Genesis 49

Jacob Blesses His Sons

1 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
2 “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel.
3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power.
4 Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.
5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers— their swords[a] are weapons of violence.
6 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.
7 Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.
8 “Judah,[b] your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,[c]until he to whom it belongs[d] shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 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.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.[e]
13 “Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon.
14 “Issachar is a rawboned[f] donkey lying down among the sheep pens.[g]
15 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.
16 “Dan[h] will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan will be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward.
18 “I look for your deliverance, LORD.
19 “Gad[i] will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels.
20 “Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king.
21 “Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.[j]
22 “Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.[k]
23 With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility.
24 But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed[l] limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25 because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty,[m] who blesses you with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and womb.
26 Your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than[n] the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among[o] his brothers.
27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder.”
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

The Death of Jacob

29 Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
30 the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite.
31 There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah.
32 The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.[p]
33 When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was 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 91

  • 1. Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 31:29; Jeremiah 23:20; Daniel 2:28,45
  • 2. Joshua 24:1
  • 3. ver 16,28; Psalms 34:11
  • 4. S Genesis 29:32; S Genesis 41:51
  • 5. Deuteronomy 21:17; Psalms 78:51; Psalms 105:36
  • 6. S Genesis 34:19
  • 7. Isaiah 57:20; Jeremiah 49:23
  • 8. S Genesis 29:29; S Genesis 34:5; Genesis 35:22; Deuteronomy 27:20
  • 9. S Genesis 29:33
  • 10. Genesis 29:34
  • 11. S Genesis 34:25; S Proverbs 4:17
  • 12. Psalms 1:1; Proverbs 1:15; Ephesians 5:11
  • 13. S Genesis 34:26
  • 14. Joshua 11:6,9; 2 Samuel 8:4; 1 Chronicles 18:4
  • 15. Genesis 34:7
  • 16. Genesis 34:25
  • 17. Joshua 19:1,9; Joshua 21:1-42
  • 18. S Genesis 29:35
  • 19. Deuteronomy 28:48
  • 20. S Genesis 9:25; Deuteronomy 33:7; 1 Chronicles 5:2
  • 21. Numbers 24:9; Psalms 7:2; Psalms 10:9; Ezekiel 19:5; Micah 5:8
  • 22. Ezekiel 19:2
  • 23. Revelation 5:5
  • 24. ver 27; Numbers 23:24; Job 38:39; Psalms 17:12; Psalms 22:13; Psalms 104:21
  • 25. Numbers 24:17,19; Judges 1:1-2; Judges 20:18; 1 Chronicles 5:2; 1 Chronicles 28:4; Psalms 60:7; Psalms 108:8
  • 26. Ezekiel 21:27
  • 27. Psalms 2:9; Psalms 72:8-11; Psalms 98:3; Psalms 110:2; Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 26:18; Isaiah 42:1,4; Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 51:5
  • 28. Judges 5:10; Judges 10:4; Zechariah 9:9
  • 29. Deuteronomy 8:8; 2 Kings 18:32
  • 30. Deuteronomy 32:14; Isaiah 63:2
  • 31. Song of Songs 5:12
  • 32. S Genesis 30:20; Deuteronomy 33:18-19; Joshua 19:10-11
  • 33. S Genesis 10:19
  • 34. S Genesis 30:18
  • 35. Judges 5:16; Psalms 68:13
  • 36. Joshua 19:17-23
  • 37. Ezekiel 29:18
  • 38. 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 5:13; 1 Kings 9:21; Isaiah 14:2; Isaiah 31:8
  • 39. Genesis 30:6; Deuteronomy 33:22; Judges 18:26-27
  • 40. S ver 2
  • 41. Judges 18:27
  • 42. Jeremiah 8:17; Amos 9:3
  • 43. ver 19
  • 44. S Genesis 45:7; Psalms 40:1-3
  • 45. Psalms 119:166,174
  • 46. S Genesis 30:11; Deuteronomy 33:20; 1 Chronicles 5:18
  • 47. ver 17
  • 48. S Genesis 30:13; Deuteronomy 33:24
  • 49. Isaiah 25:6
  • 50. Job 29:6
  • 51. S Genesis 30:8; Deuteronomy 33:23
  • 52. Job 39:1
  • 53. Genesis 30:24; Deuteronomy 33:13-17
  • 54. S Genesis 17:6; Psalms 128:3; Ezekiel 19:10
  • 55. Psalms 80:10
  • 56. 1 Chronicles 10:3
  • 57. S Genesis 27:41; S Genesis 37:24
  • 58. Job 29:20
  • 59. Psalms 18:34; Isaiah 63:12
  • 60. Psalms 132:2,5; Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 10:34; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 60:16
  • 61. S Genesis 48:15
  • 62. Dt 32:4,15,18,31; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 22:32; Psalms 18:2,31; Psalms 19:14; Psalms 78:35; Psalms 89:26; Psalms 144:1; Isaiah 17:10; Isaiah 26:4; Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 30:29; Isaiah 44:8; Habakkuk 1:12
  • 63. S Genesis 28:13
  • 64. Exodus 18:4; Psalms 27:9
  • 65. S Genesis 17:1
  • 66. S Genesis 27:28
  • 67. Isaiah 66:11
  • 68. Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 28:4; Psalms 107:38; Proverbs 10:22
  • 69. Habakkuk 3:6
  • 70. 1 Chronicles 5:1; Ezekiel 47:13
  • 71. S Genesis 37:8; Deuteronomy 33:15-16
  • 72. Genesis 35:18; Judges 20:12-13
  • 73. Habakkuk 1:8; Zephaniah 3:3
  • 74. S ver 9
  • 75. Numbers 31:11; Deuteronomy 2:35; Joshua 7:21; Joshua 8:2; Joshua 22:8; Jdg Joshua 8:24
  • 76. S ver 2
  • 77. S Genesis 27:4
  • 78. Genesis 50:16
  • 79. S Genesis 25:8
  • 80. S Genesis 15:15; Genesis 47:30; Genesis 50:13; Genesis 50:25; 2 Samuel 2:32; 2 Samuel 19:37
  • 81. S Genesis 25:9
  • 82. S Genesis 23:9
  • 83. S Genesis 13:18
  • 84. S Genesis 23:4
  • 85. S Genesis 23:20
  • 86. Genesis 25:9
  • 87. Genesis 23:19
  • 88. S Genesis 24:67; Genesis 35:29
  • 89. S Genesis 23:20; S Genesis 29:16
  • 90. S Genesis 10:15
  • 91. ver 29; S Genesis 25:8; Acts 7:15

Footnotes 16

  • [a]. The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain.
  • [b]. "Judah" sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for "praise."
  • [c]. Or "from his descendants"
  • [d]. Or "to whom tribute belongs" ; the meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
  • [e]. Or "will be dull from wine," / "his teeth white from milk"
  • [f]. Or "strong"
  • [g]. Or "the campfires" ; or "the saddlebags"
  • [h]. "Dan" here means "he provides justice."
  • [i]. "Gad" sounds like the Hebrew for "attack" and also for "band of raiders."
  • [j]. Or "free;" / "he utters beautiful words"
  • [k]. Or "Joseph is a wild colt," / "a wild colt near a spring," / "a wild donkey on a terraced hill"
  • [l]. Or "archers will attack … will shoot … will remain … will stay"
  • [m]. Hebrew "Shaddai"
  • [n]. Or "of my progenitors," / "as great as"
  • [o]. Or "of the one separated from"
  • [p]. Or "the descendants of Heth"

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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