Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come. “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel. Genesis 49:1-2
Under a prophetic anointing by the Holy Spirit, Jacob gathers his sons together before him to foretell events that will affect them personally as well as their generations after them.
“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it. Genesis 49:3-4
Reuben was the firstborn. Instead of being steadfast, he was unstable as water. Reuben had forfeited the birthright due to gross sin. While Jacob was in mourning for his wife Rachel, who had died in childbirth, Reuben slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah who had been Rachel’s handmaiden.
“Simeon and Levi are brothers— their swords are weapons of violence. 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. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel!
I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel. Genesis 49:5-7
Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi were indignant and very angry because Shechem had violated their sister Dinah. Because Shechem desperately wanted to marry Dinah, Simeon and Levi used the situation to deceive Shechem and the men of the city to enter into an agreement with them.
Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our sister and go.” Genesis 34:13-17
Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. Genesis 34:25-26
The consequence of their act of violence was twofold. First Simeon and Levi, who were next in line after Reuben, both forfeited the birthright. In addition their offspring, who would eventually enter into the Promised Land, would be dispersed in Israel. During the days of Joshua, the Levites did not receive an allotted territory but were scattered throughout Israel is designated cities. The Simeonites, on the other hand, received their inheritance within the territory of Judah.
“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. 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? Genesis 49:8-9
Judah means praise. There would be a double fulfillment of Jacob’s prediction that Jacob’s sons would praise and bow down before Judah.
In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. 2 Samuel 5:5
King David, who descended from the tribe of Judah, not only ruled over all Judah but eventually over all of Israel. King David defeated and subjugated the enemies of Israel. King David was a type of the conquering King Messiah and was the first fulfillment of Jacob’s declaration over Judah.
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Genesis 49:10
Shiloh is a messianic title. Messiah Yeshua, the King of the Jews, would descend from the line of King David.
A scepter is a staff or baton held by a king or ruler as an emblem of his authority.
“All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” Esther 4:11
The scepter represents the power of the king to put someone to death or to spare their lives.
Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. John 18:28-31
Although the Sanhedrin had declared that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy, they did not have the right to put him to death, but brought him to Pilate with a charge of sedition. The Sanhedrin had been deprived of the power of administering the death penalty by their Roman occupiers. The scepter or power of the Jews to put someone to death had departed from Judah because Shiloh (the Messiah) had come. Genesis 49:10 is yet another messianic prophecy that was fulfilled in the first coming of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
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. Genesis 49:11
The prophetic utterances of Jacob over Judah include the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem which was also spoken of by the prophet Zechariah:
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9
Not only does Jacob predict circumstances of the first advent of Messiah but also of His second coming.
His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. Revelation 19:12-13
His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk. Genesis 49:12
Onkelos, who translated the Torah into Aramaic, paraphrased this verse concerning Judah as applying to the abundance of his territory: “His mountains shall be red with his vineyards, and his hills shall drop wine, and his valleys shall be white with corn and flocks of sheep.”
“Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon. Genesis 40:13
When the tribe of Zebulun settled in the land of Canaan, the boundaries of the territory assigned to them extended from the Sea of Galilee on the east, to the Mediterranean on the west. This was done, not at the discretion of Joshua, or at the choice of this tribe, but by lot.
When Paul was in Athens he was taken to the Areopagus where he addressed the philosophers. He told them that when he walked around and looked carefully at their objects of worship, he found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Paul said that they were ignorant of the very thing they worshipped. Then Paul told them about the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. Acts 17:26
The prophetic proclamation of Jacob concerning where Zebulun would dwell and the fulfillment of this prophecy confirms that it is God who determines the appointed times of nations and the boundaries of their lands.
“Issachar is a rawboned donkey lying down among the sheep pens. 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. Genesis 49:14-15
Issachar was allocated territory immediately north of (the western half of) Manasseh, and south of Zebulun and Naphtali. This region included the fertile Esdraelon plain. Established in the good land of the lower Galilee, the men of Issachar were involved in sheep herding and agricultural pursuits. Encompassed about by other tribes and dwelling in a pleasant and productive land, the men of Issachar preferred to pay tribute to the surrounding tribes to secure their protection, rather than leave their ploughshares and cast aside their shepherd’s crooks to join them in warring against their enemies.
“Dan will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Genesis 49:16
Although Dan, whose name means “judge,” was the firstborn son of Rachel’s handmaid, Bilhah, he was considered as to be one of the tribes of Israel. It was prophesied that his offspring would provide justice for his people. This was fulfilled during the days of the judges when Sampson, who was from the tribe of Dan, took revenge upon the Philistines.
Dan will be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heel so that its rider tumbles backward. Genesis 49:17
Revelation 7:4-8 lists the 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel – 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes. The tribe of Dan is not listed. The Danites were disobedient to the LORD’s command to possess their allotted portion of the Promised Land (Jdg 18:27-31), and they continued in idolatry until the time of the Assyrian captivity. Jacob’s blessing over his children includes a prophetic description of Dan as a serpent and a viper that bites the horse’s heels causing the rider to tumble backwards.
So the LORD God said to the serpent, because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15
Deuteronomy 33:22 contains the account of Moses’ prophetic blessing of Dan which describes Dan as a lion’s cub springing out of Bashan. Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm which describes the future crucifixion. Verses 12-13 is a symbolic picture of the enemies of Christ: … strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing at their prey…. Dan is described as a serpent and a roaring lion seeking to devour. . Antiochus Epiphanes, a type of Antichrist, was a Selucid King (Greek ruler of Syria). The city of Dan is the northernmost city in Israel, just below the Syrian border. Idolatry marks the worship of the beast and the Danites were idol worshippers. Based on these facts concerning the tribe of Dan, It is speculated that the Antichrist may be a Danite. In any case, the tribe of Dan is excluded from the listing of those who were sealed from all the tribes of Israel.
“I look for your deliverance, Lord. Genesis 49:18
Jacob foreseeing the future idolatry of the Danites may have called out to the LORD to deliver them from their sinful ways.
“Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels. Genesis 49:19
The word Gad means good fortune, but Jacob connects it with the root gâdad, “to gather in troops.” Jacob foresees that the tribe of Gad situated on the east side of the Jordan would expose it to the incursions of its neighbors, the Moabites and Ammonites.
“Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king. Genesis 49:20
Asher means happy or blessed. The land that this tribe would posses was exceeding fruitful in wine, oil and in the best of wheat.
“Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns. Genesis 49:21
The meaning of the prophecy seems to be that the tribe of Naphtali would be located in a fertile and peaceable territory, as a doe set free to feed on the richest pasture.
“Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall. Genesis 49:22
While some of his other brothers are compared to animals: a lion, a donkey, a serpent, a deer and a wolf, only Joseph is compared to a fruitful vine. Joseph named his second born son, “Ephraim” because God made Joseph fruitful in Egypt – the land of his suffering. Ephraim means double fruitfulness. Jacob’s pronouncement of fruitfulness was both a recounting of Joseph’s blessings in Egypt as well as a prophetic declaration. Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh would each be a tribal leader with many descendants.
With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. Genesis 49:23
The phrase, “hostile archers who attacked Joseph” is symbolic and can be interpreted in light of Psalm 64:
Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from the plots of evildoers. They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows. Psalm 64:2-3
The conspiracy of the wicked using cruel words described the plot Joseph’s jealous and angry brothers had devised to sell him into slavery and deceive Jacob into believing that Joseph had been devoured by a wild animal.
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, 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. Genesis 49:24-25
Joseph’s strength is compared to a bow that remained steady. That is, his faith did not fail, but he stood his ground and emerged a conqueror.
As a slave in Potiphar’s house, his master had put Joseph in charge of his household. Potiphar knew that LORD was with him had entrusted to Joseph’s care everything he owned.
While Joseph was in prison, the LORD was with him. The LORD showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. The warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
Pharaoh recognized that the spirit of God resided in Joseph. He not only put Joseph in charge of his palace but made him the second highest official in all of Egypt.
Joseph’s faith did not fail and he stood firm during 13 years of testing because the Good Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, Messiah Yeshua was with him.
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. Genesis 49:26
Jacob’s blessings over Joseph were even greater than the material blessings than the Promised Land would provide for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Joseph, the second youngest of twelve brothers, was declared a prince – the noblest and highest in rank among Jacob’s children.
“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder.” Genesis 49:27
This prediction alludes to the warlike character of the tribe of Benjamin, which was manifested in Ehud the judge (Judges 3:15) and Saul the king of Israel who both sprang from Rachel’s younger son.
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. Genesis 49:28
Since Joseph’s sons now comprised two tribes, when the tribes of Israel settled in Canaan there were thirteen tribes. The tribe of Levi had no allotted territory, which had been divided into twelve parts. When Jacob blessed the twelve tribes, his prophecies concerned not only his sons but their descendants who would occupy their tribal territories.
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, 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. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.”Genesis 49:29-32
Jacob, having blessed each of his sons, now gives them instructions concerning his own burial. The dying command Jacob gives to his sons is for them to bury him along with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Leah. Jacob would be buried along with Leah and not Rachel. It is ironic that Leah achieved in death, what she was unable to achieve in life, to be close to the one she loved.
Joseph had already sworn an oath to his father that he would not leave Jacob’s remains in Egypt. Jacob did not want his remains to be interred in a land of idolatry but in the land of promise. Jacob’s request was a demonstration of faith. Although his sons had settled in Goshen, Jacob believed that one day they would return to Canaan and dwell in the Promised Land.
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 49:33
Jacob must have been sitting up while he was speaking to his sons. When he had finished, he drew his feet up into the bed. Content and satisfied, he breathed his last and passed away quietly.