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    Judah’s tribute – Vayyechi

    Emblem of the modern day city of Shiloh

    Emblem of the modern day city of Shiloh

    Jacob says (Gen. 49:10), “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes”.

    Depending on how it is interpreted, Shiloh – probably from a root that means tranquility or peace – might be a person, a place, or not a proper noun at all.

    Christianity links it with Jesus. The Talmud (Sanh. 98b) sees it as a messianic reference.

    Other views think the Messiah might be named Yinon, Chaninah or Menachem, none of which have doctrinal significance.

    The Targum renders Shiloh as “Messiah”, so why would Jacob use the word in this sense?

    Rabbinic commentary offers other interpretations of Shiloh, such as “his son’s sons” (i.e. Judah’s final descendant/s), linking Shiloh with shilyatah in Deut. 28:57, a rare word that denotes “afterbirth”, making Shiloh a metaphor for posterity and destiny.

    The Septuagint regards the word as a compound, shello, “that which is his”, so that the verse would mean “until his (Judah’s rightful) destiny is fulfilled”.

    There is a place in central Israel called Shiloh, where the Tabernacle stood from the days of Joshua until the time of the Philistines. Hannah and her husband Elkanah, parents of Samuel, came there to worship. The city’s fall became a poetic byword.

    Jacob’s statement to Judah might be taken as meaning, “Until he comes (or ‘as long as people come’) to Shiloh”, but Shiloh fell before Judah’s eminence began.

    The Midrash sees Shiloh as a derivative from shai,” a tribute”, i.e. “So long as tribute is brought to him (Judah)”. The Jewish Publication Society translation says, “so that tribute shall come to him”.

    The implication is that for as long as Judah’s eminence is acknowledged, he shall hold leadership. Since the verse goes on to say (JPS version), “The homage of peoples be his”, the context is the status of Judah.

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