In the 49th chapter of the book of Genesis there is another specific prophecy regarding the time of the Messiah's coming. In verse one we read of the last blessing that Jacob bestowed to his sons.
"And Jacob called his sons and said, 'Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days'" Genesis 49:1 (NKJ)
When he had gathered them together he began to prophesy over each of them. When he got to his son Judah, he gave a prophecy concerning the Messiah:
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the people." Genesis 49:10 (NKJ)
This strange prophecy has a few words that need to be defined in order to be fully understood. The word "scepter" has been understood by the Rabbis to mean the "tribal staff" or "tribal identity" of the twelve tribes of Israel. This "tribal identity" was linked, in the minds of the Jews, to their right to apply and enforce Mosaic law upon the people, including the right to adjudicate capital cases and administer capital punishment, or jus gladii (The jus gladii is a legal term which refers to the legal authority to adjudicate capital cases and impose capital punishment.)
Secondly, it is well documented that the word "Shiloh" has been understood for millennia to be an idiom for the Messiah.
Therefore, according to this prophecy, the tribal identity or scepter of the tribe of Judah would not cease until the Messiah came. Judah was not only the name of the son of Jacob, but it was also the name of the southern kingdom of the divided nation of Israel.
With these definitions in place we can restate the prophecy as follows:
"The [National identity of Judah, which includes the right to enforce Mosaic law, including the right to administer capital punishment upon the people, as called for in the Torah] shall not depart from [the southern kingdom (Judah) ], nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh [the Messiah] comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the people."
This prophecy gives specific indicators regarding the time of the coming of the Messiah! The prophecy declares that he would come before the right to impose Jewish law (which includes capital punishment) is restricted and before the national identity of Judah is removed!
During the 70-year Babylonian captivity, from 606-537 B.C., the southern kingdom of Israel, Judah, had lost it's national sovereignty, but retained it's tribal staff or national identity.2 It is very significant that in the book of Ezra we read that during the 70-year Babylonian captivity the Jews still retained their own lawgivers or judges.3 The Jews maintained their identity and judicial authority over their own people even during 70 years of slavery. The scepter had not been lost during the Babylonian captivity.
During the next five centuries the Jews suffered under the yoke of the Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman Empires. Yet, Judah retained its tribal identity up until the first quarter of the first century A.D.
In the first quarter of the first century A.D., the Jews were under Roman domination when an unprecedented event occurred. According to Josephus (Antiquities 17:13) around the year A.D. 6-7, the son and successor to King Herod, a man named Herod Archelaus, was dethroned and banished to Vienna, a city of Gaul.4 He was replaced, not by a Jewish king, but by a Roman Procurator named Caponius. The legal power of the Sanhedrin was then immediately restricted.
With the ascension of Caponius, the Sanhedrin lost their ability to adjudicate capital cases. This was the normal policy toward all the nations under the yoke of the Romans. The province of Judea had, however, been spared from this policy up to this point. However, Caesar Agustus had had enough of the Jews and finally removed the judicial authority from them at the ascension of Caponius. This transfer of power was recorded by Josephus.5
"And now Archelaus' part of Judea was reduced into a province, and Caponius, one of the equestrian order of the Romans, was sent as a procurator, having the power of life and death put into his hands by Caesar!"(Emphasis added)
The power of the Sanhedrin to adjudicate capital cases was immediately removed. In the minds of the Jewish leadership, this event signified the removal of the scepter or national identity of the tribe of Judah!
If you think that this is a Christian contrivance, think again. Here are several ancient rabbinical references that indicate that the rabbis believed that Genesis 49:10 was referring to the Messiah.
In the Targum Onkelos it states:
"The transmission of domain shall not cease from the house of Judah, nor the scribe from his children's children, forever, until Messiah comes."6
In the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan it states:
"King and rulers shall not cease from the house of Judah...until King Messiah comes"7
The Targum Yerushalmi states:
"Kings shall not cease from the house of Judah...until the time of the coming of the King Messiah...to whom all the dominions of the earth shall become subservient"7
In the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98b, Rabbi Johanan said:
"The world was created for the sake of the Messiah, what is this Messiah's name? The school of Rabbi Shila said 'his name is Shiloh, for it is written; until Shiloh come.'"
These amazing commentaries should eliminate any doubt that the Jews that lived prior to the Christian era believed that one of the names of the Messiah was Shiloh. Furthermore, these quotes should eliminate all doubt that the ancient rabbis believed that the Messiah would come before the removal of the scepter from Judah!
Woe Unto Us, For Messiah Has Not Appeared!
So far we have established that Shiloh is an idiom for the Messiah and that the scepter (that is, the tribal identity, associated with the right to impose capital punishment) had departed from the kingdom of Judah early in the first quarter of the first century. What was the reaction of the Jews when the right to adjudicate capital cases (the jus gladii) was removed from Judah? Did they view the removal of their authority on capital cases as the removal of the scepter from Judah? The answer can be categorically stated as YES!
When Archelaus was banished, the power of the Sanhedrin was severely curtailed. Capital cases could no longer be tried by the Sanhedrin. Such cases were now transferred to the Roman Procurator, Caponius. This transfer of power is even mentioned in the Talmud:
"A little more than forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the power of pronouncing capital sentences was taken away from the Jews."8
This certainly corresponds to the same event recorded by Josephus we saw earlier. In Antiquities 20:9 Josephus again points out that the Sanhedrin had no authority over capital cases:
"After the death of the procurator Festus, when Albinus was about to succeed him , the high priest Ananias considered it a favorable opportunity to assembly the Sanhedrin. He therefore caused James the Brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, and several others, to appear before this hastily assembled council, and pronounced upon them the sentence of death by stoning. All the wise men and strict observers of the law who were at Jerusalem expressed their disapprobation of this act...Some even went to Albinus himself , who had departed to Alexandria, to bring this breach of the law under his observation, and to inform him that Ananius had acted illegally in assembling the Sanhedrin without the Roman authority."
This remarkable passage not only mentions Jesus of Nazareth and his brother James as historical figures, but it also declares that the Sanhedrin had no authority to pass the death sentence upon any man!`
The jus gladii, the right to impose the death sentence, had been removed. The remaining authority of Judah had been taken away by the Romans in the early years of the first century. The scepter had departed from Judah. Its royal and legal powers were removed; but where was Shiloh?
The reaction of the Jews to these monumental events is recorded in the Talmud. Augustin Lemann, in his book Jesue before the Sanhedrin, records a statement by Rabbi Rachmon:
"When the members of the Sanhedrin found themselves deprived of their right over life and death, a general consternation took possession of them: they covered their heads with ashes, and their bodies with sackcloth, exclaiming: 'Woe unto us for the scepter has departed from Judah and the Messiah has not come'"9,10,11 (emphasis added)
The scepter was smitten from the hands of the tribe of Judah. The kingdom of Judea, the last remnant of the greatness of Israel, was debased into being merely a part of the province of Syria.
While the Jews wept in the streets of Jerusalem, there was growing up in the city of Nazareth the young son of a Jewish carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth. The inescapable conclusion was that Shiloh had come! Only then was the Scepter removed!
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Missler, Chuck, Eastman, Mark, M.D."The Creator Beyond Time and Space", The Word for Today 1996, p.144-149
Chuck Missler and Mark Eastman M.D. references:
-1. For a detailed discussion see "The search for Messiah", Mark Eastman, Chuck Smith, p.74. The Word for Today. (714)-979-0706
-2. Paraphrased from "Evidence That Demands a Verdict", Josh McDowell. Here's Life Publishers, p 168.
-3. Archelaus was the second son of Herod the Great. Herod's oldest son, Herod Antipater, was murdered by Herod the Great, along with a number of other family members. Archelaus' mother was a Samaritan, giving him only one quarter or less, Jewish blood. At the Death of Herod the Great in 4 B.C. Archelaus was placed over Judea as "Entharch" by Caesar Augustus. However, he was never accepted by the Jews and was removed from office in 6 or 7 A.D.
-4. "Wars of the Jews", Book 2, chapter 8
-5. "The Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation: The Messianic Exegesis of the Targum", Samson H Levy (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Jewish institute of Religion, 1974), p. 2.
-8. Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin, filoi 24.
-9. Babylonian Talmund, Chapter 4, folio 37.
-10. "Jesus Before the Sanhedrin", by Augustin Lemann, 1886, Translated by Julius Magath, NL# 0239683, Library of Congress# 15-24973
-11. See also the monumental work Pugio Fidei, Martini, Raymundus, published by De Vosin in 1651. For a detailed discussion of this reference see The Fifty Third Chapter of Isaih According to Jewish Interpreters, preface p.iv S.R. Driver, A.D. Neubauer, KTAV Publishing House, Inc. New York 1969