Dec 22, 2017
There are two main words translated “praise” in the Hebrew scriptures: halal and yada.
The first is often seen in the word halleluyah, “praise the Lord.” The word halal literally means “to shine, to be clear, to be brilliant, to rejoice.” In this sense, “praise” has to do with setting forth God’s character and works for all to see clearly. The word is also used in a bad sense, where men boast by praising themselves.
On the other hand, yada is derived from yad, “(an open) hand,” and has to do with the use of one’s hand—in this case, to raise the hands in praise. But raising one’s hand also has legal implications in taking an oath that invokes God as a witness of truth.
There are many others who are more qualified than I to do a more complete word study on the idea of “praise.” But I want to take this in a little different direction to give understanding of the term Judah, which is derived from yada (or yadah).
When Leah gave birth to Judah, we read in Genesis 29:35,
35 And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.
So Judah was the son who caused Leah to “praise the Lord.”
Many years later, when Jacob-Israel was blessing his sons, he said in Genesis 49:8, “Judah, your brothers will praise you.” He goes on to say in Genesis 49:10,
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
In other words, Judah was to receive “the scepter… until Shiloh comes.” When Shiloh comes, then the people will rally around Him, recognizing that He is the One who must rule. Hence, the people will obey (submit to) Shiloh instead of Judah.
To understand this prophecy, we have to see how Shiloh relates to Joseph (or Ephraim). In the days of Joshua, Shiloh was the priestly town where the Ark of the Covenant was set up. Shiloh was a town within the tribe of Ephraim, son of Joseph. Joshua himself, of course, was of the tribe of Ephraim (Numbers 13:8).
Recall that Joseph had two dreams in which he saw his family bow down to him. Genesis 37:7, 8, 9, 10). These dreams infuriated Joseph’s brothers, because it appeared that he was boasting, or praising himself. This caused more friction between the brothers, and eventually they sold Joseph as a slave to merchants, who took him to Egypt.
But Joseph’s dreams really were prophetic, though he was not wise enough in his early years to keep them to himself. Eventually, Joseph’s entire family bowed down to Joseph. Of particular interest is where Judah himself finally confessed his sin against Joseph in Genesis 44:16-34. He said in Genesis 44:33,
33 Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers.
Judah was volunteering to be Joseph’s slave instead of Benjamin. This was the point where Joseph’s dream was truly fulfilled in that time. Of course, the greater prophecy was yet to be fulfilled at the time of Christ’s second coming (as Joseph).
Jesus came the first time from the tribe of Judah. His name was Yeshua, or Joshua, named after the Joshua who led Israel into the land of Canaan. However, the original Joshua was not of Judah, but of Ephraim, son of Joseph. Hence, Christ’s second coming is when He comes as a second Joshua—this time carrying the birthright of Joseph-Ephraim. For this reason, He is pictured in Revelation 19:13 as “clothed with a robe dipped in blood.” Joseph’s robe had been dipped in blood (Genesis 37:31).
In other words, Christ will come the second time as the heir of Joseph, the holder of the birthright (1 Chronicles 5:2). He will then be the perfect prophetic match of the original Joshua, the Ephraimite, who led Israel into the Kingdom. At that time, Judah will have to give up the scepter to “Shiloh,” and the people will rally around Him instead.
So we see that Judah plays a temporary role as the holder of the scepter “until Shiloh comes.” Though Jacob divided up the callings and responsibilities of the birthright among his sons, all of these will be reunited at Christ’s second coming. Much of this began with Christ’s first coming, when He came as a Judahite, but it will be completed in His second coming, when He comes as an Ephraimite.
At that time, Judah must bow to Joseph to fulfill the original prophecy.
Now what does this have to do with praise?
The conflict over the scepter forms the backbone of the New Testament story. It is primarily a conflict over who is the true inheritor of the throne of David, i.e. the scepter of Judah. The chief priests usurped the throne/scepter from the rightful Heir, Jesus Christ. This was a re-run of the story of Absalom who had usurped the throne of David a thousand years earlier.
When David left Jerusalem, he remained in exile for an unknown amount of time. Then he returned and reclaimed his throne, picturing Christ’s second coming.
Between the first and second comings of Christ, the conflict has been ongoing, with the Jewish leaders continuing to deny that Jesus was the rightful Heir to the throne. But the day will come when Judah will ask to become Joseph’s slave in place of Benjamin. I do not think that this will include the top leaders of Jewry, for it seems that they will fulfill the role of Absalom, who was killed when David returned to claim his throne.
Nonetheless, there are people of Judah to day who must fulfill this role.
But who are the true people of Judah? That is the big question. In the first century, the conflict was not only about the heir to the throne; it was also about which body of people were the real people of Judah.
Recall that when David left Jerusalem and went into exile outside of the borders of Judah, the question might have arisen: which body of Judahites have the legal right to call themselves Judah? Legally speaking, the answer is simple. Though Absalom’s subjects were far more numerous than David’s, the name Judah legally remained with David, because he was the rightful heir to the throne—even though the throne was usurped in Jerusalem.
In the New Testament time, the same conflict arose between those who followed Jesus and those who followed the temple priests. Which body of people are the real Jews? The vast majority thought that the chief priests and those following the temple religion (Judaism) had the right to the name Judah, or Judea (Greek form).
However, Paul differed, for he said in Romans 2:28, 29,
28 For HE IS NOT A JEW [Ioudeos, Judean] who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But HE IS A JEW who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise [Judah, one’s status as a Judean] is not from men, but from God.
Here Paul tells us who is NOT a Jew and who IS a Jew. The right to have the name Judah is not conferred upon a person by physical (outward) circumcision, but by heart circumcision. Heart circumcision is part of the New Covenant, not the old Covenant. The New Covenant is mediated by Jesus Christ, not by Moses. One cannot have heart circumcision apart from Jesus Christ.
Hence, even as David’s few loyalists retained the right to the tribal name Judah, so also can it be said that Jesus’ loyalists, later known as Christians, retained the right to the tribal name Judah.
These true Judeans/Judahites/Jews are not recognized outwardly by the world as having this designation, but God recognizes them as such. Their “praise” (Judah status) is not from men, but from God. In the end, the opinions of men do not matter. Only God’s view counts.
Those who back Jesus and His rights as the Heir to the throne of both David and Joseph have the right to call themselves Judah. Those who back the usurpers are still ruled by Absalom, so to speak, for they fight on his side when David returns to reclaim his throne.
As I said earlier, yada means “praise” in the sense of an open hand that is raised. Those who truly praise God by accepting the One sent as the Heir of all things are, in essence, those who raise their hands and take an oath of loyalty to Him. They fulfill Genesis 49:10 by rallying around Him and swearing obedience to Him.
Let us be part of that company, so that we have a place of honor in the Kingdom that is coming.