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Genesis 49

49
Jacob’s Last Words
1Jacob called all his sons together and gathered them around his bedside. He said to them, “Let me prophesy to you about your future destinies: # 49:1 The struggle between flesh and spirit had been fierce and protracted in Jacob, but as the end drew near, he ministered from a deep well as the Spirit of Prophecy fell upon him. Jacob became a shaper of destiny for his children as God revealed to him the futures of his sons. His prophecies were based both on their characters and on their actions. He spoke into their destinies and described God’s plan for each one. The prophecies of Gen. 49 also apply to the day in which we live. The rest of the Old Testament and all the New Testament are the development of Gen. 49. These verses require the whole Bible for their understanding. How profound were the prophecies of Jacob!
2“Come together and listen to me, O sons of Jacob,
Listen to your father Israel. # 49:2 The order of the blessings given by Jacob corresponds to the sons of Leah, then the sons of Bilhah, the sons of Zilpah, two more sons of Leah, and finally the two sons of Rachel (Joseph and Benjamin). In the book of Numbers, the order of Jacob’s sons is given by where their camps were situated in relation to the tabernacle. In Exodus, they are represented by the twelve gemstones on the breastplate of the high priest. In Revelation, they are the twelve gates of the New Jerusalem. One of the surprising things in the Bible is that the names of Jacob’s sons are inscribed on the gates of pearls through which God’s people must pass. The names of the gates of pearl are Jacob’s sons. This shows that God is the one who transforms the worst of us and makes us his pearls for eternity. All who enter the New Jerusalem will enter by the gates of the tribes. As Jacob’s spiritual sons, we can see our lives in the history and transformation of Jacob’s sons.
3“Reuben, my firstborn, you are my strength
and the firstfruits of my manhood.
You are preeminent in pride
and surpassing others in power.
4You are unstable—as turbulent as floodwaters;
you will no longer excel,
for you have slept with my concubine # 49:4 Or “you went up to your father’s bed,” a euphemism for sleeping with his father’s concubine.
and defiled yourself in your father’s bed! # 49:4 See Gen. 35:22. Joseph received Reuben’s birthright because he fled from the very defilement Reuben indulged in (see Gen. 39:7–12). Joseph did not lie with Potiphar’s wife, even though she begged him. Joseph gained by purity what Reuben lost by defilement. This birthright was the inheritance not only of a double portion of land and possessions but also the privileges of headship and priesthood. Reuben lost it all, even though he likely repented and was pardoned. You may be first in line for the blessing, but it is how you finish that counts. Sinful acts can disqualify you for spiritual privilege and leadership.
5“Simeon and Levi, you are two of a kind and brothers in crime,
for your swords have committed violent acts.
6O my soul, let me not join in their secret plans. # 49:6 See Ps. 1:1.
O my heart, never let me be counted in their assembly,
for they killed men in fits of rage,
and for pleasure, they maimed an ox. # 49:6 Figuratively, Joseph was the ox they tried to hurt (see Deut. 33:17).
7Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
and their wrath so relentless.
I will divide your descendants throughout Jacob’s territory
and scatter them throughout Israel. # 49:7 Jacob chose neither Simeon nor Levi to replace Reuben as the firstborn, and they received no blessing because they were men of anarchy, not righteousness. Both Simeon and Levi had a disposition to kill others. Instead of using their swords for self-defense, they wielded their weapons in cruel rage to slaughter and plunder the city of Shechem (see Gen. 34:25–30). Simeon and Levi themselves were not cursed, only their anger. By all accounts, Simeon became the fiercest tribe among all of Israel. When Ezekiel described the final division of the land, he included a portion for Simeon (see Ezek. 48:24). His is one of the sealed tribes mentioned in Rev. 7:7. There is also a gate in the eternal city on which the name Simeon is inscribed (Rev. 21:12). In the New Testament another “Simeon” is named (Simon Peter), who once used a sword to cut off an ear. Even so, this Simeon’s destiny was to be “one who hears” from God (see Gen. 29:33 and footnote) and who blessed others with God’s Word by writing the books of 1 and 2 Peter. Concerning Levi, because his natural ways were transformed, he was privileged to carry God’s Urim and Thummim as a priest (see Deut. 33:8). The Levites had the wonderful privilege of serving God in his presence. Their inheritance was not a piece of land (see Josh. 14:4) but the privilege of intimate worship. From the story of the Levites, we learn that God can redeem and transform us, even if we have lost our blessing because of past failures. Moses, the author of Genesis, was from the tribe of Levi!
8“O Judah, your brothers will praise you. # 49:8 Judah eventually became the source of leadership in Israel, the father of the Davidic dynasty, and ancestor of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Even the word “Jew” is derived from the word Yehudi (“Judahite”). In the Spirit, Jacob saw the blessing of honor and power descending upon his son Judah. He would be a strong and courageous leader, with others showing him great honor. Remember, Judah became a changed man and displayed his true character by offering himself as a substitute for Benjamin (see Gen. 44:33–34). The tribe of Judah produced many kings, and some were quite notable in their exploits for God. A conquering, ruling tribe, Judah remained somewhat faithful when the nation divided. Judah was to have the leadership among his brothers. See 1 Chron. 5:2.
You will conquer your foes in battle, # 49:8 Or “Your hand will be upon the neck of your enemies.”
And your father’s sons will bow down before you.
9Judah, my son, you are like a young lion
who has devoured its prey and departed.
Like a lion, he crouches and lies down,
and like a lioness—who dares to awaken him? # 49:9 Judah is a wonderful picture of the One who is seen as the mighty Lion of Judah. Jesus Christ is the One who places his omnipotent hand on the neck of his enemies and delivers us. The lion, the king of beasts, terrifies its prey with his roar. When he seizes his prey, no one can resist him. After he has seized his prey, no one pursues him or seeks revenge, for the lion is a conqueror. Jacob compared Judah to three kinds of lions: a young lion, a mature hunting lion, and a lioness. This is more than a prophecy about the tribe of Judah becoming strong and mighty; it is a prophecy of One who will come from Judah to devour his prey. Jesus is not a raging Lion; he is a resting Lion who has conquered every foe. He crouched and took his cross but now lies down in perfect peace. His victory is total and secure. Who would dare rouse a lion when he is lying down after his kill, and who would rouse a lioness while she is guarding her cubs? These three phrases to describe the lion are truly descriptive of what our Savior-King has done for us! Jesus came as our Savior: “a young lion who has devoured its prey . . . and departed.” He laid down his life on the cross to destroy the one who held us in fear of death. He was raised again to be seated at God’s right hand: “like a lion, he crouches and lies down.” Today, he guards us with tender love and compassion “like a lioness.”
10The scepter of rulership will not be taken from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants,
until the Shiloh comes # 49:10 Or “until he comes to Shiloh.” The Messiah is the One given the name “Shiloh” or “the One whose right it is [to take the throne]” (Ezek. 21:27). When Jesus stood before Pilate, the people willingly allowed the staff, or authority to rule, to depart from Judah (see John 18:31). They gave up the power to rule and handed it over to foreigners (the Romans). The departing of the staff was a sign that Shiloh, the One whose right it was to rule, had come! He has taken the staff as the emblem of his authority to rule over nations. See Num. 24:17; Ps. 45:6.
and takes what is due him,
for the obedience of nations belongs to him.
11He will tether his donkey to the vine
and his purebred colt to the choicest branch.
He will wash his garments in wine
and his robe in the blood of grapes. # 49:11 In this poetic prophecy, we are given wonderful descriptions of the fruit of Christ’s righteous rule over us. There will be great prosperity and fullness. He will impart his servant nature (the “donkey” tethered to a vine, the church) and the display of his splendor (the “purebred colt”; Jesus rode into Jerusalem riding on a colt) to the church (the “choicest branch”; we are the branches of his life, see John 15). His garments (gifts) will be washed in wine (soaked in the anointing of the Holy Spirit), and his robes (righteous life) in the blood of grapes (in the power of the Spirit and the blood, see Isa. 63:2).
12His eyes are more exhilarating than wine # 49:12 As translated from the Septuagint. The Hebrew is “red with wine” or “darker than wine.”
and his teeth whiter than milk. # 49:12 Judah’s dark eyes and white teeth point to the coming One, who will bring an abundance of wine and milk. His eyes are darker than wine—not in outward coloring, but from the inward, energizing wine of God’s Spirit. The redness of his eyes speaks of the fires of holy passion (see Rev. 1:14). His white teeth speak of the vigor and healthy power of his person. He is rich in love and rich in power! He has drunk deeply of the Holy Spirit and without measure from the milk of God’s loving heart.
13“Zebulun # 49:13 Having spoken of the tribe from which Jesus was born (Judah), Jacob now prophesied about Zebulun, the tribe in whose territory he lived. Jesus began his ministry in the area settled by Zebulun. The people of Zebulun were the first to see this great Light dawning (see Matt. 4:15–16). The disciples of Galilee were like a fleet of ships carrying the light of the gospel to the nations. It was from a mountaintop in Galilee that Jesus sent out his disciples to the nations like ships of mercy (see Matt. 28:16–19). As the disciples went out with the glad tidings, they became havens of refuge and a blessing to many. The descendants of Zebulun were known as merchants dwelling near the sea who traded goods with others. Deborah praised their bravery for rallying to the cause and fighting against Sisera (see Judg. 5:14–18). Elon, one of the mighty deliverers mentioned in Judges, was a valiant man from this tribe (see Judg. 12:11–12). They were men of undivided loyalty to the king (1 Chron. 12:33). will settle along the seashore
and become a safe harbor for ships,
and his borders will extend to Sidon. # 49:13 Sidon is often a metonymy for Phoenicia, or southern Lebanon.
14“Issachar is a strong donkey # 49:14 The sons of Issachar were donkeys; they were meant to be burden bearers. A horse loves speed; a donkey is made for carrying burdens. A donkey is focused and sure-footed when it walks on mountain heights. A horse needs blinders or things will easily distract it; but a donkey keeps its attention on the trail ahead. As a donkey can endure weeks of hard conditions with little rest, so true intercessors don’t stop until they get their answer. The men of Issachar were noted in Scripture as those who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (1 Chron. 12:32). They represent the intercessor of today.
lying down between its saddlebags. # 49:14 The Hebrew word mishpetayim is a homonym for “sheepfolds.” Some scholars render it “campfires.” It implies that the burdened donkey found a resting place near the sheep, near the campfire, and between saddlebags, ready to carry afresh the burden of the Lord.
15When he sees that his resting place is good,
and his portion # 49:15 Or “his land.” is so pleasant,
then he will bend his shoulder to the burden
and labor for his master. # 49:15 Issachar is truly a picture of the intercessor. There is an anointing of rest for those who give their lives in intercession. Nothing will shake their confidence, for they have entered the Spirit’s rest (see Heb. 3:11). Issachar, the donkey, saw that rest was good. Nobody else did. He saw the anointing of rest. Burdens must be carried, but carried within the pleasant land of resting in God’s sweet presence. We must bend our shoulders to the burden of the Lord. God has a burden to share, but he waits for intercessors to find the resting place and bend their shoulders to his burden. True sons of Issachar will submit to voluntary labor and become slaves to prayer! Issachar bore the burden because he could see by the Spirit what God wanted to do in the land. God offers his intercessors, his friends, the opportunity to partner with him to bring his will to pass. Remember, it was a donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem. Could it be that intercessors are those whom God has chosen to carry his presence into the nations? We are to release the intercessors, for the Master needs them.
16“Dan will provide justice # 49:16 Or “judge.” This is a wordplay on the name Dan. See Gen. 30:6 and footnote. for his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17Dan will be a snake waiting by the roadside,
like a snake in the grass.
He bites the horse’s heels,
making its rider fall backward. # 49:17 The destiny of the tribe of Dan was to provide justice. As the conscience of the nation, they were to excel in helping against the suppression of an enemy. Just as a snake can strike at the legs of a horse and overthrow a mightier animal, so God would anoint Dan to administer justice when the Israelites oppressed by others. Like a crafty serpent, this tribe would attack their enemies suddenly. Samson, one of the judges, was a Danite. Like a cunning serpent, Samson pulled down the house on the heads of the Philistines (see Judg. 16:23–30). Although the descendants of Dan won the victory, they became more independent and more proud. Soon, the tribe established a center of worship among them, with an idol made by Micah (see Judg. 18:30). The idolatry of the tribe of Dan became one of the greatest stumbling blocks for the nation of Israel. Dan also bit the heels of God’s people and made them stumble backwards! What potential we each have to bless or hinder God’s people. The genealogies of 1 and 2 Chronicles omit the tribe of Dan altogether. During Joshua’s conquest and allotment of the land, he gave the Danites no specific borders. Dan is not listed among the sealed tribes in Rev. 7.
18“I wait in hope for your salvation, O  Yahweh! # 49:18 Jacob interrupted his prophecy with a prayer. See Ps. 119:166. The Hebrew word for “salvation” is similar to Yeshua, the Hebrew name for Jesus. Jacob, looking to the end of the ages, saw the coming of Jesus! Jesus is the true Judge of all the earth, who alone will provide justice for his people. Where Dan failed, Jesus will succeed in leading us into the salvation of the Lord.
19“Gad will be raided by raiders,
but he will raid at their heels and overcome them at last. # 49:19 Or literally, “A troop will troop upon Gad, but he will troop on their heels and overcome the troop at last.” Gad symbolizes the beginning of the victorious life of an overcomer breaking forth. Throughout Israel’s history, the Gadites were tremendous warriors. See Deut. 33:20–21; 1 Chron. 5:18–20; 12:8.
20“Asher’s food will be rich,
and he will provide delicacies fit for a king. # 49:20 Moses said of the tribe of Asher in Deut. 33:24–25 that their feet would be bathed in oil. Oil soaked feet speaks of walking in the anointing and richness of the Holy Spirit. Asher’s footprints would be in oil. He would be anointed with the oil of gladness. Everywhere he walked he would leave the anointing and blessing of the Holy Spirit. The tribe of Asher settled in one of the most fertile places in Canaan and became exporters of oil and crops. In Christ, we feast on food fit for kings, for we are in his royal family. Truly, we are blessed in grace—we have both a kingly family and royal dining! How would you like a prophetic word like this spoken over you? Asher’s portion would be blessed with royal delicacies. In the victory of Christ, Asher’s portion is yours!
21“Naphtali is a doe set free, # 49:21 The Hebrew root word for “doe” can be translated “mighty man.” What a wonderful word picture this is. Psalm 22 has in its inscription, “To the tune of ‘The Deer at the Dawning of the Day.’ ” Psalm 22 prophesied the death and resurrection of our Lord. Jesus is the “Doe set free.” In Naphtali, we see Christ not only as the victorious Lion but also as the resurrected Doe skipping on the mountaintops in freedom. He is the Resurrected Doe of the Morning Glory! The name Naphtali means “wrestling.” What freedom we experience when we get up from our “wrestling match” a changed person and run to the mountains with Christ in victory (Song. 4:6–15). He has paid the price for our freedom; he has loosed us from our sins that we may run with him in resurrection life. We are his beautiful fawns.
who bestows beauty on his offspring. # 49:21 Or “speaks beautiful words” or “speaks words that glisten.” How lovely and powerful are the words of our resurrected Doe. This could refer to the Great Commission of Matt. 28 when Jesus gathered his disciples together on a mountaintop and sent them out with beautiful words, good news to preach to all peoples. When we have tasted the resurrection, we have beautiful words to give others.
22“Joseph is a fruitful vine,
a fruitful vine growing by a spring, # 49:22 Or “near a spring” or “by a fountain.” Joseph, the clearest type of Christ in the Old Testament, is seen as a fruitful vine. The Lord Jesus called himself the Vine and us his branches (see John 15). When the Fruitful Vine lives through us, the fruit of the Spirit begins to be seen in our personalities (see Gal. 5:22–23). Jesus “branches out” through us, just as he branches out from the Father. Joseph, as a fruitful vine, dwelt near God. Joseph was God’s “branching out” in a man (see Zech. 3:8; 6:12). The “spring” or “fountain” is the life of the Father (see Gen. 16:14; Ps. 68:26; John 4:14). The source of his life and purity is from the spring of eternal life dwelling in him (see Ps. 1:3). All Joseph’s fruitfulness came from the water of that divine Spring.
whose branches # 49:22 Or “daughters.” run over a wall. # 49:22 Joseph, as a fruitful vine, has branches that run over the wall. The life of Christ in the believer will climb over a wall. Nothing will limit the branching forth of Christ in us when we walk in the Joseph anointing. We have many branches that climb over the walls around us. No matter how high the wall, our branches will run over it. Even if we are taken into captivity in Egypt’s dungeon, the springing well will cause our branches to climb over the walls. Nothing can hem you in if you dwell by the Fountain. We are branches connected to a fruitful Vine who will bear his likeness and the fruit of his life in us. The enemy will always try to erect walls to restrict our fruitfulness, but in the Vine will still climb over them all.
23Persecutors # 49:23 Or “Warriors [enemies].” fiercely attacked him;
they pursued him with their bow and arrows. # 49:23 Arrows were often used metaphorically for slander and false accusation. Joseph was a victim of both. See Jer. 9:7–8. The slander and abuse of others could not keep Joseph from his destined promotion, nor can the words of others hold you back when you set your heart on pleasing God.
24But Joseph’s bow remained steady,
because the power of the Mighty One of Jacob strengthened him, # 49:24 The Hebrew text literally reads “the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob.” God is pictured as putting his hands on Joseph’s hands, placing his arms on Joseph’s arms. The mighty God laid his hand upon Joseph’s hand, stretched his arm upon the arm of Joseph, and strengthened him! And God will do this for you!
by the name of the loving Shepherd, the Rock of Israel. # 49:24 See Ps. 80:1; Isa. 30:29. The Hebrew is “the Stone of Israel,” which may refer to the stone Jacob used as a pillow when he saw the stairway of the sky (see Gen. 28:11–12, 18).
25The God of your father will help and protect you;
the God who is more than enough will bless you.
He will bless you with the blessings of heaven,
blessings of the deep that lie beneath,
and blessings of the breast and womb.
26The blessings of your father will be greater
than the blessings of the eternal mountains,
surpassing the blessings of my ancestors! # 49:26 The Hebrew is uncertain.
May Joseph’s blessings crown his head
and rest on the brow of the one set apart, # 49:26 The Hebrew implies Joseph was “separated like a Nazarite [for God].” It looked as if Joseph had been in exile for thirteen years when, in fact, he was being prepared by God and set apart for his true destiny.
prince among his brothers.
27“Benjamin is a ferocious wolf. # 49:27 Or possibly “Benjamin shall tear a wolf in pieces.” This would mean that Benjamin goes after the “wolf (nature),” tearing it into pieces and turning it into food for the hungry. This is all accomplished in the “morning” of a new day.
He devours his prey;
in the evening, he divides the spoil.” # 49:27 The men of Benjamin were warlike and known as fearless soldiers. See Judg. 3:15; 5:14; 20:15–16, 21, 25; 1 Chron. 12:2. King Saul was a Benjamite. In the New Testament, Saul of Tarsus, a Benjamite, became the apostle Paul, who fought the excellent fight of faith (see Phil. 3:5; 1 Tim. 6:12).
28All these men became the twelve tribes of Israel. # 49:28 This is the first of many biblical references to the “twelve tribes of Israel.” These were prophetic words their father spoke to them when he blessed them, blessing each son with a parting word appropriate to him.
The Death of Jacob
29Afterward, Jacob sat on the side of his bed and instructed his sons with these words: “I am about to join my people in death. Bury me with my ancestors in the cave of the field of Ephron the Hittite—30the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, in the land of Canaan. My grandfather Abraham purchased that field as a burial site from Ephron the Hittite. 31My grandfather Abraham and my grandmother Sarah are buried there. My father Isaac and my mother Rebekah were buried there also. And it is the place I buried my wife Leah. 32So, bury me there, in that cave, in the field that was purchased from the Hittites.”
33When Jacob finished his final words of instruction to his sons, he lifted his feet onto the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.

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