Jacob Blesses His Sons
6 Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they please 7 Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.
His name means “hired workman” or “he will bring reward”. His territory was small, but it embraced some of the most fruitful land. This made his life very easy and he got lazy later on becoming a “servant under tribute” to many invaders who were attracted to his land.
Dan – Genesis 49:16-18 16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 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. 18 I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.
Dan was the first of the sons of the two servant maids. Rachel named him Dan which means “be judged” because she felt God had judged her cause. Later Samson, who judged Israel for twenty years was from the tribe of Dan. He was unstable and violent though which might explain the part of the prophecy - an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.
Later there is a strange total omission of Dan’s tribe in the genealogies of 1 Chronicles and Dan is the only tribe not mentioned in Revelation 7.
Gad – Genesis 49:19 “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels.
Gad chose to live where he did, on the east side of Jordan. Together with Reuben he asked for the fertile territory outside the main portion of the Promised Land. Because of how great the land was his tribe continually suffered from hostile people. In later years this land became the main theater of war in the long struggle between Israel and the Syrians. Jacob talks about the warfare, but also the final victory in this prophecy
Asher – Genesis 49:20 “Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king.
Asher’s name means “happy”. Fatness in Scripture is often used to denote happiness or well-being. Like we say “fat and happy”.
God blessed Asher with prosperity. His fertile territory was the red land which sloped to the Phoenician seaboard in the north. Apparently though he never drove the Phoenicians out. Instead he became partner to their rich enterprises and shared the gains of the commerce. He never fought for Israel like some of the tribes did. However later when Solomon was building the temple he sent some of his material blessings – or “delicacies fit for a king.” Later Moses prophesized that Asher would “bathe his feet in oil” – and today the most important pipeline of oil emerges in Asher’s territory.
Naphtali – Genesis 49:21 “Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.
Naphtali means “my struggle”. Jesus spent the greater part of His life teaching within the borders of Naphtali, the land of Gennesaret, Bethsaida, Capernaum and Chorazin. Moses in Deuteronomy calls Naphtali “abounding with the favor of the Lord and full of His blessing.”
Joseph – Genesis 49:22 – 26 “Joseph is a fruitful vine,
a fruitful vine near a spring,
whose branches climb over a wall.
23 With bitterness archers attacked him;
they shot at him with hostility.
24 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,
25 because of your father’s God, who helps you,
because of the Almighty, who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
blessings of the deep springs below,
blessings of the breast and womb.
26 Your father’s blessings are greater
than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
than the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of the prince among his brothers.
Jacob’s prophecy regarding Joseph is divided into two parts. The first is retrospective about Joseph’s fruitfulness. He means that Joseph had a fulfilled life both in regard to personality and accomplishment. His fruitfulness through God’s blessing went “over the wall” in blessings to his own family and other nations.
The archers mentioned were his brothers who threw him in a well and then sold him to slave traders and also Potiphor who threw him in jail. But Jacob describes his victory over suffering in that he was not bitter, discouraged or indulging in self-pity. And he says the secret to that is “God made him strong.” (Only he used other titles for God – Mighty one of Jacob, Shepherd, the Rock of Israel)
Verse 25 is the temporal blessing; rain, springs of water, marriage and children. And verse 26 eternal blessings. “Greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills.” A commentator wrote that Joseph’s life foreshadowed Jesus.
Benjamin – Genesis 49:27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder.”
This seems strange for such a favorite son. Saul and Jonathan were Benjaminites and so was Paul – who actually was like a wolf when he was killing Christians! But who totally turned around. This could be an example like the Levites who started out with a bad prophecy that they turned around.
Genesis 49:28 28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.
All of these sons made up the nation of Israel. With all their faults and failures God used them to be a blessing to the world. The church is made up of individuals too – with all of our faults and failures.