Israel’s Prophecy concerning His Sons
49 Then Jacob called for his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves [around me] that I may tell you what will happen to you and your descendants [a]in the days to come.
“Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob;
And listen to Israel (Jacob) your father.
“Reuben, you are my [b]firstborn;
My might, the beginning of my strength and vigor,
Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power [that should have been your birthright].
“But unstable and reckless and boiling over like water [in sinful lust], you shall [c]not excel or have the preeminence [of the firstborn],
Because you went up to your father’s bed [with Bilhah];
You defiled it—he went up to my couch.(A)
“Simeon and Levi are brothers [equally headstrong, deceitful, vindictive, and cruel];
Their swords are weapons of violence and revenge.(B)
“O my soul, do not come into their secret council;
Let not my glory (honor) be united with their assembly [for I knew nothing of their plot];
Because in their anger they killed men [an honored man, Shechem, and the Shechemites],
And in their self-will they lamed oxen.
“Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce;
And their wrath, for it was cruel.
I will divide and disperse them in Jacob,
And [d]scatter them in [the midst of the land of] Israel.
“Judah, you are the one whom your brothers shall praise;
Your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.
“Judah, a lion’s cub;
With the prey, my son, you have gone high up [the mountain].
He stooped down, he crouched like a lion,
And like a lion—who dares rouse him?(C)
“The scepter [of royalty] shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh [the Messiah, the Peaceful One] comes,
And to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples.(D)
“Tying [e]his foal to the [strong] vine
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
He washes his clothing in wine [because the grapevine produces abundantly],
And his robes in the blood of grapes.(E)
“His eyes are darker and sparkle more than wine,
And his teeth whiter than milk.
“Zebulun shall dwell at the seashore;
And he shall be a haven (landing place) for ships,
And his flank shall be toward Sidon.
“Issachar is [like] a strong-boned donkey,
Crouching down between the sheepfolds.
“When he saw that the resting place was good
And that the land was pleasant,
He bowed his shoulder to bear [burdens],
And became a servant at forced labor.
“Dan shall judge his people,
As one of the tribes of Israel.
“Dan shall be a [venomous] serpent in the way,
A fanged snake in the path,
That bites the horse’s heels,
So that his rider falls backward.
“I wait for Your salvation, O Lord.
“As for [f]Gad—a raiding troop shall raid him,
But he shall raid at their heels and assault them [victoriously].
“Asher’s food [supply] shall be rich and bountiful,
And he shall yield and deliver royal delights.
“Naphtali is a doe let loose, [a swift warrior,]
Which yields branched antlers (eloquent words).
“Joseph is a fruitful bough (a main branch of the vine),
A fruitful bough by a spring (a well, a fountain);
Its branches run over the wall [influencing others].
“The [skilled] archers have bitterly attacked and provoked him;
They have shot [at him] and harassed him.
“But his bow remained firm and steady [in the Strength that does not fail],
For his arms were made strong and agile
By the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob,
(By the name of the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),(F)
By the God of your father who will help you,
And by the [g]Almighty who blesses you
With blessings of the heavens above,
Blessings lying in the deep that couches beneath,
Blessings of the [nursing] breasts and of the [fertile] womb.
“The blessings of your father
Are greater than the blessings of my ancestors [Abraham and Isaac]
Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills;
They shall be on the head of Joseph,
Even on the crown of the head of him who was the distinguished one and the one who is prince among (separate from) his brothers.
“Benjamin is a [h]ravenous wolf;
In the morning he devours the prey,
And at night he divides the spoil.”
28 All these are the [beginnings of the] twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each one according to the blessing appropriate to him. 29 He charged 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, 30 in the cave in the field at Machpelah, east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, that Abraham bought, along with the field from Ephron the Hittite, to possess as a burial site.(G) 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah— 32 the field and the cave that is in it was purchased from the sons of Heth.” 33 When Jacob (Israel) had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was [i]gathered to his people [who had preceded him in death].
- Genesis 49:1 See Deut 33, where Moses blesses the same tribes in a similar prophetic way.
- Genesis 49:3 Reuben was the eldest of Jacob’s twelve sons and therefore entitled to the birthright, which would make him successor to his father as head of the family or tribe, and inheritor of a double portion of his father’s estate. But Reuben forfeited all this by his conduct with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (35:22). By adopting Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and giving each of them a portion of the inheritance, Jacob virtually gave Joseph the extra portion of the land that would have gone to Reuben. Judah became the tribal leader in Reuben’s place (49:8-10).
- Genesis 49:4 The fertile land once occupied by the tribe of Reuben was deserted by its settled inhabitants and given over to the tribal nomads of the desert. Because of his behavior, Reuben had forfeited his rights as the firstborn even before Jacob’s prophecy.
- Genesis 49:7 This prophecy was fulfilled when the tribe of Levi received no inheritance except forty-eight towns scattered throughout different parts of Canaan. The tribe of Simeon was originally given only a few towns and villages in the midst of the inheritance of the tribe of Judah (Josh 19:1).
- Genesis 49:11 I.e. the tribe of Judah.
- Genesis 49:19 The Hebrew word from which the name “Gad” is derived has two meanings. In this verse the Hebrew meaning is associated with a “raiding troop” but in 30:11 it is associated with “good fortune.”
- Genesis 49:25 Heb Shaddai.
- Genesis 49:27 The tribe of Benjamin invariably displayed courage and ferocity, particularly in their war with the other tribes. The tribe of Benjamin was absorbed by the tribe of Judah and is not mentioned after the return from the Babylonian captivity, except in connection with its former land or as the source of some individual person. Ehud, Saul, Jonathan, and the apostle Paul were Benjamites.
- Genesis 49:33 See note 25:8.