Jacob Blesses His Sons

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In this chapter we find Jacob calling  his sons to his bedside and telling  them what will happen to them in the days ahead (vv. 1-2). The key expression, “In the last days” (v. 1) signifies the last days in prophetic literature (Ezek. 38:16) or points more generally to “the latter days” referenced in Deuteronomy 4:30. Jacob heaps praise upon his firstborn but then announces how Reuben is unstable and has defiled his father’s  bed (vv. 3-4). This was no doubt a reference to Reuben’s adultery with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah (Gen. 35:22) which had taken place forty years before this. The tribe of Reuben never did rise to prominence in Israel and was the first tribe to be carried into captivity (I Chron. 5:26).

Simeon and Levi (vv. 5-7) are dealt with together in light of the fact they were men of uncontrolled anger with disregard for men and animals. God judges them because of their slaughter of the Shechemites (Gen. 34:25-29). They were later divided and scattered. Simeon was swallowed up by Judah (vv. 8-12). The Levites received no actual territory but instead received forty-eight cities scattered among the tribes.

Judah was the one who had been responsible for the sale of Joseph into slavery and had committed fornication against his daughter-in-law, Tamar. However, Jacob said nothing because Judah had repented of these things and they were forgotten. Looking at Judah, Jacob  saw him as a leader (v. 8) and of the royal tribe through which Christ would be born as both the king and the judge of the whole earth (v. 10). Zebulum was the youngest of Leah’s sons (v. 13). Genesis tells us nothing about him except that his tribe would occupy the sea coasts. Issachar was also one of Leah’s sons and would be forced to work for others (vv. 14-15). The circumstances of his birth may have colored his character, for he does not seem to have been an active and aggressive person but one quite content to take a humble place in his family. Yet Jacob spoke of his strength (v. 14) which pictures usefulness.


What do I want to be remembered for? It is interesting to note that when Jacob brings all of his children in before he dies and goes over the past he put value on their character traits.

Genesis 49:1-15 (English Standard Version)

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