Then Jacob sent for his sons. He said, "Gather around me so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
"Sons of Jacob, come together and listen. Listen to your father Israel.
"Reuben, you are my oldest son. You were my first child. You were the first sign of my strength. You were first in honor. You were first in power.
But you are as unsteady as water. So you won't be first anymore. You had sex with your father's concubine in his bed. You lay on his couch and made it 'unclean.'
"Simeon and Levi are brothers. Their swords have killed a lot of people.
I won't share in their plans. I won't have anything to do with them. They became angry and killed people. They cut the legs of oxen just for the fun of it.
May the LORD put a curse on them because of their terrible anger. I will scatter them in Jacob's land. I will spread them around in Israel.
"Judah, your brothers will praise you. Your enemies will be brought under your control. Your father's sons will bow down to you.
Judah, you are like a lion's cub. You return from hunting, my son. Like a lion, you lie down and sleep. You are like a mother lion. Who dares to wake you up?
The right to rule will not leave Judah. The ruler's rod will not be taken from between his feet. It will be his until the king it belongs to comes. It will be his until the nations obey him.
He will tie his donkey to a vine. He will tie his colt to the very best branch. He will wash his clothes in wine. He will wash his robes in the red juice of grapes.
His eyes will be darker than wine. His teeth will be whiter than milk.
"Zebulun will live by the seashore. He will become a safe harbor for ships. His border will go out toward Sidon.
"Issachar is like a donkey lying down between two saddlebags.
He sees how good his resting place is. He sees that his land is pleasant. So he'll carry a heavy load on his back. He will obey when he's forced to work.
"Dan will do what is fair for his people. He will do it as one of the tribes of Israel.
Dan will be a serpent by the side of the road. He will be a poisonous snake along the path. It bites the horse's heels so that the rider falls off backward.
"Lord, I look to you to save me.
"Gad will be attacked by a group of robbers. But he'll attack them as they run away.
"Asher's food will be rich and sweet. He will provide food that even a king would enjoy.
"Naphtali is a female deer that is set free and gives birth to beautiful fawns.
"Joseph is a vine that grows a lot of fruit. It grows close by a spring. Its branches climb over a wall.
Mean people shot arrows at him. They shot at him because they were angry.
But his bow remained steady. His strong arms moved freely. The hand of the Mighty One of Jacob was with him. The Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, stood by him.
Your father's God helps you. The Mighty One blesses you. He gives you blessings from the highest heavens. He gives you blessings from the deepest oceans. He blesses you with children and with a mother's milk.
Your father's blessings are great. They are greater than the blessings from the age-old mountains. They are greater than the gifts from the ancient hills. Let all of those blessings rest on the head of Joseph. Let them rest on the head of the one who is prince among his brothers.
"Benjamin is a hungry wolf. In the morning he eats what he has killed. In the evening he shares what he has stolen."
All of those are the 12 tribes of Israel. That's what their father said to them when he blessed them. He gave each one the blessing that was just right for him.
Then Jacob gave directions to his sons. He said, "I'm about to join the members of my family who have already died. Bury me with them in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite.
"The cave is in the field of Machpelah near Mamre in Canaan. Abraham had bought it as a place where he could bury his wife's body. He had bought the cave from Ephron the Hittite, along with the field.
"The bodies of Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried there. So were the bodies of Isaac and his wife Rebekah. I also buried Leah's body there.
Abraham bought the field and the cave from the Hittites."
When Jacob had finished telling his sons what to do, he pulled his feet up into his bed. Then he took his last breath and joined the members of his family who had already died.
Holy Bible, New International Reader's Version® Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1998 by Biblica. All rights reserved worldwide.