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Jacob Summons His Sons to Come to Him
The words of Jacob show that this chapter is prophetic in character. He will tell his sons what “will befall you in the days to come”, or better, “will befall them in the last of the days”. It is the history of the people of Israel in the end time. Jacob calls his sons to come and listen, both in Gen 49:1 and in Gen 49:2. He demands their full attention. That shows how important it is what he has to say.
He speaks to his sons as “sons of Jacob” and he addresses them as “Israel your father”. He knows his sons in their behavior, the behavior he himself has shown so often. However, he has learned through his struggle with God and the victory he has achieved, to which he owes his name ‘Israel’. He speaks like a father who finally became a victor. In that power he will tell his sons how things will go with them in the future.
Reuben (meaning ‘see, a son’) is the eldest son. Jacob first addresses the word to him. First Jacob speaks at length about the blessings which will be Reuben’s as the firstborn. Jacob first established his natural expectation on him, but he was deceived in his expectation. Reuben does not know how to control his lusts and indulges his father’s wife in lust (Gen 35:22). The high position of Reuben makes his fall all the deeper. He forfeits his birthright.
Jacob recalls this incident that took place about forty years ago. Any sin, including sin of a sexual nature, can be forgiven. Nevertheless, the sin of adultery and fornication often sticks to someone’s life as an indelible stain (Pro 6:32-33).
How much has already been lost in blessing by believers by giving free rein to sexual evil! The blessing of the firstborn is, among other things, strength, a high position (prestige) and a lot of wealth (a double part). It all disappeared with the eruption of its indomitable nature. In Reuben we see the corruption of man. Reuben keeps his rights as a son, but he loses the privilege of the first-born son.
Thus the people of Israel have lost their blessing by letting their corrupt nature run free. They have not as a people respected God but have followed the lusts of their flesh. They have turned their backs on God and committed themselves to the idols.
Simeon and Levi
Jacob has a word about Simeon (meaning ‘heard’) and Levi (meaning ‘attachment’). After Reuben’s sin, which shows the characteristic of corruption, Jacob speaks of the sin of his next two sons. Another characteristic of sin emerges: violence. Jacob refers to the violence of Simeon and Levi in Genesis 34 (Gen 34:5-29). He clearly distances himself from the actions of his sons.
He does not speak to them, but about them in the presence of all his sons. All of us, including ourselves, must learn from it. These two have been brothers in evil. Jacob rejects any connection with them. He does not want to be involved in their council. Jacob will not be in such company, nor do we belong there (Psa 1:1).
He does not protect his children and does not justify their sin, but calls it by its name. He curses their anger and wrath, not them personally. The consequences of their actions do not fail (Gal 6:7-8). Instead of staying together – they have been together in evil – they will be dispersed and scattered in Israel.
Not much will remain of Simeon as a tribe (Num 1:23; Num 26:14; Jos 19:1-9). They will live in the land largely in the midst of Judah. The scattering of Levi is changed into a blessing by the grace of God. By their scattering they come amidst the whole people, so that they can teach the whole people the laws of God.
Jacob speaks about Judah (meaning ‘praise’) in a quite different tone than about his oldest three sons. He mentions only praiseworthy things about Judah, a great contradiction with the first three sons. This is because Judah’s future is closely connected with the Messiah, Who will come forth from Judah. We can see Judah himself here as a type of the Lord Jesus as the Messiah. Therefore Jacob also says more words to him than to the other sons – with the exception of Joseph, for the same reason. All his brothers will praise him, he will take the first place which his eldest brother has lost. Thus Christ takes the first place among His brethren (Rom 8:29; Heb 2:12).
Judah has conquered the enemies. Therefore his brothers praise him. His victorious power is clearly visible in the picture of the lion. Christ is “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah” (Rev 5:5). Judah’s rule will not be temporary, but everlasting: his scepter or ruler’s staff will not depart. When Shiloh (meaning ‘rest bringer’ or ‘peacemaker’) comes, that is, when the Lord Jesus comes as Messiah, his reign will reach its peak. Then even nations will obey him. That will happen in the realm of peace.
The scene with the donkey (Gen 49:11a) is reminiscent of the Lord Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, where that time is experienced for a moment, as it were: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout [in triumph], O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zec 9:9). That time itself, which is the time of the realm of peace, will be characterized by an abundance of joy, of which wine is a picture (Isa 25:6).
The blessing of Judah is concluded with a description of the personal glory of the Lord Jesus (Gen 49:12; cf. Song 5:10-16).
Jacob does not speak a word about Zebulun (meaning ‘dwelling place’) personally. He says only where Zebulun will dwell. We must place what Jacob says about Zebulun in the prophetic perspective Jacob has in mind according to Gen 49:1. After the failure of the three oldest sons, the Messiah appears in Judah. The dominion is given to Him. But when He comes, He is rejected, and Israel is scattered among the nations. This is represented in the picture in Zebulun. The sea is a picture of the nations (Rev 17:15; Isa 17:12-13).
Israel is scattered among the nations, with which the people trade, which is presented in the “ships”. Israel focuses on the nations, which is represented in “his flank” being “toward Sidon” (Isa 23:2). In this fate of Zebulun, and of Israel as a whole, will come a reversal. This reversal has come in a certain sense, when the Lord Jesus goes to dwell there (Mt 4:12-16). Zebulun is also connected with the nations by Matthew. The coming of the Lord Jesus has brought blessing to Israel and the nations. The blessing for Israel has been postponed because they rejected the Lord, but will certainly come when He appears the second time.
What Jacob says about Issachar (meaning ‘wage’), characterizes this son as someone who seeks convenience and advantage, but has to pay a price for it. So it is with Israel after the rejection of the Lord Jesus. Israel went to dwell by the sea, the nations (Zebulun). But it did not stop there. The people have become dependent on the nations. They have become a beast of burden, they are slaves of them (Neh 9:36), while it is God’s purpose that the nations are their slaves (Deu 28:1; 13).
Dan and the Salvation
In the case of Dan (meaning ‘judge’) Jacob speaks about salvation. In Dan a judge, a leader, will rise up to deliver the people from the yoke of the nations. He will use an insidious tactic. This leader, the future king of the Jews, will be inspired by satan, “the serpent of old” (Rev 12:9). This is the antichrist, to whom the word Paul quotes from the mouth of David: “Poison of a viper is under their lips” (Psa 140:3b; Rom 3:13b) applies in full.
Jacob does not express a wish here, but an event. By this we also understand the sigh that Jacob breathes (Gen 49:18). He does not expect “salvation” from Dan, for he is deceitful, but from the LORD Himself. When we consider what we read of Dan in the Scriptures (Lev 24:10-11; Jdg 18:1-31), there seems to be much to suggest that the antichrist will indeed come forth from the tribe of Dan, or perhaps already came forth; who knows, he already lives.
Gad (meaning ‘raiders’, among other things) represents the bravery of the remnant of Israel, who suffer greatly from the terror exercised by the antichrist. When the Lord Jesus comes to bring salvation, He will use this remnant to chase and defeat the enemies, “raiders”, who have made his life so difficult.
With Asher (meaning ‘happy’) only blessing is connected. In the realm of peace that will come when the Lord Jesus has appeared and destroyed the enemies, there will be an abundance of blessing, of rich food (Psa 72:16; Psa 85:12; Hos 2:21-22). Israel will also distribute that blessing to others.
With Naphtali (meaning ‘(my) struggle’) the main idea is freedom, while with Gad and Asher the main idea is respectively victory and abundance of the most delicious food. This freedom is a big difference from Issachar, who goes under a slave yoke. Naphtali is a doe let loose, which testifies to the greatest possible freedom of movement. A doe let loose is not hindered by anything in her fast movement and feels completely free. It is quite a struggle to achieve that freedom.
Spiritually this is also the case. In Romans 7 we see the struggle of the believer and in Romans 8 his freedom. It is also not surprising that this freedom leads to “beautiful words”. See the end of Romans 8 (Rom 8:31-39). Freedom is based only on the work of Christ on the cross. The result is that we want to honor Him with “beautiful words”. Psalm 22 shows both the one, the work of Christ (Psa 22:1-21), and the other, the song of praise (Psa 22:22-31). Once Israel has been delivered from its enemies, they will let hear the hallelujah.
Jacob says most of his words to Joseph (meaning ‘He will add’). It is not surprising that the blessing given by Jacob to Joseph is the greatest of all in content and length. Jacob speaks about all that God has laid aside for Joseph. It is not difficult to see the picture of the Lord Jesus behind Joseph.
Jacob uses some comparisons in connection with Joseph. The first is that of a fruit tree, of which the branches run over a wall. That is Joseph. He bears fruit because he stands by a spring. By drinking from the spring, God Himself, and knowing himself dependent on Him, he bears rich fruit for God (Jer 17:8; Psa 1:3).
Fruit is where there is “a spring” of fellowship and a “wall” of separation. We see this perfectly with the Lord Jesus. Not only does He bear fruit within the walls of the people of Israel, but His fruit is also for everyone outside Israel who believes in Him (Mk 7:24-30; Jn 4:39-42). He also lives in perfect fellowship with His Father.
The second comparison is that of the archer. ”Deadly arrows” were shot at him (Jer 9:8; cf. Eph 6:16b). Remember the treatment of his brothers and the wife of Potiphar. Such arrows were also shot at Christ, whom He answered with arrows from God’s Word: “It is written” (Mt 4:1-10). All our strength to withstand temptations and bear trials comes from God. His grace is enough for us, and His strength is perfected in our weakness.
Joseph answers these arrows with accurate arrows. He reacts in the power of God, Who with His hands strengthens Joseph’s hands. It has sometimes been compared to a small child who wants to carry his father’s heavy suitcase. He cannot lift the suitcase himself. Yet he manages to lift the suitcase because his father’s strong hand goes around his hand and lifts it with his hand.
The names Jacob uses for God show that he has learned a lot about God. By this he knows God’s thoughts about the blessing He wants to give and is also able to give. After all, he is also the “Almighty”!
The blessing is threefold:
1. blessings of heaven above,
2. blessings of the deep that lies beneath and
3. blessings on earth: of the breasts (nutrition) and of the womb (new life).
Jacob sees that the blessing he gives his son goes far beyond the blessings promised to the patriarchs. Everything will come “on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers”. “Distinguished” is literally “separated” or “Nazarite”. This is the third comparison Jacob uses. Here we find for the first time the term “Nazirite”. From Numbers 6 we learn that this is someone who voluntarily devotes himself to God (Num 6:1-21).
The Lord Jesus is the true Nazirite. By Him His brethren, His people, and all the earth shall be blessed in the realm of peace.
Benjamin (meaning ‘son of the right hand’) is a picture of Christ Who returns and destroys all His enemies when He appears in glory. Joseph and Benjamin belong together. We have seen this in the previous chapters. Joseph is a picture of Christ in His humiliation and His exaltation as the Bearer of all the favor of God; Benjamin is a picture of Christ coming back in power and majesty and reigning on earth. We also see a double picture like this in David and Salomon. “The morning” and “the evening” cover the whole day or the whole period of the realm of peace.
Every Tribe Has Its Own Blessing
“Every one with the blessing appropriate to him.” This also applies to Reuben and Simeon and Levi. It may seem strange to speak of blessing in their case. Yet it is a blessing to be pointed to our failure. We can then confess that and then continue with the Lord to be blessed by Him.
Jacob repeats what he said earlier about his burial (Gen 47:30). This clearly shows his faith in the resurrection and that God is the God of the resurrection. His heart is not with what he leaves behind, but with what awaits him in the resurrection. Death does not destroy the promise of life. When Jacob dies, he is gathered to his people. If God’s people are our people, we will be gathered to them by death.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Genesis 49". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20