Fellow Rulers with the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah”
“The scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him the obedience of the people will belong.”—Gen. 49:10.
1. Why, despite the title that he assumed, did the people’s obedience not come to Pope Leo XIII, and to whom does the Bible give that title?
WHEN the Italian Joachim Pecci was elected pope by the college of cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church and ascended the papal throne on March 3, 1878, he took the title Leo XIII. The Latin word leo means “lion.” Shortly after his crowning as pope he subscribed himself in Latin “Leo de tribus Juda,” that is to say, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Did the obedience of the people, even in a religious way, come to Pope Leo XIII? History answers No! This was only to be expected, for the pope was no Jew, no member of the tribe of Judah. Hence such obedience of all the people living on earth did not belong to him. The last book of the Holy Bible, written by the apostle John, gives that title to one who really was born a Jew in the tribe of Judah and in the royal family of King David, namely, Jesus Christ glorified.
2. Under what circumstances was this title mentioned and the one worthy of it disclosed?
2 The apostle John tells of how in his inspired vision he wept because no one in heaven or on earth was at the moment worthy to take the prophetic scroll out of God’s right hand and open it to read it and make its contents come true. Then John says: “And one of the ancients said to me: Weep not: behold the lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” John was comforted when he saw the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom John had known sixty years previously on earth, put in an appearance and take the prophetic scroll and make its contents come true.—Apoc. 5:1-10, Dy.
3. Why will it not do any man any good to assume that title on earth?
3 Consequently no man on earth today, regardless of his religious or political position, has the right to take to himself the title “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” It will not do him any good to assume it, for the obedience of all the people will not belong to him or ever come to him. It is now due to come only to the glorified and enthroned Jesus Christ in heaven.
4. (a) Why was Jesus Christ properly called by this title? (b) Why, then, is a tribe of Judah properly found in spiritual Israel and given its ranking position?
4 In his deathbed prophecy the ancient patriarch Jacob said: “A lion cub Judah is.” It was therefore very proper that Jesus who was born in the tribe of Judah and in the royal line of David should be called “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” He conquered this wicked world of Satan the Devil, although it cost him his earthly life. (John 16:33) It is also proper that, among the 144,000 Christians in the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel, one tribe is called “the tribe of Judah.” Since Judah, although being the fourth son of the patriarch Jacob, was given the leadership by Jacob’s deathbed prophecy, the tribe of Judah is ranked first in the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel.—Rev. 7:4, 5.
5. What does the bearing of that name not mean for this tribe, but why is it important to have a tribe by that name in spiritual Israel?
5 This does not mean that the spiritual tribe of Judah is appointed to rule over the eleven other spiritual tribes; neither does it mean that only the 12,000 in the spiritual tribe of Judah are appointed to reign with the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” in the heavenly kingdom. No; all the 144,000 of all twelve tribes of spiritual Israel are joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Concerning all 144,000 Revelation 20:4, 6 says: “And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years. Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.” So a tribe named for Judah is included in spiritual Israel, because if this were not the case, then the likeness of spiritual Israel to ancient natural Israel would be missing something very important.
6. How was Judah like a lion going up from the prey?
6 Take note now how the dying patriarch Jacob in the year 1712 B.C.E. pointed forward to the coming of this symbolic “Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” After likening his son Judah to a lion cub, Jacob said: “From the prey, my son, you will certainly go up. He bowed down, he, stretched himself out like a lion and, like a lion, who dares rouse him?” (Gen. 49:9) In taking part in fighting the battles of Jehovah the tribe of Judah did capture prey like a lion, defeating Jehovah’s enemies and taking the spoil from them. Since Jerusalem was finally conquered by King David, and since much of the territory of Judah was up in the mountains, the tribe could well be said to go up from the prey when they returned to their homes.
7, 8. (a) How was Judah like a lion stretched out and not to be roused up, and how was this well illustrated? (b) What should we therefore not imitate the nations in doing since A.D. 1914?
7 Warfare would not be the only occupation and experience of this tribe of Judah, but there would be times of peace and relaxation, like that of an aryéh (the African name for “lion”). So, when the tribe of Judah was enjoying peace and the products of its work, who dared rouse the tribe up to war, since the tribe was like a lebí (Asiatic name for “lion”) for fierceness?
8 The lion’s stretching himself out peacefully, with satisfaction, was well illustrated in the peaceful reign of wise King Solomon for forty years after his father David died. The One greater than King Solomon, namely, “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” will bring in a peaceful reign of a thousand years. Since the beginning of his heavenly reign A.D. 1914 the nations of Satan’s wicked world dare to rouse him up by defying his right to rule all the peoples of earth. despite Jacob’s warning of long ago. At the battle of Armageddon now so near at hand the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” will tear the nations to pieces and come up from the prey victorious. So let each one of us never rouse him up!
9. What inspired reason did Jacob give for the other tribes to be loyal and submissive to Judah but why at first did Judah have to have patience?
9 To give inspired reason for why the eleven other tribes of Israel should be loyal and submissive to the tribe of Judah, Jacob enlarged his prophecy over Judah, saying: “The scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him the obedience of the people will belong.” (Gen. 49:10) The tribe of Judah, in particular, may have wondered when a man of the tribe of Benjamin, namely, Saul the son of Kish, was chosen by God to be the first human king of Israel. Still, the tribe of Judah loyally fought on the side of Benjaminite King Saul, for they knew that in God’s due time the scepter and the commander’s staff would come into the possession of the tribe of Judah and that, once it became theirs, it would not leave them until the permanent Ruler should come from their tribe, and then it would always be his. So the Judeans had patience.
10. Why is this permanent Ruler prophetically called Shiloh?
10 Why is this permanent Ruler called Shiloh? Because this name plays up his right, as the name means “He Whose It Is,” or, “He to Whom It Belongs.” Hence the Catholic Confraternity Version renders the verse: “Until he comes to whom it belongs.” Certainly to no other one would the obedience of the people rightfully belong.
11. What was the real name of the promised Shiloh and how was his right acquired and confirmed?
11 The name of the one who proved to be this promised Shiloh was really Jesus, the Son of God. He came from heaven and was born as a Jew in King David’s line of descent. By his mother Mary he had a natural right to David’s royalty; by his foster-father Joseph he had a legal right to David’s scepter and commander’s staff. But when God anointed Jesus with holy spirit from heaven, this both confirmed the right of Jesus and also appointed him to a kingdom greater than David’s, the kingdom of the heavens.
12. When did it appear that the scepter and commander’s staff had turned aside from Judah, but what does Ezekiel 21:26, 27 show?
12 The tribe of Judah began wielding the scepter in David, and for almost five hundred years the commander’s staff rested between the knees of him and his sons as they sat on the throne. In 607 B.C.E. the family of David was interrupted in holding the scepter and the commander’s staff. This happened when the world power, Babylon, overthrew the kingdom, destroyed its capital city Jerusalem and demolished the temple built by King Solomon for Jehovah’s worship and Israel lost its national sovereignty. This did not mean that the scepter and commander’s staff had turned aside from Judah. The right to these still stayed in Judah, in David’s royal family. Jehovah God indicated this when he inspired his prophet Ezekiel to say to Zedekiah, the last reigning king in Jerusalem:
“Remove the turban, and lift off the crown. This will not be the same. Put on high even what is low, and bring low even the high one. A ruin, a ruin, a ruin I shall make it. As for this also, it will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give it to him.”—Ezek. 21:26, 27.
13, 14. (a) To whom did the angel Gabriel say that God would give David’s kingdom? (b) After his baptism what could Jesus say about the kingdom, but when did he come into it, to fulfill Daniel 7:13, 14?
13 When the angel Gabriel announced to the virgin Jewess Mary the coming birth of Jesus, Gabriel declared that God would give Jesus the throne of his forefather David. (Luke 1:31-33) At the age of thirty years Jesus was baptized in water and anointed with God’s spirit, and so he could say even to his Jewish enemies: “The kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:21) After he was resurrected from a martyr’s death and exalted to heaven, he sat down on God’s right hand to wait for God’s time to crown him heavenly king and to authorize him to use the scepter and commander’s staff.
14 In the year 1914, according to Bible timing, he came into his heavenly kingdom and began ruling, against the wishes of his enemies in heaven and earth. (Heb. 10:12, 13; Ps. 110:1, 2) The prophecy of Daniel 7:13, 14 foretold this coming, in these words:
“See there! with the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man happened to be coming; and to the Ancient of Days he gained access, and they brought him up close even before that One. And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.”
15. (a) To whom, therefore, does our obedience belong, and who on earth today render it to that one? (b) What will happen to those not rendering it, and why?
15 In view of his enthronement in heaven in 1914, he is the One whom we should recognize as the Ruler to whom our obedience belongs. Those few thousands out of the 144,000 members of spiritual Israel who still remain on earth loyally give him their obedience. They obey his commandment, that “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matt. 24:14) Hundreds of thousands of sheeplike persons who hear the Kingdom good news recognize this Shiloh as the One to whom their obedience belongs. So they obediently join in preaching the good news of God’s established kingdom. All persons who do not now render him their obedience will be destroyed when the end comes upon this wicked old world in an Armageddon disaster. This Shiloh, “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” must rule till all enemies are put beneath his feet.—1 Cor. 15:25.
16. How did Jacob’s prophetic reference to an ass come true in Jesus’ earthly life, and with what significance?
16 As foretold by the dying patriarch Jacob, an ass and a vine did figure prominently in the earthly life of Jesus Christ. Just a few days before he was killed for preaching God’s kingdom, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass’s colt, while multitudes of Jews hailed him as king. In ancient times prominent Israelites, judges and prophets had ridden on asses. (Judg. 5:10; 10:3, 4; Num. 22:22-33) King-elect Solomon, the son of David, rode to his anointing to office on his father’s she-mule. (1 Ki. 1:33-40) Likewise Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 by riding, not a horse, but the colt of an ass, into Jerusalem. But the politically-minded Jewish high priest refused to anoint him as the promised Shiloh at the temple. Later he cried out for Jesus’ death.
17. (a) How did Jesus tie his ass to a choice vine? (b) How will he “wash his clothing in wine and his garment in the blood of grapes”?
17 Jesus did not tie his ass to a literal vine. He did bind his kingly claims to a symbolic vine, a spiritual vine, namely, God’s kingdom. He likened himself to a spiritual vine and his anointed followers to branches in that royal vine. (John 15:1-8) He told the Jews that rejected him a parable or illustration about a vineyard. Then he applied the lesson of it, saying to them: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matt. 21:33-43) However, the faithful heirs of this heavenly kingdom will be like a most fruitful vine, furnishing much grape juice for the making of wine. He will preserve this symbolic vine that abounds with Kingdom fruitage, but he will destroy the false religious vine that produces sour grapes. The blood of the grapes of this false vine will be so great when he crushes the false vine and its abundance of bad grapes that he will, as it were, “wash his clothing in wine and his garment in the blood of grapes.” The stain on his clothing will denote victory.—Rev. 14:19, 20; Isa. 63:1-6.
18. What is the significance of his eyes being dark red from wine, and his teeth white from milk?
18 According to the renderings of Genesis 49:12 in the Greek Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate and the Syriac Bible versions, Judah’s eyes were to be darker red than sparkling wine, and his teeth whiter than milk. However, Isaiah 55:1-4 associates wine and milk with the Kingdom covenant that Jehovah God made with King David. So Jacob’s prophecy appears to refer to the spiritual abundance and joy of Christians who are taken into this Kingdom covenant to rule with the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” Hence no drunkenness is meant by the prophecy about eyes dark red from wine, or immaturity or infantileness by the prophecy about teeth white from milk. Since wine denoted gladness and milk richness and fatness, the kingdom of the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” must be one of godly joy and spiritual prosperity. Such things come to obedient ones.
19. (a) Where in the order of the birth of Jacob’s sons did Zebulun come in? (b) Why was what Jacob prophesied about Zebulun in harmony with the meaning of his name?
19 In the order of birth of all of Jacob’s sons by his two wives and two concubines, Issachar was his ninth son and Zebulun his tenth. Among the tribes of spiritual Israel or the Kingdom class the tribe of Zebulun is ranked tenth. (Rev. 7:8) When giving his final prophecy the patriarch Jacob put Zebulun ahead of Issachar, though Issachar was Jacob’s fifth son by his first wife Leah, whereas Zebulun was his sixth son by her. In Ezekiel’s vision of the division of the land under God’s government of the new world, Issachar is properly put ahead of his younger brother Zebulun. Likewise in the gates of the symbolic city Jehovah-shammah (meaning “Jehovah Himself Is There”). (Ezek. 48:25, 26, 33) The name Zebulun means “Habitation; Dwelling.” In his deathbed prophecy Jacob foretold Zebulun’s location in the Promised Land, saying:
“Zebulun will reside by the seashore, and he will be by the shore where the ships lie anchored; and his remote side will be toward Sidon.”—Gen. 49:13.
20. How was Jacob’s prophecy realized in Zebulun’s location in the land of Israel?
20 Here Jacob tells where Zebulun’s tribe will dwell in the “land flowing with milk and honey.” When the land was partly conquered after six years of fighting, Judge Joshua drew the third lot for Zebulun, but the cities and towns assigned to Zebulun did not border directly on the sea. His territory did lie between the Sea of Galilee on the east and the Mediterranean on the west. To the shores of these seas he had easy access. (Josh. 19:10-16) Since the Phoenician seaport of Sidon was to the north of Israel and since Zebulun’s remote side was to be toward Sidon, the location of Zebulun’s territory was to be a northern one. Though his territory was cut off from the seas by the territories of other tribes, Zebulun’s land was traversed by the old international highway known as “the way by the sea.” So it was located in the district called “Galilee of the nations.”—Isa. 9:1; 1 Ki. 9:11; Josh. 20:7.
21. According to Isaiah 9:1, 2, what was to come to the land of Zebulun, and how did it really come?
21 When the prophet Isaiah was foretelling the birth of the promised Shiloh upon whose shoulder the princely rule would rest, he specifically named Zebulun as a territory where great enlightenment would come, to scatter a deep shadow like that of death. This enlightenment that was to lead to deliverance from sin and death did come when the promised Shiloh, Jesus Christ, preached in Galilee of the nations, saying: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Isa. 9:1, 2, 6, 7; Matt. 4:12-23) Jesus went even north of Zebulun and got “into the parts of Tyre and Sidon,” where he performed a miracle for a Phoenician woman. (Matt. 15:21-29) Thus Zebulun dwelt in a very favorable location in the land of Israel.
22, 23. In Bible history what favorable mentions did Zebulun receive (a) in Barak’s day, (b) in Gideon’s day, and (c) in King David’s day?
22 In Bible history Zebulun received a number of favorable mentions. When Jehovah fought for his oppressed people at the “waters of Megiddo,” in the days of Judge Barak and the prophetess Deborah, the men of Zebulun volunteered for the army of liberation. Hence Barak and Deborah sang with appreciation of them, saying: “Out of Machir the commanders went down, and out of Zebulun those handling the equipment of a scribe [for numbering and enrolling the troops]. Zebulun was a people that scorned their souls to the point of death.” (Judg. 5:14, 18, 19; 4:16) Years afterward God raised up Judge Gideon for Israel’s deliverance. Gideon “sent out messengers through Asher and Zebulun and Naphtali, and they came on up to meet him.” It is likely that some of the three hundred select troops, with which Gideon put to flight the Midianite invaders, were from the tribe of Zebulun.—Judg. 6:34, 35; 7:1-7.
23 When the time came for all the tribes to turn the kingship of all Israel over to David, the tribe of Zebulun furnished him a sizable body of troops, concerning whom 1 Chronicles 12:33 says: “For flocking together to David they were not of a double heart.”
24. Zebulunites came into line for what, and how?
24 When Jesus preached in our first century in territory that had belonged to Zebulun, many from there flocked to him and came into line for membership in the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel.
25. Why was it appropriate that Jacob should point forward to the assignment of land that Issachar would have?
25 In the land of Israel the territory of Issachar bordered partly on the eastern boundary of Zebulun and extended to the Jordan River. It lay in the fertile plain that is called Esdraelon, and the international highway Via Maris or “the way of the sea” passed through it before reaching Zebulun. When the lots for territory were drawn in the days of Judge Joshua, the fourth lot fell to Issachar, ten cities being named in his territory. (Josh. 19:17-23) The dying patriarch Jacob prophetically pointed forward to this fine assignment of land when he said, in Genesis 49:14, 15:
“Issachar is a strong-boned ass, lying down between the two saddlebags. And he will see that the resting place is good and that the land is pleasant; and he will bend down his shoulder to bear burdens and he will become subject to slavish forced labor.”
26. So about what did Issachar have no complaints to make, and to what did his father liken him?
26 The name Issachar means “He Is Wages,” or, “He Brings Wages.” It refers to how his mother Leah got the privilege of bearing him to Jacob. (Gen. 30:14-18) He was Jacob’s ninth son, and in the naming of the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel Issachar is ranked as ninth. His father Jacob likened him to a powerful, hardworking beast of burden, one that sticks to his burden, one that can take rest without getting rid of his double load. The two saddlebags may picture the burdens of peace and war that Issachar carried during the history of Israel. He was willing to work, for he saw that his location in Israel was good. He had no complaints to make about his territory assignment in the Promised Land. He appreciated that his resting-place was good and his land pleasant.
27. (a) What does the meaning of Issachar’s name suggest? (b) How did Judge Barak become like the men of Issachar?
27 Issachar’s name might suggest that he would hire himself out for work. At any rate, he was willing to bend down his shoulder to undertake the burden of responsibility. During the period when Israel had judges as her God-given visible rulers, the tribe of Issachar furnished a judge named Tola. For twenty-three years he served as judge of Israel. (Judg. 10:1, 2) Years before this, Judge Barak and the prophetess Deborah had words of praise for the men of Issachar, saying in their victory song: “Jehovah’s people came down to me against the mighty ones. And the princes in Issachar were with Deborah, and as Issachar, so was Barak.” (Judg. 5:13, 15) The princes took the lead for the tribe of Issachar when the call to duty came for the liberation of Jehovah’s people. All the men of Issachar presented a fine example of courage and zeal, so that Judge Barak became like them in the war.
28. (a) What kind of troops did Issachar furnish for warfare? (b) How did the men of Issachar show they were sharp as to discerning the times?
28 Their valor manifested itself again in the days of David. Hence concerning the above-mentioned Judge Tola it is written: “Of Tola there were valiant, mighty men, by their descendants. Their number in the days of David was twenty-two thousand six hundred. . . . there were troops of the army for war, . . . And their brothers of all the families of Issachar were valiant, mighty men, eighty-seven thousand by the genealogical enrollment of them all.” (1 Chron. 7:1-5) The men of Issachar watched God’s indications of what he wanted to be done at a certain time. So they gave David a military escort when the time came to put the kingship over all Israel in the hands of David. We read: “Of the sons of Issachar having a knowledge of how to discern the times to know what Israel ought to do, there were two hundred head ones of theirs, and all their brothers were at their orders.”—1 Chron. 12:23, 32.
29. Of what was Issachar’s bending down his shoulder to bear burdens an expression, and in what way did he show willingness?
29 Thus when Issachar bent down his shoulder to bear burdens, it was an expression of his loyalty to God’s chosen nation and to the leaders whom God raised up, such as David. Running parallel with this was Issachar’s willingness to subject himself to the tasks that all the members of the national organization had to perform in common. It was just as the dying patriarch Jacob foretold it: “And he will become subject to slavish forced labor.”
30. To what, then, does his becoming subject to slavish forced labor refer?
30 This did not refer to Issachar’s going into any captivity and becoming a slave to foreign political organizations. It referred to occasions in the life of God’s nation when special services needed to be rendered by all, when there had to be a draft of workers for a special work that needed to be done at a certain time, within a fixed period of time, to meet an emergency or to take care of a special project that could not be postponed or stretched out indefinitely. Labor had to be drafted, and it would be of a slavish forced kind. But Issachar would be reasonable; he would see the need of it. He would not be rebellious as if more than what was fair was being required of him or forced out of him. He would not shirk doing his part. He would make his due contribution, for he would see the immediate needs of the time and would be glad to join in taking care of these for the good of all his brothers.
31, 32. (a) For whom did Issachar slave, and why? (b) Where was it good to have people like Issachar, and what is foretold for them?
31 Issachar knew he slaved for Jehovah and would get the due reward from him. Issachar knew he must love his brothers. God’s organization was not oppressing him. It was merely that special circumstances forced extraordinary labor on Issachar and on all.
32 Thus among the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel it was good to have people like Issachar, a “tribe of Issachar.” (Rev. 7:7) For the tents of Issachar rejoicing was foretold, and we can appreciate why rejoicing would fill his dwellings.—Deut. 33:18.
33. (a) In prophesying over Dan, what play did Jacob make on the name “Dan”? (b) What can be said about his location in Israel?
33 When prophesying concerning his fifth son, Dan, the patriarch Jacob made a play on his name. “Dan” means “Judge”; and Jacob said, in Hebrew: Dan yadín, meaning “Dan will judge,” or, “Judge will judge.” Dan was the first son to be born to Jacob by his concubine Bilhah, the handmaid of Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel. By lot, the seventh lot to be drawn in Palestine, Dan’s tribe was assigned a small piece of land in Israel. Its western border was on the Mediterranean Sea, but on its other sides it was bordered by three tribes. (Josh. 19:40-49) Later, members of the tribe of Dan took it upon themselves to move far north and establish themselves near the foot of Mount Hermon, near the headwaters of the Jordan River. So in Ezekiel’s prophetic vision it is interesting to note that Dan’s territory is at the top, the farthest north, territory No. 1. (Ezek. 48:1, 2) As regards Dan’s role in Israel, the patriarch Jacob prophesied, in Genesis 49:16-18:
Dan will judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Let Dan prove to be a serpent by the roadside, a horned snake at the wayside, that bites the heels of the horse so that its rider falls backward. I shall indeed wait for salvation from you, O Jehovah.”
34. What experience did the tribe of Dan have in judging his people?
34 Who is not familiar with the story of Samson, the strongest man ever on earth, who finally pulled down the temple of the false god Dagon, thereby plunging three thousand or more enemy Philistines into sudden death? This Samson was of the tribe of Dan. For twenty years he judged the nation of Israel. He was the only one of Israel’s judges to fall into enemy hands, but in the end he triumphed with his greatest victory. He was the last of Israel’s judges specially raised up by Jehovah. The next prominent figure in Israel was the prophet Samuel.—Judges, chapters 13-16; Acts 3:24.
35. Did Jacob’s likening Dan to a horned snake downgrade Dan, and in what way was the prophetic likeness true?
35 Jacob likened Dan to a serpent, a horned snake. But this was not to downgrade Dan, as if he were a vile snake in the grass fit only to be crushed under heel. Rather, in the capacity of a snake, Dan would serve a great national purpose. Though small in comparison with a warhorse, he could unseat the warrior riding the horse. By lying in wait he could bite the horse’s heels and cause it to rear up and dump its rider off backward. By unhorsing the rider, Dan could cause him a great fall. So, though small, Dan would be as dangerous as a horned snake to disturbers. As at the heel of things, when the twelve tribes marched through the wilderness to the Promised Land of Canaan, the tribe of Dan brought up the rear. So this tribe provided a heel or “rear guard for all the camps [of Israel] in their armies,” which was no slight task indeed.—Num. 10:25.
36. For all the benefits of Dan’s judging, from whom did full salvation have to come, as indicated by Jacob?
36 Dan was to judge his people, with appreciable benefits. Yet complete deliverance was not to come by Dan. Full salvation from all enemies had to come from the God of Israel. To rub in that point, Jacob turned his attention away from Dan to God and said: “I shall indeed wait for salvation from you, O Jehovah.” According to what Jehovah’s angel told the parents of Judge Samson, he was to take the lead in saving the Israelites out of the hands of the pagan Philistines. (Judg. 13:5) But for complete salvation, Israel and all other peoples had to wait for a greater Dan, a greater judge, Jesus Christ, the Son of Jehovah God.—Acts 10:38-42.
37. As to Dan, what do we find with respect to the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel, and what substitution must have taken place?
37 Jesus Christ, “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” is the head of the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel. Among those twelve tribes as named in Revelation 7:4-8 there is no tribe of Dan included. Instead, we find included the tribe of Manasseh. The original Manasseh was a nephew of Dan and was born in Egypt as the son of Joseph. Hence he was a grandson of Jacob. However, Jacob said that Manasseh was to have a separate territory in the land of Israel the same as Jacob’s direct sons. (Gen. 48:13-20) Among the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel a tribe of Joseph is listed. Hence the tribe of Joseph’s son Manasseh must have taken the place of Dan’s tribe.
38, 39. (a) Why was this substitution no reflection against the tribe of Dan? (b) Why was Dan’s name not omitted from spiritual Israel for his being likened to a snake, and for what are we justified in looking to Dan?
38 However, we must not interpret this as being any reflection against the tribe of Dan. It merely harmonizes with an arrangement by God. Jacob’s firstborn Reuben lost his rights as a firstborn son, and the privileges of the firstborn became Joseph’s. (1 Chron. 5:1, 2) As firstborn, Joseph was entitled to have two parts in Israel; so his father Jacob gave him “one shoulder of land more than to your brothers.” (Gen. 48:21, 22) In harmony with this, Joseph is shown, even in spiritual Israel, as having two parts, a firstborn’s right. Since Joseph’s younger son Ephraim became more prominent in Israel than Manasseh did, Joseph well represented or stood for his more prominent son Ephraim, whereas the older, firstborn son Manasseh stood for Joseph’s second portion in spiritual Israel. Dan made way for that fact to be shown in spiritual Israel.
39 Thus, despite the omission of a tribe of Dan, the number of the tribes in spiritual Israel agreed with the number of the original tribes of natural Israel, namely, twelve. Dan was not omitted because the patriarch Jacob had likened him to a horned snake, as this was no reproachful comparison for Dan. Jacob could not well liken Dan to a lion, for he had already likened Judah to a lion. So Jacob likened Dan to another dangerous foe to enemies, a serpent that courageously took on an engagement with a large warhorse. But when the prophet Moses gave his farewell blessing to the tribes of Israel before they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, he said: “Dan is a lion cub. He will leap out from Bashan.” (Deut. 33:22) Dan was thus foretold to have a noble, courageous part to play in Israel. Hence spiritual Israelites are justified in looking to Dan for qualities or historical deeds worthy of their imitation.
40. (a) Why was Jacob’s seventh son named Gad? (b) In his final words, of what did Jacob seemingly speak concerning Gad?
40 Jacob’s seventh son was named Gad, but was the son of his concubine Zilpah, her first son. His name is understood to mean “Good Fortune.” That is what Leah took it to be when her handmaid Zilpah bore this son as another contribution to her husband Jacob from her side of his household, since Leah craved the love of her husband. (Gen. 30:9-11) When dying Jacob said his final words over Gad, he seemingly spoke of the exposed location that the tribe of Gad would occupy in the land of Israel. It was along the eastern shore of the Jordan River and was therefore exposed to invasion by the unfriendly Ammonites to the east. But this was the territory that the tribe of Gad, as livestock raisers, asked for themselves before the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. (Num. 32:1-5; 34:13-15) Quite appropriately Jacob prophesied:
“As for Gad, a marauder band will raid him, but he will raid the extreme rear.”—Gen. 49:19.
41, 42. When coming into their possession, how did the tribe of Gad show they were not a tribe of cowards?
41 Gad was to show himself not a tribe of cowards, afraid to have one side of his boundary open to marauder bands. The tribe did not choose to live on the eastern highlands just to get out of fighting for the land of Canaan. In obedience to God’s will they sent along their quota of fighters across the Jordan to help their fellow tribesmen to gain possession of the Promised Land. No sin of failure caught up with them in this respect. (Num. 32:6-36; Josh. 4:12, 13; 13:24-28; 22:1-9) To that end they kept in good fighting form, and fought shoulder to shoulder with their brothers.
42 Jacob’s parting words to Gad were as a command for him to strike back confidently at those marauding him and violating his borders. Doubtless in the days of Judge Jephthah they fought under him against the aggressive Ammonites, who laid claim to the land. They benefited from Judge Jephthah’s defeat of those border enemies. They, in turn, raided the raiders, making these turn about in flight and pursuing their extreme rear. (Judg. 11:1-33) When the test came to execute a fleeing remnant of men who had rebelled and stirred up strife and fought against their brothers, the warriors of the tribe of Gad were able to pronounce the password “Shibboleth” correctly. So they did not fall in death by the sword of execution.—Judg. 12:1-6.
43. What place did Gad find in Ezekiel’s vision of the division of the land and in John’s vision of spiritual Israel?
43 In Ezekiel’s vision of the division of the land, the territory of Gad was again left open, on its south side, for it was the southernmost territory in the assignments to the tribes. Gad was thus twelfth in order. But in the order of the gates of the city Jehovah-shammah, the gate for Gad was tenth. (Ezek. 48:27, 28, 34) The tribe of Gad was also honored with third mention in the list of the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel, for in Gad there were qualities good also for spiritual Israelites to have.—Rev. 7:5.
44. Why was Jacob’s eighth son named Asher, and what kind of final word did Jacob have for Asher?
44 The birth of Jacob’s eighth son brought happiness, especially to his mother Zilpah and her mistress, Leah. What better name for him than Asher? The name means “Happy; Happiness.” (Gen. 30:12, 13) On his deathbed Jacob had a happy word for this son, saying:
“Out of Asher his bread will be fat, and he will give the dainties of a king.”—Gen. 49:20.
45. How did Asher’s bread prove to be fat, as also indicated by Moses?
45 The prophet Moses added to this prediction about the fatness of Asher’s portion in the land by saying: “Blessed with sons is Asher. Let him become one approved by his brothers, and one dipping his foot in oil.” (Deut. 33:24) Regardless of how great his population would become, Asher’s portion would be a fat or abundant one. In the land of Israel the territory of Asher lay along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, south of the Phoenician seaport of Tyre. Asher had the territories of Zebulun and Naphtali along his eastern border. His land produced food abundantly.—Josh. 19:24-31.
46. (a) How was Asher able to “give the dainties of a king”? (b) To what did Asher fall victim in the days of Barak and Deborah, and how?
46 Owing to his location, Asher could enjoy an export trade. He could thus provide dainties suitable for a king. Because of this there was the danger of falling victim to the vice of materialism and becoming self-centered, taking it comfortably and letting his brothers shift for themselves. This enslaving power of materialism displayed itself in the days of Judge Barak and the prophetess Deborah. When the call for volunteers went out to the tribes, Asher did not respond. He therefore missed the great privilege of sharing in Jehovah’s victory at the battle of the “waters of Megiddo.” It must have shamed Asher when Barak and Deborah sang their victory song and said: “Asher sat idle at the seashore, and by his landing places he kept residing.” (Judg. 5:17) Asher was idle, not in materialistic pursuits, but in the direct service of Jehovah.
47. (a) To whom should we “give the dainties of a king,” and how? (b) In that connection, what will we experience in line with the meaning of Asher’s name?
47 In appreciation for the fatness of “bread” or food that one receives from God one should give back in return the “dainties of a king,” for Jehovah God is the great “King of eternity.” He now rules by his Son Jesus Christ, “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” In the case of the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel, the listing of a tribe of Asher as fourth in order bespeaks that the spiritual Israelites would have a fat portion spiritually and would be very fruitful. They would bring forth products of specially good taste for their God Jehovah and for his anointed King Jesus Christ, spiritual “dainties,” not just always the mere ordinary things. They would experience the Beatitudes or “Happinesses” described by the Lord Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount.—Matt. 5:1-12.
48. (a) Why was Jacob’s sixth son named Naphtali? (b) To what did Jacob liken Naphtali?
48 In telling his sons what would happen to them in the “final part of the days” the prophet Jacob turned his attention to Naphtali tenth in order. But Naphtali was really Jacob’s sixth son, the son of his father’s concubine Bilhah, the maidservant of Rachel, Jacob’s dear wife. Up to then Rachel herself had borne no children. So when her maidservant bore this second son, Naphtali, this was quite an achievement in Rachel’s struggle to give some fruitage of marriage to her husband Jacob. In expression of this she called the boy’s name Naphtali, which means “My Wrestlings.” (Gen. 30:7, 8) In his case his father spoke a fine likeness, saying:
“Naphtali is a slender hind. He is giving words of elegance.”—Gen. 49:21.
49. (a) How was the tribe of Naphtali like that? (b) About what were they first of all concerned in the days of Barak?
49 Jacob likened him to an animal that is both swift and graceful in movement. As the tribe of Naphtali produced fighters, these were qualities that were good for men of war to have. They were skillful in warfare and swift in pursuit of the enemy. Judge Barak was from this tribe, for the prophetess Deborah called him out of the northern city of Kedesh-naphtali to take up God’s service against the enemy. The tribesmen of Naphtali were right with Barak in this fight for the liberation of Jehovah’s people and for the honor of Jehovah’s name. They were not first of all concerned about their own lives. The victory song of Judge Barak and of Deborah takes note of this admirable disposition, saying: “Zebulun was a people that scorned their souls to the point of death; Naphtali also, on the heights of the field. Kings came, they fought; it was then that the kings of Canaan fought in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo. No gain of silver did they take. From heaven did the stars fight, from their orbits they fought against Sisera.” (Judg. 5:18-20) In this battle the tribesmen of Naphtali were no doubt like hinds.
50, 51. (a) How were “words of elegance” given in the “land of Naphtali” nineteen hundred years ago? (b) What kind of tribesmen is it appropriate to have also in spiritual Israel?
50 Naphtali was to be elegant, not only in going like a slender hind, but also in “giving words.” In God’s service “words of elegance” are most desirable; and in Naphtali’s territory words were spoken nineteen centuries ago that were specially elegant. Part of Naphtali’s territory ran along the western shore of the Sea of Chinneroth, later called the Sea of Galilee. Here, in part, was fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, chapter nine, verses one and two. The apostle Matthew records its fulfillment, saying:
“After leaving Nazareth, he came and took up residence in Capernaum beside the sea in the districts of Zebulun and Naphtali, that there might be fulfilled what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘O land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, along the road of the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galilee of the nations! the people sitting in darkness saw a great light, and as for those sitting in a region of deathly shadow, light rose upon them.’ From that time on Jesus commenced preaching and saying: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’”—Matt. 4:13-17.
51 For “giving words of elegance” no man surpassed Jesus Christ as he preached God’s kingdom. He became as a native of the territory, for though he was reared in Nazareth he made Capernaum in Naphtali’s territory “his own city.” (Matt. 9:1) Not friends, but officers sent to arrest him were the ones that said of Jesus’ speech: “Never has another man spoken like this.” (John 7:46) What enlightenment his elegant words brought to seekers for God, to show them the way out of the darkness of God’s disfavor and his condemnation to death! It is very appropriate, then, that the tribes of spiritual Israel include a tribe of Naphtali, the fifth tribe to be named. (Rev. 7:6) This reminds us that all the spiritual Israelites are enlightened with the message of God’s kingdom, to preach it with “words of elegance” like those of Naphtali.
52. (a) How did Joseph rate as a son of Jacob? (b) What kind of life record did Joseph have, and this despite what taken note of in Jacob’s final words?
52 The eleventh son of the patriarch Jacob was Joseph, a son of Jacob’s old age, and dearly beloved. But Jacob held back from prophesying over Joseph until the eleventh, thus not giving way to sentimentality. Joseph’s name means “Increaser; Adder”; and he was the first son of Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel. (Gen. 30:22-24) Joseph’s life record was excellent. Both his father and his eleven brothers were indebted to him, as now he was prime minister and food administrator of famine-stricken Egypt. In prophesying about Joseph, the dying Jacob took note of how Joseph overcame hardship, saying:
“Offshoot of a fruit-bearing tree, Joseph is the offshoot of a fruit-bearing tree by the fountain, that propels its branches up over a wall. But the archers kept harassing him and shot at him and kept harboring animosity against him. And yet his bow was dwelling in a permanent place, and the strength of his hands was supple. From the hands of the powerful one of Jacob, from there is the shepherd, the stone of Israel. He is from the God of your father, and he will help you; and he is with the Almighty, and he will bless you with the blessings of the heavens above, with the blessings of the watery deep lying down below, with the blessings of the breasts and womb. The blessings of your father will indeed be superior to the blessings of the eternal mountains, to the ornament of the indefinitely lasting hills. They will continue upon the head of Joseph, even upon the crown of the head of the one singled out from his brothers.”—Gen. 49:22-26.
53. (a) Who was this “fruit-bearing tree by the fountain”? (b) How did Joseph become one of its branches propelled up over a wall?
53 Jacob, the father of twelve sons and a daughter, is himself the symbolic “fruit-bearing tree” of which Joseph is the offshoot. Well watered by a fountain, this “tree” propelled its branches up over the enclosing wall. Joseph became one of those tall branches of prominence, along with Judah, who got the kingship of the nation of Israel. However, Joseph got the birthright from Jacob because of the serious moral failure of Reuben, Joseph’s oldest half brother. Being heir to two parts of his father’s inheritance, Joseph got special prominence through his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, whom the patriarch Jacob appointed to be two tribes in Israel, the equals of the direct sons of Jacob. On the western side of the Jordan River their territories lay alongside each other, although Manasseh’s territory also extended eastward beyond the Jordan River into Gilead.—Josh. 16:1 to 17:11.
54. As to prominence in Israel, how was this shown in Ezekiel’s vision (a) of the land and (b) of the city Jehovah-shammah and (c) of the reunification of Israel, and (d) In Zechariah’s prophecy?
54 In Ezekiel’s vision of the division of the land, Joseph is not named, but he is represented by his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, who occupy the fourth and fifth allotments. However, in the city Jehovah-shammah a gate is named after Joseph and none after his sons. In Ezekiel’s vision of the reunifying of Jehovah’s people, Joseph is spoken of as chief of the one part of the nation and Judah as the chief of the other part. (Ezek. 48:4-6, 32; 37:15-26) And in Zechariah’s prophecy that looked forward to our day Jehovah God says: “And I will make the house of Judah superior, and the house of Joseph I shall save. And I will give them a dwelling, for I will show them mercy.” (Zech. 10:6) Thus in the nation of Israel Joseph always had prominence, like a tall branch.
55. (a) How did “archers” shoot at Joseph? (b) How was the strength of Joseph’s arms made supple to pull his own “bow”?
55 As a young man Joseph had many who shot at him figuratively, to destroy him because of God’s favor to him. This was specially the case with his half brothers. Though they harbored animosity against him, Joseph did not pay them back in kind. He repaid them with mercy and loving-kindness, and these were like arrows that killed their animosity. His arm of strength was powerful to hold the bow to shoot such arrows of mercy, long-suffering, forgiveness, that did not kill people but led to the saving of human lives. Thus the enemy archers not only failed to kill Joseph but did not weaken Joseph in his devotion to righteousness and brotherly kindness. By God’s spirit upon him Joseph kept strong for righteousness, and he overcame the bad with the good.—Rom. 12:21.
56. (a) How did the “shepherd” come from the hands of Jacob’s “powerful one”? (b) How did the “stone of Israel” come from there also?
56 Jehovah God was the “powerful one” to Joseph’s father Jacob. His powerful hands strengthened Joseph. From those hands comes the shepherd of the people. Joseph became a shepherd or overseer for the people of Israel. Jesus Christ the Son of God becomes the Fine Shepherd who lays down his life for all of God’s sheep. (John 10:11-16) From the all-powerful Jehovah also came the “stone of Israel.” That is what Joseph became, when he did not take vengeance but acted as a caretaker, feeder and protector of the twelve tribes of Israel in Egypt during the famine. From the powerful God of Jacob is also the symbolic Stone of spiritual Israel, namely, Jesus Christ. He is the Foundation Cornerstone upon which rests God’s spiritual temple at which all men who seek life must worship God. (Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Pet. 2:4-6) So the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel, is a gift from the God of Joseph’s father Jacob. This Shepherd is with the Almighty God. He is on the side of the Almighty God and walks with him. We can safely entrust ourselves to this Shepherd.
57. (a) With what was Joseph to be blessed in the land of Israel? (b) How superior and how continuous were these blessings to be on the head of Joseph?
57 The patriarch Jacob assured Joseph that in the land of Israel the Almighty God would bless the tribes of his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, with needed water supplies, from heaven and from underground, for drinking and for agriculture. The Almighty One would also bless them with a large population, making the wombs of their wives very fruitful and making their breasts suckle many babies. The blessings like those that Joseph’s father Jacob enjoyed and the blessings that Jacob pronounced upon his beloved son Joseph would be like an ornament to the two tribes that sprang from Joseph. These blessings would be an ornament superior to the blessings of forests and fountains that adorn the eternal mountains and the indefinitely lasting hills. They would be permanent blessings, continuing upon the head of Joseph and of those descended from him just as long as the mountains and hills continued.
58, 59. (a) How was Joseph singled out from his brothers, to become worthy of what? (b) How was he favored in spiritual Israel?
58 According to his conduct Joseph deserved such blessings. It was no case of partiality toward him. He was “singled out from his brothers,” not because his father specially loved him as a son of his old age by his favorite wife, but because God chose him to perform a fine prophetic role. Joseph did not separate himself from his brothers, but they were the ones that got rid of him for a time. Not by acting unapproachable, but by showing excellence of spirit and the ability to manage and oversee and organize, Joseph distinguished himself above his brothers. It was only right that special blessings should descend upon the crown of his head.
59 Certainly out of proper respect for Joseph, a tribe was named after him rather than after Joseph’s second son, Ephraim, among the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel.—Rev. 7:8.
60. How did Benjamin stand with Joseph in the matter of affection and in the matter of location in Israel?
60 Joseph’s full-brother Benjamin was the twelfth and last son of the patriarch Jacob. Joseph’s mother Rachel was also Benjamin’s mother. This produced a strong natural love in Joseph for his younger brother Benjamin. His father Jacob gave him this name, which means “Son of My Right Hand.” (Gen. 35:16-18) In the lineup of the twelve tribes of Israel these full-brothers Joseph and Benjamin are generally put side by side. (See Deuteronomy 33:12, 13; Ezekiel 48:32; Revelation 7:8.) In the Promised Land the territory of Benjamin was bordered by that of his nephew Ephraim, Joseph’s younger son; and right next to Ephraim’s territory was that of Manasseh, Joseph’s older son.
61. (a) At the division of the Kingdom of Israel, with whom did Benjamin side, and why? (b) How is Benjamin located in Ezekiel’s vision of the land and literally in the land of Israel?
61 However, when the great division of the Kingdom of Israel came after King Solomon died, the tribe of Benjamin stuck loyally to the tribe of Judah, rather than to Ephraim and Manasseh who rebelled. Why? Because out of Judah was to come the “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” the promised Shiloh. (Gen. 49:9, 10) Hence in Ezekiel’s vision of the division of the land under God’s kingdom it was only in harmony with Benjamin’s loyal course that the tribe of Benjamin should be located right on the southern border of the Holy Contribution with its temple and city of Jehovah-shammah, whereas the tribe of Judah was just opposite, on the northern border of the Holy Contribution. (Ezek. 48:8, 22, 23) Similarly in the Promised Land of Palestine the capital city of Jerusalem with its royal palace and temple had lain between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.—Judg. 1:21; 1 Sam. 17:54; 2 Sam. 5:4-9.
62. What must we expect of Jacob’s prophecy concerning Benjamin, and why?
62 The name “Son of My Right Hand” would indicate a favored son. Just so, down to Jacob’s deathbed prophecy Benjamin was a much-loved son. Till then there was nothing in the record against Benjamin. Hence it was not to be expected that Jacob would prophesy anything against Benjamin, to lower him in our estimation. Jacob said:
“Benjamin will keep on tearing like a wolf. In the morning he will eat the animal seized and at evening he will divide spoil.”—Gen. 49:27.
63, 64. (a) How was Benjamin to be like a wolf, and among whom? (b) How was Benjamin like such a wolf in the days of the judges of Israel?
63 Jacob had likened Judah to a lion and Dan to a serpent or horned snake; and now he likened his loved son Benjamin to a wolf. This was to say that Benjamin or his tribe would be like a wolf, not among the people of Jehovah God, but among the enemies of God’s people. This meant that the Benjaminites would be fighters for the worship and government established by Jehovah God. But toward the enemies of God they would be as fierce as evening wolves, tearing them to pieces like a wolf. (Hab. 1:8) Among the fighting abilities of the Benjaminites was the ability to sling stones with either the right hand or the left and yet not miss. (Judg. 20:14-16; 1 Chron. 12:1, 2) Left-handed Judge Ehud was of Benjamin, and he used his left hand to kill Israel’s fat oppressor.—Judg. 3:15-21.
64 After the battle for liberation at the “waters of Megiddo” Judge Barak and the prophetess Deborah sang their victory song, including these words about the origin of those who aided them in battle: “Jehovah’s people came down to me against the mighty ones. Out of Ephraim [Benjamin’s nephew] was their origin in the low plain, with you, O Benjamin, among your peoples.”—Judg. 5:13, 14.
65. How could Benjamin be said to be like such a wolf in the morning and in the evening?
65 Like a wolf on the hunt for food, Benjamin was to be a successful hunter. Like a wolf that eats in the morning the animal seized, the tribe of Benjamin provided the first king over Israel, in the morning of the kingdom of Israel. This king was Saul the son of Kish, and he was a fierce fighter against the Philistines. (1 Sam. 9:15-17) Moreover, like a wolf that at evening divides the spoil from its hunt, so in the evening of the nation of Israel the tribe of Benjamin provided Queen Esther and Prime Minister Mordecai for the Persian Empire in the days of King Ahasuerus. These two Benjaminites were used to bring about the destruction of the last of the enemy Amalekites who tried to have all the Israelites destroyed throughout the empire.—Esther 2:5-7.
66. Who of Benjamin became an outstanding fighter for “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” and where does the tribe of Benjamin have a deserved place?
66 After Jesus Christ, “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” died and was resurrected, many of the Benjaminites became his followers. Among these was Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul. (Rom. 11:1; Phil. 3:5) Once a fierce fighter against Christianity, he became one of its ablest fighters. He clad himself in the “complete suit of armor from God” and mightily wielded the “sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.” (Eph. 6:11-17) Like a wolf, Benjaminite Paul tore to pieces the false doctrines and human traditions of the enemies of Christianity. The tribe of Benjamin has a deserved place among the tribes of spiritual Israel. (Rev. 7:8) In many respects Benjamin is a good example to Christians.
“THE TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL”
67. (a) So what can we today appreciate Jacob to have been? (b) Finally, after the above words to his sons, what did Jacob do?
67 Thus Jacob’s prophecy that had opened up with a somewhat sordid historical reference ended up with a likeness that foresaw glorious victory for Jehovah’s people. After more than three thousand years since Jacob’s death, we can appreciate that he was a true prophet, a faithful witness of Jehovah. He ended his days speaking forth the truth, prophetic truth, which has found its fullest realization in spiritual Israel, built upon someone greater than Jacob, namely, Jesus Christ. After Jacob prophesied over his sons he gave them his farewell blessing. So it is that we read: “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them when he was blessing them. He blessed them each one according to his own blessing.” He then commanded them to bury him with Abraham and Isaac in the Promised Land. “Thus Jacob finished giving commands to his sons. Then he gathered his feet up onto the couch and expired and was gathered to his people.” (Gen. 49:28-33) He still sleeps, awaiting resurrection in God’s new world.
68. (a) What did those “twelve tribes of Israel” become in a typical way? (b) How are they pictured as fellow rulers of the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”?
68 The twelve tribes of Israel that Jacob left behind became a prophetic type of the spiritual twelve tribes of Israel, made up of 144,000 members under the leadership of their heavenly Leader, Jesus Christ, “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” Long ago at the mountain of the Ten Commandments God held out to the earthly Israel the opportunity to become to him a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex. 19:1-6) But now the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel have proved worthy to become that kingdom of priests under their Chief Priest, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. The apostle John, who was one of the twelve apostolic foundations of spiritual Israel, saw the twelve spiritual tribes, of 144,000 members, standing on the heavenly seat of government, Zion, with the Lamb. Thus they are pictured as fellow rulers of the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Him the 144,000 follow, “no matter where he goes.”—Rev. 14:1-4.
69. What are the remnant on earth of those fellow rulers of the Lion doing in keeping with Jacob’s prophecy?
69 Today only a remnant of the 144,000 are yet alive on earth and following in his footsteps. They know that the thousand-year kingdom of the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” is very near. They are therefore preaching “this good news of the kingdom” in all the inhabited earth, as Jesus foretold in Matthew 24:14. They are pointing to him as the foretold Shiloh to whom the obedience of the people belongs, for to him the Kingdom right belongs and he has received it from Jehovah God. Whether the nations like it or not, he will reign over all the people living on earth.
70. How should earth’s people be wise now, and why?
70 Be wise, then, all you people. Accept the “good news of the kingdom,” and give your full obedience to this One to whom it rightly belongs, “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” Your doing this means everlasting life, peace and joy for you on this earth when it is transformed into a paradise by the thousand-year reign of “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah” and his fellow rulers.
[Map on page 393]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
Map of the TWELVE TRIBES of ISRAEL
The Great Sea
Jerusalem Salt Sea