Monday, December 3, 2018

Genesis Post 68 - The Sons are Blessed (Chapter 49)

Now that Jacob has blessed the sons of Joseph, we are going to see the covenant blessings passed on to the rest of his sons.  What we will to see here are not so much blessings, but prophecies given to each tribe.

The chapter starts out with this:
And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days:
 “Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob,
And listen to Israel your father.

Jacob refers to himself using both of his names, thus identifying his sons with both names as well.

Jacob blesses his sons

  • First, Reuben.
“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
My might and the beginning of my strength,
The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.
Unstable as water, you shall not excel,
Because you went up to your father’s bed;
Then you defiled it—
He went up to my couch.

Jacob never said much back when Reuben took Bilhah back in chapter 35.  But he never forgot it.  Reuben probably already knew he had lost the coveted position of firstborn.  Usually the firstborn was the spiritual and social leader of the clan, but because Reuben was so unstable, prideful, and immoral, he forfeited the right.  

The tribe of Reuben never does excel.  No prophet, judge, or king will come from this tribe.  He is an example of how the first can be last.

  • Next up are Simeon and Levi. They paired up in Shechem over the Dinah incident, and Jacob pairs them up now.
“Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place.
Let not my soul enter their council;
Let not my honor be united to their assembly;
For in their anger they slew a man,
And in their self-will they hamstrung an ox.
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.

Just as in the case of Reuben, Jacob didn't say much when the Shechem events took place.  But obviously he never forgot.

The anger of these two sons is cursed.  Their anger was sin because it was rooted in self-will.  Anger itself is not sin; there is such a thing as righteous anger.  Ephesians 4:26 tells us not to sin in our anger.  Perhaps the difference is self-will versus God's will.

It is interesting that both tribes are promised to be scattered and divided.  However, the scattering turns out to be a curse for the tribe of Simeon and a blessing for the tribe of Levi.  Simeon will start out from Egypt as the third-largest tribe, but will dwindle to become the smallest tribe during the time in the wilderness.  Levi, on the other hand, will become a blessing in their scattering when they are given the office of the priesthood and are placed throughout the land.

  • Next, Judah. This one is a doozy - one of the longest of all the prophecies. 
“Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s children shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
Binding his donkey to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
He washed his garments in wine,
And his clothes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
And his teeth whiter than milk.

I wonder if Judah was nervous after hearing the oracles for his older brothers.  After all, he had the episode with Tamar, and he was the one who suggested selling his own brother.  His character certainly wasn't whiter than milk.

The blessing of Judah (which means praise) is an example o the richness of God's grace.  To his tribe is given the position of rulership.  From Judah would come the eventual kings of Israel and ultimately the Ultimate King - Messiah Yeshua.  In Revelation 5:5, Yeshua is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Lion of Judah
Regarding the term until shiloh comes - this is not the same spelling as the city of Shiloh where the tabernacle would stand.  This shiloh means He whose right it is, and is a title that the ancient sages understood to speak of the Messiah.  In other words, Judah just opened the candy bar with the golden ticket in it, as far as being the one from whom the Redeemer would come.

It is interesting to note that the scepter departed from Judah in about 7 AD, when Israel lost the  small remainder of their self-rule and the right to administer capital punishment.  It was right around the time that a young Bar Mitzvah-aged boy named Yeshua was teaching in the temple at Passover. 

If Israel had retained its right of captital punishment, Yeshua would have been stoned for blasphemy instead of by the Roman method of execution - crucifixion.

The remainder of Judah's prophecy includes references to a donkey's colt, a vine, wine, blood, and milky whiteness.  It is easy to see Messianic foreshadows in these terms... He who will ride on a donkey's colt, whose blood will cleanse us and make us pure and white.

  • Next up:  Zebulun.  Jacob now moves around in the birth order, but keeps his focus on Leah's boys.  
“Zebulun shall dwell by the haven of the sea;
He shall become a haven for ships,
And his border shall adjoin Sidon.

Zebulun becomes a faithful tribe, supplying the largest number of soldiers to David's army of any tribe.  The tribe eventually settles on the piece of land between the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee.  Zebulun actually faced two seas.

  • Issachar, the older brother of Zebulun and son of Leah, is next.
“Issachar is a strong donkey,
Lying down between two burdens;
He saw that rest was good,
And that the land was pleasant;
He bowed his shoulder to bear a burden,
And became a band of slaves.

Issachar becomes a large tribe, and because of their size, abundance, and possibly laziness, they will often be targets of oppressive foreign armies.  They do eventually become a band of slaves when the northern kingdom falls.

  • Dan is next in line, the first son of Rachel's maid Bilhah.
“Dan shall judge his people
As one of the tribes of Israel.
Dan shall be a serpent by the way,
A viper by the path,
That bites the horse’s heels
So that its rider shall fall backward.
I have waited for your salvation, O Lord!

Dan means judge, and his prophecy is that he shall judge his people.  From the tribe of Dan will come one of the most prominent judges:  Samson.  

Dan becomes a troublesome tribe, a serpent by the way, introducing idolatry into Israel.  Jeroboam sets up one of his golden calves in the land of Dan.  The tribe eventually moves to the very north of Israel, where they will become a center of idol worship.

Dan is left out of the listing of tribes in the book of Revelation, but is the first tribe listed in Ezekiel's millenial roll call of the tribes in Eekiel 48.  What a remarkable sign of God's grace and mercy.

Jacob wraps up the prophecy to Dan by calling out for the LORD's salvation - Yeshua!  Is this part of the prophecy, or does Jacob simply feel the need to call upon the LORD at this moment?  Is he calling out for the Messiah? 

  • Gad is next.  He is the firstborn of Zilpah, Leah's maid.  
“Gad, a troop shall tramp upon him,
But he shall triumph at last.

His prophecy is short and sweet.  His prophecy is a play on words, as Gad means troop. His tribe will supply many fine troops for David.  And in the days of Jeremiah, Gad would be oppressed by foreign armies.  Indeed, Gad's very birth was a result of war between Leah and Rachel.

  • Now, Asher.  He is Gad's little brother by Zilpah.
“Bread from Asher shall be rich,
And he shall yield royal dainties.

Asher's tribe would eventually settle in land that was rich, providing both necessities and luxuries.  Moses took up this prophecy of Asher in Deuteronomy 33:24, when he said Asher is most blessed of sons; let him be favored by his brothers, and let him dip his foot in oil.  A famous woman of the tribe of Asher is Anna (Hannah) the Prophetess, who will get to see baby Yeshua at the temple at his dedication.

  • The next prophecy goes to Naphtali, the son of Rachel's maid Zilpah and baby brother to Dan.  Again, short and sweet.

Naphtali is a deer let loose;
He uses beautiful words.

Naphtali's land, along with Zebulun, was in a key area near the Sea of Galilee, the region where Yeshua did much of his teaching and ministry.  Matthew 4:13-16 mentions this and quotes from Isaiah 9...
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.”

Beautiful words indeed.

  • Now Joseph.   His blessing is even longer than Judah's.  And why not?  Dad always liked him best.
“Joseph is a fruitful bough,
A fruitful bough by a well;
His branches run over the wall.
The archers have bitterly grieved him,
Shot at him and hated him.
But his bow remained in strength,
And the arms of his hands were made strong
By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob
(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
By the God of your father who will help you,
And by the Almighty who will bless you
With blessings of heaven above,
Blessings of the deep that lies beneath,
Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
The blessings of your father
Have excelled the blessings of my ancestors,
Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.
They shall be on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.

This begins with a description of Joseph's life and a personal blessing concerning his descendants.  Though he was "shot at" and hated, he remains a fruitful bough, because the hands of God were upon him.  Joseph's tribes were some of the most populous.  Remember, his boys had already been blessed in chapter 48.  In the blessing of Joseph, Jacob mentions five great titles of God:  Mighty God of Jacob, The Shepherd, The Stone of Israel, The God of your Father, and the Almighty.  Jacob knows his God!

  • Finally, baby Benjamin, Rachel's second son and the one to whom she gave birth as she died.

“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
In the morning he shall devour the prey,
And at night he shall divide the spoil.”

Benjamin's tribe will prove to be a fierce tribe.  Several important Benjamites come to mind:  Ehud, who killed fat king Eglon of Moab in Judges 3, King Saul who persecuted David, and the Apostle Paul who persecuted believers before he became one himself.  There is also a wild and crazy story about the tribe of Benjamin in Judges 19 and 20.  You can read it when you have a chance.

This completes the blessings of Jacob over his sons.  Verse 28 says,
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them. And he blessed them; he blessed each one according to his own blessing.

The chapter ends with the death of Jacob, but not before he reminds his sons to bury him in the cave of Machpelah in Hebron, the place that his grandfather had purchased from Ephron the Hittite - the place where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah are buried.  This is where we actually find out that Leah and Rebekah have died, as their deaths were not mentioned before this.  Jacob is quite specific with this last wish - the only thing missing is the zip code.

The chapter ends with this:
And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people (an alliteration for he died, as his ancestors also died.) He is 147 years old at the time of his death.

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