From: Heaven on Earth
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet.
Abraham and Sarah indeed conceive in their old age and have the son of promise. From Isaac comes Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel. He, in turn, has 12 sons, who become heads of 12 tribes. God reconfirms with Isaac and Jacob the covenant he made with Abraham.
Joseph: From Pit to Prince
Joseph, one of Jacob’s 12 sons, enrages his brothers by telling them of a dream in which they bow before him. In a jealous reaction, they bind him, throw him into a pit, and then sell him to slave traders, who in turn carry him off to Egypt. Over the years, through many twists and turns, Joseph rises to a position of authority, second only to Pharaoh. When famine strikes the entire Mesopotamian region, Egypt alone is spared because God in a dream forewarns Joseph to stockpile a seven-year supply of grain.
“All the world came to Joseph in Egypt to guy grain,” (Genesis 41:57). Among those seeking help are his brothers, representing the family of Jacob. They are brought before Joseph, whom they fail to recognize. When he reveals his identity, they fear for their lives, bow before him, and ask for his mercy, thus fulfilling his prophetic dream. Joseph explains that their evil act of selling him as a slave years ago was used by God to save lives, (Genesis 45:3-5; 50:20).
Joseph then moves his brothers and their families to Egypt and gives them safe haven. The Hebrew people are an industrious lot who find favor with the Egyptians. Despite being surrounded by false gods and pagan idolatry, they faithfully worship God, submit to his voice, and maintain their witness to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob before the Egyptian people.
As Genesis moves toward a conclusion, we encounter the aged Jacob (that is, Israel) at death’s door, (Genesis 48:1-2, 10). Calling his sons to his side, he prophesies over each. This is what he announces to Judah:
Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and obedience of the peoples is his.
(Genesis 49:8, 10)
With these words we gain further insight into how God’s kingdom on Earth will be established. God’s designated or authorized ruler will come from the tribe of Judah alone. The rule will continue “until tribute comes,” which New Testament scholars interpret to be a cryptic reference to the Messiah, God’s final and ultimate king.
Jacob’s inspired prophecy will not happen anytime soon. It lies in the distant future and will be revealed in God’s time.
Just as God promised, his people increase exponentially. With the passing of generations, a new Pharaoh comes on the scene who fears that the Hebrews might soon outnumber his own people and seize the land, so he orders all Jews enslaved and their firstborn sons slaughtered, (Exodus 1:8-11, 15-16, 22). This is a turning point in the story. A paradigm shift takes place when an antagonistic new Pharaoh succeeds a line of Pharaohs who have shown favor to the Jewish people.
Ironically, in the midst of the slaughter, Pharaoh’s own daughter rescues and adopts one of the Hebrew boys. She names him Moses, and, unbeknownst to her, chooses his biological mother to serve as his nursemaid and nanny. As Pharaoh’s newly adopted grandson, Moses is given all the privileges of royalty, and by the age of 40 he reaches the penultimate position in the government.
After discovering his true ethnicity, Moses attempts to free some Hebrew slaves from the cruelty of a local Egyptian taskmaster but commits a murder in the process and must flee for his own life. For the next 40 years he resides in a foreign land, marries, and settles down to the life of a shepherd before having an encounter with Yahweh, who instructs him from a burning bush to go back to Egypt and lead the Jews out of Egyptian captivity. He reluctantly obeys the Voice.