by Robert Brow    (

Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: 2004

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31 | 32 | 33| 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41| 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50| PostScript


Table Of Contents:

Genesis 49:1-8
 Genesis 49:8-22
 Genesis 49:22-29
Genesis 49:29-33

GENESIS  49:1-8    (Israel blesses his twelve sons and prophesies their future)

 49:1-2   Jacob’s last prophetic message to his sons is set out in poetic form, perhaps as a song to be learned and repeated.   We might compare the Exodus Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-18), the Oracles of Balaam (Numbers 23:7-10, 18:24; 24:3-9, 15-24),  the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 31:30-32:44), the Blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1-29), and the Song of Deborah and Barak (Judges 5:1-31).  Later in this chapter we read that in this case Israel blessed his sons, “blessing each one of them with a suitable blessing” (49:12), but here he says he will prophesy their future.   The only blessing he pronounces is on his son Joseph (49:25-26). 

 49:3-4   Reuben had been counted as Jacob’s firstborn, and h e had viewed as the “might and first fruits of my vigor, excelling in rank and excelling in power.”  But pride and power are very dangerous (as in Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; 18:14; Ezekiel 28:2, 5, 17).  He was removed from the family birthright and no longer counted in the family genealogy (1 Chronicles 5:1) for having intercourse with Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, by whom Jacob had procreated Dan and Naphtali (30:3-8; 35:22).   Jacob apparently said nothing at the time, but now Reuben’s transgression is remembered.   Israel had already given Reuben’s place to Joseph’s second son  (48:5-6).

 49:5-6    Simeon and Levi were the two brothers who took treacherously revenge on the Shechemites for the rape of their sister Dinah (34:25-29).    At the time Jacob said “You have made me odious to the inhabitants of the land” (34:30),  and as a result he had to move away to Bethel (35:1) for fear of being attacked by the surrounding tribes.  In the previous chapter Jacob seems to have taken credit for the killing of the Shechemites (48:22).  But now in the light of his imminent death Jacob saw the wrongness of that genocide, and  disassociated himself from the behavior of Simeon and Levi.    Jacob does not want his Jewish descendants to follow their murderous attitude.   There is no record of them hamstringing, cutting the leg muscles of the oxen of the Shechemites when they plundered the town (34:28), so this might refer to another violent occasion.

 49:7  The tribe of Simeon is mentioned by Moses before they were to enter the promised land (Deuteronomy 27:12) but they are not mentioned in Moses’ blessing of the other tribes just before his death (Deuteronomy 33:1-25).   The tribe was originally located in the area of Judah (Joshua 19:1-9; Judges 1:3) and it seems to have been absorbed into that tribe.   Individual Simeonites continued to be recognized as having belonged to the tribe (2 Chronicles 15:9), but as Jacob prophesied they had no territorial identity (like Gipsies in our day).Jacob also cursed Levi for his anger.   According this prophecy given 250 years before its fulfilment, the Levites were given no territory in the land of Israel.   Instead they were allocated cities to live in (Joshua 13:14; 21:4-8, 34-42).   Jacob’s curse was later lifted.  In Moses’ blessing the tribe of Levi is to function as priests and they will be responsible for teaching the Jewish nation (Deuteronomy 33:8‑10.

 49:8   This is a prophecy four hundred years before the event of David from the tribe of Judah being chosen above his older brothers (1 Samuel 16:3-13) to become King of the Jewish people in place of Saul the Benjamite (1 Samuel 9:1,2, 15;10:1).

49:9   Could this be the origin of the expression “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered” (Revelation 5:5)?    We have already seen how the patriarchs viewed the LORD as God (15:2; 24:12, 27, 48; 28:13),  the Almighty (17:1), the Judge (18:25), the Provider (22:14), the God of Love (24:12, 27; 32:10; 39:21), the Healer (25:21), the Almighty (28:3), the God of Bethel (31:13), the God of Wrath (38:7, 10), their Shepherd (48:15).   Each of these images enriches our concept of the character and work of the Son of God among the nations.   In Isaiah some feminine imagery of the Lord as a nursing mother is given to us (Isaiah 49:15, 66:13).  He is the Teacher (Isaiah 30:20-21), the Servant (42:1; 49:6; 53:11), the Redeemer (43:14; 44:6; 50:2), the Foreteller (48:3, 5, 14); the sacrificial Lamb (53:7); the Light (60:1); the One who keeps coming (64:1, 3; 66:15, 18).

 The Psalms and the Prophets  also give us the image of the LORD as the sovereign monarch (Psalms 2:6; 5:2; 8:9; 9:7;  Isaiah 1:24; 3:1; 6:1; 10:33; 19:4; 51:22) reigning among the nations with the angelic hosts of heaven at his command (Isaiah 1:9;  2:12; 5:9, 16; 6:1; 8:18; 10:23; 14:22, 24, 27, etc.).   All these images will come into focus and be made visible in the life on earth of the Messiah Son of God and his continuing reign.

 49:10   Going beyond the reign of David as King,  here is a first prophecy of the Messianic reign of the Son of God.   Jacob sees dimly that from the line of his son Judah a King (Messiah) over the nations will arise.   This name comes into prominence with the eighth century BC  prophets (Isaiah 9:6-7; 22:22;  Jeremiah 17:25; 23:5; 30:9, Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-25, Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 12:8, 10).

 49:11-12  As he reigns, on the one hand he can be as gentle as a foal or donkey’s colt, but when he intervenes in wrath to vindicate his people, there can be wars and terrible bloodshed (Isaiah 34:6, 63:1-4, see Revelation 6:4, 16-17; 14:14-20).

 49:13   After the conquest of the promised land the tribe of Zebulun was located in Galilee with Asher to the west and Naphtali to the east.   In this prophecy they are promised access to the sea near the city of Sidon, and in Moses’ blessing they will “suck the affluence of the seas” (Deuteronomy 33:19).   Zebulun was associated with the tribe of Naphtali (Judges 5:18; Psalm 68:27).  And this connection is made in the New Testament  during  Jesus’ ministry in Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:13-15 quoting Isaiah 9:1).  It is possible that the tribe of Zebulun was viewed as dominating the whole area of Galilee from the Mediterraean on the west to the Sea of Tiberias in the east (as suggested by the Jewish historian Josephus, Antiquities Book 5, 1:22).

 49:14-15  The expression “strong donkey” is not derogatory as we might imagine.  It expresses strength and boldness (as in 16:12).   But it seems the tribe of Issachar would take things too easily, and allowed itself to be enslaved by the Canaanite merchants who controlled the important trade routes through its tribal area.   The tribe regained its independence when the leaders of the tribe bravely joined Deborah and Barak to destroy the armies of Sisera  (Judges 4:2; 5:15).

49:16-17   The name Dan (30:6) is derived from the Hebrew verb din which means to judge.  It is not clear how this tribe would yaadin over his people.  But in the blessing of his sons Jacob used very strong imagery (lion’s whelp, 49:9, donkey, 49:14, doe, 49:21, fruitful bough, 49:22, wolf, 49:27) which we may not understand.  Dan is also called a snake and a viper (49:17).   The territory of the tribe of Dan was originally to the west of the promised land opposite Joppa (Joshua 19:40-46).   When they were driven out, their spies found a people who lived “quiet and unsuspecting”in a valley far to the north in the foothills of Mount Hermon.  Six hundred of the Danite warriors went and exterminated them.  They burned their city and rebuilt it with the name of Dan (Judges 18:27-29).   They had taken an idol priest on the way (Judges 18:17-20) and they continued as idolaters till the exile (Judges 18:30-31).  This may explain why the tribe of Dan was viewed as treacherous and rebellious.    In the expression “from Dan to Beersheba” Dan was viewed as being on the northern border of the promised land (Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20; 2 Samuel 17:11; 2 Samuel 24:2, 15; 1 Kings 4:25).

 49:18   As Jacob spoke about the sad future of the tribe Dan, he called out that he was waiting for the LORD to intervene.

 49:19   The future of the tribe of Gad is equally uncertain.  They first settled east of the Jordan between the tribes of Reuben and the half tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 13:24-28).  Moses viewed them as fierce warriors (Deuteronomy 33:20-21) who perhaps lived as marauding raiders.

 49:20   The tribe of Asher was allocated an area along the sea coast from Mount Carmel to Sidon  (Joshua 19:24-31), but they were unable to conquer Sidon from the Phoenicians (Judges 1:31-32).   In his prophecy  Jacob said that the tribe of Asher would live in a rich fertile area.  This is repeated by Moses in his blessing (33:24).   They were faulted for not helping Deborah against the Canaanites and preferred to remain in the comfort of their land by the sea (Judges 5:17).  But they came back into favor when they helped Gideon against the Midianites (Judges 6:35, 7:23).

 49:21   The imagery of “a doe that bears lovely fawns” perhaps pointed to the time when Naphtali was allocated the lush fruitful territory to the west of the Jordan River south of the Sea of Galilee (Joshua 19:32-39; Deuteronomy 33:23).   Their people were taken into captivity by the Assyrians (2 Kings 15:29), but Isaiah prophesied their restoration (Isaiah 9:1-2), and this was fulfilled in Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (Matthew 4:12-16).

 49:22   Whereas the blessings of the other sons of Jacob consist of just one or two verses, Jacob expressed his love and hopes for Joseph in six verses full of rich imagery.   His fruitfulness was like a fruit tree whose branches bend Sover a neighbor’s wall.

 49:23-25   There is no record of Joseph being attacked by archers or him wielding his bow effectively.   So this must be metaphorical of the fierce attacks he suffered from his brothers and from Potiphar’s wife and his long time in jail (39:7-20; 40:14-23).  His metaphorical bow continued at the ready, and his arms were kept agile by the mighty God of Jacob, his Shepherd and Rock (see note on 48:15), the Almighty God of Abraham (17:1),  Isaac (28:3), and the LORD who named his father Jacob Israel (35:11; 48:3).    Jacob prayed that the land under his feet would be fruitful, and his young offspring kept in health.  But his prayers for Joseph were not only for earthly family blessings, but also for spiritual “blessings of heaven above.”

49:26 Jacob waxed eloquent as he claimed that his blessings on Joseph would be as strong and permanent as the mountains.   And he obviously viewed him as set apart from his brothers.

 49:27   Jacob pictured his youngest son Benjamin as having a fierce warlike nature.  The men of Gibeah were Benjamites described as “a perverse lot.”   They tried to abuse a visitor and raped an old man’s concubine (Judges 19:14, 22, 25).  Saul was a Bejamite, and chosen to be the first King of the Jewish people.   He proved unsatisfactory, tried to kill David (1 Samuel 18:8-10) and was replaced by him as King  (1 Samuel 9:1-2; 10:1; 15:10, 30, 16:1).   In the New Testament we find Paul the Apostle came from the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1).

 49:28   The words of Jacob about his sons read like prophecies, but here we are told he blessed each one of his sons “with a suitable blessing.”


GENESIS    49:29-33    (Jacob again insists on being buried in the Cave of Machpelah)

49:29-32   Jacob had previously told Joseph that he wanted to be buried in the family tomb in the promised land (47:29-30).  Now he repeats the command to all his sons who had gathered for his blessing just before he died.    The cave of Machpelah had been bought by Abraham for the burial of his wife Sarah (23:1-20).  Later Abraham was buried there (25:9), as was Isaac (35:27-29), and Rebekah and Jacob’s first wife Leah.  Joseph obeyed his father’s command, and led a great caravan to bury his father in the family burial plot (50:7-8, 13-14). 

 49:33   Jacob had been sitting up to bless his sons, now he brought up his legs into the bed, and died.          


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