God's Man as a Fulfiller of God's Purpose
It is not unusual to find stress laid on the fact that certain prophets speak of the 'Messianic age' without any mention of the 'Messianic king'. Though this distinction may be of importance in our understanding of the individual prophet, it is more apparent than real in a wider setting. Israel lived in a world in which the gods had their visible representatives, and there is no evidence that Israel ever thought of Yahweh's rule without a human representative, though it never attributed any form of divinity to those that represented Him. It would seem wrong then, when considering the setting up of God's rule on earth, as presented in the Old Testament, to ignore the agent or agents whom God will use for the purpose, even if they are not expressly mentioned.
In contrast to the dominant pattern of the fertile crescent in which existence was symbolized under the cyclic form of the fertility myths, and in which human life had little purpose beyond doing its part in seeing that chaos did not break in again, the Israelites saw purpose in life which transformed it into history. How old the concept of the Day of Yahweh, with its connotation of the perfect rule of God, may be we do not know, but since Amos (v. 18) can use it as one of those fundamental conceptions that needed no explanation, it is clearly much earlier than his own time. Views to the contrary are based on a concept of the 8th century prophets as complete innovators, which I consider fundamentally false. We are not likely to be wrong in assuming that the conception of an eschatological goal to history is as old as the other elements that make the religion of Israel unique. In fact, irrespective of whether the usual modern literary views of the Pentateuch are accepted or not, we find the concept of purpose and a goal in the earliest biblical literature. Examples are the curse on the serpent (Gn. iii. 15), the promise that Abram is to be a blessing (Gn. xii. 1-3), and Jacob's blessing on Judah (Gn. xlix. 8-12).
The last of these is particularly valuable for our purpose. On purely rationalistic grounds Jacob's blessings are commonly regarded as vaticinia ex eventu and are placed, with the exception of the blessing on Judah, in the period of the Judges. The blessing on Judah is usually placed in the time of the early monarchy, but even on rationalistic grounds there seems little reason for this. On the most probable exegesis it is not the monarchy but stable tribal rule and justice that are being foretold. So we can look on it as an extremely early poem, either from the period of the Judges or, as I believe, a genuine prediction from the patriarchal period.
After more than a century of learned controversy it is gratifying to see that the majority opinion among scholars seems to have veered round to what is almost certainly the oldest interpretation of shiloh, viz. shel-lo, i.e. 'he whose right it is'. This is given by Ezk. xxi. 27, on the most likely interpretation of the verse, also by the Syriac and Onkelos, and is supported by LXX and Vulgate. We must beware of reading too much into such a cryptic phrase, but surely we can find in it the conviction that human history can be expressed in a divine purpose, which will be summed up and fulfilled in an individual, God's man.
Questions for Reflection / Discussion:
Read Genesis 3:15, 12:1-3, 49:8-12, and Ezekiel 21:24-27. How do these differ and how are they similar in their presentation of the fulfilment of God's rule?
What significance is there in the idea that God always makes his reign effective through (often human) agents?
How does Jesus fulfil this expectation for God's kingdom to be fulfilled specifically in and through a particular agent?
 See esp. H. Frankfort and others: Before Philosophy and H. Frankfort: Kingship and the Gods.
 Few today would take the older suggestion seriously that this is merely a picture of the feelingof men for snakes.
 I consider the R.V. to be correct, but this holds good whether we render the last clause as apassive or a reflexive.