Genesis Chapter 49  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Genesis 49
Gen 49:1(top)
Gen 49:2(top)
Gen 49:3(top)
Gen 49:4

“you will not excel.” This prophecy certainly came to pass. The tribe of Reuben was the southernmost of the tribes of Israel that settled in the Transjordan, and they settled on the northern border of Moab, with Ammon to their east. They never had a position of influence in the tribes of Israel located in the Promised Land and they disappeared from history when Assyria conquered Israel and the Transjordan in 722 BC.

Gen 49:5(top)
Gen 49:6(top)
Gen 49:7

“I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.” This prophecy came true. The Levites served the Tabernacle and were scattered in Israel, being given cities in each of the 12 tribal areas. Simeon was not given a specific tribal area like the other 11 tribes that got land, instead, they inherited in the tribal area of Judah and eventually became more or less consumed by Judah.

Gen 49:8

“bow down.” The common biblical way of bowing down before people or God was to fall to one’s knees and bow the upper body and face to the earth. [For more on bowing down, see commentary on 1 Chron. 29:20].

Gen 49:9

“as a lion.” The lion eventually became the symbol of the kingdom of Judah.

Gen 49:10

“The scepter will not depart from Judah.” This particular prophecy of Judah is not well understood. It points to the coming of the Messiah, but seems to say that the tribe of Judah would have the leadership until that time, which it did not. Although the tribe of Judah did take a leading role at times in Israel’s history, the leaders after Jacob, including Moses and Joshua were not from the tribe of Judah. Once Israel settled in the Promised Land there were judges that in a sense took the leadership role, but only a couple of the Judges were from Judah, most were not. Then, when a king was finally appointed over Israel, the king was Saul from the tribe of Benjamin instead of being someone from the tribe of Judah. When David became king and the Davidic dynasty of Judah finally began, it only lasted a shade over 500 years before Judah was destroyed by Babylon, and after that the appointed leaders governing Judah were subjects of Babylon, then Persia, then Greece. After Greek domination came the Hasmonean Dynasty, but its leaders were from the tribe of Levi, not Judah. Then the Romans controlled the Promised Land (King Herod ruled by the grace of Rome) and did so until years after Jesus Christ came on the scene. So it is not really understood by scholars how the prophecy that the scepter would not depart from Judah until the Messiah came was fulfilled. It may be that in the context of Jacob’s prophecy it meant that no other tribe would have the rule of Israel except Judah, but even that does not really work because many of the Judges were not from Judah, nor was King Saul. So this prophecy in the Old Testament is not well understood.

Gen 49:11

“will wash.” The Hebrew is an example of the prophetic perfect idiom, speaking of a future event as if it was past. That “Judah” would wash his garments in “the blood of grapes” is a picture of abundance, but also almost certainly of the coming Messiah’s conquest of the earth. The Battle of Armageddon is referred to as the “winepress” because of all the blood that is spilled in that battle. There will be millions of people killed at that time, and their blood will splash onto Christ’s garments (Isa. 63:3; cp. Rev. 19:13). The Battle of Armageddon is also referred to as “the winepress” in Isaiah 63:2-3; Joel 3:13; Revelation 14:19-20 and 19:15 (see commentary on Rev. 19:15).

[For more on the prophetic perfect idiom, see commentary on Eph. 2:6].

Gen 49:12

“his eyes—darker than wine.” The meaning of this verse is disputed. Eyes darker than wine and teeth whiter than milk describe ideal beauty in the ancient biblical culture. On the other hand, “eyes dark with wine and teeth white with milk” can indicate abundance—that Judah would have an abundance of good things. The REV follows most modern interpreters.

Gen 49:13

“His border will be on Sidon.” Zebulun and Issachar are mentioned in Jacob’s prophecy after Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah because those are the children of Leah, the first and most legitimate wife of Jacob, who had six sons. This prophecy of Zebulun is confusing. When Joshua divided up the Promised Land, the tribal area of Zebulun did not touch the Mediterranean Sea, nor was it close to Sidon, nor were there any ships in Zebulun, the tribe was landlocked. Asher to the west bordered the sea and came close to Sidon, while Naphthali to the east reached the Sea of Galilee. The prophecy of Zebulun puzzles scholars. It may be that the prophecy over Zebulun did not come to pass because of something that happened between the time Jacob gave the prophecy and when the territory was being given out in Joshua 19. But we just do not know.

Given the fact that up to this point Jacob’s prophecy mentioned the sons of Jacob in Leah’s birth order, we would expect that Issachar would come before Zebulun, but Zebulun is mentioned before Issachar. Perhaps that is because Issachar’s future of being a bearer of burdens and servant to others was not as glorious as Zebulun’s prophecy.

Gen 49:14

“campfires.” The meaning of the Hebrew word is debated. For “campfires,” see Word Biblical Commentary for Judges 5:16, the only other place this Hebrew word is used.

Gen 49:15(top)
Gen 49:16(top)
Gen 49:17(top)
Gen 49:18(top)
Gen 49:19(top)
Gen 49:20

“Asher’s food will be rich.” The tribe of Asher was assigned one of the most fertile areas in Israel, so this prophecy certainly came to pass.

Gen 49:21

“Naphtali is a doe set free.” The prophecy about Naphtali is difficult to interpret since so little is known about that tribe. However, it has much flat land and thus horses and chariots could run free for miles, which is how King Jabin who reined in Hazor oppressed Israel for 20 years (Judges 4, 5).

Gen 49:22(top)
Gen 49:23(top)
Gen 49:24(top)
Gen 49:25(top)
Gen 49:26(top)
Gen 49:27(top)
Gen 49:28(top)
Gen 49:29(top)
Gen 49:30(top)
Gen 49:31(top)
Gen 49:32(top)
Gen 49:33

“breathed his last.” The Hebrew verb translated “breathed his last” is gava (#01478 גָּוַע), and it refers to dying (see commentary on Gen. 25:8, “breathed his last”).


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