Christmas Verses – The First Coming #5

Genesis 49:10 NIV

The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,[a]
until he to whom it belongs[b] shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

Jacob is the speaker of this prophecy about his fourth sons. Judah had the right of the first born, and so would have authority over his brothers.  The words for scepter and staff in Hebrew have about the same meaning – stick.  But the scepter carries the idea of clan or tribe with it.  (There are other Hebrew words for scepter.)  Staffs and rods also can be signs of authority, such as Moses’ rod in the Exodus.  This is one of many passages that talk of the “nations” and them being part of His kingdom.


By Пакко – Picture taken in Veliko Tarnovo exhibition “Symbols of the bulgarian system of state”, 22 of Semtember 2008, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Tribes of Israel – Predications of Genesis 49

I have been writing about the boys and referencing Genesis 49 but it is interesting to look at the inspiration for Jacob’s words.

  • 1. Reuben turbulent water   The water that Jacob would have know was a swollen Jordan River or the flooded, rushing gullies in the wilderness after a thunderstorm. He understood the violence and power of moving water; so he recognizes Reuben’s strength, power and abilities.
  • 4. Judahlion    Lions were common in Palestine usually living near the Jordan River. In Africa the male lion’s roars can be heard up to five miles away. Their stately appearance and raw strength has apparently inspired respect for thousands of years. A modern moniker for Jesus is the “Lion of Judah” directing our thoughts to the strength and power of a risen, glorified Jesus.
  • 5. Dan – snake/viper     Eerdman’s sites that there are harmless snakes in that region but that all biblical references refer to venomous snakes. They site the Carpet or Saw-scaled viper (Palestine viper) as a possible candidate and the Arkive Organization attest to its quick strike and the amount of human attacks.  The tribe of Dan in Judges 18 where they stole “gods” and then killed off a quiet people and took a northern most position in Israel show their violent nature and is a good picture of what Jacob must have seen in his son.
  • 6. Naphtali – a doe    According to Eerdman’s the possible animals may have been the Fallow Deer, Gazelle or the Nubian Ibex. I am not sure that the specific animal is important but the symbolism; a doe and its fawns are such a tranquil picture. So I would assume that Naphtali did not have the temper of Simeon or Levi.
  • 9. Issachara strong donkey   A strong donkey shows his usefulness and his tendency to be like Jacob, a “home-body.” Interestingly he was not called a wild-donkey because they are the exact opposite; they are free roaming and very hard to get along with.
  • 12. Joseph – a fruitful vine   The only choice of plants here is the grape and the picture would be like the cluster of grapes the spies brought back in the Exodus story. Besides the words for Judah this is the only one that I could call a blessing; Jacob here gives it all to Joseph and calls for the supplying of all his needs and ask special favor of God to take notice of Joseph.
  • 13. Benjamina wolf    They are a social yet fierce predator that takes care of family.  So I still think that Jacob was recognizing a loyal yet mean side to his youngest son. There were other predators that could have been chosen like foxes, bears or jackals so him picking the wolf is interesting.
  • 2. Simeon and 3. Levi  – still after all the years that lapsed Jacob had nothing good to say about these two.
  • 10. Zebulun – he will live by a seashore
  • 7. Gad – he would be attacked and then fights back
  • 8. Asher – that he would have and make awesome food

The last three are hard to track down in the Bible so I wonder if they may not have been words about their life in Egypt.

references: Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible,                                                              about the viper                             picture of viper                   picture of wolf                               picture of the flood

The Tribes of Israel – How Old Were These Guys

If you have watched movies about the Old Testament you may have the idea that the sons of Jacob must have been “old” just because of Jacob’s age. Now Jacob did have some age on him and the boys are always pictured as “older.”

Lets put a time line together.

Jacob works seven years and gets Leah instead of Rachael. Now he had to wait a week before he got her and then he worked off the other seven years. So let’s put Reuben being born about year 8 into the 20 years Jacob stayed with Laban. The first four children came one after another so when they left Laban to go back to Canaan that would make

  • 1 Reuben* 12 years old and maybe 14 or 15 when they got to Shechem
  • 2 Simeon – 11
  • 3 Levi – 10
  • 4 Judah – 9
  • 5 Dan* – 8 or 9
  • 6 Naphtali – one year younger than Dan
  • 7 Gad* – possible 8
  • 8 Asher – one year younger than Gad – 7
  • 9 Issachar – possibly 7
  • 10 Zebulun – 6
  • 11 Dinah – 5
  • 12 Joseph*  – I cannot find a reference for this but I always think he is two when they leave.
  • 13 Benjamin – was not born until they had been Canaan for a while. (Genesis 35)

Let’s give them a two-year trip back to Canaan. We don’t know how long Jacob camped/owned land in Shechem before Dinah got violated but lets add eight years to everyone’s age making Dinah thirteen and Simeon (19 yrs.) and Levi (18 yrs.) when they killed all the males in Shechem. It may have been longer so they would have been older but we don’t know.

The next definite age we have is Joseph at seventeen in Genesis 37.  So adding fifteen years to everyone makes Reuben twenty-seven when Joseph was sold. (He slept with Bilhah before this in Genesis 35.) That would make Judah twenty-five/six years old when he moved out in Genesis 38. From here we will need to use Joseph and seven good and bad years to reference ages.

Joseph was thirty when he became Governor of Egypt; that will make Reuben forty and Judah thirty-eight years old. Joseph reveals himself to his brothers in Genesis 45 and says there are five years of famine left so that is another nine years making Joseph 39, Reuben 49 and Judah 47.

Remember, Judah marries raises three sons and is tricked by his daughter-law in this time period. Some of this drama very possibly was taking place right around the trips to Egypt. (Reuben had two sons at this time – Genesis 42:37.)

Jacob died at 147 years old (Genesis 47:9 and 28). Honestly, I thought that Jacob was forty when he left for Paddan-aram but after reading (Genesis 26 -28) it several times all it says was that Esau married at 40 and then Isaac was old. I did a Patriarch timeline and will have to up-date it soon.

Tribes of Israel – Judah

Judah is the fourth son of Jacob and Leah and became the family leader. His name means “praise” because Leah decided to praise God at the birth of this son. The tension in this family that is reflected in the names of the sons is astonishing; the lesson here is don’t marry sisters:-)

His first recorded act after being tapped to be family leader was to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites; so that they would profit from the loss of a brother. I read the story in chapter 38 as occurring quickly but Er, the first born, would have been only thirteen when Joseph became ruler of Egypt so the incident with Tamar must have been around the beginning of the famine. (a movie made an interesting point that he moved out to get away from a grieving Jacob) Remember Tamar is a grandmother of Jesus which is why this part is included in Scripture. He does seem to take a positive lead of the family in chapter 43 when he repeats the deal Reuben tried to make with Joseph. He is the main spokesman in chapter 44:16 and Jacob sent him for directions in 46:28.

Jacob at the end of Genesis leaves this blessing for Judah: Genesis 49:“Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.

That blessing pretty well covers everything: family leadership, authority over his enemies, personal wealth and good looks.

The two main people from Judah in the Exodus story are Bezalel, the artist, found in Exodus 35:30 and Caleb, the faithful spy, first mentioned in Numbers 13:6. Both of these men are again mentioned in 1 Chronicles 2 where the clans of Judah and the family of Jesse, David’s father, and David’s sons are discussed. This family history goes to chapter 4:23 and covers Jabez and his pray. It also covers the rulers after the Exile. This family tree is repeated again in Matthew 1, which is Joseph’s line, and again in Luke 3:23, which is Mary’s family line.

Deuteronomy 33:And this he (Moses) said about Judah: “Hear, O Lord, the cry of Judah; bring him to his people. With his own hands he defends his cause.
Oh, be his help against his foes!”

Jesus is from Judah through David’s son Nathan, brother of Solomon. In one sense much of the Old Testament is about that family; 1 & 2 Samuel, much of 1 Chronicles and the books of the Kings and 2 Chronicles covers that family. While the prophets spend many of their words talking about Jesus and His coming.

Pictures are from

Tribes of Israel – Birth Order

Birth order is important and is mentioned many times in the Bible. The firstborn got a double portion of the inheritance but that double blessing was transferable. God seems to have fond affections for the “second born” son and several times they are put ahead of the firstborn. Ex.  Seth, Ephraim, Jacob/Israel, and of course Jesus*(see the answer to James) (see Timeline).


  • 1 Reuben*                                                                 
  • 2 Simeon
  • 3 Levi
  • 4 Judah


  • 5 Dan*
  • 6 Naphtali


  • 7 Gad*
  • 8 Asher


  • 9 Issachar
  • 10 Zebulun
  • 11 Dinah – the only daughter, see Genesis 34


  • 12 Joseph*  – (a)Manassah*, (b)Ephraim but Jacob reversed the blessing and put Ephraim first
  • 13 Benjamin

Simeon and Levi lose their birth order rights in Genesis 34:30 and Reuben loses his in Genesis 35:22. Judah is now heir apparent until Genesis 37:3 where it seems that Jacob may be making Joseph (he was the firstborn of the favored wife) the leader of the family. Some experts believe the “coat of many colors” may have been a visible sign that Joseph was going to be given the “double portion blessing” and be made the family leader.  Not only did the brothers not like his dreams but when their father gave Joseph the “coat” that was just too much. So in Genesis 37 when they sell him to the Ishmaelites Judah is the ringleader (preserve his blessing) and Reuben is trying to rescue him (get back in favor with Jacob and hopefully he learned something).

The picture is Leah with Rachel from: