Prophet Jacob, the grandson of Prophet Abraham, is lying sick in bed; he is in his one hundred and forty-seventh year, and the end is approaching rapidly. He summons his twelve sons and their families to his bedroom; and he blesses each son and foretells the future of his tribe. It is generally known as the "Testament of Jacob," and is written in an elegant Hebrew style with a poetic touch. It contains a few words which are unique and never occur again in the Bible. The Testament recalls the varied events in the life of a man who has had many ups and downs. He is reported to have taken advantage of his brother's hunger and bought his right of birth for a dish of pottage, and deceived his blind old father and obtained the blessing which by birthright belonged to Esau. He served seven years to marry Rachel, but was deceived by her father, being married to her elder sister Liah; so he had to serve another term of seven years for the former. The massacre of all the male population by his (Jacob's) two sons Simon and Livi for the pollution of his (Jacob's) daughter Dina by Schechim, the prince of that town, had greatly grieved him. The shameful conduct of his first-born, Reubin, in defiling his father's bed by lying with his concubine was never forgotten nor forgiven by him. But the greatest grief that befell him after the loss of his beloved wife Rachel was the disappearance for many years of his favorite son Joseph. His descent into Egypt and his meeting with Joseph caused him great joy and the recovery of his lost sight. Jacob was a Prophet, and surnamed by God "Israel," the name which was adopted by the twelve tribes that descended from him.
The policy of usurpation of the birthright runs through the records of the Book of Genesis, and Jacob is represented as a hero of this violation of the rights of other persons. He is reported to give the birthright of his grandson Manashi to his younger brother Ephraim, in spite of the remonstrances of their father Joseph (chap. xlviii.). He deprives his firstborn son of his birthright and accords the blessing to Judah, his fourth son, because the former had lain with Bilha, Jacobs's "concubine," who is the mother of his two sons Dan and Nephthali; and deprives the latter because he was no better than the other, inasmuch as he committed adultery with his own daughter-in-law Thamar, who bore a son who became an ancestor of David and of Jesus Christ (chap. xxv. 22, chap. xxxviii.)!
It is indeed incredible that the author, or at least the final editor, of this book was "inspired by the Holy Spirit," as the Jews and Christians allege. Jacob is reported to have married two sisters simultaneously, an action condemned by God's law (Lev. xviii. 18). In fact, with the exception of Joseph and Benjamin, his other sons are described as rough shepherds, liars (to their father and to Joseph), murderers, adulterers, which means it was a family not becoming a Prophet at all. Of course, the Muslims cannot accept any calumny against a Prophet or a righteous man unless it be expressly recorded or mentioned in the Qur'an. We do not believe the sin attributed to Judah to be true (cf. chap. xxxviii), otherwise the blessing accorded to him by Jacob would be a contradiction; and it is this very blessing that we propose to study and discuss in this article.
Jacob could not have blessed his son Judah if the latter was really the father of his own daughter-in-law's son, Peres, for both adulterers would be condemned to death by the Law of God, Who had given him the gift of prophecy (Lev. xx 12). However, the story of Jacob and that of his not very exemplary family is to be found in the Book of Genesis (chaps. xxv. - 1).
The famous prophecy, which may be considered as the nucleus of this testament, is contained in the tenth verse of the forty-ninth chapter of Genesis as follows: -
"The Sceptre shall not depart from Judah, And the Lawgiver from between his feet, Until the coming of Shiloh, And to him belongeth the obedience of peoples."
This is the literal translation of the Hebrew text as much as I can understand it. There are two words in the text which are unique and occur nowhere else in the Old Testament. The first of these words is "Shiloh," and the other "yiqha" or "yiqhath (by construction or contraction).
Shiloh is formed of four letters, shin, yod, lamed and hi. There is a "Shiloh," the proper name of a town in Ephraim, (1 Sam. i. etc.), but there is no yod in it. This name cannot be identical with, or refer to, the town where the Ark of the Covenant or the Tabernacle was; for until then no sceptre or lawgiver had appeared in the tribe of Judah. The word certainly refers to a person, and not to a place.
As far as I can remember, all the versions of the Old Testament have preserved this original Shiloh without giving it a rendering. It is only the Syriac Pshitta (in Arabic called al-Bessita) that has translated it into "He to whom it belongs." It is easy to see how the translator has understood the word as composed of "sh" abridged form of asher= "he, that," and loh (the Arabic lehu) = "is his. ' Consequently, according to the Pshitta, the clause will be read in the following manner: "Until he to whom it belongeth come, And," etc. The personal pronoun "it" may refer to the sceptre and the lawgiver separately or collectively, or perhaps to the "obedience" in the fourth clause of the verse, the language being poetic. According to this important version the sense of the prediction would appear to be plainly this:-
"The royal and prophetic character shall not pass away from Judah until he to whom it belongs come, for his is the homage of people."
But apparently this word is derived from the verb shalah and therefore meaning "peaceful, tranquil, quiet and trust-worthy."
It is most likely that some old transcriber or copyist currente calamo and with a slip of pen has detached the left side of the final letter het, and then it has been transformed into hi, for the two letters are exceedingly alike being onlvery slightly different on the left side. If such an error has been transmitted in the Hebrew manuscript - either intentionally or not - then the word is derived from shalah, ' to send, delegate," the past participle of which would be shaluh - that is, "one who is sent, messenger."
But there appears no reasonable cause for a deliberate change of het for hi, since the yod is preserved in the present shape of Shiloh, which has no vaw that would be necessary for the past participle Shaluh. Besides, I think the Septuagint has retained the Shiloh as it is. The only possible change, therefore, would be of the final letter het into hi. If such be the case, then the word would take the form of Shiluah and correspond exactly to the "Messenger of Yah," the very title given to Muhammad alone "Rasul Allah," i.e. "the Messenger of God." I know that the term "shiluah" is also the technical word for the "letter of divorce," and this because the divorced wife is "sent" away.
I can guess of no other interpretation of this singular name besides the three versions I have mentioned.
Of course, it goes without saying that both the Jews and Christians believe this blessing to be one of the foremost Messianic prophecies. That Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth, is the Christ or Messiah no Muslim can deny, for the Qur'an does acknowledge that title. That every Israelite King and High Priest was anointed with the holy oil composed of olive oil and various spices we know from the Hebrew Scriptures (Lev. xxx. 23-33 ) . Even the Zardushti Koresh King of Persia is called God's Christ: "Thus says the Lord to His Christ Cyrus," etc. (Isa. xlv. 1-7).
It would be superfluous here to mention that although neither Cyrus nor Jesus were anointed by the sacred anointment, yet they are called Messiahs.
As to Jesus, even if his prophetic mission were recognized by the Jews, his Messianic office could never be accepted by them. For none of the marks or characteristics of the Messiah they expect are to be found in the man whom they attempted to crucify. The Jews expect a Messiah with the sword and temporal power, a conqueror who would restore and extend the kingdom of David, and a Messiah who would gather together the dispersed Israel unto the land of Canaan, and subdue many nations under his yoke; but they could never acclaim as such a preacher upon the Mount of Olives, or one born in a manger.
To show that this very ancient prophecy has been practically and literally fulfilled in Prophet Muhammad the following arguments can be advanced. By the allegorical expressions "the Sceptre" and "Law-giver" it is unanimously admitted by the commentators to mean the royal authority and the prophecy respectively. Without stopping long to examine the root and derivation of the second singular word "yiqha," we may adopt either of its two significations, "obedience" or "expectation."
Let us follow the first interpretation of Shiloh as given in the Pshitta version: "he to whom it belongs." This practically means "the owner of the sceptre and the law," or "he who possesses the sovereign and legislative authority, and his is the obedience of nations." Who, then, can this mighty Prince and great Legislator be? Certainly not Moses, for he was the first organizer of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and before him there never appeared a king or prophet in the tribe of Judah. Decidedly not David, because he was the first king and prophet descended from Judah. And evidently not Jesus Christ, because he himself repudiated the idea that the Messiah whom Israel was expecting was a son of David (Matt. xxii. 44, 45; Mark xii. 35-37; Luke xx. 41-44). He has left no written law, and never dreamt of assuming the royal sceptre; in fact, he advised the Jews to be loyal to Caesar and pay him tribute, and on one occasion the crowds attempted to make him a king, but he escaped and hid himself. His Gospel was written on the tablet of his heart, and he delivered his message of "good news," not in scripto, but orally. In this prophecy there is no question of the salvation from original sin by the blood of a crucified person, nor of a reign of a god-man over human hearts. Besides, Jesus did not abrogate the Law of Moses, but he distinctly declared that he had come to fulfill it; nor was he the last Prophet; for after him St. Paul speaks of many "prophets" in the Church.
Prophet Muhammad came with military power and the Qur'an to replace the old Jewish worn-out sceptre and the impracticable and old-fashioned law of sacrifices and of a corrupt priesthood. He proclaimed the purest religion of the one true God, and laid down the best practical precepts and rules for morals and conduct of men. He established the religion of Islam which has united into one real brotherhood many nations and peoples who associate no being with the Almighty. All Muslim peoples obey the Prophet of Allah, love and reverence him as the establisher of their religion, but never worship him or give him divine honor and attributes. He crushed and put an end to the last vestiges of the Jewish principality of Qureihda and Khaibar, having destroyed all their castles and fortifications.
The second interpretation of the tetragram "Shilh," pronounced Shiloh, is equally important and in favor of Prophet Muhammad. As it was shown above, the word signifies "tranquil, peaceful, trustworthy, quiet" and so forth. The Aramaic form of the word is Shilya, from the same root Shala or shla. This verb is not used in Arabic.
It is a well-known fact in the history of the Prophet of Arabia that, previous to his call to the Messengership, he was extremely quiet, peaceful, trustworthy, and of a contemplative and attractive character; that he was surnamed by the people of Mecca "Muhammad al-Emm." When the Meccans gave this title "Emm" or "Amm" to Muhammad they had not the remotest idea of "Shiloh," yet the ignorance of the idolatrous Arabs was made use of by God to confound the unbelieving Jews, who had scriptures and knew their contents. The Arabic verb amana, like the Hebrew aman, to be "firm, constant, secure," and therefore "to be tranquil, faithful and trustworthy," shows that "amin" is precisely the equivalent of Shiloh, and conveys all the significations contained in it.
Prophet Muhammad, before he was called by God to preach the religion of Islam and to abolish the idolatry which he successfully accomplished, was the most quiet and truthful man in Mecca; he was neither a warrior nor a legislator; but it was after he assumed the prophetical mission that he became the most eloquent speaker and the best valiant Arab. He fought with the infidels sword in hand, not for his own personal interest, but for the glory of Allah and for the cause of His religion - Al-Islam. He was shown by God the keys of the treasures of the earth, but he did not accept them, and when he died he was practically a poor man. No other worshiper of God, whether a king or a prophet, has rendered such an admirably great and precious service to God and to man as Prophet Muhammad has done: to God in eradicating the idolatry from a large part of the globe, and to man by having given the most perfect religion and the best laws for his guidance and security. He seized the sceptre and the law from the Jews; fortified the former and perfected the latter. If Prophet Muhammad were permitted to reappear to-day in Mecca or Medina, he would be met by the Muslims with the same affection and "obedience" as he saw there during his earthly life. And he would see with a deep sense of pleasure that the Holy Book he had delivered is the same without the least alteration in it, and that it is chanted and recited exactly as he and his companions did. He would be glad to congratulate them on their fidelity to the religion and to the Oneness of Allah; and to the fact that they have not made of him a god or son of a god.
As to the third interpretation of the name "Shiloh" I remarked that it might possibly be a corruption of "Shaluah," and in that case it would indisputably correspond to the Arabic title of the Prophet so often repeated in the Qur'an, namely, "Rasul" which means exactly the same as Shaluah does, i.e. "a Messenger." "Shaluah Elohim" of the Hebrews is precisely the "Rasul Allah" which phrase is chanted five times a day by the Crier to the Prayers from the minaret of all mosques in the world.
In the Qur'an several prophets, particularly those to whom a sacred scripture has been delivered, are mentioned as Rasul; but nowhere in the Old Testament do we come across Shiloh or Shaluah except in the Testament of Jacob.
Now from whatever point of view we try to study and examine this prophecy of Jacob, we are forced, by the reason of its actual fulfillment in Prophet Muhammad, to admit that the Jews are vainly expecting the coming of another Shiloh, and that the Christians are obstinately persisting in their error in believing that it was Jesus who was intended by Shiloh.
Then there are other observations which deserve our serious consideration. In the first place it is very plain that the sceptre and the legislator would remain in the tribe of Judah so long as the Shiloh does not appear on the scene. According to the Jewish claim, Shiloh has not come yet. It would follow, therefore, that both the Royal Sceptre and the Prophetical Succession were still in existence and belonged to that tribe. But both these institutions have been extinct for over thirteen centuries.
In the second place it is to be observed that the tribe of Judah also has disappeared together with its royal authority and its sister - the prophetical succession. It is an indispensable condition for the maintenance of a tribal existence and identity to show that the tribe as a whole lives either in its own fatherland or elsewhere collectively and speaks its own language. But with the Jews the case is just the reverse. To prove yourself to be an Israelite, you need hardly trouble yourself about it; for anybody will recognize you, but you can never prove yourself to belong to one of the twelve tribes. You are dispersed and have lost your very language.
The Jews are forced to accept one or the other of the two alternatives, namely, either to admit that Shiloh has come already, but that their forefathers did not recognize him, or to accept the fact that there exists no longer a tribe of Judah from which Shiloh will have to descend.
As a third observation it is to be remarked that the text clearly implies, and much against the Judeo-Christian belief, that Shiloh is to be a total stranger to the tribe of Judah, and even to all the other tribes. This is so evident that a few minutes of reflection are sufficient to convince one. The prediction clearly indicates that when Shiloh comes the sceptre and the lawgiver will pass away from Judah; this can only be realized if Shiloh be a stranger to Judah. If Shiloh is a descendant of Judah, how could those two elements cease to exist in that tribe? It could not be a descendant of any of the other tribes either, for the sceptre and the lawgiver were for all Israel, and not for one tribe only. This observation explodes the Christian claim as well. For Jesus is a descendant of Judah through Mary.
I very often wonder at these itinerant and erring Jews. For over twenty-five centuries they have been learning a hundred languages of the peoples whom they have been serving. Since both the Ishmaelites and the Israelites are the offspring of Abraham, what does it matter to them whether Shiloh comes from Judah or Zebulun, from Esau or Isachar, from Ishmael or Isaac, as long as he is a descendant of their father Abraham? Obey the Law of Prophet Muhammad, becomes Muslims, and then it will be that you can go and live in your old fatherland in peace and security.