Jacob Blesses His Sons
49 Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.
“Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel your father.
“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, and the firstfruits of my strength,
preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence,
because you went up to your father’s bed;
then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!
“Simeon and Levi are brothers;
weapons of violence are their swords.
Let my soul come not into their council;
O my glory, be not joined to their company.
For in their anger they killed men,
and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.
Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
and their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
and scatter them in Israel.
“Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Binding his foal to the vine
and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk.
“Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea;
he shall become a haven for ships,
and his border shall be at Sidon.
“Issachar is a strong donkey,
crouching between the sheepfolds.
He saw that a resting place was good,
and that the land was pleasant,
so he bowed his shoulder to bear,
and became a servant at forced labor.
“Dan shall judge his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
Dan shall be a serpent in the way,
a viper by the path,
that bites the horse’s heels
so that his rider falls backward.
I wait for your salvation, O LORD.
“Raiders shall raid Gad,
but he shall raid at their heels.
“Asher’s food shall be rich,
and he shall yield royal delicacies.
“Naphtali is a doe let loose
that bears beautiful fawns.
“Joseph is a fruitful bough,
a fruitful bough by a spring;
his branches run over the wall.
The archers bitterly attacked him,
shot at him, and harassed him severely,
yet his bow remained unmoved;
his arms were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
by the God of your father who will help you,
by the Almighty who will bless you
with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
The blessings of your father
are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents,
up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.
May they be on the head of Joseph,
and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.
“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,
in the morning devouring the prey
and at evening dividing the spoil.”
Jacob’s Death and Burial
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him. Then he commanded them and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah—the field and the cave that is in it were bought from the Hittites.” When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
Genesis 49 Commentary
by Hank Workman
One by one Jacob spoke to each son of what their future would hold. This blessing was common but these words would turn toward prophecies of each of the men’s lineage. This is the first time in Scripture where a conscious prophecy was given by man of eternal significance.
On many levels the apple cart was overturned as with his words, futures were spoken that possibly were unexpected. Take Reuben, for example. He was the firstborn son and was supposed to receive a double inheritance. He lost that gift because he slept with one of his father’s concubines. It was a dishonorable thing and could not be given to such a child. Simeon and Levi received the same cruelty as they had slaughtered a town in retribution for the rape of their sister. Their tribes would be scattered as Simeon’s in time became the smallest.
Levi’s fate turned around when they stood up against the people while wandering in the desert and worshiped the golden calf. But the Levites would never receive any track of lands for their own although they became the priesthood line. Although Judah was a rascal and had been difficult in the years from how he dealt with his daughter in law to how he was the one who wanted to get rid of Joseph, he shines as one who had grace. His life turned around, his tribe would in time bring the very Messiah. On and on the blessings of these men was a surprise and the prophecies came to pass.
For each of these men, their decisions in the past affected the inheritance of the future. How they lived played a large part in what Jacob predicted and blessed them with. Much is the same for each of us. By tomorrow this time, today will be the past. Sometimes the decisions of today affect and shape the future. How are we living in today toward the Glory of God and what will the cost be tomorrow for actions we chose?
Genesis 49 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
What did Jacob’s prophecies mean long-term for these sons of Israel?
Reuben, you are my firstborn, my strength and the firstfruits of my virility, excelling in prominence, excelling in power. 4 Turbulent as water, you will no longer excel, because you got into your father’s bed and you defiled it—he got into my bed.Genesis 49:3-4 HCSB
The tribe of Reuben never excelled. The sin of his past would haunt him, and he would never recover. He is an example of someone with incredible potential who squanders it in the end. He had strength, prominence, and power, but it was wasted because of his instability. No king, prophet, or judge ever came from the tribe of Reuben.
Simeon and Levi are brothers; their knives are vicious weapons. 6 May I never enter their council; may I never join their assembly. For in their anger they kill men, and on a whim they hamstring oxen. 7 Their anger is cursed, for it is strong, and their fury, for it is cruel! I will disperse them throughout Jacob and scatter them throughout Israel.Genesis 49:5-7 HCSB
The prophecy over these two brothers would be especially difficult for Simeon. His tribe ended up being the lowest numerically when summarized in Numbers. They also would be forced to share their land with Judah. The scattering would prove to be a blessing for Levi because they would become the priests who inherited the Lord instead of any plot of land.
Judah, your brothers will praise you. Your hand will be on the necks of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you.Genesis 49:8 HCSB
For reasons unknown to us, Judah was given an amazing blessing. His descendants would carry the royal lineage of Jesus Christ. Even though Judah had his share of struggles, it is important to note that by the end of Genesis, he was willing to lay down his life for his brother.
Zebulun will live by the seashore and will be a harbor for ships, and his territory will be next to Sidon. 14 Issachar is a strong donkey lying down between the saddlebags.Genesis 49:13-14 HCSB
Zebulun settled in a place between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee. Issachar became a strong tribe with the third-largest population.
Dan will judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 He will be a snake by the road, a viper beside the path, that bites the horses’ heels so that its rider falls backward. 18 I wait for Your salvation, LORD.Genesis 49:16-18 HCSB
Dan was an aggressive tribe that produced a famous judge by the name of Samson. This tribe, however, would also introduce God’s people to a slew of idolatry. Some believe this prophecy means that the Antichrist will come from the tribe of Dan. Later in Scripture, they abandoned their land allotment, and spiritually, many from the tribe of Dan abandoned their faith. This may be why Jacob pleads for Salvation.
Gad will be attacked by raiders, but he will attack their heels. 20 Asher’s food will be rich, and he will produce royal delicacies. 21 Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.Genesis 49:19-21 HCSB
Gad settled in an area that exposed them to their enemies, so their soldiers were top-notch. They actually supplied King David with many valiant army commanders.
Asher settled in on rich and abundant land which provided the opportunity to produce tasty bread and various gourmet delicacies.
The phrase “bears beautiful fawns” can also be translated “gives goodly words.” Naphtali was an area where Jesus often taught, so the words were most definitely good. The warriors of Naphtali were also known for their deer-like speed.
Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine beside a spring; its branches climb over the wall.Genesis 49:22 HCSB
Joseph and his sons were indeed blessed by God. Verses 22-27 provide a powerful but concise biography of Joseph’s life.
Benjamin is a wolf; he tears his prey. In the morning he devours the prey, and in the evening he divides the plunder.”Genesis 49:27 HCSB
Benjamin was a tribe with a reputation for being menacing warriors. They were fierce, as evidenced by the apostle Paul who came from this tribe!