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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 49

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-33

Chapter 49

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

This is probably the grandest hour of the old man Jacob. He had had some pretty rough hours. Life had been hard. As he said to the Pharaoh, "My days had been a hundred and thirty years and few and evil are the days of my pilgrim". They had been tough years. But he rose to the grandest hour in the hour of his death. Gathering his sons together just before he dies in order that he might prophesy to them and of them that which should befall them in the years to come.

Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken to Israel your father. Reuben ( Genesis 49:2-3 ),

The boys, now standing around the bed, probably in order of their birth. "Reuben,"

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

It should have been Reuben, the firstborn. And yet you're as,

Unstable as water, you will not excel ( Genesis 49:4 );

And it is true that none from the tribe of Reuben ever did excel in anything. Just wasn't there. Later on Reuben desired to receive his portion and his inheritance really outside of the land. And he never did excel; the tribe never did excel.

because you went to your father's bed; then you defiled it: you went up to my couch ( Genesis 49:4 ).

Actually you remember that earlier in the story it tells how that Reuben went to his father's concubine Bilhah. And so Jacob didn't say much about it then, here at his death he brings it up and points out this characteristic of weakness, which will be a mark and a trait of Reuben, "unstable as water", keeping him from excelling.

Simeon and Levi are brothers; they are instruments of cruelty in their house. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; into their assembly, my honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they killed a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall ( Genesis 49:5-6 ).

It is also translated in the Revised; "They hamstrung an ox".

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 ( Genesis 49:7 ).

So the tribes of Simeon and Levi were not to dwell together. They were brothers; they seem to be closer than any of the other brothers. These two seem to pair off together, but the common bond between them wasn't a good bond. It was the fact that they were both ill tempered, violent tempers. "Cursed be their anger" and their self-will. But that seemed to bind them together, but when you come into the land, you're going to be scattered. The tribe of Simeon was really scattered through the land. And of course, Levi never did receive any inheritance within the land but dwelt in the forty-eight cities that were appointed unto Levi. And so the prophecy was fulfilled.

Now, and he gets to Judah.

Judah, thou art he whom your brothers shall praise ( Genesis 49:8 ):

The word "Judah" does mean praise.

thy hand shall be at the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee ( Genesis 49:8 ).

So he's now prophesying really that from the tribe of Judah shall come the kingly reign. "Your father's brothers will bow down before you." Evidently with Judah there was a real change of character.

Now when Joseph's brothers were thinking about killing him and just leaving him in the pit to die, when they saw the caravan coming towards Egypt, it was Judah that suggested that they sell him to the people in the caravan. Probably not knowing Reuben's plan to come back and get him out of the pit and knowing the brothers' full intention to just kill him, figured to save his life by selling him and at least he'll be alive. He can be sold as a slave to Egypt but at least he'll be alive, and the suggestion of Jacob was probably to spare the life of Joseph. But even over this he no doubt had remorse and later on, when Jacob said, "I won't let Benjamin go down", Judah said, "Dad, I'll be the surety for him. I'll hold me responsible". And he was probably the most responsible of the sons.

Now when they came to Egypt and Joseph put his silver cup in Benjamin's sack and when they came and they unloaded the sacks and they saw the cup and they said, "We don't want you all, we'll just take this kid back and let him be the slave. Judah came back and he said, "Look", he said, "I'll give myself for my brother. I'll become your slave, let him go back to his dad." And Judah became the spokesman and he stepped up and showed really a lot of courage, a lot of real metal at this point.

So that this is beginning to develop in Judah and now Jacob carries it on in the prophecy and begins to prophecy the fact that Judah shall actually become a ruling tribe. The father's children will bow down before thee.

Judah is a lion's whelp: and 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 ( Genesis 49:9 )?

And so Judah became really-the symbol of Judah was the lion and there began then to be the prophecy of the Lion of the tribe of Judah that would come. Of course, it was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

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 ( Genesis 49:10 ).

Now this prophecy was fulfilled. Shiloh indicating or bespeaking of the Messiah that was to come, the Savior. The word Shiloh came from the root of peace, shalom. "And until peace comes", and the peace, the Prince of Peace, of course, Jesus Christ. Now the sceptre did not depart from Judah until the coming of the Lord but thirty years after Jesus was crucified or forty years after, the sceptre departed from Judah. So that means that the Messiah would have to have come sometime before 70 A.D. in order that this prophecy of Jacob be truly fulfilled, otherwise, the whole prophetic thing is off.

So we know that Shiloh did come, the peace of Israel did come, even Jesus Christ. And when He came, He said, "If you only knew the things that belong to your peace in this thy day but they are hid from your eyes". The day of His coming as the Messiah, the official day of His coming as the Messiah. His proclamation as the disciples were crying, "Hosanna, Hosanna", as He came to the city of Jerusalem. Looking over the city that day, weeping over the city, He cried, "If you only knew the things that belong to your peace, shalom, until the Shiloh, shalom, come. And so unto him shall the gathering of the people be." Actually He will be the ruler. Binding his foal unto him, that is Shiloh, Christ, the gathering of the people.

Binding his foal into the vine, and his ass's colt in the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. Zebulun [the next] shall dwell at the haven of the sea [or towards the sea]; and shall be a haven of ships; and his borders shall be unto Zidon ( Genesis 49:11-13 ).

So Zebulun was given that area in the northern part of Israel, portion of which is now Lebanon. However, he never did take the full portion that was promised.

Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: And he saw that rest was good, and the land it was pleasant; and he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute ( Genesis 49:14-15 ).

In other words, he's strong as an ox but he's lazy. And thus, a characteristic of the tribe of Issachar was though they were strong, yet they were lazy. And thus became a servant to tribute.

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

The word Dan means judge.

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

Now Dan, of course, inherited the northernmost part of the land in the area just at the base of Mount Hermon in the area which is today the Hula Valley, which lies between the mountains of Lebanon and the Golan Heights. This valley of the upper Jordan upwards from the Sea of Galilee in this area of Upper Jordan was the area where the tribe of Dan settled clear on up. Let's see, the ruins of the city of Dan is just about four or five miles from the base of Mount Hermon. So you're clear up on the upper end of the valley, and Dan was a tough tribe and did protect the nation Israel from the attacks of nations coming down from the north.

Now here in the midst of the whole thing, verse eighteen, not related to any of the prophecies to his sons, Jacob cried.

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

The word "salvation, O LORD", or translated "salvation, O LORD", is actually Yashua or the name Jesus. I have waited for "Jesus, Yashua", or the "Lord's salvation" or "Jehovah's salvation". And so it's very interesting this is the first mention of the word salvation in the Bible. And its mention is just in the prophecy of Jacob as he cries out now in the midst of his prophesying over his sons; "I have waited for Yashua." "I've waited for Jesus" or later, "Joshua" but "Yashua" is the Hebrew word here. And it's translated "Thy salvation, O LORD."

The tribe of Gad, [Gad means a troop but] a troop shall overcome him: and he shall overcome at the last ( Genesis 49:19 ).

Gad again with the Reubenites took up inheritance outside of the land of Israel and they were overcome early but yet the prophecy is in the end they will overcome.

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

And so the baker tribe, those that would go into the baking industry yielding royal dainties, great pastries. And some of the tribe of Asher are no doubt over there today because man, some of the greatest bread and pastries you've ever eaten in your life.

Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words. Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, 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:) 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: The blessing of thy father hath 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 brothers ( Genesis 49:21-26 ).

Joseph separate from his brothers, a beautiful individual; so the great blessing that was pronounced upon him. He's a fruitful bough. He would be a fruitful person. Tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh became great and fruitful tribes. "A bough whose branches run over the wall." So not only being blessed but becoming a blessing to others. And though he was to go through great trials and did endure great trials. "The archers have sorely grieved him, shot at him, hated him".

All of those arrows of hatred and bitterness and jealousy and envy and temptation and false imprisonment and lies shot at him and yet his bough abode in strength. No retaliation. No striking back. Willing to commit judgment to God to whom judgment belongs. Turning the other cheek. His bough abode in strength and the secret of his strength was that his hand, the hand of his arms was strengthened by the mighty hand of Jehovah. God was holding his hand. God was giving him the capacity to restrain. His capacity was not a natural capacity. It was a supernatural capacity. He was being held by God in restraint.

And God can hold us in restraint. I think that we as Christians too often are willing to excuse the demonstrations of our old nature saying, "That's just me". Yes, that's just you, curse you! God wants to make a new you. God wants to help you. God wants to strengthen you. And we're not to just live in a peaceful co-existence with our old nature and with our old man. We by the Spirit are to mortify the deeds of the flesh. And we just can't pass things off as, "Well, that's just the way I was born".

That's the way you were born in corruption from your parents, but you've been born now by incorruptible seed. You're supposed to be different. And if you're not different, something's wrong with you or wrong with your experience with God. Because anyone who is truly born of God is going to manifest a changed life and a changed nature.

The purpose of being born again is that you might have a new nature-a nature now after the Spirit, no longer after the flesh. "That which was born of the flesh is flesh," ( John 3:6 ). Crucify it. Renounce it. Learn to hate it, in order that we might live and walk now after the new nature, the nature of Christ. Born of His incorruptible seed, I now have a new nature. "For if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; everything is become new" ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 ). And if you're still going around manifesting the old nature all the time, and giving way to the old nature and giving place to the old nature, something is definitely wrong with your relationship with God and you need to repent and reckon that old man to be dead.

Don't cuddle it. So many people are proud of their nasty temperaments, proud of their ability to tell people off. And they've given away so many pieces of their mind, there's very little left. Nothing to be proud of. It's something to be ashamed of. "God forgive me". I reckon that old man, that old nature to be dead. I don't want him. I don't want any part of him. I desire that new nature after Christ. That nature of love and tenderness and forgiving and kindness and compassion. I desire that Christ be formed in me and His likeness within me, and thus give no place to the flesh. Make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its desires.

And as Christians, unfortunately, too many are making provision for the flesh to fulfill its desires. And you're not really walking after the newness of life in Christ Jesus, walking after the Spirit; and thus, you are a monstrosity. You're still a spiritual infant. Though maybe you trace your born-again experience back some fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years, you have never developed spiritually. You still don't know how to talk. You still can't walk. You're still there rattling your crib and demanding that people bow and acquiesce to your wishes and your demands. Feed you when you're hungry. Rock you when you're upset and just to take care of you as a little infant. And you've never grown. You've never developed. And that's all right for a stage of your Christian experience when you're first coming into Christ and all. That's fine that you be cuddled and taken care of and be fed and all. But it's time that you grow up. But spiritual immaturity is a great tragedy.

And as the scriptures said, At the time when you should be actually able to eat meat, you still have need of milk because you've not been able to take meat up till now and even now, he said, you're not able to bear it. So I still have to feed you with the milk of the Word. But at the beginning you are to "desire the sincere milk of the word, that you might grow" ( 1 Peter 2:2 ). But there comes a time when we grow beyond the bottle itself and we need nourishment other than just the bottle. You need to grow up. You need to renounce the old nature and the old man. We need to begin to seek that nature of Christ to be perfected in us that we might be what God wants us to be.

And so Joseph, the secret of his strength was God was holding him. God will hold you. God will help you. God will give you control. You don't have to be Simeon and Reuben or Simeon and Levi. You can have the control of God. And Joseph blessed, special blessings. "The blessings of your father have prevailed. Blessings of the progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they'll be on the head of Joseph."

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

Benjamin was tough. It was one of the most toughest tribes in Israel. They were the greatest fighter. Their career was marked by disaster. They were almost eliminated at one time as a tribe in Israel because of wickedness. All of the tribes of Israel gathered against Benjamin and were scarcely able to defeat them. They were so tough. From Benjamin came the first king of Israel, even Saul. From Benjamin came the great apostle Paul. Tough characters indeed, able to endure just far beyond the normal enduring capacity of a person. Tribe of Benjamin.

And these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spoke unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them. 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, 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. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah. The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth. And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into his bed, and he yielded up his spirit, and was gathered to his people ( Genesis 49:28-33 ).

So this is his dying act: this pronouncement of the future of his sons. And then even as he had told Joseph, "Swear to me you'll bury me not in Egypt but back in my own land", and Joseph sworn. Now he's demanding the same thing from his sons. "Now, look, bury me back there in the cave that Abraham bought, where I buried Leah. I want to be buried by her. Put me back there." It is interesting that the love that he had for Rachel, that he didn't desire to be buried in the tomb of Rachel that still existed near Bethlehem. "But bury me next to Leah actually there in the cave of Machpelah."

Having said this, the old man pulled his legs back up into bed and that was it. He was gone.

. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Genesis 49". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/genesis-49.html. 2014.
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