The Lion of Judah

The Torah predicts a warrior-Messiah who will battle against Israel's enemies and a peaceful Messiah who will bring world peace. The Lion of Judah symbolizes both.

Old Jerusalem Jewish Quarter, street Mosaic of symbols of the 12 tribes of ancient Israel showing the lion symbol of the tribe of Judah. (Image: by Djampa [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.)


Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Vayechi (ויחי | He lived)
  • Torah: Genesis 47:28-50:26
  • Haftarah: 1 Kings 2:1-12
  • Gospel: John 13:1-19

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Genesis 47:27 | The Last Days of Jacob
    • Genesis 48:1 | Jacob Blesses Joseph's Sons
    • Genesis 49:1 | Jacob's Last Words to His Sons
    • Genesis 49:29 | Jacob's Death and Burial
    • Genesis 50:15 | Joseph Forgives His Brothers
    • Genesis 50:22 | Joseph's Last Days and Death
  • Prophets
    • 1Ki 2:1 | David's Instruction to Solomon
    • 1Ki 2:10 | Death of David

Portion Summary

The last reading from the book of Genesis is named Vayechi (ויחי), which means "and he lived." The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which says, "Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years" (Genesis 47:28). In this Torah portion, Jacob prepares for his death by securing a double portion of inheritance for Joseph and then blessing each of his sons with prophetic blessings. The book of Genesis ends with the death of Jacob, followed shortly by the death of Joseph and a promise of redemption from Egypt.

Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up? (Genesis 49:9)

Jacob compared the future victory and ascension of Judah to a lion resting after a kill. He compared Judah’s enemies to the lion’s slain prey. A parallel prophecy in the Torah says the lion “will not lie down until it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain” (Numbers 23:24).

Like a sleeping lion, satiated after the kill, Judah will be at peace. Just as the surviving animals would never dare to rouse the slumbering lion, neither will any of the surviving nations dare to challenge Judah again. Rashi explains the prophecies of the lion as referring to the era of King David and King Solomon. The lion tearing the prey symbolizes King David, who made war on Israel’s enemies and subdued them. The lion lying down to rest refers to David’s son King Solomon, who enjoyed an era of peace and prosperity, as Scripture says, “So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon” (1 Kings 4:25).

King David and his son Solomon prefigure the wars of Messiah followed by the peace of the Messianic Era. The lion-prophecies also speak of the time of peace that will come after the wars of Messiah. The Messiah son of David will defeat the enemies of Israel and usher in an era of peace during which no nation will dare rise up against Israel. The people of Israel will enjoy a time of unparalleled peace and prosperity—the Messianic Kingdom.

As the conquering hero who will defeat Judah’s enemies, Yeshua receives the title Lion of the Tribe of Judah:

Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome. (Revelation 5:5)

A lion fears nothing, but everything fears the lion: “A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8). This is King Messiah. (Lekach Tov)

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Shadows of the Messiah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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