Finding The Lost Kings of Israel

In Hebrew, a Jew is called a “Yehudi.” The Jewish people take their name from the tribe of Yehudah.

This is true even if we are not from the tribe of Yehudah. A clear example is found in the book of Esther where Mordechai is described as, “a Jew (Yehudi) from the tribe of Binyamin” (Esther 2:5).

Yehudah’s special place in Judaism is highlighted in the week’s Torah portion of Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26, when he receives his blessing from his father Yaacov.

Yehudah is told, “The scepter (of leadership) will not depart from Yehudah until Shiloh arrives” (Genesis 49:10). Shiloh is an excepted reference to the Messiah. This verse establishes that the privilege of leadership is the sole purview of paternal descendants of the tribe of Yehudah.

Missionaries misinterpret this passage in an attempt to prove that the messiah must have come already and give validity to their claim that it was Jesus.

Their erroneous argument goes like this. Since there is presently no one ruling over Israel from the tribe of Yehudah the messiah must have come already because the scepter would not depart “until” he comes.

The ludicrous argument is false for a simple reason. If the missionary’s logic were correct it would mean that the messiah came before Jesus, because immediately after the Maccabees victory over the Greeks there was no ruler from Yehudah, and the Maccabee kings were from the tribe of Levi. This took place more than 160 years before Jesus.

Clearly, the term “until” does not mean the Yehudah’s ascendancy to the throne will end when the messiah comes, rather once the messiah comes and begins to reign Yaacov’s blessing will be fully realized. Even though there will be interruptions in rulers from Yehudah, this tribe retains the exclusive claim to leadership.

To be King carried great responsibilities, including righteous behavior and dedication to serving God.

Jewish Kings including the future messiah are not worshiped. Rather they guide the Jewish nation to serve God with wholeheartedness.

May we merit a world ruled by a righteous King who is motivated by holiness and not selfishness.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz