of the phrase “the last days” throughout the OT and draws the conclusion about it’s eschatological meaning in redemptive history. He writes:
“Jacob’s prophecy about the coming Messiah and his description of the days surrounding his advent occur “in the last days” (Gen. 49:1c; LXX). The ‘last days’ formula is not an uncommon one but appears throughout the Scriptures. The phrase, and others similar to it, occur some twenty seven times in the NT and only sometimes refer to the time immediately prior to the end of history. In fact in many places the phrase “last days” is used to describe the end times as beginning already in the ﬁrst century. In the OT the ‘last days’ are associated with a future time when,
1. There will be a tribulation for Israel consisting in
a. Great oppression (Ezek. 38:14–17),
b. Persecution, false teaching, deception, and apostasy (Dan. 10:14–21; 11:27; 12:1–10).
2. After the tribulation
a. Israel will seek the Lord (Hos. 3:4–5);
b. They will be delivered (Ezek. 38:14–16; Dan. 11:40–12:2).
3. This deliverance and judgment will occur because the Messiah will ﬁnally conquer the nations (Gen. 49:1, 8–12; Num. 24:14–19; Isa. 2:2–4; Mic. 4:1–3; Dan. 2:28–45; 10:14–12:10).
4. God will establish a kingdom on the earth and rule over it (Isa. 2:2–4; Mic. 4:1–3; Dan. 2:28–45) together with a Davidic king (Hos. 3:4–5).
It is important, then, that we note that the “last days” is a phrase that is used to denote the eschatological age.
At the same time, we see that the eschaton is inextricably linked with Christology, as is plainly evident in Genesis 49:10–12. Parenthetically, we may also note that the patriarchs were looking, not generally for Yahweh, but for the Messiah to deliver them and usher in the eschatological age (Gen. 18:18; 22:18; cf. Gal. 3:8, 16; John 8:56). We also see that the last days contain both favorable and unfavorable events, blessing and curses, joy and tribulation. These contrasting states hint at the already–not yet aspect of the eschatological age…”2
Jesus ushered in the ‘last days’ in His first coming. He came to accomplish everything necessary to secure the consummation of the Kingdom of God. Every prophecy was, in some sense, already fulfilled in the days of the Messiah. This is significant in our understanding of the ‘Shiloh Prophecy.’ The King and the Kingdom have already come, though we anticipate a day when they will come in glorious consummation.