Genesis Lesson 29 Day 2
Israel’s prophetic blessings over his sons.
3) I find something surprising and challenging about all of them.
Especially interesting to research the fulfillment and other details about the tribes. I got a little carried away.
4) The blessings and prophesies
“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, the firstfruits of my strength,
preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
4 Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence,
because you went up onto your father’s bed,
then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!.” (Genesis 49:3–4)
Jacob offers Reuben a warning because he chose to follow his own desires rather than adhering to God’s ways. He cannot follow two masters—choose God or the lust of the flesh. (see Matthew 6:22-24)
In James 1:6-8, James writes about the instability of a double-minded and unbelieving person—blown and tossed about in the waves. “No prophet, no judge, and no king that we know of came from the tribe of Reuben. Reuben is an example of how the first can be last (Matthew 19:30).”1
Reuben’s sin with Jacob’s concubine may have been more about rebelling against his father and seeking power than about sex. Apparently, he never repented or demonstrated a change of heart and attitude.
Simeon and Levi—”I will . . . scatter them in Israel.”
Simeon and Levi are brothers;
weapons of violence are their swords.
Let my soul come not into their council;
O my glory, be not joined to their council;
O my glory, be not joined to their company.
For in their anger they killed men,
and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.
Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
and their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
and scatter them in Israel. (Genesis 49:5–7)
Because Prince Shechem raped their sister, Dinah, Simeon and Levi led a murderous rampage, killing every male in the city three days after being circumcised.
It’s fascinating how this prophecy was literally fulfilled for both tribes, but completely different ways. For the tribe of Simeon, it was a curse. For Levi, a blessing.
While the tribes wandered in the wilderness, the tribe of Simeon went from being the third largest tribe (Numbers 1:23) to the smallest (Numbers 26:14).1 They shared an allotment of land within the borders of Judah—the Negev Desert part. Moses doesn’t even mention the tribe of Simeon when he blesses the twelve tribes (Deuteronomy 33).
Levi was given 48 cities within the tribal boundaries of every tribe.
And the Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any potion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel (Numbers 18:30).
God set apart the tribe of Levi to be the ones who would transport the ark of the covenant, stand before the Lord to minister to Him, and to bless in His name. They also provided spiritual leadership to the nation, so they were assigned cities within the territory owned by each of the other tribes. (Joshua 21:41)
Deuteronomy 10:8–9; 33:8–10
The good news: We can turn our failures and the suffering that results into a victorious testimony to God’s redeeming grace.
5) Judah (Genesis 49:8–21)
- Your father’s sons will bow down before you.
- The scepter will never depart from Judah nor a ruler’s staff.
- People/nations obey him.
- Binding his donkey to a grapevine
- He will wash his robe in wine—a purple robe
Prophecy about Messiah
- The Messiah will come from the tribe of Judah.
- Judah, you are a lion cub. (Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah Revelation 5:5)
- His reign and kingdom will never end.
- His robe will be the color of wine.
- The reference to the donkey and branches foreshadows the triumphal entry.
- The reference to tethering to a vine.
Jesus Christ fulfilled this prophecy.
- The lineage of Jesus: Matthew 1:3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Aram,
- Luke 1:32-33…The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.
- John 19:2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him.
- Mark 11:2-10 Jesus told two of his disciples to bring a specific donkey’s colt to Him. Jesus rode it through the streets while people said, “Hosanna! Praised and blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!Praised and blessed in the name of the Lord is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna (O save us) in the highest [heaven]!” AMP
- John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
In Jacob’s prophetic blessing for Judah, there was no mention of his former transgressions. Judah openly confessed his sin toward Tamar and turned his life around. He offered to take Benjamin’s place as Joseph’s slave.
Unlike Reuben, Judah’s repentance changed everything.
Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea;
he shall become a haven for ships,
and his border shall be at Sidon. (Genesis 49:13)
The territory of the tribe of Zebulun lines up with the prophecy.
Isaiah 9:1 Gives an additional prophecy relating to the Messiah—the area of Galilee that played a prominent role in the ministry of Jesus.
The writer of Matthew quotes Isaiah 9:1 in Matthew 4:13–16.
Issachar: A strong donkey
Issachar is a strong donkey,
crouching between the sheepfolds.
He saw that a resting place was good,
and that the land was pleasant,
so he bowed his shoulder to bear,
and became a servant at forced labor. Genesis 49:14-15
They were the third largest tribe according to the census in Numbers 26.
Scholars say the Hebrew is challenging to interpret in this blessing. Here is Leupold’s take on it—
“The meaning seems to be that Issachar was strong, but docile and lazy. He would enjoy the good land assigned him but would not strive for it. Therefore, eventually he would be pressed into servitude and the mere bearing of burdens for his masters.” (Leupold)1
Dan: A judge and a serpent
Dan shall judge his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
Dan shall be a serpent in the way,
a viper by the path,
that bites the horse’s heels
so that his rider falls backward.
I wait for your salvation, O Lord.
Samson who came from the tribe of Dan became a prominent judge in Israel (Judges 13:2).
Dan was a troublesome tribe. They introduced idolatry into Israel (Judges 18:30). Jeroboam set up one of his idolatrous golden calves in Dan (1 Kings 12:26-30), and later Dan became a center of idol worship in Israel (Amos 8:14).1
“…Jonathan son of Gershom, Moses’ son, and his sons served as priests for the tribe of Dan until the land was captured (Judges 18:30b).
Dan is not included in the list of tribes in Revelation 7:5-8 but heads the list of tribes in the Ezekiel 48 prophecy.
Gad: The name sounds like the Hebrew for raiders and raid.3 (footnote)
Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders,
but he will strike back at their heels.10
The tribe of God chose to live on the east side of the Jordan, but they dedicated themselves to fight for the promised land on the west side.
Gadites also served in David’s army—”These descendants of Gad were army officers. The least able one was in command of 100 men, and the best one was in command of 1,000″ (1 Chronicles 12:14 NOG).
Asher’s food will be rich.
“He will provide delicacies fit for a king” (Genesis 49:20).
Asher received fertile land along the Mediterranean coast. “The soil was so fertile that in times of scarcity, and especially in the Sabbatical year, Asher provided all Israel with olive-oil. The Asherites were also renowned for wisdom.” (Wikipedia)
Moses prophesied, “Most blessed of sons be Asher; let him be the favorite of his brothers, and let him dip his foot in oil” (Deuteronomy 33:24). Only the prosperous could wash their feet in oil.
Naphtali is a doe set free
“that bears beautiful fawns (Genesis 49:21).”
“Or he gives beautiful words, or that bears fawns of the fold.” Footnote in ESV
“Naphtali’s land was in a key portion near the Sea of Galilee, the region where Jesus did much of His teaching and ministry.”1
Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:12-16
Jesus words are beautiful!
Joseph is a fruitful vine. Genesis 49:22-26
Joseph is a fruitful vine,
a fruitful vine near a spring,
whose branches climb over a wall.
Wherever Joseph was transplanted, he grew and produced good fruit, tapping into the spring of living water through his faith in and dependence on God. God had a plan for his life.
With bitterness archers attacked him;
they shot at him and harassed him severely.
Joseph’s own brothers planned to kill him, but later sold him into slavery.
Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph—an accusation which should have resulted in his execution. God saved Him both times.
But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
This applies to Joseph’s character and God’s protection.
In the hands of his jealous brothers, in slavery, in prison, and as prime minister of Egypt, God was with Joseph. He excelled in every circumstance and found favor with those in authority. This is one of those “but God” verses.
Blessings for Joseph’s area in the promised land and his descendants
- Water—from the sky and from the ground
- Fertility—many descendants (could also mean fertility for their herds)
- Abundant harvests—the opposite of famine
Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,
in the morning devouring the prey
and at evening dividing the spoil. Genesis 49:27
This tribe had a reputation for fierceness.1
To see the great extent of this, look at Ehud (Judges 3:15-23), Saul (1 Samuel 9:1, 14:47-52), and Paul (Acts 8:1-3). The cruelty of the tribe in general is seen in Judges 19 and Judges 20.1
Moses’ prophecy about the tribe of Benjamin is quite different—
The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety.
The High God surrounds him all day long,
and dwells between his shoulders. Deuteronomy 33:12
- The Lord’s protection
- A picture of resting in the Lord’s loving embrace.
The Apostle Paul from the tribe of Benjamin murdered Christians until he met Jesus. Then he said things like, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
6) Some are more blessed than others.
- Acts 20:35 – We will be more blessed by being diligent to give to others in need than by being diligent to receive from others.
- Romans 4:7 – We are blessed by forgiveness of our sins. We appropriate God’s forgiveness by accepting the forgiveness provided by Jesus’ sacrifice.
- Ephesians 1:3 – We have been blessed in the heavenly realm with every spiritual blessing if we are in Christ.
- Titus 2:13 – We are waiting for the blessed promise of Jesus’ return.
- James 1:12 – We are blessed when we persevere in times of testing and persecution.
- 1 Peter 3:9 – We are blessed when we repay evil deeds with blessing.
- Revelation 1:3 – We are blessed by reading the word – John’s prophecy recorded in the book of Revelation
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1 EnduringWord.com used by written permission.
2 AWM Living Commentary used by written permission.
3 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations from *The ESV Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
4 Strong’s Concordance, public domain.
5 *Spirit Filled Life Bible®copyright © 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. (The Holy Bible, New King James Bible) copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
6 The Book of Genesis by Chuck Smith © 2012 The Word For Today
7 Ellicott’s Commentary, public domain.
8 Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, public domain.
9 Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, public domain
10 The Names of God Bible (without notes) © 2011 by Baker Publishing Group
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My answers, research, and notes for BSF Bible Study Fellowship questions Genesis Lesson 29 Day 2