Ten Christian Prooftexts:
The misuse of Hebrew Scriptures
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
Christians understand this verse to mean that when the Messiah comes, whom they believe to have been Jesus, the kingship will no longer belong to the tribe of Judah, and that the rule of the Jews over their own Promised Land will end.
The scepter is the symbol of royal power. When the text reads that 'the sceptre shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh come,' Christians interpret this to mean that when Shiloh comes, whom they believe to mean their Messiah, Jesus, then the rule of the Tribe of Judah will end. Since the Jews were exiled from the Promised Land almost 40 years after Jesus came, Christians will say that this prophecy was fulfilled at the coming of Jesus.
However, there are a few things wrong with this interpretation.
First of all, if I were to say to you 'there will be money in your bank account until you get paid,' would that mean that after you get paid there will no longer be any money in your bank account? Wouldn't that mean, instead, that even after you got paid there would still be money in your bank account? The Messiah is supposed to reign over Israel and he is supposed to be from the Tribe of Judah, which means that until the Messiah comes, and even after the Messiah comes, the sceptre will still belong to a member of the Tribe of Judah, namely to the Messiah.
Secondly, even if Jesus had been the Messiah, according to Christianity, Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, and so the sceptre would still belong to Judah during Jesus' 'reign,' although Jesus never reigned over anything. For the Jews, the Messiah has yet to come, and so until he comes, the sceptre belongs to him, and when he comes, the sceptre will still be his.
The biggest problem with the Christian interpretation, is that in the year 586 B.C.E., the Babylonians overcame Jerusalem, carried off King Zedekiah into exile, and destroyed the Temple. Zedekiah was the last descendant of King David to sit upon the throne over the Promised Land. Since the Babylonians, there have been a long succession of foreign domination over the Land of Israel: the Persians, then the Greeks, then the Romans (who had been ruling the land of Israel for 64 years before Jesus was born), then the Turks, and then the English. During these periods of foreign rule over the Promised Land, there might have occasionally been a Jew to govern the land for the foreign powers, however there was no Jewish King who alone had sovereignty over the land. Historically, therefore, even if one agreed with the Christian interpretation of this verse, then 'the sceptre' had 'departed from Judah' almost 600 years before Jesus was born.
Questions? Email Rabbi Stuart Federow