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.”  And Jacob (having

closed his interview with Joseph and his two sons) called (by means of messengers)

unto his sons (i.e. the others who were then absent), and said, Gather yourselves

together, - the prophet's last utterance must be a public one - that I may tell you

literally, and I will tell you - that which shall befall you - קָרָא, in the sense of

happening or occurring to any one, is here equivalent to קָרָה (compare 42:4, 38) –

in the last days - literally, in the end of the days, not simply in future time

(Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Kalisch), or in the times intervening between the

speaker and the end of the human race (Murphy), but in the last age, the

closing period of time, the era of fulfillment (Kurtz, Hengstenberg), which

era, however, must be judged from the standpoint of the speaker (Baumgarten).

Hence the period must not be restricted to exclusively Messianic times (Rabbi

Nachmanides), ἐπ ἐσχάτῶν τῶν ἡμερῶνep eschaton ton haemeronthe days

to come (Septuagint), in diebus novissimis (Vulgate), but must commence with

what to Jacob was the era of consummation, the days of the conquest

(Baumgarten, Hengstenberg); while, on the other hand, it can as little be

limited to these, but must be held as extending over totum tempus ab exitu

AEgypti ad Christi regnum (Calvin), and even as reaching, though unconsciously

to Jacob, to the very terminus of human history (Keil, Lange).


2 “Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto

Israel your father.”  Gather yourselves together, - the repetition indicates at

once the elevation of the speaker's soul, and the importance, in his mind, of the

impending revelation - and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your

father. The two clauses form a synthetic or synonymous parallel, numerous

illustrations of which are to be found in the succeeding verses.


3 “Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my

strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: 

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.

Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength,

the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: - Jacob's patriarchal

benediction takes the form of an elevated poem, or sublime religious hymn,

exhibiting the well-known classes of parallelism, the synthetic, the antithetic,

and the synonymous, not alone in its separate clauses, but sometimes also in

its stanzas or verses. As was perhaps to be expected, it begins with Reuben,

who is characterized by a threefold designation, viz.,


(1) by his position in the family, as Jacob's firstborn;


(2) by his relation to Jacob, as the patriarch's "might," כּחַ, or robur virile,

and "the beginning" of his "strength," not "of his sorrow" (Vulgate, Aquila,

 Symmachus), though און might be so translated (compare 35:18), and the

sense would sufficiently accord with the allusion of v. 4, but, as required

by the parallelism, "of his vigor," און being here equivalent to כּחַ

(Rosenmuller, Kalisch, Keil, 'Speaker's Commentary,' et alii); and


(3) by the natural prominence which as Jacob's eldest son belonged to him,

"the excellency of dignity" or "elevation," i.e. the dignity of the chieftainship,

and "the excellency of power," or authority, which the first born claimed and

received as his prerogative. Yet the natural advantages enjoyed by Reuben as

Jacob's firstborn were to be taken from him, as the patriarch proceeded to

announce - Unstable as water, - literally, boiling over like water, the import

of which is not effusus es sicut aqua (Vulgate), but either ἐξύβρισας ὡς ὑδωρ

exubrisas hos hudor -  boiling over as water (Septuagint), or lasciviousness

(was to thee) as the boiling of water (Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, &c.),

the same root in Arabic conveying the notion of pride, and in Syriac that of

wantonness – thou shalt not excel; - literally, thou shalt not have the

ישׂנךללךשׂצך רו יֶרֶת (v. 3), i.e. the pre-eminence belonging to the firstborn,

a sense which the versions have more or less successfully expressed: μὴ

περισσεύσηςmae perisseusaes -  (Aquila), οὐκ ἔση περισσότεροςouk

esae perissoteros - (Symmachus), μὴ ἐκζέσης mae ekzesaes - (Septuagint                                                                                                                        ), non crescas (Vulgate) - because thou wentest up to thy father's bed

(see ch. 35:22; I Chronicles 5:1); then defiledst thou it: - the verb is used

absolutely, as meaning that Reuben had desecrated what ought to have been

regarded by him as sacred (compare Deuteronomy 27:20) - he went up to my

couch - literally, my couch he ascends; the order of the words and the change

from the second to the third person helping to give expression to the horror

and indignation with which, even at that distance of time, the venerable

patriarch contemplated the shameful deed.


5 “Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.

6  O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor,

be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they

digged down a wall.  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.”

Simeon and Levi are brethren (not in parentage alone, but also in their deeds;

e.g. their massacre of the Shechemites (ch. 34:25-28), to which undoubtedly the

next words allude); instruments of cruelty are in their habitations - literally,

instruments of violence their מְכֵדֹת, a ἅπαξ λεγόμ (a word used once) which

has been variously rendered:


(1) their dwellings, or habitations (Kimchi, A. V., Calvin, Ainsworth), in the

land of their sojourning (Onkelos), for which, however, there does not seem

to be much authority;


(2) their machinations or wicked counsels, deriving from מָכַר, to string together,

to take in a net, to ensnare (Nahum 3:4), the cognate Arabic root signifying to

deceive or practice stratagems (De Dieu, Schultens, Castelli, Tayler Lewis, etal.);


(3) their betrothals, or compacts of marriage, connecting with the same root

as the preceding in the sense of "binding together" (Dathius, Clericus,

Michaelis, Knobel, Furst, et alii);


(4) their rage, as suggested by the unused root כִּיד, to boil or seethe (Kalisch);


(5) their swords, from כּוּר  = כָּרָה to dig or pierce through, compare μάχαιρα

machairasword (Vulgate, Luther, Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Murphy,

and others). The preponderance of authority appears to be in favor of this last.


O my soul, come not thou into their secret; literally, into their council or

assembly (סוד, from יָסַד, to set or sit) come not, my soul, or my soul shall

not come (compare Proverbs 1:15-16) - unto their assembly, mine honor,

be not thou united: - literally, with or in their assembly or congregation

(קָהֵל from קָהַל, to call together: compare ch.28:3; 35:11; 48:4), mine honor אִישִׁי

or glory (i.e. the soul as being the noblest part of man: Psalm 16:9; 57:9;

108:2 - the term כְּבֹדִי is parallel with the preceding נַפְשִׁי), do not join (Keil),

or shall not join (Kalisch) - for in their anger they slew a man, - literally, man,

a collective, singular for "men," the plural form of אִישׁ occurring rarely;

only in Psalm 141:4; Proverbs 8:4; and Isaiah 53:3 - and in their self will they

digged down a wall - literally, they houghed ox (Septuagint, Gesenius, Furst,

Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Lange, Gerlach, T. Lewis, Murphy, &c., &e.),

the singular שׁור, the plural of which is only found once, in Hosea 12:12,

being retained here to correspond with אִישׁ. The received rendering, which

is not without sanction (Onkelos, Targnm of Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Aquila,

Symmachus, Vulgate, Dathius, Calvin), reads שׁוּר instead of שׁור, and takes

עָקַרin the primary sense of destruere, evertexe. Cursed be their anger, for

 it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: - the second synonym "wrath,"

literally, outpourings, indicates the fullness and intensity of the tide of fury

which by Simeon and Levi was let loose upon the unsuspecting Shechemites

I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. While for the sin

(the deed, not the doers) Jacob has a curse, for the sinners themselves he has

a well-merited chastisement. They had been confederate in their wickedness,

they should in future, when returning to occupy their God. assigned inheritance,

be disjoined. That this prediction was exactly fulfilled Scripture testifies.

At the second census in the wilderness, shortly before the conquest, the tribe

of Simeon had become so reduced in its numbers (reckoning only 22,000 as

against 76,500 in Judah) as to be the smallest of the twelve (Numbers 26:14);

to be passed over entirely in the last blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33.);

to be accorded no independent allotment of territory in Canaan on the

completion of the conquest, having only a few cities granted to it within

the borders of Judah (Joshua 19:1-9); and to be ultimately absorbed in the

more powerful and distinguished tribe under whose protection and tutelage,

so to speak, it had been placed (I Chronicles 4:27). The tribe of Levi also

was deprived of a separate inheritance, receiving only a number of cities

scattered here and there among the possessions of their brethren (Joshua

21:1, 40); and, though by its election to the priesthood the curse may be said

to have been turned into a blessing, yet of this signal honor which was waiting

Levi Jacob was completely silent, showing both that no prophecy was of any

private interpretation (the seer seeing no further than the Holy Spirit helped him),

and that Jacob spoke before the days of Moses. It is almost incredible that a late

writer would have omitted to forecast the latter-day glory of the tribe of Levi;

and this opinion is confirmed by observing the very different strain in which,

after Levi’s calling had been revealed, the benediction of Moses himself

proceeds (Deuteronomy 33:8-11).


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. 

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? 

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.

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: 

12 His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.”

Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise - literally, Judah thou,

will praise thee thy brethren, the word יְהוּדָה being a palpable play on יודוך

(compare ch. 29:35). Leah praised Jehovah for his birth, and his brethren

should extol him for his nobility of character, which even in his acts of sin

could not be entirely obscured (ch.37:26; 38:26), and certainly in his later days

(ch. 43:8; 44:18-34) shone out with undiminished luster. Thy hand shall be in

the neck of thine enemies (i.e. putting his foes to flight, Judah should grasp

them by the neck, a prediction remarkably accomplished in the victories of

David and Solomon); thy father's children shall bow down before thee.

Fulfilled in the elevation of the house of Judah to the throne, which owned

as its subjects not simply Judah's mother's children, i.e. the tribes descended

from Leah, but also his father's, i.e. all the tribes of Israel. Judah is a lion's

whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he

couched down as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?

By a bold and striking figure Judah is compared to a young lion, ripening

into its full strength and ferocity, roaming through the forests in search of prey,

repairing to his mountain den (ἐκ βλάστοῦ ἀνέβηςek blastou anebaes

 Septuagint) when his booty has been devoured, and there in quiet majesty,

full of dignified repose, lying down or crouching in his lair, and calmly

resisting all attempts to disturb his leonine serenity. The effect of the picture

is also heightened by the alternative image of a lioness, which is particularly

fierce in defending its cubs, and which no one would venture to assail when

so employed. The use of such figures to describe a strong and invincible

hero is by no means infrequent in Scripture (see Psalm 7:2; 57:4; Isaiah 5:29;

Ezekiel 19:2-9). The scepter shall not depart from Judah, - literally, a scepter

(i.e. an emblem of regal command, hence dominion or sovereignty; ἅρχων

archon – leader - Septuagint, Theodotion; ἐξουσία - exousiaauthority, power –

Symmachus) shall not depart from Judah - nor a lawgiver from between his feet

literally, and a legislator (shall not depart)from between his feet; מְחֹקֵק, the poel

part of חָקַק, to cut, to cut into, hence to decree, to ordain, having the sense of one

who decrees; hence leader, as in Judges 5:14, dux (Vulgate), ἠγούμενος

aegoumenos -  leader (Septuagint), or lawgiver, as in Deuteronomy 33:21 and

Isaiah 33:22 (Calvin, Dathius, Ainsworth, Rosenmüller, Murphy, Wordsworth,

'Speaker's Commentary'). In view, however, of what appears the requirement

of the parallelism, מְחֹקֵק is regarded as not the person, but the thing, that

determines or rules, and hence as equivalent to the ruler's staff, or marshal's

baton (Gesenius, Furst, Keil, Lange, Bleek, Tuch, Kalisch, and others), in

support of which is claimed the phrase "from between his feet," which is

supposed to point to the Oriental custom, as depicted on the monuments,

of monarchs, when sitting upon their thrones, resting their staves between

their feet (compare Agamemnon, 'Iliad,' 2:46, 101; Layard s 'Nineveh and

Babylon,' p. 195). But the words may likewise signify "from among his

descendants," "from among his children's children" (Onkelos), ἐκ τῶν μηρῶν αὐτοῦ -

ek ton maeron autoufrom between his loins (Septuagint). Until Shiloh come.

This difficult clause has been very variously rendered.


1. Taking Shiloh as the name of a place, viz., Shiloh in Ephraim (Joshua 18:1, 8-10;

Joshua 19:51; Judges 18:31; I Samuel 1:3, 9, 24; 2:14, &c.), the sense has been

explained as meaning that the leadership of Judah over the other tribes of Israel

should not cease until he came to Shiloh (Rabbi Lipmann, Teller, Eichhorn,

Bleek, Furst, Tuch, Delitzsch). But though וַיָּבלֺא שִׁלה, and they came to Shiloh,

a similar phrase, is found in I Samuel 4:12, yet against this interpretation maybe



  1. the improbability of so obscure a locality, whose existence at the time

is also problematical, being mentioned by Jacob, Zidon, the only

other name occurring in the prophecy, having been, even before the

days of Jacob, a city of renown (ch. 10:19); and


  1. the inaccuracy of the historical statement which would thus be made,

since the supremacy of Judah was in no way affected, and certainly

not diminished, by the setting up of the tabernacle in Shiloh; to

obviate which objection Kalisch proposes to read סא עַד כִּי "even if,"

or "even when," and to understand the prediction as intimating that

even though a new empire should be established at Shiloh, as was

eventually done, Judah should not forfeit her royal name and

prerogative - only this sense of עַד כִּי is not clearly recognized by

the best grammarians (Gesenius, Furst), and is not successfully

supported by the passages referred to (ch. 28:15; Psalm 110:1; 112:8),

in every one of which the received rendering "until" is distinctly




2. Regarding Shiloh as an abstract noun, from שָׁלָה to be safe, like גִּלה from גָּלָה,

the import of the prophecy has been expressed as asserting that the scepter

should not depart from Judah, either until he (Judah) should attain to rest

(Hofmann, Kurtz), or until tranquility should come, i.e. until Judah s

enemies should be subdued (Gesenius), an interpretation which Rosenmüller

properly characterizes as "languidum et paine frigidum." Hence:


3. Believing Shiloh to be the name of a person, the majority of commentators,

both Jewish and Christian, and ancient as well as modern, agree that the

MESSIAH is the person referred to, and understand Jacob as fore-announcing

that the time of His appearance would not be till the staff of regal power had

dropped from the hands of Judah; only, the widest possible diversity exists

among those who discover a Messianic reference in the prediction as to the

exact significance of the term Shiloh. Some render it his son, or progeny, or

(great) descendant, from an imaginary root, שִׁל, which, after Chaldee and

Arabic analogies, is supposed to mean "offspring" (Targum of Jonathan,

Kimchi, Calvin, Ainsworth, and others); others, deriving it from שָׁלַח, to send,

compare it with Siloam (John 9:7) and Shiloah (Isaiah 8:6), and interpret it as

qui mittendus est (Vulgate, Pererius, A Lapide, Grotius); a third class of

expositors, connecting it with שָׁלָה, to be safe or at rest, view it us a nomen

appellatum, signifying the Pacificator, the Rest-giver, the Tranquillizer,

the Peace (Luther, Venema, Rosenmüller, Hengstenberg, Keil, Gerlach,

Murphy, &c.); while a fourth resolve it into אֲשֶׁר לו, and conjecture it to

signify, He to whom it (the scepter or the kingdom) belongs, or He whose

right it is, as in Ezekiel 21:27 (Septuagint, ἕως ἐὰν ἔλθῃ τα ἀποκείμενα αὐτῷ -

heos ean elathae ta apokeimena auto – until the One for whom it is reserved;

Aquila and Symmachus, ἀπόκειται; Onkelos, Syriac, Saadias, Targum of

Jerusalem, et alii). It seems indisputable that the preponderance of authority

is in favor of the last two interpretations, and if שִׁילֹה be the correct reading,

instead of שִׁלֹה ( = שֶׁלֹּה  = אֲשֶׁר לו), as the majority of MSS. attest, it will be

difficult to withhold from the former, "the Tranquillizer," the palm of superiority.

The translations of Dathius (quamdiu prolem habebit, ei genres obedient), who

professes to follow Guleher, who understands the words as a prophecy of the

perpetuity of Judah's kingdom, fulfilled in David (II Samuel 7.), and of Lange

("until he himself comes home as the Shiloh or Rest-bringer"), who also discerns

in Judah a typical foreshadowing of the Messiah, may be mentioned as examples

of ingenious, but scarcely convincing, exposition. And unto him shall the gathering

of the people be. Not καὶ αὐτὸς προσδοκία ἐθνῶνkai autos prosdokia ethnon

He the expectation of the nations  (Septuagint), ipse erit expectatio gentium

(Vulgate), with which also agrees the Syriac, or "to him nations will flock"

(Samaritan), σύστημα λαῶνsustaema laoncomposition of people (Aquila),

but to Him, i.e. Shiloh, will be not aggregatio populorum (Calvin), but the

submission or willing obedience (a word occurring elsewhere only in Proverbs

30:17) of nations or peoples (Onkelos, Targum of Jonathan, Kimchi, Aben Ezra,

Dathius, Rosenmuller, Keil, Kalisch, Gerlach, Murphy, Tayler Lewis, 'Speaker's

Commentary'). Binding his foal unto the vine, i.e. not Shiloh, but Judah. The verb

אֹסְרִי has the archaic י appended, as in ch. 31:39; Deuteronomy 33:16; Zechariah

11:17 - and his ass's colt unto the choice vine. The שׂרֵקַה (fem. of שׂרֵק) was a

nobler kind of vine which grew in Syria, with small berries, roundish and of a

dark color, with soft and hardly perceptible stones (Gesenius, p. 796). בְּנִי is an

archaic form of the construct state which occurs only here. He washed his

 garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. The word סוּת is a

ἅπαξ λεγόμενον(used once), and is either put by aphaeresis (the loss of a

sound or sounds at the beginning of a word), for כּסוּת which occurs in the

Samaritan Version, or is derived from סָוָה, an uncertain root, signifying to

cover (Gesenius, Kalisch). His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth

 white with milk. Otherwise rendered "redder than wine," and "whiter than

milk" (Septuagint, Vulgate, Targum of Jerusalem, et alii), as a description of

Judah's person, which scarcely seems so appropriate as the received translation

(Calvin, Rosenmuller, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Lange, and others), which,

completes the preceding picture of Judah s prosperity. Not only would Judah’s

soil be so fertile that its vines should be employed for tying asses and colts to

their branches, but the grapes of those vines should be so plentiful and luscious

as to make wine run like the water in which he washed his clothes, while the

wine and milk should be so exhilarating and invigorating as to impart a sparkling

brilliance to the eyes and a charming whiteness to the teeth. The aged prophet,

it has been appropriately remarked, has here no thought of debauchery, but only

paints before the mind's eye a picture of the richest and most ornate enjoyment

(Lange). Minime consentaneum esse videtur profusam intemperiem et projectionem

in benedictione censeri (Calvin).




The Coming of Shiloh (v. 10)


Remarkable agreement of ancient interpreters, Jewish as well as Christian,

to consider this a prophecy of Messiah. The former of special value, as

being before the event. The Targum of Onkelos renders the passage, “until

Messiah comes, whose is the kingdom.” Many others equally distinct.

Some have observed that the words, Shiloh shall come,” make in Hebrew

the same number as the name “Messiah.” Ancient Christian writers all take

the same view. The name Shiloh expresses rest or peace. Observe how this

answers THE NEED OF MAN! Sin brought the curse of labor (ch.  3:17-19),

and unrest (Isaiah 57:20-21), and want of peace. Hence the frequent mention

of rest, which, however, was only typical and temporary (Hebrews 4:8).

Hence the common salutation, “Peace be unto you.” And rest and peace are

ours through THE COMING OF CHRIST!  (Matthew 11:28; John 10:28;

Romans 8:38-39).



OF CHRIST.  The moral law convincing of sin (Galatians 3:24). The

ceremonial law foreshadowing restoration (Hebrews 10:1).; the

prophets declaring God’s purpose, and the person and work of Christ; the

dispersion by the captivity, bringing the people into contact with other

nations, and thus preparing for a universal Church; their sufferings and

state of subjection after their return, keeping alive the expectation of

“Messiah, the prince.”  (Daniel 9:25)



CHRIST. The colonizing instinct of the Greeks making their language

almost universal; the contact of Greek and Jewish learning at Alexandria

and elsewhere, by which the heathen language was made capable of

expressing DIVINE TRUTH, the widespread power and organization of the

Romans, by which in so many ways the fulfillment of prophecy was

brought about (Luke 2:1; John 19:36-37).




Ø      To gather all nations unto Himself (Isaiah 2:2-3; John 11:52; 12:32).


Ø      To redeem mankind, both Jews and Gentiles (Psalm 49:15; Isaiah

35:4-10; John 10:16; Galatians 4:5).


Ø      To bear the sins of mankind (Isaiah 53:11-12; II Corinthians 5:14;

I Peter 2:24).


Ø      To teach His people the way of life (Deuteronomy 18:15; Matthew

11:27; John 4:25).


Ø      To reign over His people (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 11:15).


Ø      To give them victory (Psalm 44:5; I John 5:4; Revelation 12:11).


  • LESSON OF ENCOURAGEMENT. Why doubt God’s acceptance of

thee? or His readiness to help? Mark His desire that all should be saved

(Ezekiel 18:32; I Timothy 2:4). Mark how this is the ruling

principle running through the whole Bible. The work of Christ was no

newly devised thing, but “that which was from the beginning” (I Peter

1:20). All our imperfections, all our weakness of faith is known to God, yet

such as we are, He bids us trust in Christ’s work. Judah himself was a very

imperfect character. His descendants not less so. Yet of them the text was

spoken. “Be not afraid, only believe.”




Judah’s Portion (vs. 8-12)


“Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise,” etc. This dying vision

and the utterances of the dying patriarch seem in harmony with all the

surroundings in this part of the sacred record. The aged Jacob is dying. He

has passed through such changes, such trials and successes, has had such

seasons of depression and of exultation, but now his soul is filled with

rapture at what will be the future of his children. He saw how he would

live in his children, A man should not be indifferent to his name dying out.

Some are, but only such as are not of intense nature. As a man nearing the

close of life, great importance was attached, by his son, to his utterances.

On a farewell festive occasion, Isaac partook of venison before giving his

blessing to Jacob and Esau. Jacob called all his sons together, as he was

dying, and seems to have had supernatural strength given to utter so many

and distinct prophecies. He knew the individual character of his sons, and

so could better foretell, almost apart from Divine inspiration, what would

be their future. The words uttered on the borders of the other land seemed

necessarily inspired. Such a man as Jacob would no more pass away, if

possible, without such utterances, than would a millionaire think of dying

without a will. No mere offspring of a disordered brain, or over-excited

imagination, were these words. They were actual prophecies. Jacob was

not only a patriarch, but a prophet. He speaks under the influence of the

God of his fathers (ch. 48:15), and the future bore out what he had

foretold. We wish to consider chiefly the utterances concerning one tribe,



  • A PROPHECY OF POWER. His enemies were “to flee before him,”

&c. As victor he lays his hands on their necks, that they may be subject and

yet live. His brethren were to acknowledge his power. He is to be as a

young lion in agility, and as an old lion with the strength of years

remaining, whom none will dare to anger. All this seems to be the

glorification of mere physical power. Spiritual power is to be desired above

the physical. And THIS WE HAVE IN CHRIST!


  • A PROPHECY OF PRECEDENCY. Jacob seems to have come at last

upon the one for whom he was seeking. He speaks of Judah as one whom

his brethren shall praise. This is said to be “a play upon the name, Judah, as

meaning one who is celebrated.” And the name of Judah was accepted

afterwards by the whole nation. We should have thought that if the

firstborn, Reuben, had not been placed first, Joseph would have been.

Judah’s character, however, was more noble in some things even than that

of Joseph. He did not delight in the wrong-doing of the brethren. Jacob

may in his mind have blamed Joseph, in that he had not sought to know

whether his father was alive before circumstances of death drove him to

know of his still being alive. Judah was always ever ready to sacrifice

himself, to be bound for his brother. There seems to have been much that

was noble in him. Hence, we can understand, in a measure, the precedency

accorded to him. Precedency is not to be sought for its own sake. It is then

only another form of vanity. When precedency is forced on men, it is

because their worth and their usefulness to others is recognized by others,

although not by themselves. How remarkable it is that God often selected

the younger before the elder, e.g. Abel, Jacob, Moses, David. Judah is

taken before Reuben. A lesson evidently taught in this, viz., that God is no

respecter of persons, that He seeth not as man seeth, that the course of

spiritual feeling does not always follow the line of birth.


  • PROPHECY OF PERMANENCY. This permanency was

comparative in one sense and actual in another. Judah lasted longer than

any of the tribes as a distinct power, and, since Christ came of that tribe,

may be said to be permanent still. Who thinks of Naphtali, or Zebulun, or

Issachar? but Judah is a name most familiar. The “scepter” is the sheik’s

staff, which, like a marshal’s baton, indicates his right to lead. Judah was to

lead, and to give the law until Shiloh came; and he did. Shiloh evidently

points to the Messiah. It is a mystic name (compare ch.48:16; Psalm 9:6;

11:1). Some render this passage, “Until he [Judah] comes as

the rest-giver;” others, “until he comes to whom it belongs.” Christ is the

only rightful rest-giver, AND TO HIM ALONE BELONGS ALL HONOR

AND PRAISE! We see that the aim of God with respect to the descendants of

Jacob was to provide a race which should keep alive a knowledge of God in the

world until the Messiah should come. When that race had fulfilled this mission,

it dropped into line with the rest of the nations. It is no longer to lead. We

see that as ten tribes were broken off by Jeroboam from Judah, they were

carried captive by the Assyrians, and with that nation SWALLOWED UP

IN OBLIVION, never, probably, to be known of again. And so with the Jews;

they no longer lead. Although still retaining much that is distinctive, they

will gradually, we believe, assimilate with other nations, and, accepting

Christ, be one with other Christians in that ONE FOLD OF MERCY

He has provided. Christ unites us to God and to others, breaks clown

middle walls of partition, gives to us also “life eternal,” so that when this

life shall fail, we shall be received into “everlasting habitations” (Luke

16:9, and know as real a permanency as that of Judah.


  • PROPHECY OF PROSPERITY. In the eleventh verse, Jacob

indicates the sort of territory Judah will have, — one rich in vineyards and

olive yards. He foretells his prosperity during the period intervening

between the prophecy and the advent of Shiloh. The twelfth verse means,

that “his eyes should be redder than wine,” i.e. brilliant with joy. The

words “white as milk” refer to purity as well as prosperity. Both are found

IN CHRIST!  True joy and purity shall draw souls to Christ. “Unto him shall

the gathering of the people be.” His truth has “the promise of the life that

now is, and of that which is to come.” (I Timothy 4:8)  How much that is

foretold of Judah is only typical of Jesus. He is the true conqueror, ruler,

object of praise. He is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5),

the “desire of all nations” (Haggai 2:7), the one who if lifted up would

draw all unto Him (John 12:32), the one in whom all the children of God

are to be gathered in one (ibid. 11:52).


  • LEARN:


1. We find much to confirm faith in the way in which the prophecy of

    Jacob was fulfilled.

2. We find much to lead us to seek to be in Christ, through whom Judah

    obtained such blessings antecedently.

3. We find something to lead us to ask as to whether we have grown in

     purity, power, and whether our souls prosper and are in health.


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.”   Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of

the sea; - not παρ ὅρμον πλοίωνpar hormon ploionfor a haven of ships

(Septuagint), in statione navium (Vulgate), but to, or at, or beside, the shore (from

the idea of being washed by the waters of the ocean) of the waters, i.e. of the

Galilean and Mediterranean seas - and he shall be for an haven of ships; - literally,

and he to, at, or on, a shore of ships, i.e. a shore where ships are unloaded (shall dwell),

the words being a repetition of the previous thought, with only the expansion,

suggested by the term ships, that Zebulun's calling should be in the direction of

commerce; - and his border shall be unto Zidon - literally, and his side, or hinder

part (shall be, or extend), towards, rather than unto, - usque ad (Vulgate), ἕωςheos

(Septuagint), - Zidon, since the territory subsequently allotted to Zebulun neither

actually touched the Mediterranean, nor reached to Zidon - a circumstance that may

be noted as an indirect hint that this prophecy was not spoken, or even first written,

after the occupation of the land.


14 Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens:  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.”  Issachar is a strong ass couching

down between two burdens - literally, an ass of bone - hence a strong, powerful

animal, asinus fortis (Vulgate), asinus walidi corporis (Gesenius), asinus robustus

(Rosenmuller) - lying down between the folds, or cattle-pens, which received and

protected the flocks by night, the dual being used probably because such pens

were divided into two parts for different kinds of cattle (Gesenius, Keil, Kalisch,

Murphy, 'Speaker s Commentary,' &c.), though the word mishpetaim has been

also rendered ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν κλήρων ana meson ton klaeronlying down

between the saddlebags (Sepptuagint), inter terminos (Vulgate, Rosenmüller),

"within their own boundaries" (Onkelos, Targums of Jerusalem and Jonathan),

"between two burdens" (Authorized Version, Lange, Murphy, &c.). And he saw

that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant. Issachar was to manifest a

keen appreciation of the land or portion of territory that should be assigned to

him, and to renounce the warlike spirit and military enterprises of his brethren

for the indolent and luxurious repose of his fat pastures, crouching between his

sheep-folds, or rejoicing within his tents, like a lazy ass, capable indeed of mighty

efforts, but too self-satisfied to put forth much exertion, devoting himself to

agriculture and pastoral pursuits, and preferring rather to pay tribute to his

brethren, in order to secure their protection, than to leave his ploughshare and

cast aside his shepherd's crook to follow them into the tented field of war, as the

patriarch next describes. And bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant

 unto tribute - or a tributary servant. The phrase מַס־עֹבֵד, though sometimes used

of servitude under a foreign sovereignty (Deuteronomy 20:11; Joshua 16:10),

commonly refers to tribute rendered by labor (I Kings 9:21; II Chronicles 8:8),

and is correctly rendered ἄνθρωπος εἴς φόρον δουλεύων - anthropos eis phoron

douleuona man that becomes a servant to tribute (Aquila), factusque est tributo

serviens (Vulgate). The translation καὶ ἐγενήθη ἀνὴο γεωργος  - kai egenaethae

anaeo georgosand becomes a servant doing forced labor (Septuagint) discovers

in the clause an allusion to Issachar's agricultural pursuits.


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 shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. With a play upon his name,

the firstborn son of Rachel's handmaid, Bilhah, is described as one who should

occupy an important place and exercise highly beneficial functions in the future

commonwealth, enjoying independence and self-government as one of the tribes

of Israel (Herder, and others), and performing the office of an administrator among

the people not of his own tribe merely, but also of all Israel, a prediction pointing

perhaps to the transient supremacy enjoyed by Dan over the other tribes in the days

of Samson (Onkelos, et alii). 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. The שְׁפִיפון,

from the Syriac שֶׁפַפ, to glide (Gesenins), from שׁוּפ, to sting (Kalisch), שָׁפַפ, to bite

(Furst), was the horned serpent, cerastes, of the color of sand, and marked with white

and black spots, which was exceedingly dangerous to passers; by, its bite being

poisonous and fatal. The allusion has been almost unanimously explained as pointing

to Samson (Judges 16:28), but the tribe in general appears not to have been entirely

destitute of the treacherous and formidable characteristics here depicted (Judges 18:27).

"It is certainly observable that the first introduction of idolatry in Israel is ascribed to

the tribe of Dan (Judges 18.), and that in the numbering of the tribes in Revelation 7.

the name of Dan is omitted. From these or other causes many of the Fathers (Irenaeus,

Ambrose, Augustine, Theodoret) were led to believe that Antichrist should spring

 from the tribe of Dan" ('Speaker's Commentary'). I have waited for thy salvation,

O Lord. To discover in this beautiful and tender ejaculation of the dying patriarch

an apprehensive sigh lest his strength should be exhausted before his benediction

was completed (Tuch), or a prayer that God might speedily effect his painless

dissolution (Hengstenberg), or a device for dividing his benedictions, and

separating the group of Judah from that of Joseph (Lange), is surely to fail in

seizing its hidden spirit. It is doubtful if even the usual interpretation, that Jacob

here expresses his hope and expectation that God would help and succor his

descendants (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, and others), exhausts its

rich significance. That, speaking in their name, he does anticipate the deliverance

of Jehovah" In thy help do I hope, O Jehovah! - is apparent; but nothing surely can

be more natural than to suppose that the dying patriarch, at the moment when he

was formally transmitting to his children the theocratic blessing, had his thoughts

lifted up towards that great salvation, of which all these material and temporal

benedictions pronounced upon his sons were but the shadows and the types,

and of which perhaps he had been incidentally reminded by the mention of the

biting serpent, to which he had just likened Dan ('Speaker's Commentary').

It is noticeable that this is the first occurrence of the term salvation (יְשׁוּעָח,

from the root יָשַׁע, unused in Kal, to be roomy or spacious, hence in the Hiphil

to set free or deliver).



God’s Salvation (v. 18)


  • WHAT IT IS. Deliverance:


Ø      from evil,

Ø      succor against foes,

Ø      victory over sin and death.


  • WHENCE IT COMES. The primal fountain is Jehovah, the covenant

God of the believer. The salvation of the gospel is God’s in its original

conception and proclamation, in its subsequent procurement and donation,

in its ultimate development and consummation.


  • HOW IT IS OBTAINED. Not by merit, or by works, but by

believing, and waiting, and hoping.


Ø      “He that believeth shall be saved.”  (Mark 16:16)

Ø      “The Lord loveth them that hope in his mercy.”  (Psalm 147:11)

Ø      “It is good for a man both to hope, and to quietly wait for

the salvation of the Lord.”  (Lamentations 3:27)




A Dying Saint’s Exercise (v. 18)


  • ADORATION. “O Lord!” Jehovah the God of redemption, the supreme

object of worship.


  • MEDITATION. “Thy salvation!” What a theme for the thoughts to

dwell on GOD’S SALVATION in:


Ø      its origin,

Ø      its greatness, and

Ø      its freeness.


  • EXPECTATION. “For thy salvation do I hope.” Hope is the

expectation of future good, and presupposes faith as its ground-work

and support.


19 “Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.”

The threefold alliteration of the original, which is lost in the received translation,

may be thus expressed: "Gad - a press presses him, but he presses the heel' (Keil);

or, "troops shall troop on him, but he shall troop on their retreat' ('Speaker's

Commentary'). The language refers to attacks of nomadic tribes which would

harass and annoy the Gadites, but which they would successfully repel.


20 “Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.”

Literally, dainties of, or for, the king. The first clause may be otherwise rendered:

Of Asher the bread shall be fat (Kalisch); fat shall be his bread (Murphy); Out of

Asher (cometh) fat his bread (Keil). The import of the blessing is that Asher should

possess a specially productive soil.


21 Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.”  The Septuagint, followed

by Dathe, Michaelis, Ewald, Bohlen, and others, read, Naphtali is a tall terebinth, that

putteth forth beautiful boughs; but the word אַיָלָה signifies a hind or gazelle, and is

here employed, along with the qualifying epithet שְּׁלֻחָה, let loose, running freely

(Keil), or graceful (Kalisch), to depict Naphtali as a beautiful and agile warrior.

In the appended clause he is represented as possessing in addition the capacity

of "giving words of beauty," in which may be detected an allusion to the

development in eloquence and song which afterwards took place in that

northern tribe (Judges 4:6-9; 5:1-31).


22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches

run over the wall:  23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him,

and hated him.  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:)  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.  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.”  Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough

by a well; whose branches run over the wall - literally, son of a fruit tree, Joseph;

son of a fruit tree at the well; daughters run (each one of them: vide Gesenius,

'Grammar,' § 146, 4) over the wall. The structure of the clauses, the order of the

words, the repetition of the thoughts, supply a glimpse into the fond emotion

with which the aged prophet approached the blessing of his beloved son Joseph.

Under the image of a fruit tree, probably a vine, as in Psalm 80, planted by a well,

whence it draws forth necessary moisture, and, sending forth its young twigs or

offshoots over the supporting walls, he pictures the fruitfulness and prosperity

which should afterwards attend the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, as the

twofold representative of Joseph, with perhaps a backward glance at the service

which Joseph had performed in Egypt by gathering up and dispensing the

produce of the land for the salvation of his family and people. The archers have

 sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him - literally, they provoked him,

and shot at, and laid snares for him, masters of arrows, though Kalisch translates וָרֹבוּ,

and they assembled in multitudes, which yields a sense sufficiently clear. It is

sometimes alleged (Keil, Lange, 'Speaker's Commentary') that the words contain

no allusion to the personal history of Joseph, but solely to the later fortunes of the

tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh; but even if they do point to the subsequent

hostilities which Joseph's descendants should incur (Joshua 17:16-18; Judges 12:4-6),

it is almost morally certain that the image of the shooting archers which he selects

to depict their adversaries was suggested to his mind by the early lot of his beloved

son (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Gerlach, Murphy, and others). But his bow

abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of

the mighty God of Jacob. Notwithstanding the multitudinous and fierce assaults

which had been made on Joseph, he had risen superior to his adversaries; his bow

had continued firm and unbroken (compare I Samuel 2:4; Job 12:19; 33:19), and

his arms had been rendered active and flexible - neither ἐξελύθη τὰ νεῦρα βραχιόνων

χειρὸς αὐτῶνexeluthae ta neura brachionon cheiros autongave up the bow string

of their arms (Septuagint), dissoluta sunt vincula brachiorum et manuum (Vulgate),

as if Joseph s enemies were the subjects referred to; nor, "Therefore gold was placed

upon his arms (Onkelos, Raehi, and others), referring to the gift of Pharaoh's ring –

by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, i.e. God, who had proved Himself to be

Jacob's Mighty One by the powerful protection vouchsafed to His servant The title

here ascribed to God occurs afterwards in Isaiah 1:24. From thence is the shepherd,

the stone of Israel. If the clause is parenthetical, it may signify either that from the

time of Joseph's exaltation he became the shepherd (who sustained) and the stone

of (i.e. the rock which supported) Israel (Oleaster); or that from God, the Mighty One

of Jacob, Joseph received strength to become the shepherd and stone of Israel

(Pererius, Ainsworth, Lawson, Patrick, and others), in which capacity he served as

a prefiguration of the Good Shepherd who was also to become the Rock or

Foundation of His Church (Calvin, Pererius, Candiish, &c.); but if the clause is

rather co-ordinate with that which precedes and that which follows, as the

introductory particle מִן appears to suggest, then the words "shepherd and stone

of Israel" will apply to God, and the sentiment will be that the hands of Joseph

were made strong from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, from there (i.e.

from there where is, or from Him who is) the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel

(Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Gerlach, Lange, et alii). Even by the God of thy father,

who shall help thee (literally, from the (led of thy father, and he shall help thee,

i.e. who shall help thee); and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee - literally,

 and with (the aid of) the Almighty, and He shall bless thee. It is unnecessary to

change וְאֵת into וְאֵל (Septuagint, Vulgate, Samaritan, Syriac, Ewald), or to insert

מִן before אֵת, as thus, מֵאֵת (Knobel, Rosenmüller, Kalisch), since אֵת may be

understood here, as in ch. 4:1; 5:24, in the sense of helpful communion (Keil) –

with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings

of the breasts, and of the womb. "From the God of Jacob, and by the help of the

Almighty, should the rain and dew of heaven (ch.27:28), and fountains and brooks

which spring from the great deep or the abyss of the earth, pour their fertilizing

waters over Joseph's land, so that everything that had womb and breast should

become pregnant, bring forth and suckle" (Keil). The blessings of thy father have

prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the

everlasting hills. The meaning is, according to this rendering, which some adopt

(the Targums, Vulgate, Syriac, Saadias, Rosenmüller, Lange, Murphy, et alii),

that the blessings which Jacob pronounced upon Joseph surpassed those which

he himself had received from Abraham and Isaac, either as far as the primary

mountains towered above the earth (Keil, Murphy), or, while exceeding the

benedictions of his ancestors, those now delivered by himself would last while

the hills endured (Rosenmüller, 'Speaker's Commentary'). But the words may

be otherwise rendered: "The blessings of thy father prevail over, are mightier

than the blessings of the mountains of eternity, the delight, or glory, or loveliness

of the hills of eternity (Septuagint, Dathe, Michaelis, Gesenius, Bohlen, Kalisch,

Gerlach, and others); and in favor of this may be adduced the beautiful parallelism

between the last two clauses, which the received translation overlooks. They shall

be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate

from his brethren - literally, of him, the separated (from nazar, to separate) from

his brethren (Onkelos, Rashi, Rosenmüller, Keil, and others), though by some

different renderings are preferred, as, e.g., the crowned among his brethren

(Septuagint, Syriac, Targum of Jerusalem, Kimchi, Kalisch, Gerlach), taking nazir

to signify he who wears the nezer, or royal diadem.




The Separated One, or Joseph a Type of Christ (v. 26)


Joseph was separated from his brethren:


  • IN HIS FATHER’S AFFECTIONS. Jacob loved him more than any of

his other sons. So was Christ the only-begotten and well-beloved Son of

the Father.


  • IN HIS PERSONAL CHARACTER. Joseph brought unto Jacob the

evil report that he heard circulating about his brethren, thus proving that he

had no sympathy with their wicked ways. So Christ was holy, harmless,

undefiled, and separate from Sinners.”  (Hebrews 7:26)



above his brethren in being made the recipient of dreams, and the

depositary, as it were, of Divine secrets. And Christ received not the Spirit

by measure, so that of Him it could be said, No man knoweth the Father but

the Son.....and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him!  (Matthew 11:27)

(Make sure you know Him today! - CY – 2019)


  • IN HIS EVIL FORTUNES. Joseph was hated, sold, and practically

given over to death by his brethren. So was Christ not only despised and

rejected by his brethren, but separated from all mankind in the character of

His sufferings and death.  (Isaiah  53:3)


  • IN HIS FUTURE EXALTATION. Joseph became the governor of

Egypt, and the savior of his family. And Christ after His resurrection was

exalted to be a Prince, and a SAVIOR FOR ALL MANKIND!


27 “Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf (literally, a wolf, he shall tear in pieces):

in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.”

The prediction alludes to the warlike character of the tribe of Benjamin, which was

manifested in Ehud the judge (Judges 3:15), and Saul the king of Israel (1 Samuel

11:6-11; 14:13, 15, 47-48), who both sprang from Rachel's younger son.


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.”

The underlying thought is that in blessing his sons Jacob was really blessing the future

tribes and every one received his own appropriate benediction.


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,  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. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his

wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.” 

And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people

(see on ch. 15:15): bury me with my fathers – thus laying on them the injunction

he had previously, with the super-added solemnity of an oath, laid on Joseph

(ch. 47:29-31) - in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 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 burying-place (see ch. 23:16-20). Jacob had learned from his father and had

carefully preserved all the details relating to the purchase of their family sepulcher.

There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah

his wife; and there I buried Leah. From this it would appear that Leah had not

descended into Egypt.


32 “The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children

of Heth.  33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered

up his feet into the bed(having on the arrival of Joseph strengthened himself and sat up

upon the bed, probably with his feet overhanging its edge) , and yielded up the ghost,

and was gathered unto his people.” (See on ch. 25:8; 35:29).





The Patriarchal Blessing, or the Last Words of Jacob

                                    (vs. 1-33)




Ø      The blessing on Reuben.


o        A declaration of Reuben s natural precedence, as the first-born in

Jacob’s family, the beginning of Jacob’s strength, and therefore the

legitimate heir of Jacob’s house.

o        A proclamation of Reuben’s deposition from this honorable position:

“Boiling as water, thou shalt not have the precedence,” i.e. the

birthright is taken from thee, and assigned to another.

o        A statement of Reuben’s sin, as the reason of this forfeiture of the

firstborn’s place: “because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed: then

defiledst thou it; he went up to my couch.”


Ø      The blessings on Simeon and Levi. It is only by a species of irony that

the words pronounced on the authors of the Shechem massacre can be

styled a blessing.


o        The patriarch expresses his abhorrence of their atrocious wickedness,

describing them with a refined sarcasm as brethren, confederates in sin

as wel as the offspring of common parents, characterizing their swords,

or their compacts, or their rage, or their machinations, according to the

translation adopted, as instruments of violence, and shudderingly

recoiling from the least association with two such reckless murderers,

who in their wrathful fury spared neither man nor beast: “Man they

slew, and ox they houghed.”

o        He pronounces a solemn curse upon their sin. Not upon themselves, it

is noticeable, but upon their deed, meaning that while God might

mercifully pardon transgressors such as they had been, he could not

do otherwise than reveal His wrath against appalling wickedness like


o        He allots to them a punishment appropriate to their offence: “I will

divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.”


Ø      The blessing upon Judah. Recalling probably the part which his fourth

son had played with reference to Benjamin, Jacob fervently declares that

Judah should be:


o        The admiration of his brethren: Judah, thou art he whom thy

brethren shall praise;” and “thy father’s children shall bow down

unto thee.”

o        The terror of his foes: “thy hand shall be in the neck of thine

enemies;” “Judah is a lion’s whelp,” &c.

o        The ancestor of the Messiah, whose character he defines by the term

Shiloh, whose advent he marks by the time: “The scepter shall not

depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver (or ruler s staff) from between

his feet, until Shiloh come;” and the result of his appearance:

“unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”

o        The possessor of a prosperous domain, whose vine-trees should be

abundant, and whose pasture grounds should be fertile.


Ø      The blessing on Zebulun. With allusion to the import of his name, Jacob

prophesies that Leah s sixth son should be the ancestor of a flourishing

community devoted to commercial pursuits, with a territory reaching

towards the sea-coast, where ships should come to load and unload their

cargoes of merchandise.


Ø      The blessing on Issachar. The last mentioned son of Leah, though the

fifth in the order of birth, the patriarch predicts should develop into a

powerful and sagacious tribe, capable of great exertion and warlike

achievements, but addicted to pastoral pursuits, and so fond of luxuriant

repose, that for the sake of resting among his sheepfolds and in his fat

meadows he should be willing to fulfill the mute anticipation of his name,

and render tribute to his more heroic brethren.




Ø      The blessing on Dan. Dan was the firstborn of Bilhah, the maid of

Rachel; and concerning him the patriarch announces —


o        That though the child of a secondary wife, his descendants should

attain to the position of an independent and self-governing tribe” —

o        That if not as a tribe, yet as individuals, and if not permanently, yet

occasionally, they should manifest the qualities of sudden, unexpected,

and even treacherous attack that were so remarkably characteristic of

the horned serpent;

o        That he should enjoy, in all the perils to which he might in future be

exposed, the gracious succor of Jehovah — a thought which appears

to elevate the speaker’s soul to the contemplation of another and

higher keeper, who was yet to come to heal the fatal bite of that

great serpent the Devil, who had injected his mortal virus into the race.


Ø      The blessing on Gad. The firstborn of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid, obtains

the next place in the order of the sons, and concerning him it is declared

with a threefold play upon his name, which signifies a troop, that:


o       He will be sore pressed on every side by troops of marauding

foes; but that;

o       He will in the end prove himself to be victorious over the

fiercest and the boldest.


Ø      The blessing on Asher. The happy one should be the occupier of a

territory exceeding fertile, and capable of yielding rich and dainty

fruits for royal tables.


Ø      The blessing on Naphtali. Naphtali was Bilhah’s child, which Rachel

named in honor of her triumphant wrestling or contending with her sister;

and for him were reserved the gifts of a graceful exterior, agile

movements, and attractive speech both in eloquence and song.




Ø      The blessing on Joseph. With a fullness and tenderness of paternal

emotion like that with which already he had spoken of Judah, the expiring

patriarch declares the fortunes of Joseph, setting forth;


o        The general prosperity that awaited him, representing him as the son

(or offshoot) of a fruit-tree planted by a well, and rushing up into such

luxuriance of growth that its branches (or daughters) overhung the

walls that gave it support;

o        The severe adversity to which in early years he had been exposed, and

of which in future his descendants should have experience, comparing

him to one whom the archers shot at and hated, and fiercely persecuted;

o        The heavenly succor which had enabled him to overcome his bitter

trials, and which would yet advance his children to safety, viz., the

assistance of the mighty God of Jacob, the Shepherd and Stone of

Israel, the God of his fathers Abraham and Isaac;

o        The wealth of Benediction that should descend upon the head of him

who had been separated from his brethren, viz.:


§         blessings of heaven above,

§         blessings of the deep that lieth under,

§         blessings of the breasts and of the womb,

§         blessings that should surpass those bestowed on

any of his progenitors, or,


according to the more correct rendering, that should outlast the

everlasting hills.


Ø      The blessing on Benjamin. Though latest born of Jacob’s family, he

should not be the least important,, but should show himself possessed of a

warlike and adventurous disposition, causing him with eagerness and

animation to take the field against the foe, and to desist not from battle till

he could lead back his legions as rejoicing conquerors, enriched with the

spoils of glorious victory.


  • LEARN:


1. That God is the Great Arbiter of human destiny.

2. That each man’s sphere in life, as well as each nation’s place on earth, is

    adapted to his or its peculiar character.

3. That though fore-appointed and fore-known, the destinies of men and

    nations are freely wrought out by themselves. And:

4. That in Providence as well as Grace, it often happens that the first

    becomes last, and the last first.




Last Words (vs. 1-33)


Jacob’s benediction on his sons was a prophetic treasure, to be kept in

store by future generations, and a foundation on which much faith could

afterwards be built.. It has been called “the last full bloom of patriarchal

prophecy and theocratic promise.” The central point, the blessing on the

royal tribe of Judah. The corresponding eminence being given to Joseph.

The Israel blessing to the one, the Jacob blessing to the other. In each case

we distinguish:


1. The earthly basis of the blessing in the tribe itself.

2. The nearest fulfillments of it in the temporal history.

3. The symbolical import pointing to a remoter fulfillment.


We may compare the many dying scenes of the Bible with this; as the last

words of Isaac, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Simeon, Stephen, Paul,

Peter, and the apocalyptic visions of John. Compare especially the song of

Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1-43), and the prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 22).

It seems possible that the beautiful exclamation, v. 18, I have waited for thy

salvation, O Lord,” wasintended to form a kind of middle point, separating

the groups of blessings into one of seven, and another of five. The first group

has a Messianic character, the second a wider, cosmopolitan. In the first,

Judah, the royal tribe, represents the theocracy. In the second, Joseph, the link of

connection between Israel and Egypt, represents the kingdom of Christ

becoming the universal kingdom, from thence is the shepherd, the stone of

Israel. The whole is a typical representation of “Israel” in the higher sense.


1. It comes out of sinful human nature.

2. It is developed by the grace of God in human history.

3. It stands upon the Divine order of the twelve tribes, the revealed truth,

and the Divinely sanctioned religions life and institutions.

4. The essential element in the history, is the Messiah coming out o/Judah,

the shepherd of Israel, the stone of help out of Joseph, the Nazarite, the

tried man, the blessed one.

5. The kingdom of Christ is the universal blessedness of the world. When

Jacob has handed on his blessing to his heirs, he gathers up his feet into the

bed, yields up the ghost, and is gathered to his people. When the carnal

Israel is done with, the spiritual Israel remains. When the promises of God

shall be fulfilled, then there shall be no more concern with the earthly

pilgrimage. “The blessings prevail unto the utmost bound of the everlasting





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