49 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
2 “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;
listen to your father Israel.
3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, the first sign of my strength,
excelling in honor, excelling in power.
4 Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel,
for you went up onto your father’s bed,
onto my couch and defiled it.
5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers—
their swords are weapons of violence.
6 Let me not enter their council,
let me not join their assembly,
for they have killed men in their anger
and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.
7 Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
and their fury, so cruel!
I will scatter them in Jacob
and disperse them in Israel.
8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
his teeth whiter than milk.
13 “Zebulun will live by the seashore
and become a haven for ships;
his border will extend toward Sidon.
14 “Issachar is a rawboned donkey
lying down among the sheep pens.
15 When he sees how good is his resting place
and how pleasant is his land,
he will bend his shoulder to the burden
and submit to forced labor.
16 “Dan will provide justice for his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan will be a snake by the roadside,
a viper along the path,
that bites the horse’s heels
so that its rider tumbles backward.
18 “I look for your deliverance, Lord.
19 “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders,
but he will attack them at their heels.
20 “Asher’s food will be rich;
he will provide delicacies fit for a king.
21 “Naphtali is a doe set free
that bears beautiful fawns.
22 “Joseph is a fruitful vine,
a fruitful vine near a spring,
whose branches climb over a wall.
23 With bitterness archers attacked him;
they shot at him with hostility.
24 But his bow remained steady,
his strong arms stayed limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25 because of your father’s God, who helps you,
because of the Almighty, who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
blessings of the deep springs below,
blessings of the breast and womb.
26 Your father’s blessings are greater
than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
than the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of the prince among his brothers.
27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
in the morning he devours the prey,
in the evening he divides the plunder.”
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.
29 Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 31 There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.”
33 When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
(Genesis 49:1-33 NIV)
As we finished up Chapter 48 in our last time together, we saw Israel bless Joseph’s sons and give Joseph a double blessing by making Joseph’s sons equal inheritants with their uncles (Joseph’s brothers) when they eventually returned to the Promised Land.
In today’s text, we see Jacob speak to each of his sons before he died. While some scholars call this Jacob’s final blessing, it’s actually more of Joseph’s final prophecy about each son’s future generations.
I have debated for some time on how to handle this chapter. There is so much here – it would be easy to dissect this text and spend a blog post on each son, looking at Joseph’s comments and why Joseph said what he said. It would be equally easy to summarize everything and move on.
After much study and mental debate, I came upon a viewpoint that I had not considered – how the good that Jacob predicted for each son ultimately found its realization in Jesus. Bible scholar Arthur W. Pink has this to say about each of Jacob’s sons:
- Reuben reminds us of the excellency and dignity of Christ’s person.
- Simeon and Levi may well speak to us of Christ on the cross: that ‘instruments of cruelty’ were used against Him.
- Simeon and Levi (through Levi) anticipated our Lord’s priesthood, for Levi became the priestly tribe.
- Judah pictures our Lord’s kingship.
- Zebulun looks at Christ as the great Refuge and Haven of Rest.
- Isaachar prefigures His (Christ’s) lowly service.
- Dan views Him (Jesus) as the Judge.
- Gad announces His (Christ’s) triumphant resurrection.
- Asher looks at Him (Jesus) as the Bread of Life, the One who satisfies the hearts of His own.
- Napthali regards His (Jesus’) as God’s perfect prophet, giving good words
- Joseph forecasts His (Jesus’) Millennial reign.
- Benjamin depicts Him (Jesus) as the terrible Warrior.
(summarized from “Gleanings in Genesis”, by Arthur W. Pink. Chicago:Moody Press, 1974, pp. 339-340.)
May we see the rich heritage God began centuries before He sent His Son to earth.
May we see Jesus in all His glory – past, present, and future.
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