Jacob has blessed Pharaoh,
Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh. He now “blesses” or better “tell you what will
happen to you in days to come.” Notice the blessings are not predestined
choices by God, but God’s response to the son’s character, choices and behavior
in life. These verses are a prophetic utterance concerning each tribe that will
come from each son.
“coming days” occurs 13x in
the OT (9 of these are in the prophets) – Deut.4:30; Isaiah 2:2, Jeremiah 23:20; 30:24; Ezekiel 38:8,
16; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1; Daniel 4:30; 10:14; Joel 2:28; New Testament: Acts
2:17; Hebrews 1:2; James 5:3; 2 Peter 3:3.
“listen” means “pay
attention” (Listen to
your Father: Proverbs 1:8; 4:1, 10; 5:7; 7:24; 8:32.)
first the NIV followed by the ESV (English Standard Version) of Jacob’s
prophecy to his sons.
- Reuben (40:3-4) – “Rueben 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.”
“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my
strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as
water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your
father’s be; then you defiled it – he went up to my couch!”
- This has two parts:
was given to Rueben
for his actions
- Reuben inherited privilege as the first born
but forfeited them because of his actions with Bilhah in Gen. 35:22
- The behavior of a leader or a father
effects generations to come
- “Turbulent as waters” may also be read as “you
have broken out with violence”
- Simeon and Levi (40:5-7) – “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.”
“Simeon and Levi are brothers;
weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their
council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger
they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed
be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will
divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.”
- Again, like Reuben, an incident in their lives
caused by their will and their actions becomes the basis for their
family’s future. (Gen. 34)
- Behavior of one generation affects the
circumstances of following generations
- Jacob’s words to Simeon and Levi 2 parts that
make up 6 points. The two parts are: verses 5-7 the past and verse 7 the
“Simeon and Levi are brothers” this is
“their swords are weapons of violence”
“Let me not enter their council, let me not
join their assembly” Jacob separates himself from the way of these
“for they have killed men in their anger and
hamstrung oxen as they pleased” Jacob justifies why he separates himself
“Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their
fury, so cruel” is the pronouncement of a curse on Simeon and Levi’s
“I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse
them in Israel”
is the penalty of the curse.
- Simeon and Levi are addressed in the third
person: “they”, “their”. Reuben was addressed in the first person: “you”
- Simeon is absorbed into the tribe and territory of Judah.
- Levi is collected by God and distributed among
the tribes of Israel
as “gifts” for the priest and as teachers for the people. (Numbers 8:5,
14; 18:6 match this with Ephesians 4:7-12) They are given cities through
out Israel Numbers 35:2, 3, 6, 7 – Israelites give Levites 48 towns but
six of them become cities of refuge that must be maintained by the
- Levi’s sword proved useful in:
to end the riot aroused by the golden calf at Mt. Sinai
the Levites become the temple guards, “Anyone else who goes near it shall be
put to death. . . The Levites are to set up their tents around the tabernacle
so that wrath will not fall on the Israelite community.”
also, become responsible to serve the priests by singing during Temple services, constructions projects, maintenance of Temple area, Temple
guards, teaching the Law/Bible to the people and eventually for translating,
explaining and reading the Torah.
- Simeon is absorbed into Judah,
but Levi’s family responds to God’s call in Exodus 32 and their cursing
is turned to blessing. Simeon did not respond.
- Judah (40:8-12) – “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, O Judah; you
return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like
a lioness – who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from
Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom
it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. 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. His eyes will be
darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.”
your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your
enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s
cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched
as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not
depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until
tribute comes to him and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he
has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.”
- Jacob begins by addressing Judah in personally in the
second person (verses 8-9) and receives the second longest oracle.
- In verses 9-12 Jacob begins to speak in the
third person about Judah
- There is no clear connection to past sins or
mistakes in Judah’s
oracle as there are in Reuben, Simeon and Levi. Has Judah
matured or changed through the discipline and training life has brought
about? Has he humbled himself under the mighty hand of God and been
- This begins with Judah’s brothers praising
him. This is a reference to future days when Judah’s hands defeat his
enemies. This results in the rest of the sons bowing down to him.
Remember Joseph’s dream of bowing brothers. They have done so in Joseph’s
life. But, in future years the bowing will go to the tribe of Judah.
This will begin to be seen in the book of Judges and ultimately in David
and the line of kings which leads into Jesus.
- After describing what Judah will do that results in bowing
(“hand on the neck of your enemies”) verse 9 begins to compare Judah
to a lion. The lion image in these words presents these things:
The lion cub
The growing lion
will be successful in getting his prey (again, here is an image of the previous
statement “hands on enemies neck”)
The lion is so
fierce that after it has eaten its fill and has returned to rest, digest and
sleep no one dares to retaliate against this sleeping lion. Enemies are held at
bay just by the mere presence of the lion.
f. Verse 49:10 says
leadership and place of preeminence will continue until it comes to the Messiah. "Scepter" is a symbol of a monarchy (Numbers 24:17; Psalm 2:9; 45:6, 7; Amos 1:8). "Will not Depart" speaks of a permanent possession. "Rulers Staff" refers to an authoritative leader as in Judges 5:9, 14; Isaiah 33:22). "From Feet" refers to descendents.
g. "Shiloh" or "he and it" are from the Hebrew word "sylh". It can be read as two words "sy" or "say" which means "tribute" as in Isaiah 18:7; Psalm 68:28; 76:11). The "lh" or "loh" can mean "to him."
h. Verse 49:11-12 speaks of the blessings in the climate or the culture of the reign of this coming descendent of Judah. All of the following refer to superb proserity of this age reflected in the extravagent harvest of grapes:
- "donkey tied to vine" or "colt tied to best vine" is considered normal since everything is growing and productive. Normally a person would tie their donkey to a dead stump but never to the best of the producing vines.
- "colt" speaks of youth and vigor
- Use of wine to wash clothes also indicates an abundance of wine. Normally people would use wash water and even save the good drinking water for consumption. In this age wine is so common they use it to wash clothes.
- This is the age of Isaiah 35 and Revelation 20:1-6
- Zebulun (40:13) – “Zebulun will
live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend
- Issachar (40:14-15) – “Issachar is a rawboned donkey lying down between two
saddle bags. 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
- Dan (40:16-18) – “Dan will
provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel.
Dan will be a serpent by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites
the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward. l I look for your
deliverance, O Lord.”
- Gad (40:19) – “Gad will be
attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels.”
- Asher (40:20) – “Asher’s food
will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king.”
- Naphtali (40:21) – “Naphtali is a doe
set free that bears beautiful fawns.”
- Joseph (40:22-26) – “Joseph is a
fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a
wall. With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with
hostility. 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 heavens above,
blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb.
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.”
- Benjamin (40:27) – “Benjamin is a
ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he
divides the plunder.”