Chapter 49

  1. Jacob’s Last Words

    • Then Jacob called all his sons together and said, “Gather around, and I will tell you what will happen to each of you in the future.”

      • Guzik notes in his commentary, “Some of what follows are not so much blessings as they are prophecies regarding what God will do with these tribes in the future…This is the first conscious prophecy spoken by man in the Bible. There were many prophecies announced by God (such as the promise of the triumph of the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15), and other veiled prophecies by men, but this is the first knowing prophecy of the Bible.”

      • Some people deny the legitimacy of this prophecy, but I like what HCSB commentary says on this topic, “Blessing his sons before his death, Jacob claims to be predicting what will happen to his sons’ descendants, the 12 tribes of Israel, in the distant future (literally “the last days”). Since these things did come to pass in later history, those who deny that such prophecy could be legitimate do so only on the basis of an anti-supernatural bias.”

    • Jacob says, “Come and listen, sons of Jacob, listen to Israel, your father.”

      • “At the very beginning of the blessing, Jacob realized he was both Jacob and Israel, and his sons are sons of each. This was a place of spiritual maturity, realizing both what God made him (Israel) and what he had to battle against (Jacob).” (Guzik)

    • “Reuben, you are my firstborn. You were a child while I was still young and strong. You are first in rank and power. But you are unstable like turbulent water. Because you slept with my wife, you will lose your rank and inheritance as firstborn.”

      • Reuben slept with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah in Genesis 35:22. Bilhah is Dan and Naphtali’s mother.

      • Guzik explains, “Because of Reuben’s instability the birthright was divided. Usually the firstborn was the spiritual and social leader of the clan; but among the sons of Israel the rights of blessing, priesthood, and ruling authority were divided rather than being centralized in one.”

      • “The tribe of Reuben never did excel. No prophet, no judge, or no king came from the tribe of Reuben. Reuben is an example of how the first can be last (Matthew 19:30).” (Guzik)

    • “Simeon and Levi are two of a kind- they use their weapons for violence and cruelty. May I never be a part of their meetings or participate in their plans. Because of their anger, they murdered men, and crippled oxen just for fun. Their anger is cursed because of its strength and their fury is cursed because of its cruelty. I will scatter them among Jacob’s descendants and disperse them throughout Israel.”

      • “They were instruments of cruelty when they wiped out all the men of Shechem in retaliation for the rape of their sister Dinah (Genesis 34:25-29)…Jacob, perhaps in weakness, did nothing at the time except register a small, self-centered complaint (Genesis 34:30). Yet he (and the Lord) remembered this event. This illustrates the principle that the sins of our past can come back and haunt us. Even when forgiven, they may carry consequences we must face for a lifetime.” (Guzik)

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Simeon and Levi were violent and lawless; instead of serving justice, they indulged their uncontrolled anger and disregarded life (34:24-29). Simeon’s land was largely absorbed into Judah’s (Joshua 19:1,9); Levi was given a more honorable future because the Levites became the priestly tribe (see Exodus 32:25-29), but they had no region of their own (Joshua 21).

      • Guzik notes the issue with the anger of Simeon and Levi (their anger over what had happened to Dinah was justified- their response was the problem), “The Bible speaks of a godly anger (Be angry and do not sin, Ephesians 4:26) and an ungodly anger (Let all bitterness, wrath, anger…be put away from you, Ephesians 4:31). Often, the difference between a godly, righteous anger and an ungodly anger is self-will.”

    • “Judah, your brothers will praise you, and you will grasp your enemies by their necks. Your relatives will bow to you. Judah, my son, you are a young lion that has just returned from a kill. You crouch and lie down like a lion; like a lioness, who would dare to rouse him? The scepter will not leave Judah, nor will the ruler’s staff depart from his descendants, until the one that they belong to comes (some translations read “until Shiloh comes”)- the one who the obedience of the people belongs to. He ties his donkey to a vine and his donkey’s colt to a choice vine. He washes his clothes in wine and his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine and his teeth are whiter than milk.”

      • Ok, some pretty heavy things were just said, and in my opinion the language makes it a little difficult to understand.

        • First let’s look at what Guzik says regarding Judah,“Judah wasn’t a completely exemplary character. He suggested a profit motive in getting rid of Joseph (Genesis 37:26). He did not deal faithfully with his daughter-in-law Tamar (Genesis 38:26), and he had sex with her as a prostitute (Genesis 38:18). But he showed good character when he interceded and offered himself as a substitute for Joseph (Genesis 44:18-34). Overall, this blessing is an example of the richness of God’s grace.”

      • HCSB commentary says, “Apparently because of his willingness to accept responsibility for his earlier sin and for Benjamin’s safety, Judah, Jacob’s fourth-born son, is graced to become the progenitor of the Messiah (49:10). This forms the basis for Christ’s being called “the Lion from the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5).”

      • Guzik gives an eye opening explanation of how this particular part of the prophecy played out, “The leadership prophecy took some 640 years to fulfill in part with the reign of David, first of Judah’s dynasty of kings. The prophecy took some 1600 years to completely fulfill in Jesus. Jesus is referred to as Shiloh, the name meaning, He whose right it is and a title anciently understood to speak of the Messiah. From David until the Herods, a prince of Judah was head over Israel (even Daniel in captivity). The promise was that Israel would keep this scepter until Shiloh comes. Even under their foreign masters during this period, Israel had a limited right to self-rule, until a.d. 7. At that time, under Herod and the Romans, their right to capital punishment – a small but remaining element of their self-governance – was taken away. At the time, the rabbis considered it a disaster of unfulfilled Scripture. Seemingly, the last vestige of the scepter had passed from Judah, and they did not see the Messiah. Reportedly, rabbis walked the streets of Jerusalem and said, “Woe unto us, for the scepter has been taken away from Judah, and Shiloh has not come.” Yet God’s word had not been broken…Certainly, Jesus was alive then. Perhaps this was the very year He was 12 years old and discussed God’s Word in the temple with the scholars of His day. Perhaps He impressed them with His understanding of this very issue.”

      • So, what’s up with all the talk about donkeys, vines, grapes, and wine?

      • NLT Illlustrated Study Bible notes, “These descriptions envision the abundance of the Messiah’s kingdom (see Isaiah 31:6-7, 65:21-25; Zechariah 3:10). When the Messiah comes there will be paradise- like splendor and abundance on earth. Grapevines will be so abundant that they will be used for hitching posts, and wine will be as abundant as fresh water (see Amos 9:13-14; Zechariah 3:10).

      • Elliot’s Commentary for English Readers says, “Choice vine is, literally, the vine of Sorek, a kind much valued, as bearing a purple berry, small but luscious, and destitute of stones. The abundance of grapes is next hyperbolically described as so great that their juice would be used like water for the commonest purposes. Blood of grapes especially refers to the juice of the red kinds, which were more valued in the East than white.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible comments on the comparison of Jesus’ eyes darker than wine and teeth whiter than milk, “He will be vigorous and healthy, as will be the era of his rule. Jesus’ miracle of changing water into wine (John 2:1-12), his first sign, was an announcement that the Messiah had come; it was a foretaste of even better things to come.”

    • “Zebulun will live by the seashore and will be a ship’s harbor. His territory will be next to Sidon.”

      • “Jacob now skipped the birth order, moving to the tenth-born and ninth-born sons, but keeping his focus on the sons born of Leah… The tribe of Zebulun seems to have settled the piece of land sitting between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee. Literally, shall dwell by the haven of the sea can be translated looking towards the sea. Zebulun did look to the sea, both to the east and west.” (Guzik)

    • “Issachar is a sturdy donkey, resting between two saddlebags. When he sees how good and pleasant the land is, he will lean his shoulder to bear a load and become a forced laborer.”

      • Leupold says, “The meaning seems to be that Issachar was strong, but docile and lazy. He would enjoy the good land assigned him but would not strive for it. Therefore, eventually he would be pressed into servitude and the mere bearing of burdens for his masters.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Issachar was often subjugated by invading armies.”

    • “Dan will be a judge of his people as one of the tribes of Israel. He will be a snake by the road, a poisonous viper by the path that bites horse’s hooves and causes their riders to fall off.”

      • Guzik points out this reference to Samson, “The tribe of Dan did judge his people. They supplied one of the most prominent of the Judges, Samson (Judges 13:2).”

      • Guzik explains the reference of Dan as a snake beside the path, “Dan was a troublesome tribe. They introduced idolatry into Israel (Judges 18:30). Jeroboam set up one of his idolatrous golden calves in Dan (1 Kings 12:26-30) and later Dan became a center of idol worship in Israel (Amos 8:14).”

        • Guzik also points out, “Dan is left out of the listing of tribes regarding the 144,000 in Revelation 7:5-8. But Dan is the first tribe listed in Ezekiel’s millennial roll call of the tribes (Ezekiel 48). This is a remarkable sign of God’s redemption.”

    • “ I have waited for your salvation, Lord!”

      • It may seem like an odd point for Jacob to make this interjection, but I love what Matthew Henry says about it, “Jacob, almost spent, and ready to faint, relieves himself with those words, I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord! The salvation he waited for was Christ, the promised Seed; now that he was going to be gathered to his people, he breathes after Him to whom the gathering of the people shall be. He declared plainly that he sought heaven, the better country, Heb 11:13,14. Now he is going to enjoy the salvation, he comforts himself that he had waited for the salvation. Christ, as our way to heaven, is to be waited on; and heaven, as our rest in Christ, is to be waited for. It is the comfort of a dying saint thus to have waited for the salvation of the Lord; for then he shall have what he has been waiting for.”

    • “Gad will be attacked by marauding bands, but he will fight back and triumph over them.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “Three of the six Hebrew words in this verse are wordplays on the name Gad (“attack”). Gad will be attacked by marauding bands (attackers), but he will attack. The tribes that settled east of the Jordan River frequently experienced border raids (see Joshua 13; 2 Kings 10:32-33; I Chronicles 5:18-19)”

    • “Asher’s food will be rich, and he will produce royal delicacies.”

      • “Apparently, the land eventually occupied by Asher was good enough to bring not only necessities, but also luxuries.” Guzik)

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “…That tribe settled along the rich northern coast of Canaan.”

    • “Naphtali is a doe that has been set free that speaks good words.”

      • Elliot’s Commentary for English Readers notes, “Gad had been described as moving slowly in war, and allowing himself to be surprised by hordes of plunderers, whom, nevertheless, as soon as he has collected his forces, he repels and pursues with vigour. Naphtali, on the contrary, is light and active, moving rapidly like “a hind let loose;” or, literally, sent forth, like the scouts or van of an army. And thus he brings back “goodly words”–Heb., words of pleasure–that is, trustworthy intelligence to guide the army in its motions.”

      • Elliot’s Commentary for English Readers also draws attention to the fact the there is a different translation (supported by the Septuagint) due to the fact that the Hebrew consonants are the same, but different vowels are given. It reads, “”Naphtali is a spreading terebinth, which shoots forth goodly branches.”

        • This translation makes sense particularly in light of Guzik’s insight on this verse, “Naphtali’s land was in a key portion near the Sea of Galilee, the region where Jesus did much of His teaching and ministry. Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned” (Matthew 4:12-16).”

    • “Joseph is a fruitful vine beside a spring; its branches climb over the wall.”

      • The Hebrew is obscure here and is translated in other versions: “Joseph is the foal of a young donkey at a spring. One of the wild donkeys is on the ridge.”

    • “ He was attacked viciously by archers who shot at him, but his bow remained steady because his arms were kept strong and agile by the Mighty One of Jacob, by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel; by the God of you father who helps you, by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings from heaven above, blessings from the deep that lies below, and blessings from the breasts and the womb. My blessings have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors reaching to the heights of the eternal hills. May these blessings rest on Joseph’s head, the crown prince of his brothers.”

      • “ Though Joseph was shot at and hated, he was still a fruitful bough. This was because the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob. The idea is that God’s hands were on Joseph’s hands, giving him strength and skill to work the bow expertly. God was there, even when Joseph did not know it.” (Guzik)

      • “This oracle treats Joseph more expansively than any of the others, for here the main blessing lay (see I Chronicles 5:1-2). Jacob lavished promises of victory and prosperity on Joseph’s two tribes. Ephraimites recorded as victorious in battle include Joshua (Joshua 6, 8, 10, 12) and Deborah (Judges 4). Victorious descendants of Manasseh include Gideon (Judges 6-8) and Jephthah (Judges 11:1- 12:7)” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

      • NLT explains further that the blessings of the heavens above means “rain for the crops.” Blessings of the deep mean “streams and wells of water.) Blessings of breasts and womb mean “abundant offspring.”

    • “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf that devours his enemies in the morning and divides the plunder in the evening.”

      • “This was the tribe with a reputation for fierceness… To see the great extent of this, look at Ehud (Judges 3:15-23), Saul (1 Samuel 9:1, 14:47-52), and Paul (Acts 8:1-3). The cruelty of the tribe in general is seen in Judges 19 and 20.” (Guzik)

    • “These are the 12 tribes of Israel and this is what their father said to them. He blessed each one with a blessing suitable to them.”

  1. Jacob’s Burial Instructions

    • The Jacob instructed them, “I am about to die and join my ancestors. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Machpelah, in Canaan. Abraham bought that field from the Hittite named Ephron as a burial site. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Leah are buried there.”

    • Jacob then pulled his feet into bed, took his last breath, and joined his ancestors.

      • “This ends the life of the last of the great patriarchs, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yet the work and plan of God did not end. It continued through men and generations to come.” (Guzik)