Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise: your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's children shall bow down before you.
Read Chapter 49
Ambrose of Milan
This text appears to be directed to the patriarch Judah, indeed, but more so that later Judah is meant, the true confessor who was born of that tribe and who alone is praised by his brothers; of them he says, “I will declare your name to my brothers.” He is the Lord by nature but a brother by grace; his hands, which he stretched out to an unbelieving people, are on the back of his enemies. For with those same hands and by that same passion Christ protected his own, subjugated hostile powers, and made subject to himself all people who were without faith and devotion. Of these the Father says to his Son, “And you will rule in the midst of your enemies.” It was their own wickedness that made them enemies, not Christ’s will. In this there is a great gift of the Lord. Previously, spiritual wickedness generally used to make our neck bend to the yoke of captivity. Thus even David wrote that he felt in some way the hands of those who triumphed over him, for he said, “Upon my back sinners have ...
In these blessings, the way that they expressly introduced the listeners to the prophecy concerning the incarnation of our Savior is extremely clear. At the beginning of the blessing the meaning of the name itself is set before the reader’s eyes, and also the fact that the tribe of Judah was superior to all the others for its glory. If one wants to interpret the name Judah, it means “praise” or “hymn” or “celebrated with hymns.” These words therefore must be referred to Christ, who obviously is from the tribe of Judah according to the flesh. He was born from Judah, Jesse and David and from that virgin who was assumed for the generation of the flesh …. You must be praised, and to God you will give back the glory that is due him. No one else is suited to be glorified but only the living and wellknown God. Even though you appeared human and emptied yourself, you are known to be holy and eternal. Your brothers according to human nature will not be related to you as man but rather will prai...
Praise. He alludes to his name, his martial prowess, and dominion over all his brethren; who should be all called Jews, and submit to his sway. Some explain all this of Jesus Christ; others refer the first part of the prophecy to Juda. (Haydock)
Who are the brothers who praised and adored him but the apostles, to whom the Lord said, “Are you my brothers and coheirs?” And then to say, “Your hands are on the back of your enemies” can mean either of two things: by simply stretching his hands [on the cross] Christ was able, in the course of the fight against his enemies, to triumph over [invisible] powers. Or he has become the Lord and Master and Judge of all those who were his enemies according to the flesh, after being set in this role by the Father.
But, one may say, why did it seem right to the prophet to impose on Judah such a blessing, when he had done nothing like that for the first ones? Now learn the reason …. In fact David had to be born from the tribe of Judah and Christ from David with regard to the flesh. [Therefore] the prophet foreknowing the future events in their spiritual sense has blessed there David, who descended from Judah, and the Christ who, according to the flesh, had to be born from David, so that he might receive from God not only the blessing according to the spirit but also the blessing according to the flesh.
This can be referred to the historical Judah as well as to those kings who were his descendants. They broke the back of their enemies by administering the kingdom of that people. But this can also be fittingly referred to Christ, who is praised with good reason by his brothers, that is, by the apostles whom he himself called brothers in the Gospel. And his enemies, on whose back is his hand, appear to be those whom the Father promised to place under his feet by saying, “Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet.” They are enemies as long as they are unbelieving and unfaithful, and for that reason they are struck on the back. But after their conversion they become brothers and praise the One who, by summoning them to the adoption of the Father, has made them his coheirs and brothers. It is said correctly that the back of the enemies is struck by Christ. All those who worshiped the idols turned their back to God, as the Lord, through the prophet, accused them by say...