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The blessing of the sons. Genesis chapter 49.

Genesis 49
Osmer Harris

Prelude: Genesis Chapter 48 ends with Jacob/Israel blessing Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph's sons, born in Egypt before Jacob came to Goshen at Joseph's request.
As a side note: Keep in mind that Israel is a guest of Egypt, and treated with honor. Soon we will see them as slaves, treated with disrespect and contempt.
What Jacob does in blessing, not only Joseph's sons but his own, is unusual on several levels.
  1. Where do we get the command to bless, and particularly in this manner?
    This question will require you to do your homework. No, this is not a test, but it does demonstrate an essential aspect of the character and nature of God.
  2. He blesses Ephraim first.
    Why would this be a problem? In the pattern and perhaps tradition of blessing, the first born typically receives the best and the largest part of the inheritance, and Manasseh was the firstborn.
    What transpires at the hands of Jacob takes on an immense significance as we see the tribes spoken of in Revelation 7, for in Revelation 7 we find Manasseh mentioned but not Ephraim, and Joseph, whom I cannot remember being seen as a tribe, now clearly acknowledged.
    When it came to Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, Jacob was less than cordial. Regardless of his “sin,” Reuben still becomes a tribe of Israel and we find his name in Revelation 7.
    Now how would Joseph know what the standard procedure for blessing a child is? Joseph has effectively lived as an Egyptian for the last 34 years, and may no longer be so clear on Hebrew standards. But consider, Joseph lived under his father's care until he was 17 and his brothers sold him into slavery. Jacob, the second born fraudulently obtained the blessing of the firstborn. The results of that are seen here with the family (Israel, not yet a nation) being saved by God's hand using Joseph. However, Esau, the one who by tradition should have been the one who received the blessing, sought to kill Jacob. Now consider something based on this paragraph.
    Is God terribly concerned with our traditions? The answer is no. Jesus excoriated the Pharisees for making the traditions, the traditions of men. In that, there is a difference. God can be rather adamant about the standards/patterns He previously established because they are a model of things to come. We are fortunate enough to either be living in them or seeing them come to pass before our eyes. An example of this is the Feast of Tabernacles. The nations, those who would not bow their hearts before Him in worship, will be forced to partake in the feast which requires obeisance before God. This compelled worship will be expected of them for seven days. So yes, God does demand adherence to patterns and traditions.

And thus we begin Genesis chapter 49.
Genesis 49:1 MSG “Jacob called his sons and said, "Gather around. I want to tell you what you can expect in the days to come."”
While some aspects of prophecy are very clear, they tend to be years in the future. In the case of Israel's captivity in Babylon, it was seventy years before they saw their release. Now Jacob/Israel is speaking over their lives, concerning tribes, to a time when they would be released from captivity – note that they are currently guests of honor in Egypt.
How much sense would the words that Jacob is speaking, make to you?
Genesis 49:2 NASB "Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; And listen to Israel your father.”
  • Now, pay attention to the declarations Jacob makes over his sons.
    He is not just speaking to them personally but to their descendants. His words will have an impact on future generations.
    Their actions can no doubt play a role in what Jacob says, and that is inevitable, but we cannot and should not downplay the intervention of the Holy Spirit's influence in his words.
Genesis 49:3-4 NASB "Reuben, you are my firstborn; My might and the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. 4) "Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence Because you went up to your father's bed; Then you defiled it--he went up to my couch.
  • Reuben, you are my firstborn;”
    From Clarke's Commentary: “Reuben as the first-born had a right to a double portion of all that the father had; see Deuteronomy 21:17.” And yet he did not get that, why? That is answered in Jacob's statement about his son when he said, “you went up to your father's bed; Then you defiled it--he went up to my couch.” The CEV translated this verse as: “you slept with my wife and disgraced my bed. And so you no longer deserve the place of honor.
  • My might and the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.”
    Gill's commentary suggests this interpretation: “begotten by him when in his full strength (z), as well as the first of his family, in which his strength and glory lay; so the Septuagint, "the beginning of my children";
  • “ Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, Because you went up to your father's bed.
    Uncontrolled? If Jacob is speaking to Reuben about having sex with one of his wives, I get it. However, it seems to imply more is going on in the background. The Hebrew word is pachaz and means recklessness, wantonness, unbridled license.
    When the sons begin their tirades against Joseph, we can only assume Reuben is among them. That in itself does not constitute a crime, merely whining. He does, however, attempt to divert them from killing Joseph. What is that we do not know about Reuben?
    You have to keep in mind that Jacob is speaking into the generations that will be born of Reuben. “You shall not have preeminence!” The ISBE defines preeminence as superiority, especially in noble or excellent qualities. Take heart for it is not all bad for the tribe of Reuben as this is one we find in Revelation 7, while Ephraim is not.
Genesis 49:5-7 MKJV Simeon and Levi are brothers; tools of violence are their weapons. 6) Oh my soul, do not come into their secret. Let not my honor be united with their assembly. For in their anger they killed a man, and in their self-will they hamstrung a bull. 7) Let their anger be cursed, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel. I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.
Eugene Peterson's Message translated verse five like this: “Simeon and Levi are two of a kind, ready to fight at the drop of a hat.
Simeon is the number two brother by birth. It 's hard to not see him and Levi conspiring to throw Joseph into the well and then to sell him off later. As I write this I see a picture of Joseph, now ruling over Egypt, and Simeon and Levi are standing there among the brothers pleading for help. Who is the one Joseph tosses in prison, holding him until they bring back Benjamin, who is by this time a young man with a family of his own? [Answer: Simeon.]
With such a reputation, how does Levi become a tribe of priests?
  • “ tools of violence are their weapons.”
    We know about their grumblings, but grumbling is not a crime. [Consider: there is still no law. Without the law, there is no accounting for sin. An interesting concept isn't it? Did Jacob account for Reuben's sin (Reuben's missing the mark)? Well, certainly he did and here in Genesis 49 is where we see it.
    So where is Simeon and Levi's violence? While it may be obscured somewhere else in scripture or Apocryphal writings, we are only left to assume, and logically so, as what they did. Aside from tossing Joseph into a pit/well, which could have had water in it, or been deep enough to break his neck, what else did they do? We have to jump back in time and scripture to the incident where Dinah was raped. Seduced may have been a practical scenario too, but the young son of the ruler took what was not his. Who are the two largest players in this story?
    Genesis 34:25 MSG Three days after the circumcision, while all the men were still very sore, two of Jacob's sons, Simeon and LeviDinah's brothers, each with his sword in hand, walked into the city as if they owned the place and murdered every man there.
  • (6) NASB "Let my soul not enter into their council; Let not my glory be united with their assembly;”
    Jacob, speaking into the generations to come, gives an admonition to:
      1. Let my soul not enter into their council.”
      2. Let not my glory be united with their assembly;”
Proverbs have this theme all throughout its verses – Don't hang out with fools; they will corrupt you, like mold on fruit. Perhaps he sees this coming. But Jacob is talking to descendants of Levi, the Levitical tribe – the Pharisees. Wait a minute. Saul/Paul was a Pharisee as well, and what did he do? Had Stephen killed; tortured and imprisoned followers of Christ, because he thought he was doing the right thing; but according to whose rules and laws? Man's.
  • I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.”
    Gill's commentary points this out very well:
    this was fulfilled in the tribes of Simeon and Levias for the tribe of Simeon, that had not a distinct part by itself in the land of Canaan, but had their inheritance out of the portion, and within the inheritance of the tribe of Judah, [Joshua 19:1] and their cities did not join to one another, as Aben Ezra observes, but lay scattered up and down in the tribe of Judah; and when they were increased and straitened for room, many of them went without the land, to the entrance of Gedor, where they of Ham, or the Egyptians, had dwelt, and others to Mount Seir in Edom, 1Ch_4:39 and it is a notion which prevails with the Jews, and which Jarchi takes notice of, that a great many of this tribe were scribes and teachers of the law, and even teachers of children, and by which they lived among the several tribes; and so the Jerusalem Targum,"I will divide the tribe of Simeon, that they may be scribes and teachers of the law in the congregation of Jacob.''And as for the tribe of Levi, it is well known that they had no inheritance in the land of Canaan, but had forty eight cities assigned them in the several tribes here and there; and thus Jacob's prophecy had an exact accomplishment.”
    If what the Targum says is true, then there is a great irony in those men of violence become the teachers of the law.
Genesis 49:9-12 NASB "Judah is a lion's whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? 10) "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. 11) "He ties his foal to the vine, And his donkey's colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes. 12) "His eyes are dull from wine, And his teeth white from milk.
  • (AMP) “Judah, a lion's cub!”
    Jacob has no clue what this means, or does he? What is Jacob referring to? Judah is the beginning of Kings, and out of Judah shall come the King of Kings.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary states: “the oracle pivots on the word until (Genesis 49:10). When the Promised One who will rule the nations appears, the scene will become an earthly paradise. These verses anticipate the kingship in Judah culminating in the reign of Messiah (cf. the tribe of Judah, Revelation 5:5), in which nations will obey Him.”
Sometimes looking at a verse through different eyes changes your perspective. I do not wish, in any way, to diminish the character of God or His word, but I need to understand who He is and what the Holy Spirit, through Scripture, is trying to tell me. Because reading something about a lion's cub, which with its prey, have gone up, makes no sense to me unless I see the prophetic and spiritual connection; and I see that in the Christ Messiah.
From the Complete Jewish Bible “Y'hudah is a lion's cub; my son, you stand over the prey. He crouches down and stretches like a lion; like a lioness, who dares to provoke him?”
If the prey is initially Israel, then that makes all the sense in the world. I had to stop for a minute to see that. But, I can also see that it also applies to those who become grafted in. This standing over, as if to guard, is speaking to the nations, but we are shown this intense love and protection also.
  • The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes.”
    This requires more thought than I have time for, but was there a time when the scepter departed from Judah, the Southern Kingdom, or a ruler from the tribe of Judah?
    It seems there was. If not, going into Babylonian captivity might have done it. When you read about the evil kings such as Ahab just to throw out a name, it was difficult to imagine any of these being worthy to carry the distinction “The scepter shall not depart from Judah.”
    This also seems to be a prophecy in that someone from the tribe would sit on the throne until Shiloh comes. Again I turn to the Complete Jewish Bible because of the clarity.
    Genesis 49:10 CJB The scepter will not pass from Y'hudah, nor the ruler's staff from between his legs, until he comes to whom [obedience] belongs; [or: until Shiloh comes] and it is he whom the peoples will obey.
When I contrast the terminology, I see in the CJB with “until Shiloh comes, it is easy to understand that this is speaking of Jesus. Jacob had no way of knowing what His name would be, but he did know it would be PEACE?
From John Darby's Synopsis of the Old and New Testaments:
there is this difference between the prophecies of Jacob and Moses as to the tribes. Here the prophecy refers to the responsibility of the first parent — source of the tribe, as Reuben, Simeon, Levi; and to the counsels of God, which put forward Judah (the stock from which the Lord sprang as regards the royalty), and Joseph (type of Christ as Nazarene, separated from his brethren, and afterwards exalted).”
  • Tying his donkey to the vine, his donkey's colt to the choice grapevine, he washes his clothes in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.” CJB
    This idea of washing his clothes in wine, and his robes in the blood of grapes, should not be that foreign to us. Pay attention to the imagery we see in Revelation 7:14.
I said to him, "My lord, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” NASB
Deuteronomy 32:14 "..And of the blood of grapes you drank wine."
Isaiah 63 speaks of the Messiah and of a time to come, and his garments are covered in blood.
Isaiah 63:1-4 NASB “Who is this who comes from Edom, With garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, This One who is majestic in His apparel, Marching in the greatness of His strength? "It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save." 2) Why is Your apparel red, And Your garments like the one who treads in the winepress? 3) "I have trodden the wine trough alone, And from the peoples, there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger And trampled them in My wrath; And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, And I stained all My raiment. 4) "For the day of vengeance was in My heart, And My year of redemption has come.”
Genesis 49:13 NASB "Zebulun will dwell at the seashore; And he shall be a haven for ships, And his flank shall be toward Sidon.
  • Zebulun will dwell at the seashore.”
    It seems that even the commentaries are filled with speculation. Perhaps the map says it best.
F.B.Hole Commentary on the NT and selected books of OT
Thus far, in the blessing of the tribes, we have seen predicted the sorrowful history of Israel up to Christ, and Christ Himself presented as the Object of praise and the Wielder of power, though a hint be given of His suffering at His first advent. With Zebulon, in verse 13 we pass to a prediction which sets forth that which has characterized the people after they rejected their Messiah. That tribe did occupy the north-western part of the land toward Zidon, which brought them into contact with the wide outlook of the shipping world, and for many centuries now the Jew has been pushed out all over the world and has given himself up to commerce, of which ships are an appropriate symbol.
Genesis 49:14-15 KJV Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: 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.
Make a comparison of translations and you will be confused, just as I am. Let give you an example:
Genesis 49:14-15 MSG Issachar is one tough donkey crouching between the corrals; 15) When he saw how good the place was, how pleasant the country, He gave up his freedom and went to work as a slave.
One tough donkey” implies strength and intentional motives. Donkeys have primarily had the reputation of being good working animals, but they can be stubborn. Perhaps you would be stubborn too if you were sterile.
Genesis 49:14-15 ERV "Issachar is like a donkey that has worked too hard. He will lie down under his heavy load. 15) He will see his land is pleasant and that his resting place is good. But he will agree to carry heavy loads; he will agree to work as a slave.
The Easy to Read Version (ERV) conveys an animal that is lying because of exhaustion. While the Good News Bible speaks ill of the nature of the Donkey.
Genesis 49:14 GNB "Issachar is no better than a donkey That lies stretched out between its saddlebags.
So what is it that God wants us to understand about Issachar?
Genesis 49:14-15 NASB "Issachar is a strong donkey, Lying down between the sheepfolds. 15) "When he saw that a resting place was good And that the land was pleasant, He bowed his shoulder to bear burdens, And became a slave at forced labor.
    • Strong is the Hebrew word gerem; from H1633a; a bone, strength.
      From Gill's commentary: “Issachar is a strong ass,... Or as one, the note of similitude being wanting, as Ben Melech observes; "a bony" {e} one, as the word signifies; not one that is lean, and nothing but skin and bones, as some interpret it, but that is strong and robust, able to carry burdens; and this tribe is compared to an ass, not for stupidity and sluggishness, but for its strength, and its use in husbandry, in which this tribe was chiefly occupied:
Bottom line: it was easier for them to give themselves to slavery than to stand against the enemy. Interesting.
Genesis 49:16-18 NASB "Dan shall judge his people, As one of the tribes of Israel. 17) "Dan shall be a serpent in the way, A horned snake in the path, That bites the horse's heels, So that his rider falls backward. 18) "For Your salvation I wait, O LORD.
One of the first and potentially noble aspects of Dan is this.
  • Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.”
    At first read, this sounds great, but as with everything else we've seen there is a cryptic aspect to it, and it puzzles me. What does Jacob mean when he says, “as one of the tribes of Israel?” We know what Reuben, Simeon, and Levi did, and Jacob, all these years later still sees fit to curse them as a part of their blessing.
    The Hebrew word for judge is din and means to administer, defend, dispute, execute judgment, and to govern.
    Isn't that just like God to speak into the future. We have to do a little research to find that Sampson was of the tribe of Dan.
    Judges 13:2 NASB There was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had borne no children.
    The man and his wife prayed, and they were given a son, Samson. Anyone who knows this story knows that Samson ruled over Israel (even through the troubles).
I used to think this aspect of the serpent in the way that bites the horse's heels, as a negative toward and against Israel. Put in the perspective Samson gives us, the tribe of Dan seems to be biting the heels of the enemy.
Genesis 49:19 NASB "As for Gad, raiders shall raid him, But he will raid at their heels.
While it seems as though it is merely a repeat of Jacob's blessing, in the book of Deuteronomy there is more depth to what is said about Gad.
Deuteronomy 33:20-21 NASB 20) Of Gad he said, "Blessed is the one who enlarges Gad; He lies down as a lion, And tears the arm, also the crown of the head. 21) "Then he provided the first part for himself, For there the ruler's portion was reserved; And he came with the leaders of the people; He executed the justice of the LORD, And His ordinances with Israel."
  • “ He lies down as a lion, And tears the arm, also the crown of the head,”
  • “ he provided the first part for himself, For there the ruler's portion was reserved;”
  • he came with the leaders of the people; He executed the justice of the LORD, And His ordinances with Israel.”
There is difficulty in finding the negative aspects of this blessing over Dan, as some translations try to convey. Certainly, we can include Dan among the remnant.
Micah 5:8 NASB The remnant of Jacob Will be among the nations, Among many peoples Like a lion among the beasts of the forest, Like a young lion among flocks of sheep, Which, if he passes through, Tramples down and tears, And there is none to rescue.
It is comforting to know that they would still be like a lion among the beasts of the forest.
Genesis 49:20 NASB "As for Asher, his food shall be rich, And he will yield royal dainties.
I have always made the assumption when reading this, that Asher would produce the chefs for kings. That may be the case, but there is so much more buried that we miss if we skim over this. Notice what it says in Deuteronomy about Asher.
Deuteronomy 33:24-25 NASB 24) Of Asher he said, "More blessed than sons is Asher; May he be favored by his brothers, And may he dip his foot in oil. 25) "Your locks will be iron and bronze, And according to your days, so will your leisurely walk be.
A statement like this might lead me to believe, that in time, Asher would become the tribe that possesses a great deal of the oil in Israel. Two huge oil reserves have been discovered on Israeli territory in recent decades.
  • Your locks will be iron and bronze, And according to your days, so will your leisurely walk be.”
    While the next paragraph applies to Israel overall, it is possible to apply it correctly to your situation.
    Deuteronomy 8:7-9 NASB "For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; 8) a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9) a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
Yes, I realize now that I did not get the source name for the information but it is valid and a common theme for many.
"Most moderns take it as a poetical or ideal title of Israel, derived from ישׁרyāshār, “upright”; it is held to contain a tacit reference to the word Israel (ישׁראלyisrā'ēl), of which the first three consonants are almost the same as those of “Jeshurun”; in Num_23:10 the term “the righteous ones” (ישׁריםyeshārı̄m) is supposed to contain a similar reference. Most commentators compare also “the Book of Jashar,” and it has been held that “Jashar” is similarly a name by which Israel is called. See JASHAR."
We see this idea that “Jashar” is a name by which Israel is called affirmed in:
Isaiah 44:2 CJB Thus says Adonai, who made you, formed you in the womb, and will help you: Don't be afraid, Ya`akov my servant, Yeshurun, whom I have chosen.
Isaiah 44:2 AMP Thus says the Lord, Who made you and formed you from the womb, Who will help you: Fear not, O Jacob, My servant, and you Jeshurun [the upright one--applied to Israel as a type of the Messiah], whom I have chosen.
Genesis 49:21 NASB "Naphtali is a doe let loose, He gives beautiful words.
These words take on a greater meaning when you consider Barak.
Barak (From the ISBE) - bā´rak (בּרקbārāḳ, “lightning flash”): The name occurs in Sabean ברקס, in Palmyrene ברק, and in Punic Barcas, as surname of Hamilcar; and as Divine name in Assyrian Ramman-Birḳu and Gibil-Birḳu (Del. Assyrian, HWB, 187). Barak was the son of Abinoam of Kedesh, a refuge city in Mt. Naphtali. He was summoned by the prophetess Deborah to lead his countrymen to war against the Canaanites under the leadership of Sisera.
The book of Judges paints a demoralized picture of Napthali.
Judges 5:18 NASB "Zebulun was a people who despised their lives even to death, And Naphtali also, on the high places of the field.
For a time, Barak ruled in judgment and Jeshurun had peace. Perhaps Barak and Deborah's word are the things that provided the beautiful words.
Genesis 49:22-26 NASB "Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall. 23) "The archers bitterly attacked him, And shot at him and harassed him; 24) But his bow remained firm, And his arms were agile, From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), 25) From the God of your father who helps you, And by the Almighty who blesses you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb. 26) "The blessings of your father Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; May they be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.
  • Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a spring;”
    From Gill's commentary:
    Or as one, like the bough or branch of a tree laden with fruit, as he was with children; one of which he called Ephraim from his fruitfulness, and both his sons became numerous, and the heads of two tribes in Israel; and with other temporal fruits and blessings, as riches, honor, &c. and especially with the fruits of grace and righteousness:”
    At this point, we assume you have not read ahead and therefore do not know that scripture tells us that by the time Joseph is dying, Ephraim has grandkids and Manasseh is only into his second generation.
    So, we could easily say that Joseph has begun to be a fruitful bough. Planted by a water source, this is where you find an Oasis where plants grow.
  • The archers bitterly attacked him, And shot at him and harassed him; 24) But his bow remained firm, And his arms were agile, From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), 25) From the God of your father who helps you, And by the Almighty who blesses you With blessings of heaven above,”
    I see this and look into the future. I would never have considered that this statement would have applied to what had happened in the past, but after reading Gill, it makes all the sense in the world. I think it is safe to assume that there will be future events that define this as well.
    From Gill, “His brethren who grieved him with their ill usage, shot out bitter words against him, and hated him for his dreams, and because his father loved him; and they could not speak peaceably to him, they mocked at him, conspired to kill him, stripped him of his clothes, cast him into a pit, and then sold him; in all which he was a type of Christ, as used by the Jews. His mistress also, and Satan by her, grieved him with her temptations and solicitations to sin, which were as fiery darts shot at him; but being resisted, her impure love was turned into hatred to him, and she shot her lies, calumnies, and reproaches, as so many darts at him;”
  • The blessings of your father Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors”
    Although Joseph had a rough start, lasting from age 17 to age 30, from age 30 onward he has lived like a king. Mind you; he provided his brothers, their families, the father, and all associated with them, a very comfortable living from that time on.
  • The blessings of your father Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; May they be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.”
Joseph is speaking of himself, decreeing that these blessings come upon his ancestry as one that is distinguished above his brethren. This declaration by Joseph is a little broader than just his immediate family.


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