Genesis 49

Listen to Genesis 49

Jacob Blesses His Sons

1 1Then Jacob called his sons and said, "Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you 2in days to come.
2 "Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob, listen to Israel your father.
3 "Reuben, you are 3my firstborn, my might, and the 4firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
4 Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you 5went up to your father's bed; then you defiled it--he went up to my couch!
5 6"Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons 7of violence are their swords.
6 Let my soul come not into their council; 8O my glory, 9be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they 10hamstrung oxen.
7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will 11divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.
8 "Judah, 12your brothers shall praise you; 13your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; 14your father's sons shall bow down before you.
9 Judah is 15a lion's cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. 16He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
10 The 17scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff 18from between his feet, until tribute comes to him;[a] and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11 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.
12 His 19eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.
13 20"Zebulun shall dwell at the 21shore of the sea; he shall become a haven for ships, and his border shall be at Sidon.
14 22"Issachar is a strong donkey, crouching between the sheepfolds.[b]
15 He saw that a resting place was good, and that the land was pleasant, so he bowed his shoulder to bear, and 23became a servant at forced labor.
16 24"Dan shall 25judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan 26shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse's heels so that his rider falls backward.
18 I 27wait for your salvation, O LORD.
19 28"Raiders shall raid 29Gad,[c] but he shall raid at their heels.
20 30"Asher's food shall be rich, and he shall yield royal delicacies.
21 31"Naphtali is a doe let loose that bears beautiful fawns.[d]
22 "Joseph is 32a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall.[e]
23 The archers 33bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely,
24 yet 34his bow remained unmoved; his arms[f] were made agile by the hands of the 35Mighty One of Jacob (from there is 36the Shepherd,[g]37the Stone of Israel),
25 38by the God of your father who will help you, by 39the Almighty[h]40who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
26 The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties 41of the everlasting hills.[i] May they be 42on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.
27 43"Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey and at evening 44dividing the spoil."

Jacob's Death and Burial

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him.
29 Then he commanded them and said to them, "I am to be 45gathered to my people; 46bury me with my fathers 47in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
30 in the cave that is in the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, 48which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place.
31 49There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There 50they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah--
32 the field and the cave that is in it were bought from the Hittites."
33 When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and 51was gathered to his people.

Genesis 49 Commentary

Chapter 49

Jacob calls his sons to bless them. (1,2) Reuben, Simeon, Levi. (3-7) Judah. (8-12) Zebulun, Issachar, Dan. (13-18) Gad, Asher, Naphtali. (19-21) Joseph and Benjamin. (22-27) Jacob's charge respecting his burial, His death. (28-33)

Verses 1-2 All Jacob's sons were living. His calling them together was a precept for them to unite in love, not to mingle with the Egyptians; and foretold that they should not be separated, as Abraham's sons and Isaac's were, but should all make one people. We are not to consider this address as the expression of private feelings of affection, resentment, or partiality; but as the language of the Holy Ghost, declaring the purpose of God respecting the character, circumstances, and situation of the tribes which descended from the sons of Jacob, and which may be traced in their histories.

Verses 3-7 Reuben was the first-born; but by gross sin, he forfeited the birthright. The character of Reuben is, that he was unstable as water. Men do not thrive, because they do not fix. Reuben's sin left a lasting infamy upon his family. Let us never do evil, then we need not fear being told of it. Simeon and Levi were passionate and revengeful. The murder of the Shechemites is a proof of this. Jacob protested against that barbarous act. Our soul is our honour; by its powers we are distinguished from, and raised above, the beasts that perish. We ought, from our hearts, to abhor all bloody and mischievous men. Cursed be their anger. Jacob does not curse their persons, but their lusts. I will divide them. The sentence as it respects Levi was turned into a blessing. This tribe performed an acceptable service in their zeal against the worshippers of the golden calf, ( Exodus 32 ) . Being set apart to God as priests, they were in that character scattered through the nation of Israel.

Verses 8-12 Judah's name signifies praise. God was praised for him, chap. 29:35 , praised by him, and praised in him; therefore his brethren shall praise him. Judah should be a strong and courageous tribe. Judah is compared, not to a lion raging and ranging, but to a lion enjoying the satisfaction of his power and success, without creating vexation to others; this is to be truly great. Judah should be the royal tribe, the tribe from which Messiah the Prince should come. Shiloh, that promised Seed in whom the earth should be blessed, "that peaceable and prosperous One," or "Saviour," he shall come of Judah. Thus dying Jacob at a great distance saw Christ's day, and it was his comfort and support on his death-bed. Till Christ's coming, Judah possessed authority, but after his crucifixion this was shortened, and according to what Christ foretold, Jerusalem was destroyed, and all the poor harassed remnant of Jews were confounded together. Much which is here said concerning Judah, is to be applied to our Lord Jesus. In him there is plenty of all which is nourishing and refreshing to the soul, and which maintains and cheers the Divine life in it. He is the true Vine; wine is the appointed symbol of his blood, which is drink indeed, as shed for sinners, and applied in faith; and all the blessings of his gospel are wine and milk, without money and without price, to which every thirsty soul is welcome. Isa. 55:1 .

Verses 13-18 Concerning Zebulun: if prophecy says, Zebulun shall be a haven of ships, be sure Providence will so plant him. God appoints the bounds of our habitation. It is our wisdom and duty to accommodate ourselves to our lot, and to improve it; if Zebulun dwell at the heaven of the sea, let him be for a haven of ships. Concerning Issachar: he saw that the land was pleasant, yielding not only pleasant prospects, but pleasant fruits to recompense his toils. Let us, with an eye of faith, see the heavenly rest to be good, and that land of promise to be pleasant; this will make our present services easy. Dan should, by art, and policy, and surprise, gain advantages against his enemies, like a serpent biting the heel of the traveller. Jacob, almost spent, and ready to faint, relieves himself with those words, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord!" The salvation he waited for was Christ, the promised Seed; now that he was going to be gathered to his people, he breathes after Him to whom the gathering of the people shall be. He declared plainly that he sought heaven, the better country, ( hebrews 11:13 hebrews 11:14 ) . Now he is going to enjoy the salvation, he comforts himself that he had waited for the salvation. Christ, as our way to heaven, is to be waited on; and heaven, as our rest in Christ, is to be waited for. It is the comfort of a dying saint thus to have waited for the salvation of the Lord; for then he shall have what he has been waiting for.

Verses 19-21 Concerning Gad, Jacob alludes to his name, which signifies a troop, and foresees the character of that tribe. The cause of God and his people, though for a time it may seem to be baffled and run down, will be victorious at last. It represents the Christian's conflict. Grace in the soul is often foiled in its conflicts; troops of corruption overcome it, but the cause is God's, and grace will in the end come off conqueror, yea, more than conqueror, ( Romans 8:37 ) . Asher should be a rich tribe. His inheritance bordered upon Carmel, which was fruitful to a proverb. Naphtali, is a hind let loose. We may consider it as a description of the character of this tribe. Unlike the laborious ox and ass; desirous of ease and liberty; active, but more noted for quick despatch than steady labour and perseverance. Like the suppliant who, with goodly words, craves mercy. Let not those of different tempers and gifts censure or envy one another.

Verses 22-27 The blessing of Joseph is very full. What Jacob says of him, is history as well as prophecy. Jacob reminds him of the difficulties and fiery darts of temptations he had formerly struggled through. His faith did not fail, but through his trials he bore all his burdens with firmness, and did not do anything unbecoming. All our strength for resisting temptations, and bearing afflictions, comes from God; his grace is sufficient. Joseph became the shepherd of Israel, to take care of his father and family; also the stone of Israel, their foundation and strong support. In this, as in many other things, Joseph was a remarkable type of the Good Shepherd, and tried Corner Stone of the whole church of God. Blessings are promised to Joseph's posterity, typical of the vast and everlasting blessings which come upon the spiritual seed of Christ. Jacob blessed all his sons, but especially Joseph, "who was separated from his brethren." Not only separated in Egypt, but, possessing eminent dignity, and more devoted to God. Of Benjamin it is said, He shall ravin as a wolf. Jacob was guided in what he said by the Spirit of prophecy, and not by natural affection; else he would have spoken with more tenderness of his beloved son Benjamin. Concerning him he only foresees and foretells, that his posterity should be a warlike tribe, strong and daring, and that they should enrich themselves with the spoils of their enemies; that they should be active. Blessed Paul was of this tribe, ( Romans 11:1 , Philippians 3:5 ) ; he, in the morning of his day, devoured the prey as a persecutor, but in the evening divided the spoils as a preacher; he shared the blessings of Judah's Lion, and assisted in his victories.

Verses 28-33 Jacob blessed every one according to the blessings God in after-times intended to bestow upon them. He spoke about his burial-place, from a principle of faith in the promise of God, that Canaan should be the inheritance of his seed in due time. When he had finished both his blessing and his charge, and so had finished his testimony, he addressed himself to his dying work. He gathered up his feet into the bed, not only as one patiently submitting to the stroke, but as one cheerfully composing himself to rest, now that he was weary. He freely gave up his spirit into the hand of God, the Father of spirits. If God's people be our people, death will gather us to them. Under the care of the Shepherd of Israel, we shall lack nothing for body or soul. We shall remain unmoved until our work is finished; then, breathing out our souls into His hands for whose salvation we have waited, we shall depart in peace, and leave a blessing for our children after us.

Cross References 51

  • 1. For ver. 1-27, see Deuteronomy 33:6-25
  • 2. Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 4:30; Deuteronomy 31:29; Isaiah 2:2; Jeremiah 23:20; Daniel 2:28; Daniel 10:14; Hosea 3:5
  • 3. Genesis 29:32
  • 4. Deuteronomy 21:17
  • 5. Genesis 35:22; 1 Chronicles 5:1
  • 6. Genesis 29:33, 34
  • 7. Genesis 34:25, 26
  • 8. [Psalms 16:9; Psalms 57:8]
  • 9. [Psalms 26:9]
  • 10. Joshua 11:6, 9; 2 Samuel 8:4
  • 11. See Numbers 3:5-13; Joshua 19:1-9; 1 Chronicles 4:24-39
  • 12. Genesis 29:35; [Genesis 27:29]
  • 13. [Job 16:12]
  • 14. 1 Chronicles 5:2
  • 15. Revelation 5:5; [Deuteronomy 33:22; Hosea 5:14]
  • 16. [Numbers 23:24; Numbers 24:9]
  • 17. Numbers 24:17; Zechariah 10:11
  • 18. Deuteronomy 28:57
  • 19. Proverbs 23:29
  • 20. [Deuteronomy 33:18, 19]; Joshua 19:10, 11
  • 21. [Deuteronomy 1:7; Joshua 9:1; Judges 5:17]
  • 22. Judges 5:16; [1 Chronicles 12:32]
  • 23. Joshua 16:10
  • 24. [Deuteronomy 33:22]
  • 25. Genesis 30:6
  • 26. Judges 18:27
  • 27. Psalms 25:5; Psalms 119:166, 174; Isaiah 25:9; Micah 7:7; [Luke 2:25]
  • 28. [Deuteronomy 33:20]
  • 29. See 1 Chronicles 5:18-22
  • 30. [Deuteronomy 33:24]
  • 31. [Deuteronomy 33:23]
  • 32. Genesis 41:52; Joshua 17:14, 18
  • 33. [Genesis 37:24, 28; Genesis 39:20]
  • 34. Job 29:20
  • 35. Psalms 132:2, 5; Isaiah 1:24
  • 36. Psalms 23:1; Psalms 80:1
  • 37. Isaiah 28:16; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:4; [Deuteronomy 32:4]
  • 38. Genesis 35:3; Genesis 50:17
  • 39. Genesis 17:1; Genesis 35:11
  • 40. Deuteronomy 33:13
  • 41. Deuteronomy 33:15; Habakkuk 3:6
  • 42. Deuteronomy 33:16
  • 43. [Judges 20:21, 25; Ezekiel 22:27]
  • 44. Zechariah 14:1; [Ezekiel 39:10]
  • 45. ver. 33; Genesis 25:8
  • 46. Genesis 47:30
  • 47. Genesis 50:13; [Genesis 23:9]
  • 48. See Genesis 23:16-18
  • 49. Genesis 23:19; Genesis 25:9
  • 50. Genesis 35:29
  • 51. ver. 29

Footnotes 9

  • [a]. By a slight revocalization; a slight emendation yields (compare Septuagint, Syriac, Targum) until he comes to whom it belongs; Hebrew until Shiloh comes, or until he comes to Shiloh
  • [b]. Or between its saddlebags
  • [c]. Gad sounds like the Hebrew for raiders and raid
  • [d]. Or he gives beautiful words, or that bears fawns of the fold
  • [e]. Or Joseph is a wild donkey, a wild donkey beside a spring, his wild colts beside the wall
  • [f]. Hebrew the arms of his hands
  • [g]. Or by the name of the Shepherd
  • [h]. Hebrew Shaddai
  • [i]. A slight emendation yields (compare Septuagint) the blessings of the eternal mountains, the bounties of the everlasting hills

Chapter Summary


This chapter contains a prophecy of future things, relating to the twelve sons of Jacob, and to the twelve tribes, as descending from them, and which he delivered to his sons on his death bed, having called them together for that purpose, Ge 49:1,2, he begins with Reuben his firstborn, whose incest he takes notice of, on which account he should not excel, Ge 49:3,4, next Simeon and Levi have a curse denounced on them for their cruelty at Shechem, Ge 49:5,6, but Judah is praised, and good things prophesied of him; and particularly that Shiloh, or the Messiah, should spring from him, the time of whose coming is pointed at, Ge 49:7-12, the predictions concerning Zebulun, Issachar, and Dan, follow, at the close of which Jacob expresses his longing expectation of God's salvation, Ge 49:13-18 and after foretelling what should befall Gad, Asher, and Naphtali, Ge 49:19-21, a large account is given of Joseph, his troubles, his trials, and his blessings, Ge 49:22-26, and Benjamin the youngest son is taken notice of last of all, all the tribes being blessed in their order according to the nature of their blessing, Ge 49:27,28, and the chapter is closed with a charge of Jacob's to his sons to bury him in Canaan, which having delivered, he died, Ge 49:29-33.

Genesis 49 Commentaries

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