Genesis Forty Nine

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Genesis 49:1 And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.

Genesis 49:2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.

Genesis 49:3 Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

Reuben. No prophet, judge, king or other notable leader ever came from Reuben's tribe. He lost his birthright because of incest with his father's concubine.

Genesis 49:4 Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.

Genesis 49:5 Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.

Genesis 49:6 O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall.

Genesis 49:7 Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.

divide them ... and scatter. The tribe of Simeon had an inheritance surrounded by that of Judah except at the south, which opened on the Negev Desert. The tribe of Levi was scattered through all the tribes, having been designated as the priestly tribe because of their opposition to the golden calf (Exodus 32:26).

Genesis 49:8 Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee.

Genesis 49:9 Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?

couched. That is, “crouched down” or “laid down.”

Genesis 49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

not depart from Judah. This important prophecy has been strikingly fulfilled. Although Judah was neither Jacob's firstborn son nor his favorite son nor the son who would produce the priestly tribe, he was the son through whom God would fulfill His promises to Israel and to the world. The leadership, according to Jacob, was to go to Judah, but this did not happen for over six hundred years. Moses came from Levi, Joshua from Ephraim, Gideon from Manasseh, Samson from Dan, Samuel from Ephraim and Saul from Benjamin. But when David finally became king, Judah held the sceptre and did not relinquish it until after Shiloh came. Shiloh, of course, is a name for the Messiah, probably related to the Hebrew word for “peace” (shalom) and meaning in effect “the one who brings peace.”

Genesis 49:11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:

Genesis 49:12 His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.

Genesis 49:13 Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon.

at the haven. The word “at” is only inferred from the context, but could just as well be “toward.” That is Zebulun's interests would lie toward the sea and trade from the sea, whether or not any of her borders would actually lie on the sea coast. The same applies to her northern border, not actually adjacent to Zidon, but with trade from Zidon. She did border in part on the Sea of Galilee, and encompassed the future cities of Cana and Nazareth in Galilee.

Genesis 49:14 Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens:

Issachar. The tribe of Issachar, like their father, was strong physically, but lethargic and led by others.

Genesis 49:15 And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.

Genesis 49:16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.

Genesis 49:17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.

Genesis 49:18 I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.

thy salvation. This is the first mention of the word “salvation” in the Bible. The Hebrew word, yeshua, is actually the same as the name “Jesus.” In the context, Jacob, in giving his prophetic comments concerning Dan, called the tribe “a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward” (Genesis 49:17). The prophecy probably had reference to the fact that it would be the Danites who first introduced the Satanic practice of idolatry into Israel on a regular official basis (Judges 18:30, 31). As he uttered the prophecy, Jacob surely would have recalled the primeval promise of the coming Seed of the woman, whose heel would be bitten by the Serpent (Satan), but who would in turn finally crush the Serpent's head and bring eternal salvation (Genesis 3:15). It was in reference to this Messianic promise that he had just spoken to Judah. It is natural, therefore, that right at this point, he would cry out: “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord!” It might not be out of line to suggest that he was even personifying God's coming salvation and saying: “I have waited for Jesus, O Lord!”

Genesis 49:19 Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.

Gad. Gad's territory was on the east of the Jordan, often attacked by the warlike descendants of Ishmael, Esau and others. However, they were valiant fighters and usually prevailed.

Genesis 49:20 Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.

Asher. Asher's western border was the northern sea coast and the northern border near Sidon of the Phoenicians. These circumstances tended to produce both material prosperity and spiritual degeneracy.

Genesis 49:21 Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.

Naphtali. Barak was probably the greatest leader from the tribe of Naphtali (Judges 4:6), but the tribe as a whole was characterized by both courage and eloquence. Note the song of Deborah and Barak (Judges 5).

Genesis 49:22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:

Genesis 49:23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:

Genesis 49:24 But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)

Genesis 49:25 Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:

Genesis 49:26 The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.

everlasting hills. No hills could be everlasting, of course. The Hebrew word is olam, and is better translated “ancient.” The hills of Canaan presumably dated back some seven hundred years or more to the time of the great Flood.

head of Joseph. It is a significant fulfillment of prophecy that the two sons on whom Jacob pronounced the longest and fullest blessings later became the two dominant tribes in Israel, Judah and Ephraim.

Genesis 49:27 Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.

Benjamin. The future Benjamites would be like a ravenous and successful wolf. In terms of success, such men as King Saul and the Apostle Paul were from Benjamin's tribe. In terms of uncaring rapacity the deplorable actions described in Judges 19, 20 almost resulted in the destruction of the whole tribe.

ravin. To ravin is to “devour,” like a raven.

Genesis 49:28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.

Genesis 49:29 And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,

Genesis 49:30 In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace.

Genesis 49:31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.

Genesis 49:32 The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth.

Genesis 49:33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.