2. Is Joanna's use of Genesis 49 legitimate in claiming that it prophecies the coming of Shiloh?
'The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and to him shall the gathering of the people be'. Gen 49:10
G R Balleine in Appendix 1 of 'Past Finding Out' states that 'Our Authorised Version led the Southcottians very wildly astray'. In fact he titles his Appendix - the Shiloh Myth.
His argument is that Shiloh is a town in central Palestine and does not refer to a person. Additionally, the Hebrew is 'obscure and almost untranslatable'.
These same arguments are repeated in later critiques of the Southcottian movement.
His first point, that Shiloh is the name of a town often mentioned in the Bible and therefore cannot be a person, does not stand up for several reasons. Firstly, the fact that it is the name of a town does not mean that it could not also be the name of a person. In the Bible, Jezreel is the name of a town in the area occupied by the tribe of Isaachar (Joshua 19:18, I Samuel 29:1). It is also the name of a son of Etam (I Chronicles 4:3) - this person is only mentioned once in the Bible. So the fact that it is also the name of a town does not mean it could not also be the name of an individual.
Secondly, there are also good reasons within the text for rejecting the meaning as a town. It does not make sense to say 'till a town comes'. Would that mean that the sceptre would depart from Judah once the town of Shiloh was founded? Thirdly, the phrase 'and to him shall the gathering of the people be', does not make sense, because the word gathering (yiqqehah in Hebrew), includes the idea of obedience (the same word is translated obedience in Proverbs 30:17). The Revised Standard Version of the Bible translates this phrase as 'and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples'. It makes no sense to render obedience to a town, but makes good sense if obedience is to a person.
While it is true that the Hebrew is obscure, Joanna made the point that many things were left obscure in the Bible, in order that they would not be made knows before the appropriate time. Alternative translations include 'until he comes to whom it belongs'. The New Bible Dictionary (1965, page 1177) states that the Hebrew can be translated in several ways, and discusses the merits and demerits of each one, but does not make a definitive conclusion. However, in the Hebrew text the word Shiloh is there.
That the passage was considered Messianic before the time of Christianity (and long before Joanna's time), is clear from a reference to this verse in the Babylonian Talmud ('Sanhedrin', capII. fol. 982) "What is Messiah's name? His name is Shiloh, for it is written, Until Shiloh come".
It is therefore not true to suggest that the interpretation of this verse as given by Joanna Southcott, is 'very wildly astray'.