Genesis 49

Israel's Prophecy concerning His Sons

1 Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, "Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you 1in the days to come.
2 "Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; And 2listen to Israel your father.
3 "Reuben, you are my firstborn; My might and 3the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
4 "Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, 4Because you went up to your father's bed; Then you defiled it -he went up to my couch.
5 "5Simeon and Levi are brothers; Their swords are implements of violence.
6 "6Let my soul not enter into their council; Let not my glory be united with their assembly; Because in their anger they slew men, And in their self-will they lamed oxen.
7 "Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel. 7I will disperse them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel.
8 "Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; 8Your father's sons shall bow down to you.
9 "Judah is a 9lion's whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. 10He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?
10 "11The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until * Shiloh comes, And 12to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11 "13He ties his foal to the vine, And his donkey's colt to the choice vine; 14He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 "His eyes are dull from wine, And his teeth white from milk.
13 "15Zebulun will dwell at the seashore *; And he shall be a haven for ships, And his flank shall be toward Sidon.
14 "Issachar is a strong donkey, 16Lying down between the sheepfolds.
15 "When he saw that a resting place was good And that the land was pleasant, He bowed his shoulder to bear burdens, And became a slave at forced labor.
16 "17Dan shall 18judge his people, As one of the tribes of Israel.
17 "Dan shall be a serpent in the way, A horned snake in the path, That bites the horse's heels, So that his rider falls backward.
18 "19For Your salvation I wait, O LORD.
19 "20As for Gad, raiders shall raid him, But he will raid at their heels.
20 "21As for 22Asher, his food shall be rich, And he will yield royal dainties.
21 "23Naphtali is a doe let loose, He gives beautiful words.
22 "24Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall.
23 "The archers * bitterly attacked him, And shot at him and harassed him;
24 But his 25bow remained firm, And 26his arms were agile, From the hands of the 27Mighty One of Jacob (From there is 28the Shepherd, 29the Stone of Israel ),
25 From 30the God of your father who helps you, And 31by the Almighty who blesses you With 32blessings of heaven above *, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
26 "The blessings of your father Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors Up to the utmost bound of 33the everlasting hills; May they be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.
27 "Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he devours the prey, And in the evening he divides the spoil."
28 All these are the twelve * tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him.
29 Then he charged them and said to them, "I am about to be 34gathered to my people; 35bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in 36the field of Ephron the Hittite,
30 in the 37cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before * Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site.
31 "There they buried 38Abraham and his wife 39Sarah, there they buried 40Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah -
32 the field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the sons of Heth."
33 When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and 41breathed his last, and was 42gathered 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 42

  • 1. Numbers 24:14
  • 2. Psalms 34:11
  • 3. Deuteronomy 21:17; Psalms 78:51; Psalms 105:36
  • 4. Genesis 35:22; Deuteronomy 27:20; 1 Chronicles 5:1
  • 5. Genesis 34:25-30
  • 6. Psalms 64:2
  • 7. Joshua 19:1, 9; Joshua 21:1-42
  • 8. Genesis 27:29; 1 Chronicles 5:2
  • 9. Ezekiel 19:5-7; Micah 5:8
  • 10. Numbers 24:9
  • 11. Numbers 24:17; Psalms 60:7; Psalms 108:8
  • 12. Psalms 2:6-9; Psalms 72:8-11; Isaiah 42:1, 4; Isaiah 49:6
  • 13. Deuteronomy 8:7, 8; 2 Kings 18:32
  • 14. Isaiah 63:2
  • 15. Deuteronomy 33:18, 19
  • 16. Judges 5:16; Psalms 68:13
  • 17. Deuteronomy 33:22; Judges 18:26, 27
  • 18. Genesis 30:6
  • 19. Exodus 15:2; Psalms 25:5; Psalms 40:1-3; Psalms 119:166, 174; Isaiah 25:9; Micah 7:7
  • 20. Deuteronomy 33:20
  • 21. Deuteronomy 33:24, 25
  • 22. Genesis 30:13
  • 23. Deuteronomy 33:23
  • 24. Deuteronomy 33:13-17
  • 25. Job 29:20
  • 26. Psalms 18:34; Psalms 73:23; Isaiah 41:10
  • 27. Psalms 132:2, 5; Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 49:26
  • 28. Psalms 23:1; Psalms 80:1
  • 29. Psalms 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:6-8
  • 30. Genesis 28:13; Genesis 32:9
  • 31. Genesis 28:3; Genesis 48:3
  • 32. Genesis 27:28
  • 33. Deuteronomy 33:15, 16
  • 34. Genesis 25:8
  • 35. Genesis 47:30
  • 36. Genesis 23:16-20; Genesis 50:13
  • 37. Genesis 23:3-20
  • 38. Genesis 25:9
  • 39. Genesis 23:19
  • 40. Genesis 35:29
  • 41. Genesis 25:8; Acts 7:15
  • 42. Genesis 49:29

Footnotes 34

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