Genesis 49:1-28

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.)


Below are first the NIV followed by the ESV (English Standard Version) of Jacob’s prophecy to his sons.


  1. 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!”
    1. This has two parts:

                                                              i.      Privilege that was given to Rueben

                                                            ii.      Accountability for his actions

    1. Reuben inherited privilege as the first born but forfeited them because of his actions with Bilhah in Gen. 35:22
    2. The behavior of a leader or a father effects  generations to come
    3. “Turbulent as waters” may also be read as “you have broken out with violence”
  1. 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.”
    1. 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)
    2. Behavior of one generation affects the circumstances of following generations
    3. 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 future:

                                                              i.      Simeon and Levi are brothers” this is the heading

                                                            ii.      their swords are weapons of violence” the accusation

                                                          iii.      Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly” Jacob separates himself from the way of these criminals

                                                           iv.      for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased” Jacob justifies why he separates himself

                                                             v.      Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel” is the pronouncement of a curse on Simeon and Levi’s anger/fury/wrath

                                                           vi.      I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel” is the penalty of the curse.

    1. Simeon and Levi are addressed in the third person: “they”, “their”. Reuben was addressed in the first person: “you”
    2. Simeon is absorbed into the tribe and territory of Judah.
    3. 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 Levites.
    4. Levi’s sword proved useful in:

                                                              i.      Exodus 32:25-29 to end the riot aroused by the golden calf at Mt. Sinai

                                                            ii.      Numbers 1:51-53, 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.”

                                                          iii.      The Levites, 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.

    1. 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.


  1. 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.”
    Judah, 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.”
    1. Jacob begins by addressing Judah in personally in the second person (verses 8-9) and receives the second longest oracle.
    2. In verses 9-12 Jacob begins to speak in the third person about Judah
    3. 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 raised up?
    4. 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.
    5. 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:

                                                              i.      The lion cub grows

                                                            ii.      The growing lion will be successful in getting his prey (again, here is an image of the previous statement “hands on enemies neck”)

                                                          iii.      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 Judah ’s 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



  1. Zebulun (40:13) – “Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon
  2. 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 labor.”
  3. 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.”
  4. Gad (40:19) – “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels.”
  5. Asher (40:20) – “Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king.”
  6. Naphtali (40:21) – “Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.”
  7. 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.”
  8. Benjamin (40:27) – “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder.”