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A Glimpse of Israel's Future — Genesis Chapter 49

This blog post will cover the devotionals #194-203 for Genesis Chapter 49.

Please note that this devotional book is for sale as a physical (paperback) &/or digital (PDF) book on my website.

[194] Genesis 49:1,2

After Jacob had spoken with Joseph and his sons, he called together all twelve of his sons. Just as we’d learned about how Jacob gave a prediction (or prophecy) about the future of Joseph’s sons, he was going to do the same thing for each of his own. He strongly and tenderly loved all his sons—being the deeply affectionate man that he was from the time he was a child. He’d forgiven and loved all of them until his dying breath. Thus, his predictions for each son weren’t based on favoritism or bitterness, but out of love and preparation / warning. He would’ve wanted to speak only encouraging and hopeful words to them, as a loving father would. However, God’s power was on him, and the Holy Spirit’s influence inspired him to tell them the truth, regardless of how tough it'd be to hear. Thus, his mind was lifted above his natural feelings to supernatural prophecy. He'd go son by son, starting with his firstborn, Reuben, and ending with his youngest, Benjamin. In devotional #195, we’ll learn what Reuben learned about his future, and what caused it to lead in that direction.

[195] Genesis 49:3,4

Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn (son of Leah). Here’s what Jacob told him during his blessing / prophecy. “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 will not excel; because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it: he went up to my couch.” The excellency of dignity was what should’ve been his priesthood as firstborn, and of power—his monarchy—had he not committed his act in sleeping with Jacob’s concubine, forfeiting his privilege of the birthright. He would not excel as he should’ve, and thus, it was split between three of Jacob’s other sons. Reuben’s tribe never became anything important in Israel. No king, judge, or prophet ever came from them. It wasn’t numerous like Judah, Joseph, or Dan. It was one of the first tribes taken into captivity. While Reuben clearly had his issues, we know there was obvious goodness in there as well, as we saw his attempt to save Joseph from the rage of his brothers—and the anguish he experienced when he realized his plan had failed. In devotional #196, we’ll see the prediction given for his first brothers, Simeon and Levi.

[196] Genesis 49:5-7

The next children in line were Simeon and then Levi (Leah’s second and third sons). Here’s what Jacob told them during his blessing / prophecy. “Simeon and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. Oh my soul, do not come into their secret; my honor, do not be united to their assembly: because in their anger they murdered a man, and in their self-will they tore down a wall. Their anger is cursed, because it was fierce; and their wrath, because it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” These were the two sons that committed the heinous murder of the men of Shechem and were most guilty in the sale of Joseph. They were ‘brothers’ (in this context) in the sense of character. Their view of Reuben as feeble, and Judah as inferior caused them to act authoritatively. They had a close-knit relationship—and what verse 6 refers to as ‘secret’ is their intimate alliance. Jacob didn’t want his soul to be influenced by union with evil-seeking allies. Self-will is worse than anger—indicating a temper of arrogance, which only leads to cruelty. Jacob didn’t rebuke their anger (which was unwarranted in the case of Joseph’s dream-telling), but how they responded to it in both scenarios. It’s likely that these acts also lost them the full privilege (being next in line) of the birthright. Their being divided and scattered also came true. Neither ended up of any political importance. Simeon was the smallest tribe when Israel finally entered the promised land. When settling in Canaan, he only occupied a small part of Judah’s lot. The powerful descendants of that family eventually started their own groups and settled outside the Holy Land. And when Moses made his final blessing, he didn’t even mention Simeon. Levi was one of the most cruel and vindictive sons. His traits (which were seen in his descendants) provoked God’s prophecy (seen in verse 7). “I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” However, the tribe of Levi was faithful to God when the others turned away from Him, and it was reformed by their repentance. Thus, they were dedicated to the sanctuary, and their curse became their blessing—the honor of the priesthood was given to Levi. They were the teachers, guests, honored servants, and representatives of God for all the people. Deuteronomy 10:8, 9 says, “At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister unto Him, and to bless in His name, unto this day. Thus, Levi has no part nor inheritance with his brothers; the LORD is his inheritance, according as the LORD your God promised him.” He received no inheritance, however, he was to dwell in the forty-eight cities dispersed throughout the land for the priesthood, and to receive the tithes and offerings given to support them in God’s work. In devotional #197, we’ll see what their brother, Judah, received.

[197] Genesis 49:8-12

After them came Judah (Leah’s fourth). He did some sinful things too (more to mark the troublesome life of Jacob), but as we’ll see, he still received of the blessings and/or privileges of the birthright. To him were given the very greatest blessings of the birthright—the kingdom and Messianic promise. His father’s inspired, prophetic words about his future had a more joyful tenor than the first three sons had received. Judah’s name means ‘praise’, and the significance of that was revealed in Jacob’s prophecy of his tribe. “Judah, you are the one your brothers will praise: your hand will be in the neck of your enemies; your father’s children will bow before you. Judah is a lion’s cub: From the prey, you are gone up, my son: He stooped down, he crouched as a lion, and as an old lion: who will rouse him up? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and unto Him will be the gathering of the people. Binding his foal to the vine, and his ass’s colt to the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: his eyes will be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.” The lion—as king of the forest—is an appropriate symbol for Judah’s tribe. He’d enjoy his power / success without being a bother to others. David came from this tribe, and eventually the Son of David—Shiloh, who was the true Lion of the tribe of Judah. It was to Christ that all powers would finally bow, and all nations would pay homage. Like what we see in Christ, Judah’s tribe would have such fruitful land that they’d be healthy and have white, sparkling eyes and teeth. There’d be so many grapevines, they’d be surrounded—and volumes of grape juice that would parallel the water they use for tasks like washing their clothes.

[198] Genesis 49:13-15

Interestingly, Zebulun was Leah’s sixth son for Jacob, while Issachar was her fifth, but he was addressed by Jacob in his prediction of their future before Issachar. This is because the elder eventually became subordinate to the younger. “Zebulun will dwell at the haven of the sea; and he will be for a haven of ships; and his border will be unto Zidon.” Sure enough, if you look at the location of the land of Zebulun, its eastern border was the Sea of Galilee, and its western border was the Mediterranean Sea. Being at the sea, they’d engage in maritime pursuits (trading, etc.). Joshua 19:10-16 discusses his inheritance. It’s interesting that he was called a haven in the blessing, since his name means ‘habitation’. When, in 2 Chronicles 30, King Hezekiah sent out a message to Israel, Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh to come to Jerusalem for Passover (which hadn’t been held in a long time) and repent, most of the tribes rejected it, and even mocked. However, some of the men from the tribe of Zebulun were among the few that humbly responded to the invitation, eager to know God’s will better. Yet, we’re told that Christ worked in the more difficult parts of the earth, such as Zebulun (and Napthali). Matthew 4:13-16 and Isaiah 9:1 tell us that the people who sat in great darkness saw great light; and light has sprung up to them who sat in the region and shadow of death. Christ dwelled near Zebulun (Zabulon) and Naphtali (Nephthalim) to preach repentance. The Bible speaks a lot about Zebulun and Naphtali together. Judges 5:18 tells us they exposed themselves to death in the high places of the field (other Scriptures say they were afflicted). The Bible mentions Zebulun forty-eight times (between the different spellings). It’d be good to look more into the history of this tribe. Now for Issachar. “Issachar is a strong ass crouching down between two burdens: and he saw that rest was good, and the land was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant to tribute.” 1 Chronicles 7:1-5 tells of his descendants—specifically, that all the brethren among the families of Issachar were valiant men of might. Interestingly, ‘Issachar’ means to ‘lift’ or ‘carry’. He’d chosen the ass as his symbol, which is well known in the East as noble, active, and enduring. However, Issachar’s character was lazy / inactive and commonplace. Thus, Jacob calls him a ‘strong ass’—meaning one who’s bread of animals with small bones—making him capable only of drudgery. Like a cart-horse lays down between its burdens—he too, would crouch between tillage and tribute rather than fight for liberty and independence. Joshua 19:17-23 tells us of his inheritance. He bordered Zebulun to the south. 1 Chronicles 12:32 says that the children of Issachar were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel should do. Now, Moses also blessed the children of Israel before his own death, and just like Jacob mentioned Zebulun before Issachar, despite their ages, Moses did likewise. We're told in Deuteronomy 33:18, 19 that he said of Zebulun and Issachar: “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out; and, Issachar, in your tents. They will call the people unto the mountain; there they will offer sacrifices of righteousness: because they will suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand.” I find it interesting that the land of Issachar today is supposedly the richest portion of Palestine. All the comments made in the verses above could literally have double (opposing) meanings, based on the terminology used—so it’s hard to know what really happened with the tribe of Issachar.

[199] Genesis 49:16-18

Dan was the son of Rachel’s handmaid, Bilhah. His name means ‘to judge’, so what Jacob told him was very fitting. “Dan will judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan will be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that bites the horse heels, so that his rider will fall backward. I have waited for Your Salvation, O Lord.” The sons of the handmaids were always viewed as inferiors in the family, but Jacob wanted them to know they’d have independence as their own tribe—not subject to the others. The tribe of Dan (like Judah) was very skillful in the arts, which God had given them to use for His work (especially in the design of the sanctuary) and had long been humble and selfless. However, they slowly / subtly lost their grip on God and their desire to serve Him selflessly. They demanded higher pay for their services since their skill in fine arts was ‘superior’. They occasionally got what they asked, but they usually found work in other nations—and to gratify their ever more selfish desires, they used the skills that God had given them to serve heathen kings, making things that dishonored God. Moses’ blessing, from Deuteronomy 33:22, says, “Dan is a lion’s whelp: he will leap from Bashan.” Strong’s Concordance defines the usage of ‘leap’ in this verse as ‘draw the feet together as an animal about to dart on its prey’. This sounds like the serpent ready to lunge at the heels (once the horse’s rider is thrown, they’re under the power of the attacker (serpent)), as mentioned by Jacob. Though they’d not be the strongest tribe, they’d still have military importance (especially in Samson’s time—who, interestingly, came from the tribe of Dan, and was meant to have great responsibility. Jacob referred to the salvation (victory over their enemies) that he looked forward to that could only be gained by the subtle, strategic, and fatal power of the tribe of Dan—seen in Samson’s character and fate. He was himself a judge—which we recalled above was the meaning of Dan’s name). God would’ve used him mightily if his selfish desires to chase after vulgar women hadn’t overcome his God-given purpose. He followed in the very path that we saw the artists of his tribe do, which led to an unfortunate string of events. Thus, the symbol of serpent also seems fitting, considering the greed that compelled them (Satan has been equated to both a cunning serpent and a roaring lion—seeking whom he may devour). The salvation Jacob mentioned could also be in reference to the fact that God had told Adam and Eve that the serpent would bite the heel of the Savior.

[200] Genesis 49:19

In Genesis 30:11, Leah said, “A troop comes,” and she named him Gad. He was the son of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid, which she gave to Jacob in hopes of giving him more sons to gain his love for herself. Jacob testified of Gad’s future, saying: “Gad, a troop will overcome him: but he will overcome at the last.” Strong’s Concordance defines ‘at the last’ as ‘lier in wait’, ‘the rear (of an army)’, or ‘to seize by the heel’. It’s interesting that he said that, because he’d just finished telling Dan that he'd be a serpent that'd bite the horses’ heels. When it says, ‘a troop’ will overcome him, that is defined as ‘a crowd’. Gad’s name means, ‘to crowd upon’, ‘attack’, ‘overcome’. Where they’d settle (on the east of the Jordan, as we’ll see shortly) would leave them exposed to sudden attack. Though always unprepared—they’d defend themselves and pursue them with vengeance—he wanted them not to get discouraged for constantly being overtaken because they’d win in the end. So, it seems that in many of the prophecies Jacob gave about his sons, their name (which usually was given based on the circumstances surrounding their birth or their parents’ situation at the time of their birth) would follow through to truly become representative of their own character and circumstances later in life. In Joshua 22:10-34, the tribes of Gad and Reuben were separated from the other tribes by the river Jordan. Gilead and Bashan had rich forests which appealed to them in a way that Canaan’s land didn’t. They set up a huge altar resembling the one used for the burnt offering at Shiloh. The leaders on the other side of the river automatically assumed they were disobeying God’s commandments not to worship in any other way than how was instructed concerning the sanctuary. They went over to find out why they’d done this but rebuked them heavily before even hearing them out. When the tribes of Gad and Reuben got a chance to speak finally, they explained that they didn’t build it for sacrifice, but as a sign that they had the same beliefs as their brothers in Canaan, despite being separated by the river. They didn’t want their future offspring to be excluded from Israel. The other ten tribes were greatly relieved, and Gad and Reuben put an inscription to avoid future misunderstanding and temptation. “It will be a witness between us that the Lord [Jehovah] is God.” If the onlooking brothers had been patient and inquired before accusing, much hardship would’ve been avoided. If the accused brothers had responded in the same manner as they were treated, then civil war would’ve been had. This should be a lesson for us now, especially within our own families and communities.

[201] Genesis 49:20,21

Jacob told Asher, Gad’s younger brother, “Out of Asher his bread will be fat, and he will yield royal dainties.” Strong’s Concordance defines ‘fat’ used here as ‘oily’. Interestingly enough, when Moses gave his final blessing over each tribe, this is what he had to say (in Deuteronomy 33:24): “Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brothers, and let him dip his foot in oil.” According to Strong’s Concordance, 'Asher' means ‘blessed’, so it’d seem that his character followed through. Asher would be a rich, productive tribe. Their territory bordered Carmel, which was fruitful. Their soil produced fabulous wheat and oil. The bread wouldn’t just be enough to feed them. God is a benefactor of dainties—not just necessities. They’d be able to afford extras. Some of the men of Asher’s tribe were among those that answered Hezekiah’s invitation to the Passover, as we saw in devotional #198, where we also mentioned Naphtali and his parallel with Zebulun when we looked at how they were considered the darkest parts of the earth. Of Naphtali, Jacob said, “Naphtali is a hind let loose: he gives goodly words.” Moses said: “O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord: possess the west and the south.” He was Bilhah’s son (Rachel’s handmaid), and Dan’s younger brother. I find it interesting that Jacob didn’t order all his sons from firstborn to the youngest. However, he did finish with his two youngest sons, Joseph and Benjamin, as we’ll see in devotional #202.

[202] Genesis 49:22-27

“Joseph is a fruitful bough…the archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob…even 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 under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: the blessings of your father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors…they will be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brothers.” Moses likewise spoke well / similarly of him in Deuteronomy 33:13-17. “Blessed of the Lord be his land…let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brothers.” In devotionals #192 and #193, we saw Joseph got a double portion of the inheritance (two tribes for his sons)—but it’s clear that Jacob wanted to give him more—such as the sovereignty (which would be Judah’s for his lordly might which would make Israel victorious). He also praised the boldness with which he bore his trials. For Benjamin, Jacob said, “Benjamin will raven as a wolf: in the morning he will devour the prey, and at night he will divide the spoil.” In Deuteronomy 33:12, Moses blessed Benjamin, saying: “The beloved of the Lord will dwell in safety by him; and the Lord will cover him all day long, and He will dwell between his shoulders.” He’d be a fearsome, warlike tribe. When the tribes demanded a king (unlike how they reacted to Joseph’s dreams), they wanted God to decide who. Yet, when He chose Saul (from Benjamin—the smallest tribe), they refused him (like Joseph’s dreams). In the end, the Benjamite did rule over them, just like Joseph. Jersualem was its home, where the temple would be built between the two mountains.

[203] Genesis 49:28-33

So, Jacob finished blessing and prophesying about each of his sons, which would (mostly) be the heads of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. When he finished, he pulled his feet into bed and died. In the last years of his life, he was more peaceful and made a calm descent to the grave in the company of his children. Though his life was full of bitterness, disappointment, and severe trials, he ended up dying with the character befitting the name of Israel. Just as Hebrew 12:11 tells us, “No chastening seems to be joyous in the present, but rather, grievous: nevertheless, afterwards, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto those which are exercised by it.” Just as he’d done when he spoke with Joseph at the adoption / blessing of his two sons, he again told all his children that he should be buried in the cave that was in the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought. Abraham and Sarah were buried there, along with Isaac and Rebekah, as well as Jacob’s wife, Leah. He gave several names to clarify exactly which cave it was, so they’d have no doubt or trouble finding it. By insisting on being buried in that cave in Canaan, he was finishing his life by manifesting his faith in the promise of God. I find it intriguing that Leah was the one that was buried in the cave of Jacob’s family. Even his beloved Rachel herself was not buried there (she was buried where she died). Interestingly, it was also Leah’s son that was the line through which Jesus came, not one of Rachel’s sons. Perhaps it had something to do with Rachel’s choices (including the theft of her father’s idols and introduction into her family’s home), or because Leah (though she’d deceived Jacob and Rachel) was technically Jacob’s first wife, and her son was Jacob’s new heir of the best part of the birthright. Like Jacob had deceived, and still received the inheritance and headship in the line of Jesus, perhaps Leah was given the same privilege despite her own sinful actions.

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