Gen. 49:1 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.
Gen. 49:2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.
Jacob called all his sons to him to give them a final blessing which was basically a prophecy of how their descendants would fare in the future. It’s interesting to me that he uses the term “in the last days.” I usually take this phrase to refer to the generation preceding Jesus’ 2nd coming. When reading through these verses, however, the prophecies seem to have application forward to and including even the millennial kingdom.
Gen. 49:3 Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:
Gen. 49:4 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.
He first blessed Reuben. As the firstborn, he should have inherited the birthright. He should have reflected the strength, dignity and power of the leader of the family. He forfeited that position and its blessings, however, when he sinned against his father and slept with Bilhah. He was a son of disappointment.
It should be noted that his sin directly affected his descendants. It is a sobering thought to know that our sin can have a direct and long lasting affect on our descendants.
Gen. 49:5 Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.
Gen. 49:6 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.
Gen. 49:7 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 are identified as “instruments of cruelty.” Their actions did not reflect the honor of the family; they had murdered innocent men. I’m not sure what “digged down a wall” means. Other translations of verse 6 make a bit more sense.
CJB - “…for in their anger they killed men, and at their whim they maimed cattle.”
NIV - “for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.”
NASB - “Because in their anger they slew 1men, And in their self-will they lamed 2oxen.”
This again refers back to the incident regarding the rape of Dinah that provided evidence of their cruel nature. Fruchtenbaum explains: “To hock an animal means to cut the tendons of the oxen so that they could no longer continue working. They did not take the oxen as spoil; instead, they hocked them, for the purpose of laming them, rendering them both useless and helpless.” (Note hock = hamstring)
These two brothers would not produce strong tribes and would be scattered among the other tribes. The Levites were given positions of honor as those who would serve as priests because they remained faithful to God when the people made the golden calf. Their position as priests, however, relegated them to cities throughout the whole land; they had no tribal land inheritance. Just as these sons acted in their own wisdom and passion in responding to the rape of their sister, the priests eventually acted in their own wisdom and according to their own desires, abusing the privilege of their office. Their lack of spiritual leadership was greatly to blame for the people choosing to rebel against God in disobedience.
Constable: “By the second census, just before the Israelites entered Canaan, the Simeonites had become the smallest tribe ( Numbers 26). Moses passed over the Simeonites in his blessing of the Israelites ( Deuteronomy 33). This tribe received only a few cities within the allotment of Judah rather than a separate geographical territory (Joshua 19:1-9). The Simeonites eventually lost their tribal identity and lived among the other tribes, especially Judah (cf. 1Chronicles 4:27, 38-43).”
Gen. 49:8 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.
Gen. 49:9 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?
Gen. 49:10 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.
Gen. 49:11 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:
Gen. 49:12 His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.
Judah is told that his brothers would praise him and bow down before him. He would prove to be powerful against his enemies and is compared to a young lion, which I think reflects his strength in battle. In Egypt at that time, a couched lion was symbolic of the right to rulership. In his old age (last days) no one would dare give him cause to rise up again to battle, probably referring to Jesus on the throne. The scepter represented the fact that his would be the tribe of kings, the royal tribe from which Messiah the King would descend. Shiloh is a term that references the Messiah. (Shiloh = an epithet of the Messiah; peaceable, “Prince of Peace”) The Messiah is the One who will rule all nations; the one all nations will worship. Verses 11 and 12 paint a picture of the abundance and prosperity that will characterize the Messianic Kingdom.
Constable re “Shiloh” - “Shiloh (lit. the "bearer of rest") is a proper name. It refers here not to the city in Canaan of that name but to a person who would arise in the tribe of Judah and bring peace to the world, namely, Messiah. We should probably translate it ‘whose it (the ruler"s staff) is’ or ‘to whom it belongs’ rather than transliterate it ‘Shiloh.’"
Gen. 49:13 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.
Zebulun is destined to live close to the sea and provide a port of safety or refuge for ships. From looking at one of my maps, it appears that the northern border of his territory will be Sidon (in today’s Lebanon).
Fruchtenbaum: “In the Millennial Kingdom, the borders of the tribes will be different; and ended Zebulun will border the sea in the Messianic Kingdom….The territory of Zebulun was to be a major area of Messiah’s ministry (Isaiah 9:1), fulfilled by the fact that the City of Nazareth was in the tribal territory of Zebulun (Matt.4:15-16). Jonah the prophet was from the Tribe of Zebulun.”
Isaiah 9:1–2 “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
Matthew 4:12–16 “Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.”
Gen. 49:14 Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens:
Gen. 49:15 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 is compared to a strong donkey who is not afraid of hard work given the right motivation. This prophecy reflects a desire to live in peace in the land and a willingness to be subservient for that privilege.
Clarke: “The two burdens literally mean the two sacks or panniers, one on each side of the animal's body; and couching down between these refers to the well-known propensity of the ass, whenever wearied or overloaded, to lie down even with its burden on its back.”
Gen. 49:16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.
Gen. 49:17 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.
Gen. 49:18 I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.
Dan will be known as an influential leader among the tribes of Israel. In fact, one of the most famous judges of Israel, Samson, was from the tribe of Dan. I think verse 17 refers to the fact that Dan is the tribe that leads the way into idolatry—like the serpent deceived Adam and Eve, he will deceive many of his relatives. Maybe verse 18 is referring to an attitude of repentance when he eventually realizes his sin and looks to the Lord for forgiveness and restoration.
Guzik: “Some think “the serpent by the way” refers to the idea that Antichrist would come from the tribe of Dan.…”
Gen. 49:19 Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.
Gad will experience many attacks from enemies, but he will not be overcome. The land of Gad was vulnerable to attack since it was on the east side of the Jordan River.
Gen. 49:20 Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.
“his bread fat” – abundant due to rich, fertile land
It would seem that the descendants of Asher could look forward to abundance and prosperity in their future.
Gen. 49:21 Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.
Naphtali is compared to a deer running free; he will be smooth spoken and known for speaking wisdom. The “good words” could reference the “good news” of the gospel since all of the disciples except Judas Iscariot came from his territory and Jesus spent a lot of time in ministry in Capernaum, which was in that region.
Gen. 49:22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
Gen. 49:23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
Gen. 49:24 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:)
Gen. 49:25 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:
Gen. 49:26 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.
Joseph is compared to a fruitful vine with plenty of nourishment. Even though he will be assaulted by bitter enemies, he will refuse to stoop to their level in response. He will recognize that his strength is in “the mighty God of Jacob” from whom will come the Messiah, the Shepherd, the stone of Israel. It is God, the God of his fathers, who will bless him abundantly with blessings of all kinds. Jacob voiced his realization that his own blessings had surpassed the blessings of his ancestors and that Joseph would inherit that blessing of prosperity. He was singled out among all his brothers for greatness.
Clarke re v24: “The more he was persecuted, either by his brethren or in Egypt, the more resplendent his uprightness and virtues shone: and the arms his extended power and influence, of his hands plans, designs, and particular operations of his prudence, judgment, discretion, etc., were all rendered successful by the hand - the powerful succor and protection, of the Mighty One of Jacob….”
There is much talk in recent times of “blessings of the deep” referencing the discovery of oil, and there is a company (Zion Oil) that is drilling for oil in Israel based on these verses.
I am currently doing a study in Ezekiel and noticed something interesting that ought to be considered at this point. Following is an excerpt from my journal on Ezekiel 20:6:
“In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands: “
God specifically chose the prime real estate on planet earth for His people. He describes it as “the glory of all lands.” It was a land flowing (flowing freely like water, gush out) with milk and honey. The Hebrew root for milk made reference to that which was richest and choicest. “Milk and honey” was a reference to blessings of the comforts of life. This tells me that the soil was rich and produced abundantly. We are given a bit more detail about the land in Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 8: 7-9 “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; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.”
In reading through these verses again, I realized that verse 8 calls it a land of “oil, olive and honey.” Oil was a distinct word from olive. I’m not sure that would ever have jumped out at me if I had lived in another time and place. Maybe it means nothing; but just maybe it is a reference to wealth that Israel has yet to discover. The Hebrew and its roots for oil is a reference to “grease, richness…to shine, become fat.” It wouldn’t surprise me for Israel to discover oil in addition to her other natural resources—agricultural, the Dead Sea, technological expertise, etc.
Technically, this comment belongs with verse 20 regarding the blessing on Asher, but since I started the comments on this subject at this point, I will continue them here. In a recent article in the Prophecy Update Newsletter (www.prophecyupdate.com) they included an article by Steve Spillman, “Olive Oil vs. Petroleum Oil - In Defense of the Faith,” that gave some added insight on the possibility of oil being found in Israel.
When Moses mentioned oil in his repeat of Jacob's Blessing in Deuteronomy, he used the Hebrew word "shemen." In English translations of the Genesis account of Jacob's Blessing, the word oil is never used. "Shemen," according to Strong's Concordance, in its noun form means literally "grease, especially liquid"; in its verb or adjective form it means, "fatness" as in to make fat or to become fat (prosperous). "Shemen" is a general term; it can, in its noun form be used to describe olive oil, but it can also describe any substance that is oily or greasy or fatty.
Ancient Hebrew however, was not without the ability to describe specific meaning. When Moses addressed the people of Israel as God's spokesman, there were times when he wanted them to understand exactly what he meant. If Moses wanted God's people to understand that he meant "olive oil" specifically he would use the words "shemen" (oil) and "zayith" (olive) in conjunction. Moses used this conjunction at least four times recorded in the Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Leviticus 24:2 gives us a good example of "shemen" and "zayith" being used in conjunction to mean specifically olive oil. "Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil (shemen) olive (zayith) beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually." When speaking to the children of Israel, Moses was to express God's instructions precisely and specifically. If Moses wanted the children of Israel to understand that the "oil" in Jacob's Blessing was literally "olive oil" and nothing else, he used the "shemen/zayith" conjunction. Modern day critics who contend that every time the word "oil" was used in the Bible it must be interpreted literally as "olive oil" might have had some trouble convincing Moses.
[My insert: The verse he is referencing in Deuteronomy is: Deuteronomy 33:24 “And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil.”]
In this latest revision to my journal, I can now report that a large oil deposit has been discovered in Israel in the Golan Heights as well as in the Dead Sea. There have also been large deposits of natural gas found off the coasts of Israel, the largest being the Leviathan reservoir.
Gen. 49:27 Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.
Benjamin is compared to a hungry wolf that is willing to share the excess after eating his fill. He will be brave and fierce in warfare and generous with the spoils of victory.
When I think of the tribe of Benjamin, I can’t help but think of the events surrounding their treatment of the Levite’s concubine in Gibeah as recorded in Judges 19-20, an event that almost resulted in the destruction of the whole tribe.
Commentators note that Ehud (one of the judges of Israel), King Saul, Jonathan, Mordecai, Esther and the Apostle Paul were all from the tribe of Benjamin.
I’m sure these verses contain many significant insights/truths that are beyond my understanding at this time. Although it sounds like Joseph got the greatest blessing, it is sure that Judah was given the greatest blessing as the royal tribe through whom the Messiah would come. You would think that God would have chosen Joseph—BUT God never seems to use the obvious—which gives more confidence to people like me that we can be used in a mighty way if we but submit to the Creator and Ruler of the universe.
Gen. 49:28 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.
Gen. 49:29 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,
Gen. 49:30 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.
Gen. 49:31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.
Gen. 49:32 The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth.
Gen. 49:33 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.
Then Jacob instructed his sons regarding his burial. He wanted to be buried in the cave at Machpelah where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah were buried. Scripture doesn’t record Rebekah’s death, but we are told where she is buried.
It is interesting to note that Jacob knew that he would be “gathered unto my people” (implication is that this would be at death), knowing that it would be much later that his body would be buried. He knew that death was not the end of his existence.
After giving his commands about the things on his heart, Jacob laid down on his bed and died. I liked Guzik’s quote from Spurgeon: “Jacob did not yield up the ghost until he had delivered the last sentence of admonition and benediction to his twelve sons. He was immortal till his work was done. So long as God had another sentence to speak by him, death could not paralyze his tongue.”
I made a note from a Jon Courson teaching about how the prophecies of the twelve tribes describe the history of Israel from beginning to end. (The notes are modified, but worth including.)
Reuben Disappointing (his adultery points to future spiritual and physical adultery of Israel)
Levi Dispersed twice (Assyrian & Babylonian)
Judah Delivered – Coming of Messiah
Zebulon Exiled - displaced from their country – shipped out to other lands
Issachar Prosperous servant to other peoples - exploited
Dan Time of following the serpent, the false Messiah, Antichrist
Gad Armies of the world coming against God/Israel – culminating at Armageddon
Asher Happy – protected remnant
Naphtali Preachers of truth (especially during tribulation and millennium)
Joseph Blessings accompanying rule of Messiah in millennium
Benjamin Israel in position of prominence over other nations
Following is another interesting observation from Adam Clarke.
“It has been conjectured that the eleven stars that bowed down to Joseph might probably refer to the signs of the Zodiac, which were very anciently known in Egypt, and are supposed to have had their origin in Chaldea. On this supposition Joseph's eleven brethren answered to eleven of these signs, and himself to the twelfth….That there is an allusion to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, and probably to their ancient asterisms, may be readily credited; but how far the peculiar characteristics of the sons of Jacob were expressed by the animals in the Zodiac, is a widely different question.