Genesis Chapter Forty-Nine

 

Read Genesis 49:1-2 – Jacobs Calls His Sons

 

v.1-2 “And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.  Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father

 

            Israel calls together his sons to give them the benefit of his wisdom and the wisdom of God in preparation for leaving this earth.  In doing so he also provides them with a prophecy of what their future and the future of their descendants will be.  He is telling them what will come not in the latter days of their lives but in God’s fulfillment of His promises.  At these times and always we are admonished to hear the instruction of our fathers.  God’s wisdom has not changed:

 

“Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.  For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.  For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother.  He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. “ Proverbs 4:1-4

 

Read Genesis 49:3-27 – Jacob’s Prophecy and Instructions

 

v.3 “Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

 

            Reuben was the firstborn; therefore by birth he should be given the rights and privileges of a firstborn son.  Under the Mosaic Law that would mean that Reuben could not be denied the right to a double portion of Jacob’s inheritance:

 

“But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his Deuteronomy 21:17

 

And the mantle of the patriarch, the leader of the family of God, the keeper of God’s promises just as Isaac had prepared to present to Esau:

 

Genesis 27:4 “And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die

 

            But the life that Reuben has led has caused God, through his servant Jacob, to remove these rights and privileges from him.  His character and his actions have made him unfit for God’s purpose.

 

v.4 “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch

 

            Reuben is as unstable as water; he follows his emotions, his wants and wishes rather than keeping these desires under control.  He does not think through the consequences of his actions and consequently he sinned against his father.

 

Genesis 35:22 “And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve

 

Because the patriarchal law is not recorded as a body of law, we find no record of God’s law to the Patriarchs concerning this matter but it is specifically called out in the covenant made with Israel through Moses.

 

“Cursed be he that lieth with his father's wife; because he uncovereth his father's skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen Deuteronomy 27:20

 

v.5 “Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations

 

            Jacob’s next two sons, Simeon and Levi were guilty of base crimes as well.  They took upon themselves to deceive the inhabitants of a city and destroy them in revenge:

 

Genesis 34:25 “And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males

 

v.6-7 “O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall.  Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel

 

            Simeon and Levi allowed anger and hatred to rule their minds.  The apostle Paul admonishes us today to:

 

“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” Ephesians 4:26

 

There are many places in the wisdom of God where mankind is given instruction concerning anger, the dangers of uncontrolled anger and the results of being angry.  Though we would normally turn to Proverbs for references of this nature, but here are two from Job:

 

Job 5:2 “For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one”

 

Job 19:29 “Be ye afraid of the sword: for wrath bringeth the punishments of the sword, that ye may know there is a judgment

 

            So judgment for their unbridled anger and cruelty comes to Simeon and Levi.

 

v.8 “Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee

 

            Judah is given the blessing of leadership.  It was Judah who would be in the forefront when Israel conquered the land of Canaan:

 

Judges 1:1-2 “Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?  And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand

 

And many things are credited to the tribe of Judah.  They produced king David and Solomon and brought the nation of Israel to its highest prominence.  They prevailed until the time of Christ and it is through Judah that Christ came.  But the patriarchal blessing to be given to the one who was to follow Jacob in that responsibility was given to Joseph.

 

I Chronicles 5:2 “Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.  For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph's:

 

v.9-10 “Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?  The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be

 

            Here, recorded in the words of Jacob we, have a double prophecy.  From the descendants of Judah would come the lawgiver, they would hold the scepter of kings and the leadership of Israel as we have noted before.  But there is more to these words that the physical kingdom of Israel.  Here also we have a prophecy of the Christ that God would send into the world.  We have another prophecy given by Balaam in the same vein:

 

“I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth Numbers 24:17

 

This prophecy refers to the coming of Christ:

 

Psalms 110:1-2 “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.  The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies

 

In proving that he was the Son of God, the Lord of David and all who lived, Jesus Christ refers to this prophecy in Psalms 110.

 

Matthew 22:42-45 “Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David.  He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?  If David then call him Lord, how is he his son

 

v.11-12 “Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk

 

            Judah would also be blessed materially.  They would occupy some of the choicest land in that country which God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

 

“For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey Deuteronomy 8:7-8

 

v.13  “Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon

 

            The land that Jacob prophesied would be allocated to Zebulun and that which is recorded indicate that it went toward or near the seacoast.

 

Joshua 19:11 “And their border went up toward the sea, and Maralah, and reached to Dabbasheth, and reached to the river that is before Jokneam

 

            The river before Jokneam is the Kishon which flows into the Mediterranean Sea south of Tyre.

 

v.14-15 “Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute

 

            Issachar was to the south of Zebulun in the Shephelah west of the Jordan, land located in Samaria in the days of the New Testament.  This prophecy also tells us somewhat of the character of the people this tribe.  They were hardworking, industrious and those to whom Israel and others turned when taxes or tribute was to be collected.

 

v.16-17 “Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.  Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward

 

            Two observations about the tribe of Dan: while Judah would be like a lion’s whelp or lion’s cub, win their tribal lands by the bravery of their sons; Dan would win theirs by craftiness.  One example that the commentator Matthew Henry gives is the deception by Samson by which he destroyed 3,000 of the most prominent of the Philistines, their temple and their god (Judges 16:27-30).

            In addition we find in Judges 18 that Dan had not conquered the part of Israel that they had been allotted, even at this late stage in the history of the judges of Israel.  When they did overtake the city of Laish, which they renamed Dan; they became as serpents by the way, followers of the serpent; they became idol worshippers.

 

Judges 18:30-31 “And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.  And they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh

 

v.18 “I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD

 

            Jacob stops in his blessing and discourse to his sons and pauses for a moment or two.  Perhaps his purpose was to regain his strength as some have suggested, perhaps it was just to praise God but for his wonderful blessings much like we find in the song of Moses:

 

“The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him Exodus 15:2

 

v.19 “Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last

 

            “A TROOP SHALL OVERCOME HIM…”  Gad, which means troop, were a warlike tribe:

 

I Chronicles 12:8 “And of the Gadites there separated themselves unto David into the hold to the wilderness men of might, and men of war fit for the battle, that could handle shield and buckler, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as the roes upon the mountains

 

Since they were on the east side of Jordan they did serve as a buffer between the other tribes and their enemies to the east.  They did have to deal with the Ammonites and Moabites and were overcome by them for a period of time but they also triumphed under the rule of David and Solomon.

 

v.20  “Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties

 

            Asher was prophesied to become a very rich tribe, not only having the necessities of life, symbolized by bread but would be blessed with “ROYAL DAINTIES”, the luxuries of life as well.

 

v.21 “Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words

 

            While Gad would be warlike in their disposition, the descendants of Naphtali would be more like a hind or rabbit, quick, amiable to friends and enemies alike.  They would be known for their “GOODLY WORDS”, or their ability to use words to accomplish their purposes rather than might or stealth.

 

v.22  ”Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall

 

            Joseph is honored by Jacob as the most fruitful of his sons and he was.  He was even fruitful to God in the face of adversity, prison and the drudgery of slavery.  His branches, his sons, were like the vines or branches of vines that find their way over or around obstacles and continue to grow and multiply.

 

v.23-24 “The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)

 

            Joseph did indeed have to endure the slings and arrows of sorrow, trouble and the hated of others, even his own brothers.  But these slings and arrows have only served to strengthen him and prepare him to replace Jacob.  One of the lessons from this text is that we must understand Joseph’s source of strength and claim it for our own because is it Almighty God our heavenly father.  Here we should be mindful of the wonderful words of the psalmist with which we are so familiar because it is far more than just a comfort in trouble.

 

Psalms 23:1-6 “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever

 

v.25-26 “Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren

 

            “BY THE GOD OF THY FATHER…” Jacob emphasizes the source and the extent of the blessings that Joseph will receive.  He shall help in times of trouble; Joshua, who was faithful and followed Moses was a son of Joseph.  He will enjoy the blessings of all of God’s providence from the heavens and the earth.  He will be blessed with many descendants, his sons becoming two of the major tribes of Israel in terms of numbers and their portion of Canaan.

 

v.27 “Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil

 

            We are not given much in scripture to help us understand the nature and personality of Benjamin.  The blessing and prophecy of his father indicates that his tribe would a warlike in nature and they were.  They also produced some of the central characters of scripture; Ehud, the second judge of Israel was a descendant of Benjamin as was Saul the first king.  In the latter part of Jewish history both Esther and Mordecai were of Benjamin as was the Apostle Paul.

 

Read Genesis 49:28-33 – The Death of Jacob

 

v.28-29 “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.   And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite

 

            Jacob ends his blessing of his sons and his prophecy of their destiny.  He now gives them a commandment concerning his burial for he knows that his end is imminent.  Some might expect Jacob to want his remains placed with those of the wife that he loved, Rachel, who was buried near the present town of Bethlehem but that was not to be.  He is to be buried with the patriarchs, in the place purchased by Abraham:

 

Genesis 23:17-18 “And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.”

 

v.30-32 “In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace.  There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.  The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth

 

            And we remember our earlier study that this is where Abraham buried Sarah (Genesis 23:19), and Isaac buried Abraham (Genesis 25:9).  The scripture doesn’t give us this specific in the account of the burial of Isaac but we’re told here that he was buried here too.  We have no other account of the death of Leah, other than what Jacob tells us here.  I also find it interesting that while living Jacob honored Rachel above Leah but in death Leah is honored by being buried with the patriarchs.

 

v.33 “And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people

 

            The scene that we have been studying plays out in my mind like this.  Jacob, realizing that he is on his death bed has called his sons to him to receive their blessing.  They have surrounded him as he has gathered enough strength to sit up on his bed and address them.  When he is finished he simply pulls up his feet and lays back down again ready now to end this life’s sojourn.  He is at peace, contented with his lot, and the lot of his family.  He has served God faithfully and is now ready to go home to be with God.  Could we leave a greater legacy than this?