I am here Lord, to bring an offering of praise to You. Your forgiveness and faithfulness overwhelm me.
Read GENESIS 49:1–28
Jacob Blesses His Sons
49 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
2 “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;
listen to your father Israel.
3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, the first sign of my strength,
excelling in honor, excelling in power.
4 Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel,
for you went up onto your father’s bed,
onto my couch and defiled it.
5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers—
their swords[a] are weapons of violence.
6 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.
7 Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
and their fury, so cruel!
I will scatter them in Jacob
and disperse them in Israel.
8 “Judah,[b] your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9 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?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,[c]
until he to whom it belongs[d] shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 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.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
his teeth whiter than milk.[e]
13 “Zebulun will live by the seashore
and become a haven for ships;
his border will extend toward Sidon.
14 “Issachar is a rawboned[f] donkey
lying down among the sheep pens.[g]
15 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.
16 “Dan[h] will provide justice for his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan will be a snake by the roadside,
a viper along the path,
that bites the horse’s heels
so that its rider tumbles backward.
18 “I look for your deliverance, Lord.
19 “Gad[i] will be attacked by a band of raiders,
but he will attack them at their heels.
20 “Asher’s food will be rich;
he will provide delicacies fit for a king.
21 “Naphtali is a doe set free
that bears beautiful fawns.[j]
22 “Joseph is a fruitful vine,
a fruitful vine near a spring,
whose branches climb over a wall.[k]
23 With bitterness archers attacked him;
they shot at him with hostility.
24 But his bow remained steady,
his strong arms stayed[l] limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25 because of your father’s God, who helps you,
because of the Almighty,[m] who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
blessings of the deep springs below,
blessings of the breast and womb.
26 Your father’s blessings are greater
than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
than[n] the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of the prince among[o] his brothers.
27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
in the morning he devours the prey,
in the evening he divides the plunder.”
28 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 49:5 The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain.
- Genesis 49:8 Judah sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for praise.
- Genesis 49:10 Or from his descendants
- Genesis 49:10 Or to whom tribute belongs; the meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
- Genesis 49:12 Or will be dull from wine, / his teeth white from milk
- Genesis 49:14 Or strong
- Genesis 49:14 Or the campfires; or the saddlebags
- Genesis 49:16 Dan here means he provides justice.
- Genesis 49:19 Gad sounds like the Hebrew for attack and also for band of raiders.
- Genesis 49:21 Or free; / he utters beautiful words
- Genesis 49:22 Or Joseph is a wild colt, / a wild colt near a spring, / a wild donkey on a terraced hill
- Genesis 49:24 Or archers will attack … will shoot … will remain … will stay
- Genesis 49:25 Hebrew Shaddai
- Genesis 49:26 Or of my progenitors, / as great as
- Genesis 49:26 Or of the one separated from
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper’.1
Writing references for people has become a perilous business, since referees are under pressure to avoid saying anything negative. Robust honesty is clearly not a problem in Jacob’s day. Before his death he gathers his twelve sons together and blesses each of them with a mixture of honest appraisal of their character and prophecy about their future. He uses vivid imagery, ‘giving each the blessing appropriate to him’ (28).
Two sons receive greater attention than the others: Judah (8–12) and Joseph (22–26). Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, has disqualified himself from leadership because of unstable behavior (3,4)2 and to some degree Judah steps into the vacuum. Jacob epitomizes him as a lion, an effective ruler who would command international respect and usher in an age of prosperity, symbolized by abundant wine. Intriguingly, however, Jacob suggests that his rule would only be as a stand-in ‘until he to whom it belongs shall come’ (10). The early church understood this to point to the Messiah, whose first miracle was to provide a young couple with an abundant supply of wine.3 Early Christians would speak of Jesus as ‘the Lion of the tribe of Judah’.4
Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn, is described as ‘a fruitful vine’ (22). Recognizing the troubles Joseph has been through, Jacob commends him for remaining true to his calling, with God’s help. As with Judah, it’s prophesied that through Joseph the earth would experience abundant fertility, more than fulfilling the promise of the Promised Land. These prophecies would be fulfilled in more than one way down the centuries, but ultimately in the coming of Jesus.
If someone were to pronounce a blessing over you today, what honestly would you expect them to say and what would you hope they’d say about your future impact?
Heavenly Father, I want to live to please You. Increase my faith and deepen my love for You as I journey throughout the day.
1 Deut 33:29 2 Gen 35:22 3 John 2:1–11 4 Rev 5:5
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