What is Shiloh? Is Shiloh related to a Messianic prophecy?
The Old Testament references Shiloh, the geographic place, thirty-two times. Shiloh, meaning "tranquility" or "the one to whom it belongs," was in the hill country of Ephraim and served as a place of worship before the first temple was built in Jerusalem.
However, when Jacob blesses his sons in Genesis 49, he uses "Shiloh" in a different way. Genesis 49:10 says: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, / nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, / until tribute comes to him; / and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples."
That phrase, "until tribute comes to him" is often translated "until Shiloh comes," "until he comes to whom it belongs," or "until he comes." Either way, Jacob, who is giving this prophesy, is referring to a person, not a place.
Jacob, in this chapter, is telling each of his twelve sons, and the twelve tribes of Israel, about their future. By verse 10, he is talking about Judah. His prophesy here is positive and powerful.
Jacob says Judah will receive the praise of his brothers and will have power over his enemies (Genesis 49:8). He refers to Judah as a young lion (Genesis 49:9). King David came from the line of Judah and ruled over the kingdom, fulfilling this prophecy in part. These verses also refer to a future King who will rule over all people—the Messiah.
Jacob continues to prophesy about the coming Savior, the Messiah, in verse 10. He says the power of the coming one will never cease and this Ruler will be honored by all nations. The word "Shiloh" or "the one to whom it belongs" refers to the forever-Ruler. The "scepter" symbolizes power. In the New Testament, Jesus refers to Himself as "Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3); Paul writes that Christ "himself is our peace" (Ephesians 2:14); the writer of Romans tells of the one who "arises to rule the Gentiles" (Romans 15:12). These all have roots in "Shiloh."
Jacob continues in his prophesy about Judah in verses 11 and 12. These verses are difficult in that they are more poetic than others, using language that is not straight forward. Jacob is talking about a prosperous time in Judah's history and may be referencing the future millennial rule of Christ on earth.
Shiloh, the Messiah Jesus, fulfilled Jacob's prophesy. Jesus came from the tribe of Judah, the lineage of King David. He appeared and performed miracles before multitudes. He died and was resurrected to life. Hundreds of people saw and interacted with Him after His death. When we put our faith in Him, we obey Him, not the Mosaic Law. He is ultimately ruler of all. When He returns, all will confess He is Lord (Philippians 2:9–11).
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