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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 49

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-2


Genesis 49:1. In the last days.] This phrase is often used to denote the Messianic times (Isaiah 2:2; Ezekiel 38:8; Ezekiel 38:16; Jeremiah 30:24, etc). “This passage reaches to that period in the Shiloh, and it embraces the intervening history.” (Jacobus.) The expression is chiefly found in prophetic passages.—



In this dying speech of Jacob to his sons, we have the characteristics of true prophecy. Consider the following things:—

I. The nature of its contents.

1. Prediction. It is true that the office of a prophet was not simply to predict future events. But this was part of the burden of the Lord laid upon him. In revealing the Divine will he had sometimes to lift the veil of the future. We have here, without doubt, the element of prediction. If we grant any of the circumstances which invest Jacob with a sacred character; if we believe that he was called of God, and that he was in covenant with Him, then the fact that this discourse was really prophetic presents no difficulty. All is clear enough, and worthy of belief, except upon the a priori assumption of the rationalists that prophecy is, in the nature of things, impossible. This speech also contains—

2. Insight into spiritual truths. The prophet was most of all a seer, one who had insight into spiritual truths, a proclaimer of eternal principles. This is a higher thing than the mere prediction of facts which take place but once. In this discourse we discern eternal principles,—of man’s moral and spiritual nature, of the powers which shape history, of God’s government of the world, of Redemption, and of the eternal kingdom which shall reign over and beyond all. Consider:—

II. The nature of the style employed. It has all the marks of reality, it is suited to the age, and such as the patriarchs used. It is vague and mysterious, there are no accurate and minute details, but all is given in shadowy outline; and this forbids us to suppose that it was written in after ages in order to fit into history. The very obscurity, and the difficulties in this speech, are themselves a vindication of its claim to be prophecy. Consider:—

III. The impossibility of accounting for these deliverances upon natural principles. Jacob was now a weak and aged man; the last sickness was upon him. And yet he speaks in this sublime style, the proper vehicle of exalted thought and feeling. He utters this wonderful poem. Surely he was Divinely taught and aided. Inspiration is the only solution. That which reveals so much of God’s thoughts and ways must be from God. Consider:

IV. The stage of prophetic development which it indicates. The prophecy of Messiah now becomes clearer. First, it is the seed, in general terms; then thy seed, Abraham’s. Now, the very tribe out of which the Messiah is to spring is announced. We have here the full bloom of patriarchal prophecy. The language rises to that poetic form which is peculiar to the Messianic predictions. The blessing of Judah is the central point, where the discourse reaches on to the last times, when God would bring His first begotten into the world, and set up his everlasting kingdom. Consider:—

V. The promise of eternal life which it suggests. The spirit of these prophecies is the testimony of Jesus. And He came that we may have life. Eternal life is the end of all prophecy. In regard to this doctrine we may ask in Jacob’s individual case, can we suppose that God would give this light to a man—these reverences and feelings, and then quench his soul in darkness for ever? Could Jacob have been permitted to know of and disclose such a magnificent future, and yet not live on to see it?


Genesis 49:1-2. The spirit of devoted men of God, in anticipation of death, soars to an elevated consciousness, and either in priestly admonitions, or prophetic fore-seeings, attests its divine nature, its elevation above the common life, and its anticipation of a new and glorious existence. The testimony of antiquity is harmonious in respect to such facts—even heathen antiquity. So declared the dying Socrates, that he regarded himself as in that stage of being when men had most of the foreseeing power.—(Lange.)

He that hears the word of God, must hear as if he did, for so he doth hear for life and death; he must, as Jacob bids his sons, “hear and hearken.”—(Trapp.)

Verses 3-4



We seem to have in this, as in other instances, words of cursing rather than of blessing. But in Genesis 49:28, Jacob’s speeches concerning his sons are called “blessings.” He utters words of blame, he rebukes sharply, but does not curse the persons though he denounces the sin. He does not cast off his sons: they still continue among the tribes of Israel. As to Reuben, consider:—

I. His privileges. He was the first-born, the first-fruits of his father’s manly strength, “The excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power.” This entitled him,

1. To the first rank among his brethren.

2. To the leadership of the tribes.

3. To a double share of the inheritance. (Genesis 27:29; Deuteronomy 21:17). Such were his high privileges.

II. His forfeiture of his privileges. Jacob reminds him of his privileges, only to contrast them with his present state. He will cause him to see what he might have been. Great expectations had been formed of him and he had not answered them. For it is not privileges that make us good or great, but the use to which we put them. Reuben forfeited his privileges,—

1. By a foul sin. Jacob dwells upon it with all those aggravations that made it to be the most heinous and abhorred. He turns away from Reuben (and addressing his other sons as if by way of pathetic appeal), says, “He went up to my couch.”

2. By his instability of character. He was “unstable as water,” which is sometimes fierce and tempestuous, and always yielding and treacherous. He was that double-minded man described by St. James, whose true image in nature is the restless sea which is the sport of the inconstant winds. (James 1:6; James 1:8.)

3. By a life of sensuality. This resulted in that inveterate fault of his character, instability. His passions were heated and furious, like water boiling over. (See Critical Notes.) They were ungovernable. He could not rule himself, and therefore could have no influence over others. He was unfitted for power and place. The single sin which made him infamous grew out of his character, confirming and establishing it in evil more and more. And thus the thoughts, feelings, and deeds of a man—the whole of his character in the present—are made and determined by his past. Sin is not merely done and done with. The injury done to our soul remains in its effects.


Genesis 49:3-4. The term is well adapted both to express the unbridled lawlessness of Reuben’s conduct in the indulgence of his passions, and the effect of it in suddenly and irretrievably casting him down from his birthright. The force of a great current of water, when the barriers that restrained it are removed, is irresistible. Such is the force of corruption in men destitute of religious principle; yet nothing is weaker than water in small quantities—it has no principle of coherence or stability. Such is the weakness of men who walk after their own lusts.—(Bush.)

Verses 5-7


Genesis 49:4. Unstable as water.] Heb. Boiling over as water. Another form of this word is rendered lightness, in Jeremiah 23:32; Zephaniah 3:2, referring to the character of false prophets. The image points to the heated passions which led Reuben into disgrace. Thou shalt not excel.] He shall have no share in the dignity and privileges of the firstborn—the birthright supremacy. The double portion was transferred to Joseph, the chieftainship to Judah, and the priesthood to Levi.

Genesis 49:6. In their self-will they digged down a wall.] The LXX has, they have hamstrung oxen. “The true rendering refers to a process of wantonly cutting the tendons of oxen so as to make them useless. In Chron. Genesis 34:28, the carrying off of the cattle is mentioned. This wanton cruelty was doubtless added.” (Jacobus.)—



I. Their sin.

1. Immoderate revenge. (Genesis 49:5-6.) They were justified in feeling anger, and even in avenging the outrage upon the family honour. They must have been less than men had they been indifferent. And as religious men they were bound to feel a righteous indignation. In that state of society, when there were no regular modes of trial, the avenger of blood was an instrument of justice. It is the excess of their anger that is blamed. “For it was fierce.” “For it was cruel.” Not content with taking vengeance upon the man who did the deed, they slew a whole tribe of men.

2. Cruelty to unoffending beasts. They wantonly cut the tendons of animals so as to make them useless. This was an uncalled for ferocity.

3. Their cruelty was deliberate. They were, indeed, “brethren” both in sympathy and co-operation. They supported and counselled each other in their cruel designs. They had their “secret,” their “assembly.” They were men capable of framing dark plots. They wrought iniquity by a law.

II. Their penalty.

1. To be disavowed by the good. “O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united.” Jacob could not prevent their deed, but he would have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.

2. Their deed is branded with a curse. He curses their wrath and their cruelty, not their persons.

3. They are condemned to moral and political weakness. “I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” The penalty was appropriate. As they had worked together in wickedness, they are to be divided. Simeon’s tribe was weak, his territory scattered. Levi was likewise scattered in Israel, and had no territorial allotment; yet his was a privileged tribe, being the tribe of priests. The penalty is by grace transmuted into blessing. “The Lord keeps the execution of the sentence in His own hands. Simeon’s sons continue to be like himself—doing the same works. On them the sentence falls with unmitigated severity. In the tribe of Levi there are indications of a better mind. And the sentence is graciously sanctified.”—(Candlish.)


Genesis 49:5. His two next sons were guilty of a crime still worse than Reuben’s. If it did not wound their father in a part so tender, it gave him not less pain, and exposed him to greater mischief. If a merciful providence had not wonderfully preserved him, he and all his family must have been destroyed, in consequence of the revenge of the enraged Canaanites.—(Bush).

Genesis 49:6. Time had not changed Jacob’s feelings with regard to the crime of his sons. His soul had the same abhorrence of the act now, as it had then.

Genesis 49:7. There is a kind of anger which deserves not to be cursed, but to be blessed. Such was the anger of Moses when he came down from the Mount, and seeing the idolatries of the camp of Israel, broke the tables of the law which he held in his hands. But the anger of Simeon and Levi was entitled neither to commendation nor apology. Sharp rebuke is necessary for those who have greatly offended.—(Bush).

Verses 8-12


Genesis 49:8. Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise.] An allusion to his name which signifies praise (Genesis 29:35.)—not merely the praised one, but he for whom Jehovah is praised.—

Genesis 49:9. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, thou art gone up.] “Judah, the kingly tribe, is likened to the lion, the king of beasts, who has taken his prey in the plain and is returning to his mountain habitation (Song of Solomon 4:8). It is from this prophecy that the remarkable title of the Lion of the tribe of Judah is given to Christ (Revelation 5:5).” (Alford.)—10 The sceptre shall not depart.] The tribal sceptre—a symbol of royal power and authority. Nor a lawgiver from between his feet.] Some render it, nor the judicial staff from between his feet” (Keil, Kalisch.) The term means first a commander—lawgiver (Deuteronomy 33:21), then a judicial staff or ruler’s sceptre (Numbers 21:18). “When the ancient kings addressed public assemblies, they held in their hands this sceptre. When they sat in state upon the throne they rested it between their feet, unless personal application was made to them, when they stretched it out. But the sense of lawgiver is best suited to the varied form of the parallelism. And then the figure is of the lion, who has between his feet the lawgiver; that is—has the legislative control. Judah shall be dominant, and shall have the authority and control as a tribe, until Shiloh come.”—Jacobus. Until Shiloh come.] This has been variously rendered. Some give the meaning, until he comes to whom it (the kingdom or control) belongs. Others interpret Shiloh as meaning rest, or place of rest, and accordingly render it, till rest comes, or, he comes to a place of rest. Some, again, understand it as the name of a place, and explain it of the time when the “whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh” (Joshua 18:1). But the most natural rendering is the commonly received one, which regards Shiloh as a personal name. It means the same as Solomon, from a verb signifying to rest. Therefore it is a prophecy of the Messiah, “the Prince of Peace.” Jesus is called our peace. “On the coming of Shiloh the last remnant of that supremacy was removed, only to be replaced by the higher form of pre-eminence which the Prince of Peace inaugurates.” (Murphy.) The gathering.] The word means properly filial obedience—a willing homage. “The obedience describes the willing submission to the new form of sovereignty which is ushered in by the Shiloh.” (Murphy.) The people.] The peoples—the nations of the world.

Genesis 49:11. Washed his garments in wine.] “Wine is produced in such abundance that it can be applied to such a purpose; a poetical hyperbole, as in Job 29:6.” (Lange.)—

Genesis 49:12. His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.] Lange translates the word rendered “red,” dark gleaming. He shall be distinguished for dark lustred eyes, and for white teeth. The soil of. Judah near Hebron and Engedi produced the best wine in Canaan.—13 Zebulon.] The name means dwelling. At the haven of the sea.] “This tribe touched upon the coast of the sea of Kinnereth and of the Mediterranean.” (Murphy.)—



I. That he should win the praise of his brethren. (Genesis 49:8.) Jacob having now a worthier theme, uses the proper style and language of blessing. We might have supposed that the greatness which he predicts for Judah would have made him a mark of envy rather than an object of praise. But Judah was to be gifted with that supremacy of influence which commands praise and admiration—that greatness springing out of goodness which disarms envy. He was gifted with wisdom and understanding. (Exodus 31:2-3.) He had all those elements of mental and moral character which gave him a sovereign dominion over other minds. As his name signifies, his brethren were also to praise God for him, on his behalf. His excellency would make an impression upon his brethren, upon those who knew and understood him best; and they shall be constrained to praise God for him. He was a good gift; he would diffuse blessing, and they must say, “the Lord be praised.” See the power of character. Judah would not have to court praise. His brethren would give it to him of their own accord. His conquests, won by the strength of his goodness, would bring him renown and reverence. He had that unobtrusive and unconscious greatness which must prevail in the end. “The meek shall inherit the earth.”

II. That he should be the type of the victorious hero. He is compared to a “lion.” (Genesis 49:9). The Hebrews had several distinct words to represent the different ages and degrees of strength and fierceness of the lion, three of which occur in this verse. These indicate different stages in the history of Judah’s supremacy.

1. A growing power. He is compared to “a lion’s whelp,” a young lion, who has more growth to expect, who is only in the beginning of his strength. Judah’s dominion at its commencement was small. He governed the people, at first, by petty rulers such as the judges. Afterwards came the race of kings, national prosperity followed, great institutions flourished, and the people enjoyed the land of their fathers in peace. So the kingdom of the Messiah—who was the “lion of the tribe of Judah.”—started apparently from small beginnings, but in the course of the ages it has grown great. It is the realm that for ever lasts. It will secure for His people quiet habitations, thrones of power, and seats of monarchs whose kingdom passes not away.

2. A righteous power. Judah is also compared to a “lion,” in the full vigour of his strength. The figure implies a lion in the den, satiated with prey, and is, therefore, couchant, not rampant. The strength of Judah was not to be the strength of the oppressor, but rather of him who is strong in his right, in the majesty of defence. Such is the strength of the Messiah. His kingdom is founded upon righteousness.

3. A power to be dreaded. “Who shall rouse him up?” Men are to stand in dread of his power, though it seems to slumber. His was a power to bless; but woe to those who rouse it up and so turn that power against themselves. Christ is at rest as a lion going up from the prey; seated at the right-hand of God as a lion couchant, reposing after His conquest over the powers of darkness, and it is at the peril of the greatest monarchs to rouse Him up. (Psalms 2:10-12). “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.” It is to be lamented that we do not love Christ more, that we do not trust Him more; but is it not even more dreadful that we have so little fear of Him! Let us beware how we arouse that wrath which is so terrible, even when it is “kindled but a little.”

III. That he should be the type of the Messiah. (Genesis 49:10.) We have here one of the first and clearest prophecies of the Redeemer. Judah’s kingdom was to lead up to the higher and more enduring kingdom of Christ. He was a type of the Messiah—

1. In His sovereignty. For

(1.) He had regal power. He was to hold the sceptre, until his sovereignty should receive a higher meaning and be absorbed in that of the Messiah.

(2.) He had power combined with gentleness. He is compared to “a lion,” and yet he is to prepare the way for Shiloh, “the Prince of Peace.” In Revelation 5:5, we read, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open the book.” The idea of a lion seems to be opposed to that of peace. But the prophet immediately says, “And I beheld, and lo! a lamb as it had been slain.” The two images combine to form one truth. There is a strength of force, and there is another which is gained and established through suffering, spiritual conquests and greatness.

(3.) He had a power which sweetly wins obedience. The “obedience of the peoples” was to be to Shiloh. The cross has the power of attraction by its exhibition of Divine love. Christ, being lifted up, draws all men unto Him. His kingdom is founded not upon force, but upon love.

2. In his prosperity. Temporal prosperity was the lot of Judah. (Genesis 49:11-12.) Wine and milk are also the symbols of gospel blessings (Isaiah 55:0). The Messiah shall prosper, ever winning great and lasting victories. “The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand” (Isaiah 53:10).


Genesis 49:8. All this is chiefly verified in Christ. In Him is beauty, bounty, goodness, greatness, and whatsoever else is praiseworthy. He goeth forth riding on His white horse, “conquering and to conquer.” (Revelation 6:2). St. Paul, His chief herald, proclaims His victory with a world of solemnity and triumph (1 Corinthians 15:56), and he calls upon all his brethren to bow down before Him (Philippians 2:10), as they do (Revelation 12:10), casting down their crowns at His feet. (Revelation 4:10).—(Trapp).

Genesis 49:9. The theme swells under contemplation, and we are insensibly led by the language employed to trace the spiritual career of “David’s greater son,” who, while He warred successfully with the powers of darkness during His ministry on earth, despoiling His most potent adversaries, and dividing the spoil with the mighty, till, rising from the dead He “went up” in a triumphant ascension from the field where His victories had been won, like the lion returning to his lair gorged with prey, and set down at His Father’s right hand, in a rest which no enemy can presume to invade but at his utmost peril.—(Bush).

Genesis 49:10. Shiloh, the Pacificator, or Prince of Peace. Much has been written to evade the difficulty which arises from the fact that there was no king in Israel when He came. But surely it is not needed. Ten tribes disappeared. Of the remaining two, both merged themselves in Judah; and the sceptre is only a figurative and poetical name for nationality. Israel’s nationality, merged in Judah lasted until Shiloh came.—(Robertson).

For our sakes Israel and Judah enjoyed the Divine protection till Christ came, that we might be saved by His obedience to the death. The whole train of providential administration in the world, and especially towards the chosen people, was directed towards the redemption and salvation of men as its object. What despisers, then, are we of our own mercies if we refuse to join the concourse that is flocking to the standard of the Shiloh?—(Bush).

This is the central vision, coming from the central feeling, and around it all the rest are gathered. They are to it as the historical frame to the picture. Judah is more closely connected with this central vision than all the rest. We can trace the name Shiloh to no antecedents. It was a wondrous, a mysterious name. It was intended to be mysterious that men might ponder much upon it, and be the better prepared to understand its glorious import, when it should be fully realised upon the earth.—(Lange.)

Genesis 49:11-12. His was to be a territory rich in vineyards and pastures. It has been said that prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament, tribulation the specific promise of the New. But this is scarcely true; in the New, as in the Old, temporal blessings follow certain qualities of heart. The laws of God remain unalterable. The fifth commandment “with promise,” is quoted by Paul as valid in the Christian dispensation still. And in the sermon on the Mount, Christ says: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The fact is not that the consequences of right and wrong are changed, but that the New Testament has brought out, with peculiar prominence, a class of results of right doing which were only dimly visible in the elder dispensation.—(Robertson.)

Verses 13-21


Genesis 49:14. A strong ass.] Heb. An ass of bone. “The figure here employed has nothing mean about it. The Oriental ass is a more stately animal than the Western.” (Lange)—

Genesis 49:16. Dan shall judge his people.] Dan, from a verb signifying to judge. The expression, shall judge, is a play upon the name. An adder in the path, that biteth the horse-heels.] “The well-known horned snake, a small serpent of a sandy colour. Its habit is to coil itself, usually in the camel’s footmark, in the sand, and thence suddenly to dart out on any passing animal. Horses are in the greatest terror when one is seen ahead.” (Tristram.)—

Genesis 49:20. Asher.] The word means blessed. His head shall be fat.] His territory extended from Carmel to Tyre, and comprised some of the richest plains, abounding in wheat and oil. Royal dainties.] “Solomon supplied the household of king Hiram from this district (1 Kings 5:11).” (Jacobus.)—

Genesis 49:21. Naphtali is a hind let loose.] “He is a beauteous and active warrior, comparable to the so much praised gazelle (2 Samuel 2:18, etc.).” (Lange.) He giveth goodly words.] “Eloquence in prose and verse was characteristic’ of this particular tribe. In Judges 4:5, we may study the character of the tribe.” (Murphy.)—

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 49:13-21, and Genesis 49:27


Consider these blessings—

I. In their variety.

1. Maritime power. Zebulun was to “dwell at the haven of the sea,” to be “for an haven of ships.” (Genesis 49:13.)

2. Husbandry. Issachar is compared to “a strong ass, couching down between two burdens” He was to be an agricultural tribe. He would not require the heroic qualities of Judah, nor the enterprise of Zebulun. He would be content with the fruits of peace and industry, not caring for a life of adventure or the fortunes of war. He would be willing enough for humble and patient service, but his fault was that he had no strong heroic impulse. “He saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant.” (Genesis 49:15.) He wanted to enjoy ease at the cost of liberty. He had no public spirit, no energy to strive for a larger and higher freedom. “He bowed his shoulder to bear,” was satisfied with slavish work and easy wages; and thus he “became a servant unto tribute.”

3. Political sagacity. “Dan shall judge his people.” (Genesis 49:16.) He was to be raised to a position of rank and political power. But he would gain dominion by a serpent subtlety, employing the might of craft against stronger foes. (Genesis 49:17.)

4. The power to conquer by perseverance. (Genesis 49:19.) Gad, whose name signifies “a troop,” was to become a warlike tribe. Though he might be often vanquished yet he was to overcome at last. He would have the rewards of patient continuance. The promise of final victory would enable him to bear present defeat.

5. Plenty. (Genesis 49:20.) The name “Asher” signifies the happy, or making happy. He was destined to enjoy great temporal prosperity. His lot was to be a rich one, yielding him not only necessaries, but dainties, even royal dainties. Material culture, all that ministers to the refinements of enjoyment and pleasure,—these were to be his good things.

6. Eloquence. Naphtali is compared to “an hind let loose.” (Genesis 49:21.) His tribe was to be distinguished by vivacity, timidity, and softness of manners. Yet he was to be renowned for that wonderful gift of eloquence which would invest him with a sovereignty over the minds and hearts of men. This tribe was famous for eloquence both in prose and poetry. Naphtali was to utter words of beauty. Witness the poetic effusion of Barak—the war-song of the Naphtalite hero and Israel’s deliverer. (Judges 5:0) Most of our Lord’s Apostles who preached the Gospel throughout the world with such power and eloquence were from this tribe.

7. The warlike character. “Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf.” (Genesis 49:27.) The incessant and victorious capture of booty, military ardour,—these were his characteristics. Yet withal generous, and full of self-sacrifice for the sake of others. He is ready to divide at night that spoil which in the morning he had won with such daring and risk. Consider these blessings:—

II. In their unity. Each tribe has its own special characteristic, its own special gifts and powers. All these constitute one grand unity. Such is the order of nature—unity in variety. This diversity in the distribution of gifts and endowments contributes to human happiness, and to human prosperity. The conquests of humble industry may not be brilliant, but they are useful. The king himself is served by the field. The delicate, the eloquent, the refined, the warlike hero—these could not subsist without the aid of the laborious and the resolute. And the hard toils of men may be relieved and elevated by the gentle influences of the arts and refinements of life. As it is in the several departments of nature, so in human society we give and take; and thus contribute to the unity of God’s grand purpose in the march of history.


Genesis 49:13-21. The twelve loaves of shewbread remained for ever before the Lord on the altar, proclaiming their separateness, their characteristic differences, and their unity in working out one great purpose; one in God by difference. By differences between man and man, church and church, nation and nation, the true organic unity is attained and kept.—(Robertson.)

Genesis 49:18. Jacob’s spiritual character, as tested by his ejaculation. A religious ejaculation from the dying patriarch breathless and exhausted with speech. Our exact character is tested by our spontaneous thoughts. Watch how the mind turns when pressure and coercion are taken off, and you know of what kind it is. Thus sudden events, sudden pangs, accidents, etc., determine for us the state of our souls, and show us the high-water mark of our spiritual attainment. From one man they wring a curse; from another, a slang expression; from a third, a natural prayer. Judge yourselves by this test. It would be dangerous to judge others always. But take it as a fair test of Jacob’s state.—(Robertson).

Verses 22-27


Genesis 49:22. Whose branches run over the wall.] “Transcend all the usual boundaries of a well-enclosed garden. Joseph is, in prospect, the twofold tribe that bursts the bounds assigned to a twelfth of the chosen people, and overspreads the area of two tribes.” (Murphy.)—

Genesis 49:24. The shepherd the stone of Israel.] “His rock at Bethel, on whose support he slept as he pillowed his head upon the stone.” (Lange) “The fostering guardian as well as the solid foundation of his being.” (Murphy.)—

Genesis 49:26. Separate from his brethren.] Distinguished from his brethren. “A separate one—in his personal consecration, as well as in his historical dignity.” (Lange.)—

Genesis 49:27. Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.] The warlike boldness of the tribe appears in the history (Judges 5:14); its distinguished archers and slingers (Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 8:39-40; 1 Chronicles 12:2; 2 Chronicles 14:7-8; 2 Chronicles 17:17). Saul and Jonathan sprang from this tribe.



The patriarch delights to dwell on this theme. The whole tone of his language changes; and he pours out his full soul in blessings upon the head of his long lost, but now restored and exalted son. He has the richest and largest benedictions for him who was the saviour of his house and the type of the coming Deliverer. All the father’s heart is here. There are three elements in this blessing of Joseph.

I. Prediction of his future greatness.

1. His extraordinary increase. He was to be as a “fruitful bough” planted “by a well.” His descendants would spread and flourish, like a tree planted by the rivers of water. (Psalms 1:3). His “branches” would even “run over the wall;” they would outgrow their boundaries. The remarkable increase of this adopted tribe is recorded in Numbers 1:33-35; Joshua 16:0; Joshua 17:0; Deuteronomy 33:17.

2. His great prosperity.

(1.) All kinds of blessings were promised. “Blessings of heaven above.” (Genesis 49:25). The uses and favours bestowed by the air, the rain, and the sun; and above all, spiritual blessings from on high, of which these were the natural symbols. “Blessings of the deep that lieth under.” The springs and streams, and the fertile soil; and chiefly those gifts which arise from God’s deep fountains of love, from Him with whom is the well of life. “Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.” A numerous offspring, children of the home, flocks and herds in abundance.

(2.) His blessings were to surpass all former instances. “The blessings of my father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors.” (Genesis 49:26). They were to surpass those blessings which came upon Jacob from his father, as far as the old mountains tower above the earth. They were to rise until they reach the summits of the everlasting hills; as it were, a complete deluge of blessing.

(3.) His blessings are traced to their source. “The God of thy father who shall help thee.” “The Almighty,” who is able to control all adverse powers and to accomplish His will, who has the ability as well as the disposition to be good.

II. Praise of his character. He dwells upon what Joseph was and had been.

1. He had been a much tried man. “The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him.” (Genesis 49:23.)

(1.) The archers of envy and hatred. The envy of his brethren wounded his feelings, their cruel words like arrows pierced his soul, their hatred sold him into slavery.

(2.) The archers of temptation. He was tempted by an adulterous mistress. (Genesis 39:7-19.)

(3.) The archers of persecution. He was imprisoned by his master, though he was innocent of wrong. Though supported by his integrity, yet he felt the trial. The iron entered his soul.

(4.) The archers of neglect and ingratitude. His patience was sorely tried by his fellow prisoner, who forgot him, leaving him to languish in his long imprisonment, when a word spoken in praise of such a benefactor might have brought deliverance.

2. He had gained the victory over his trials. “His bow abode in strength.” (Genesis 49:24.) It was kept strongly strong, was never allowed to weaken or slacken, was always ready. (Job 29:20.) He was not one of those who faint in adversity. (Proverbs 24:10.) He always had great moral strength and firmness of character. His courage and self-possession never forsook him. The patriarch does not forget the Divine source of his strength; “The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.” (Genesis 49:24.) The God who had shown His mightiness in Jacob’s own deliverance. “The stone of Israel” was the strong foundation of his life. “The Shepherd” of Israel was his guide and defence, his living, personal God.

III. His destiny the natural result of his character. His future might be judged from his past; for that contains in itself all the elements of true greatness.

1. His filial obedience. This was his peculiarity. He kept that commandment which has promise. He had learned to obey, and so he was fit to rule.

2. His desire for God’s glory. He had the fear of God before his eyes, and considered that his life was ordered by Divine wisdom for the good of others. (Genesis 45:7-8.) He who thus glorifies God must be blessed. To show, further, how his future might be inferred from his past, consider:—

3. The operation of that principle by which God rewards in kind. Joseph was “separate from his brethren;” first by a painful exile, and now by a glorious promotion and distinction. This separation had the effect of forcing him back upon himself, and of fetching out and bringing to the surface the true greatness of his character. He was rewarded in kind—separated first by adversity, and then by superior rank and blessing.

4. The principle that God’s dealings in the past constitute a ground of hope and trust for the future. God hath and God shall is sound Scripture logic. (Psalms 85:1-4; 2 Corinthians 1:10.) The goodness and grace of the past is a pledge for the future. We may be sure that our God will be always like Himself. “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.” (Psalms 63:7.)

5. The principle by which a firm and well-established godliness tends to continue. The figure which represented the vitality and increase of Joseph’s family was also true of his spiritual nature. His soul was like a tree planted by the rivers of water, ever full of vigorous life and bringing forth abundant fruit. He had overcome temptation, and thus had proved the strength of his character. He had been used to the ways of obedience until they had grown into a habit. He had enjoyed the favour of God until it became his chief delight. The natural tendency of a godly life (natural with the new nature) is to continue. “The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.” (Job 17:9.)


Genesis 49:22. The emblem of the “vine running over the wall” aptly denotes a population swelling beyond the compass of the bounds which they were to occupy. How strikingly this was fulfilled in the case of Joseph! (Joshua 17:14-18.)—(Bush.)

Genesis 49:23-24. The Divine favour forsook him not; he was preserved and relieved by the mighty God of Jacob, by whom he was delivered when his death was designed; preserved chaste when tempted to sin; rendered prosperous from the depth of his affliction; and finally advanced to great dignity, and made an instrument of most signal good to others. Thus his “low abode in strength,” denoting unconquered perseverance in a particular state or condition.—(Bush.)

The sound heart stands firm under greatest pressures (2 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:12). Whereas, if a bone be broke, or but the skin rubbed up and raw, the lightest load will be troublesome. Hang heavy weights upon rotten boughs, they presently break. But Joseph’s were green, and had sap.—(Trapp.)

Genesis 49:25. God “shall hear the heaven, the heaven shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn, wine, and oil;” the genealogy of all which is resolved into God (Hosea 2:21-22).—(Trapp.)

The earth shall rise up against the wicked, and the heavens shall reveal their iniquity; but heaven and earth, and the waters below the earth, shall combine, under the control of Divine Providence, to furnish blessings to God’s people.—(Bush.)

Genesis 49:26. To Joseph is given a double portion with a double measure of affection from a father’s heart. Like an overflowing flood his blessings have risen to the very summits of the perpetual hills in the conceptions of the venerable patriarch.—(Murphy.)

The spirit of his benediction was, by how much he was afflicted for the sake of others, by so much let him be blessed and honoured, and that to the latest posterity! And such is the mind of God, and all His true friends concerning a greater than Joseph (Hebrews 2:9; Revelation 5:11-12; Revelation 1:5-6).—(Fuller.)

Verses 28-33



I. His peace. His work is now done, his last blessing pronounced, his last prayer uttered. Nothing more is left but to gather up his feet and die. His life was satisfied with the goodness of the Lord. With great calmness he gives command concerning his burial, but here he reveals that habit of mind which he had of always dwelling upon the past. He was a man who was fond of recording seasons. He had his history by heart. He gives orders to be buried with his fathers, but he cannot help reviving the tender memories that gather around that sacred spot. “There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; … and there I buried Leah.”The sense of God’s goodness in the past gave him peace and hope. (Isaiah 43:1-3).

II. His faith. He was one of those who died in faith. (Hebrews 11:13-21). He had faith that God would give his descendants the land of Canaan for an eternal possession, and as a pledge thereof desired that his body should rest in that sacred soil. Like Moses, he was ready to forsake whatever honours his family might have in Egypt. He had faith also in his own future bliss. The salvation which he had long waited for, he is now destined to see. He was “gathered unto his people,” not only laid with them in the grave, but joined them in that better country which is an heavenly.


Genesis 49:28. Here is something which tells of the character of future judgment. Have you ever attended the opening of a will, where the bequests were large and unknown, and seen the bitter disappointment and the suppressed anger? Well, conceive those sons listening to the warning doom. Conceive Reuben, or Simeon, or Levi listening to their father’s words. Yet the day will come when, on principles precisely similar, our doom must be pronounced. Destiny is fixed by character, and character is determined by separate acts.—(Robertson.)

Genesis 49:29-32. Jacob loved Rachel with warmer affection than his fathers Abraham and Isaac, yet it was not his wish to be buried with her. He would show that he had the same pious confidence as they had in the Divine promises. His command, therefore, to his sons was a public profession that he also lived and was now dying in the same faith by which his venerable progenitors had embraced the promise.—(Bush.)

Genesis 49:33. He was gathered to “the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.” (Hebrews 12:23.) In Jerusalem, records were kept of the names of all the citizens. (Psalms 87:5.) So it is in heaven, where Jacob is now a denizen.—(Trapp.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 49". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/genesis-49.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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