The narrative resumes with Jacob gathering his twelve sons. In this lesson, Jacob gave both prophecies of blessings and warnings to his first four sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. Here, the prophecies of Jacob teach us that one will receive the consequence of punishment or blessing from the deeds which one has previously done.
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- “In the last days” (49:1): The phrase can literally be translated in Hebrew as “a latter part of time” or “a future.” The Scriptures give several examples in regards to the usage of the mentioned phrase. First, the phrase can be used as a reference to a future period of distress (Deut 4:30) or a future period of evil and corruption (Deut 31:29). Second, the phrase can be used as a reference to an upcoming period of a judgment of God (Ezek 38:16), an upcoming period of a fierce anger of the Lord (Jer 23:20, 30:24), upcoming periods of deliverances of God (Jer 48:47, 49:39) and a future period of Israel’s return to God’s goodness (Hos 3:5). Third, the phrase can be used a reference to a certainty of the upcoming period of the establishment of the Lord’s mountain (Isa 2:2) or the exaltation of the Lord’s mountain (Mic 4:1).
- “Hear…listen” (49:2): These two translated words in Gen 49:2, “hear” and “listen,” are writen with the same word in Hebrew. Apart from showing to the readers the importance of Jacob’s message by repeating the same verb twice, the Hebrew structure of the sentence of those two verbs is forward-looking—which means the speaker, Jacob, “is expressing the way things will be or the way he wants them to be.” [ref]
- Might (49:3) can be literally translated in Hebrew into several meanings. First, the word can be translated as “strength” or “power” in references to human strength or human ability (Judg 16:5; Job 6:11;
2 Chr 26:13) and the strength of soil, i.e. produce (Gen 4:12). Second, the word can be translated as “power” or “strength” in a reference to God’s power (Ex 9:16; Num 14:13; Deut 4:37, 9:29; Neh 1:10; Job 24:22; Ps 65:6).
- “The beginning of my strength” (49:3): In Hebrew, the word “beginning” can be literally translated into several meanings. First, it can literally be translated as “prominent,” “chief,” “foremost,” “first,” or “beginning” in the context of the prominent people of a tribe, chief nation, the strong city as the main strength of the “tents of Ham,” and military strength as the foremost of one’s might (Gen 49:3; Deut 21:17; Num 24:20; Ps 78:51; Jer 49:35; Dan 11:41; Amos 6:1). Second, it can literally be translated as “best” or “choice portion” (ESV) in the context of offerings, “best of all things,” the “best part of the land,” “best ointments” (
1 Sam 2:29, 15:21; Ezek 48:14; Amos 6:6). Third, it can literally be translated as “firstfruits” in the context of the first harvest of the produce of the ground, the offerings or sacrifices of the agriculture products (Ex 23:19; Lev 23:10; Num 15:20-21, 18:12; Deut 18:4, 26:2, 10; 2 Chr 31:5; Neh 10:37; Ezek 20:40, 44:30). Fourth, it can literally be translated as “beginning” in the context of a time period, such as “the beginning of the year,” or an earlier stage of a process, such as “the beginning of knowledge” (Gen 10:10; Deut 11:12; Jer 26:1, 27:1, 28:1, 49:34; Job 8:7, 42:12; Ps 111:10; Prov 1:7, 8:22, 17:14; Mic 1:13).
- Unstable (49:4): The phrase can literally be translated in Hebrew as “recklessness” (Judg 9:4; Jer 23:32) or “insolence” (Zeph 3:4). Apart from the book of Genesis 49, the Scriptures mention another example of the image of water being applied to a person’s character in the book of Isaiah 57:20. The writer of the book of Isaiah mentioned that the characteristics of “unstable waters” are like “the troubled sea,” as ones which “cannot rest” and “cast up mire and dirt” (Isa 57:20).
- “You shall not excel” (49:4): The expression in Greek-Septuagint can literally be translated as “you should not boil over” or “you should not burst out.”
- Defile (49:4): Apart from being used for “defiling” the marriage bed in Gen 49:4, the word “defile” in Hebrew can literally be translated as “profane” or “break.” The word is used as a reference to the defilement or the profanity of the Lord’s Sabbath (Ex 31:14; Neh 13:17-18; Isa 56:2; Ezek 20:13, 16, 24, 22:8, 23:38), of the Lord’s altar (Ex 20:25), of the name of the Lord (Lev 18:21, 19:12, 21:6, 22:2, 32; Isa 48:11; Jer 34:16; Ezek 20:9, 39, 36:20-23, 39:7), of the hallowed offering of the Lord (Lev 19:8, 22:15), of the Lord’s sanctuary (Lev 20:3, 21:12, 23; Ps 74:7; Ezek 23:39, 24:21, 25:3, 44:7), of the ordinances of the Lord (Lev 22:9) by breaking them (Ps 89:31), of the inheritance or of the land of the Lord (Isa 47:6; Jer 16:18), of the holy things of the Lord (Ezek 22:26) and of the holy institution of the Lord by marrying the daughter of a foreign god (Mal 2:11).
- “Bed” or “couch” (49:4): In Greek-Septuagint, the word “bed” or “couch” can literally refers to “marriage bed” or “bed of wedlock.”
- “Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place” (49:5): The sentence can literally be translated in Hebrew as “apparatuses of violence are their weapons (from the Hebrew root “swords”).” The Greek-Septuagint literally translated the sentence as “they carried out injustice out of their faction.”
- Soul (49:6): The word “soul” can be translated literally in Hebrew as “life” (Gen 9:4-5, 19:17, 32:30, 44:30; Lev 17:14), “wish” or “desire” or “pleasure” (Gen 23:8; Ex 15:9; Deut 23:24), “people” or “person(s)” (Ex 1:5; Num 15:27, 31:35), “anyone” or “man” (Lev 4:27, 24:17); “corpse” or “body” (Num 9:6-7, 19:13).
- Honor (49:6): In Hebrew, the word “honor” can literally be translated as “glory” and is also used to refer to the glory of God throughout the Scriptures (Ex 16:7, 24:16, 33:18; Lev 9:23; Num 14:10, 16:19; Deut 5:24;
1 Kgs 8:11; 2 Chr 5:14; Neh 9:5; Ps 26:8, 57:5; Isa 6:3).
- “…in their self-will” (49:6): In Hebrew, the phrase can literally be translated as “in their pleasure” or “do exactly as he pleased” and in Greek-Septuagint, “in their craving” or “in their lust.”
- “They hamstrung an ox” (49:6): The word “hamstrung” has a literally similar root translation in Hebrew with the word “uproot” or “pluck.” And the word “ox” has a literally similar root translation in Hebrew with the word “wall.” The examples of the usage of the word “uproot” and “pluck” in the Scriptures can be found in the book of Zephaniah 2:4, “…and Ekron shall be uprooted,” and in the book of Ecclesiastes 3:2, “…a time to pluck what is planted.” Thus, the phrase in Gen 49:6 can also be literally translated as “…in their pleasure they uprooted a wall,” which refers to sacking of a city by pulling down the city’s wall.
- “…for it is fierce” (49:7): The expression can literally be translated as “for it is arrogant” in Greek-Septuagint.
- “…for it is cruel” (49:7): The phrase, in Greek-Septuagint, can literally be translated as “for it was hardened the heart” or “stiffened the neck.”
- Praise (49:8): In Hebrew, the word “praise” can literally be translated into several meanings, such as “to confess” in the context of confessing sins (Lev 5:5, 16:21, 26:40; Num 5:7; Neh 1:6, 9:2; Ps 32:5; Dan 9:20), “to acknowledge” in the context of acknowledging God’s name (
1 Kgs 8:33, 35; 2 Chr 6:24 [ESV]) and “to thank” or “to thanksgiving” in the context of giving thanks to God ( 2 Sam 22:50; 1 Chr 16:4, 7, 34, 23:30, 29:13; 2 Chr 5:13; Ezra 3:11; Neh 12:46; Ps 18:49, 105:1, 106:47, 107:1). In addition, the mentioned word is commonly used to praise the LORD ( 2 Chr 7:3, 6; 20:21; Ps 7:17, 9:1, 28:7, 30:9, 33:2, 42:5, 45:17, 57:9, 67:3, 71:22, 86:12, 99:3, 109:30, 118:19, 139:14, 142:7, 145:10; Isa 12:4; Jer 33:11).
- Neck (49:8): The word “neck” can be literally translated as “backs” in Hebrew. Thus, the phrase “giving” or “taking one’s neck” in
2 Sam 22:41, Ps 18:40, Job 16:12 and “turning one’s back” in Ex 23:27, Josh 7:8-12, Jer 48:39 can refer to one’s defeat or destruction by one’s enemies.
- Scepter (49:10) can be referred to a symbol of authority throughout the examples in the Scriptures, such as: “the scepter of the rulers” (Isa 14:5), “the scepter of Egypt” (Zech 10:11), “scepters of rulers” (Ezek 19:11, 14), and “the scepter from Beth-Eden (Amos 1:5). In addition, the word “scepter” can literally be translated as “tribe” in Hebrew, such as: “tribes of Israel” (Deut 33:5), “tribe of Benjamin” (Judg 20:12;
1 Sam 9:21), “the tribes of Your inheritance” (Isa 63:17), “the tribe of the families of the Kohathites” (Num 4:18).
- Lawgiver (49:10), in Hebrew, can literally be translated as “staff” or “scepter” such as in Num 21:18; Ps 60:7, 108:8 ([ESV] “scepter”) and “commander(s)” or “rulers” such as in Judg 5:9; Deut 33:21 ([ESV] “commander(s)”). Moreover, the Scriptures give examples of how the tribe of Judah was established as the first tribe to encamp in front of the tabernacle of meeting (Num 2:3), to break camp (Num 2:9), to set out of the camp to continue the journey (Num 10:14), to offer the offering before the altar of the tabernacle of meeting (Num 7:12) and to be apportioned the land for the inheritance through the leader of every tribe (Num 34:16-19).
- “Between his feet” (49:10) is an expression in Hebrew that can be euphemized for womb or the capability to produce posterity. For example, the writer of the book of Deuteronomy mentioned how the “placenta which [came] out from between [the mother’s] feet and her children whom she [bore]” (Deut 28:57).
- “Until Shiloh comes” (49:10): The phrase can literally be translated into four different translation in Hebrew, according to a biblical reference. First, the phrase can be translated as “until he [Judah or a Judean ruler] comes to Shiloh.” Second, “until he comes to whom it [the scepter] belongs.” Third, “until his ruler [the future Messiah] comes.” Fourth, “until tribute comes [is brought] to him.” Textually, structurally, grammatically and poetically the last alternative of the translation provides no serious interpretation flaw and therefore, many scholars adopt the fourth alternative as the closest possible interpretation. [ref]
- “Choice vine” (49:11): According to a biblical reference, a superior kind of vine grew in Syria. The vine was characterized by its small, round, and dark color berries. [ref]
- “His eyes are darker than wine (49:12) can be translated literally as “the eyes are dull from wine” in Hebrew and as “his eyes are bright-eyed (bluish-grey) from wine” in Greek-Septuagint.
- “His teeth whiter than milk” (49:12) can literally be translated in Hebrew as “the teeth are white from milk” and in Greek-Septuagint, “his teeth are gleaming like milk.”
In Gen 49:3-4, although Reuben was “[Jacob’s] might and the beginning of [his] strength”—due to his deed in “[going] up to [his] father’s bed”—he was prevented to excel. Later in Deut 33:6, the prophet Moses prayed to God to “let Reuben live, and not die” and not to “let his men be few.”
In Gen 49:5-7, apart from Levi’s cursed anger, Levi’s assembly would not be united with Jacob’s honor and would be scattered in Israel. But later in Deut 33:8-11, the Levites “observed [God’s] word” and would serve the Lord by teaching Israel God’s law and putting “a whole burnt sacrifice on [God’s] altar.”
In Gen 49:8-12, Judah’s strength was like a lion whose “hand [would be] on the neck of [his] enemies” and no one would dare to rouse him. Yet in Deut 33:7, the author of the book of Deuteronomy prayed to God to listen to “the voice of Judah” and to “bring him to his people.” “And may You be a help against his enemies.”
Just as Isaac’s call to Jacob in Gen 28:1 acted as the climaxed instructions of a father to his son before Jacob’s departure to Padan Aram (Gen 28:1-5), Jacob’s call to his sons in Gen 49:1 served as the climaxed instructions of a father to his sons before his death (Gen 49:29-33). The calling of Jacob to his sons carried several significances. Not only did Jacob’s words reveal the unique warnings and blessings to each of Jacob’s sons but they also revealed “what [would] befall [the sons] in the last days” (Gen 49:1).
Jacob’s advise in Gen 49:2 had a similar pattern with that of the author of the book of Proverbs. Just as Jacob intimately as a father to his children called the “sons of Jacob” to hear his last words, the author of the book of Proverbs also intimately as a father to his children called the readers to listen “the words of [his] mouth” (Prov 1:8, 4:1, 5:7, 7:24, 8:6, 32).
In the book of Proverbs, the phrase shows several significances, such as the speaker’s wish for the readers to gain wisdom, understanding (Prov 4:5) and blessing (Prov 8:32) after listening to his words. Furthermore, the phrase signifies the speaker’s hope for the readers not to turn away from his words of instruction (Prov 1:8), of excellence and of righteousness (Prov 8:6). Likewise, the phrase of Jacob, “hear, you sons of Jacob” carried Jacob’s wish for his sons to gain wisdom and understanding in regards to the things which “[would] befall [them] in the last days.” In addition, the phrase conveyed Jacob’s hope for his sons not to turn away from Jacob’s prophetic words of the upcoming blessings and warnings against them.
In the book of Genesis, there are several examples of eldest sons who lost the right of their firstborn status. First, Cain who was “cursed from the earth” because he murdered his brother, Abel (Gen 4:8-11). Second, Ishmael who was cast out because he was not heir with Isaac—the son of God’s promise, and had scoffed at Isaac—the son of God’s covenant (Gen 21:9-10). Third, Esau who was hated by God (Rom 9:13) because he had “sold his birthright” for one morsel of food (Heb 12:16) and he had “despised his birthright” (Gen 25:34). Fourth, Reuben who “went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine” (Gen 35:22) was prevented to excel by Jacob his father (Gen 49:4). Fifth, Er who was killed by God because he was “wicked in the sight of the Lord” (Gen 38:7).
From the example of Jacob’s silence toward Reuben’s sinful deed in Gen 35:22 to Jacob’s proclamation of judgment against Reuben in Gen 49:3-4, what can we learn about God’s judgment? See also Ex 34:7 and Rom 14:10-12.Hide Answer
From the example of Jacob’s silence toward Reuben’s sinful deed in Gen 35:22 to Jacob’s proclamation of judgment against Reuben in Gen 49:3-4, we can learn that God’s judgment is just. Although in Gen 35:22 Jacob was silent about Reuben’s sinful deed, it did not mean that Jacob overlooked Reuben’s evil. Later in Gen 49:3-4, Jacob proclaimed the judgment against Reuben for his past sinful deed.
It must be noted God Himself made the proclamation that He was merciful, “who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Ex 34:7, NASB). In other words, those who are with guilt must carry the consequence of God’s punishment. In addition, the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans that “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” and “each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom 14:10-12). Thus, according to the letter to the Romans, each of us will be held responsible for what we have done, good and bad, in our life in front of God during our “stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”
If Reuben did not defile Jacob’s bed, how would he have excelled as the firstborn in his family?Hide Answer
If Reuben did not defile Jacob’s bed, Reuben would have excelled in his family as the firstborn. According to the book of Genesis, Reuben would have been Jacob’s might and “the beginning of [Jacob’s] strength (NLT—“vigorous youth”). In addition, as the firstborn in Jacob’s family, both Reuben’s dignity and power (NLT—“rank and honor”) would have risen in excellence (ESV—“preeminence”) (Gen 49:3).
As the firstborn of the family, Reuben was supposed to be the “might” and “strength” of Jacob. In addition, Reuben carried the responsibility to reflect “the excellency of dignity” and “the excellency of power” for his family (Gen 49:3). But his defilement of “[going up] to [his] father’s bed” had caused Reuben to fall behind. Thus, Reuben would no longer reflect the might of Jacob and the dignity of Israel’s family.
Likewise, in the beginning mankind was created in the image and in the likeness of God (Gen 1:26) and was not ashamed (Gen 2:25). But the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans described that after “all [had] sinned,” they “[fell] short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). According to the book of Genesis, after mankind committed a sinful deed, mankind felt shame and fear (Gen 3:7-10) and mankind knew evil (Gen 3:22). Thus, instead of reflecting the likeness and the glory of God, men in their sinful state—according to the apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy—“will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure…led away by various lusts” (
2 Tim 3:1-6).
How many times did Jacob emphasize the offense of Reuben?
In the book of Genesis, Jacob viewed Reuben’s offense of defiling Jacob’s marriage bed as a grievous one so that not only did Jacob emphasize it three times in his prophecies but he also prevented Reuben’s excellence in the Israelites for his defilement (Gen 49:4). In regards to the deed which Reuben had done to his father Jacob, the Scriptures view it as an act of sexual immorality and an act of dishonoring marriage. First, the writer of the book of Leviticus mentioned the forbiddance of the offense of uncovering “the nakedness of [one’s] father’s wife” (Lev 18:8). Second, the writer of the book of Hebrews emphasized that marriage should be honored among all and the marriage bed should be “undefiled.” The writer also continued that the defilers of the marriage bed—the “fornicators and [the] adulterers”—will be judged by God (Heb 13:4).
The word “brother(s)” in Gen 37:26 (“Judah said to his brothers…kill our brother”); Gen 38:1 (“Judah departed from his brothers”); Gen 42:3 (“Joseph’s ten brothers”); and Gen 42:13 (“twelve brothers”) refers to the biological relationship among kinsmen of the same parent. However, the word “brother” in Gen 49:5 (“Simeon and Levi are brothers”) refers to the affiliation or togetherness of Simeon and Levi as “instruments of cruelty.”
While the word “brother” in the book of Genesis 49:5 was used to show Simeon and Levi were partners in crime, the word “brother” in the book of
and 20:32-33 was used in different contexts.
In the book of
, Hiram, the King of Tyre used the word “brother” as a sarcasm because he was not pleased with the cities which King Solomon had given him. King Hiram was so disgusted that he called them “the land of Cabul,” which could literally be translated in Hebrew as “the land as good as nothing.” Furthermore, in the book of 1st King 20:32-33, the writer of the book described how the servants of Ben-Hadad, the King of Syria, came to King Ahab of Israel showing humility by wearing “sackcloth around their waists” and “ropes around their heads” to plead for King Ben-Hadad’s life. Influenced by his personal sentiment, King Ahab then called King Ben-Hadad “my brother,” treating him as equal, king to king, instead of a defeated king who was “appointed to utter destruction” by the Lord ( 1 Kgs 20:42). Later, King Ahab even made a treaty with King Ben-Hadad and “sent him away” ( 1 Kgs 20:34)—all in violation of God’s will by letting a condemned man “slip[ped] out of [his] hand.”
Jacob’s reference of Simeon and Levi as “instruments of cruelty” was based on the violent event in Gen 34:25-29. The writer of the book of Genesis described the cruelty and the violence committed by Simeon and Levi. After the Shechemites “were in pain” because of the circumcision performed for the agreement of marriage between Shechem, Hamor’s son, and Dinah, Jacob’s daughter—a deceitful scheme (Gen 34:13) crafted by the “sons of Jacob” to trick the Shechemites (Gen 34:11-24)—Simeon and Levi “each took his sword and came boldly upon the city” (Gen 34:25). First, they killed all the males, Hamor and Shechem in their painful circumcised-state “with the edge of the sword.” Second, they “took Dinah from Shechem’s house,” confirming that the marriage agreement was just a deceitful scheme (Gen 34:26). Third, they plundered the city, “even all that was in the houses,” and they took “their sheep, their oxen, and their donkeys, what was in the city and what was in the field” (Gen 34:27-29). Fourth, they took captive the little ones and the wives of the Shechemites (Gen 34:29). Thus, Simeon and Levi became the “instruments of cruelty” by fulfilling their vengeful anger (Gen 34:7) and their fierce anger (Gen 49:6) through destruction, murder, plunder and captivity of the whole city and of all the inhabitants, including all that were in it, with their “edge of sword.”
Describe Jacob’s strong rejections towards Simeon and Levi.Hide Answer
In his prophecy, Jacob narrated his strong rejections towards Simeon and Levi. According to the book of Genesis 49:6-7, Jacob refused to “let [his] soul “enter [Simeon and Levi’s] council” and to “let [his] honor be united to their assembly.” In addition, Jacob cursed their fierce anger and their cruel wrath for slaying a man “in their anger” and hamstringing an ox “in their self-will.” Finally, Jacob would divide and would scatter them in Israel.
In other words, Jacob—on his deathbed—considered both Simeon and Levi to be very wicked men that not only did Jacob want nothing to do with them, refusing his soul and his honor to be united with them, but he also went on to curse them because of their wickedness.
The anger of Simeon and Levi in Gen 49:6 was similar to that of Cain in Gen 4:5-12. First, in their anger, they killed a man. Just as Cain killed Abel in his anger (Gen 4:5-8), Simeon and Levi “slew a man” in their anger. Second, they were cursed for the action of their anger. Just as Cain was “cursed from the earth” in which “the ground [would] no longer yield its strength to [Cain] (Gen 4:11-12),” Simeon and Levi was cursed in which they would be divided and scattered in Israel (Gen 49:7).
Jacob emphasized Simeon and Levi’s hamstringing of an ox in Gen 49:6 for the purpose of showing their cruelty. Throughout the Scriptures, hamstringing is an act performed to a horse or a chariot horse by cutting the large tendon at the back of the hock in the hind leg of a horse for the purpose of depleting the enemies’ military force. For example, the writer of the book of Joshua mentioned how the Israelites hamstrung the Canaanites’ horses and burned their chariots with fire to destroy their military strength (Josh 11:6, 9). In addition, the writer of the book of
2nd Samuel narrated how King David hamstrung the chariot horses of Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah after the army had been defeated ( 2 Sam 8:4; 1 Chr 18:4). On the other hand, according to the book of Deuteronomy, an ox is usually used for agriculture work, such as plowing (Deut 22:10) and treading or threshing the grain (Deut 25:4). Thus, an act of hamstringing an ox was not only unusual but was also militarily out of the context. In Gen 49:6, Jacob emphasized that Simeon and Levi had hamstrung an ox “in their self-will” or “as they pleased” (NIV). In other words, Simeon and Levi had hamstrung an ox for the purpose of their self-pleasure. Such an act strongly reflected the cruelty of Simeon and Levi.
The Scriptures describe the examples on how the word “scatter” is used. In the Scriptures, the word “scatter” is used to refer to several meanings in different contexts. For example, in the book of Genesis 11:4-9, the writer mentioned the word “scatter” to refer to the dispersion of the people who would try to be united to make a name for themselves. Next, the writer of the book of Deuteronomy described the word “scatter” to refer to the diminishment of the numbers of the Israelites among other nations (Deut 4:27). Furthermore, the writer of the book of
1st Kings used the word “scatter” to refer to dispersion of the Israelites from the battlefield due to the death of their king ( 1 Kgs 22:17-36).
What was the significance of the “dividing and scattering” of Simeon and Levi in Gen 49:7?Hide Answer
The phrase “dividing and scattering” of Simeon and Levi carried a certain significance. Previously, both Simeon and Levi were allies in their cruelty and fierce anger (Gen 49:5-7). But Jacob in his prophecy emphasized that he would divide and would scatter Simeon and Levi in Israel. In other words, not only that they would no longer be allies in “cruelty and fierce anger” but they would also no longer be as prominent in their “assembly and council” as before.
Historically, the examples from Scriptures described how the Simeonites had gradually lost their strength in numbers and in inheritance. First, the population of the Simeonites was decreased from 59,300 people in the first census (Num 1:23) to 22,200 people in the second census by the end of the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness (Num 26:14). Second, the Simeonites were absent from the blessing of Moses to the children of Israel (Deut 33). Third, “the inheritance of the Simeonites was “within the inheritance” of the Judahites. While the children of Judah had “too much share” of the inheritance for them, the children of Simeon had to be “included in the share of the children of Judah” (Josh 19:9). Fourth, the tribe of Simeon was eventually considered as a part of the tribe of Judah. The writer of the book of Judges mentioned how the joined forces between the Simeonites—whose dwelling place was within the territory of the children of Judah—and the Judahites—whose territory surrounded the inheritance of the children of Simeon—were eventually considered as “Judah” and “children of Judah” (Judg 1:3-10).
The reasons of the alliance between Judah and Simeon were: First, both Judah and Simeon were full brothers from the same mother, Leah (Gen 29:33, 35). After Joshua died, the Israelites asked God as to which tribe would be the first to fight Canaan. God told them it should be Judah. So Judah invited Simeon his brother to join him (Judg 1:1-3). Second, the allotted territory of Simeon fell “within the inheritance of the children of Judah” (Josh 19:1). According to the book of Numbers, the census of the tribe of Simeon was the smallest one, only twenty-two thousand men of military age (Num 26:12-14). In the book of Numbers, God had told Moses that a large tribe would be given “a larger inheritance” (the tribe of Judah) and a small tribe would be given “a smaller inheritance” (tribe of Simeon) (Num 26:52-56). Since “the inheritance of the children of Simeon was included in the share of the children of Judah—for the share of the children of Judah was too much (ESV—too large) for them” (Josh 19:9), it was necessary for the tribe of Judah to form an alliance with the tribe of Simeon by mutually fighting against the Canaanites for each of their respective, “allotted territory” (Judg 1:3).
Furthermore, though the writer of the book of Numbers narrated how the Lord had taken the Levites to be His to serve in the tabernacle of meeting (Num 3:12, 8:14), the examples from the Scriptures historically recorded the absence of the Levites’ inheritance among Israel. Not only were the Levites economically dependent on the other tribes of Israel (Deut 12:12, 14:27), they were also given no land inheritance (Num 18:23-24; Deut 10:9, 18:1) except for the forty-eight cities and their common-land within the land of Israel (Num 35:1-8; Josh 21:1-45).
Although the writer of the book of Revelation mentioned the tribe of Simeon and the tribe of Levi as the sealed people of God (Rev 7:1-8), these recordings symbolically represented “the servants of our God” (Rev 7:3), the believers of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans narrated that a Jew was not one “who [was] one outwardly” but the one “who [was] one inwardly…in the Spirit…whose praise [was] not from men but from God” (Rom 2:28-29). The apostle Paul continued to narrate that “[the Jews were] not all Israel who [were] of Israel, nor [were] they all children because they [were] the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called’ “ (Rom 9:6-7). To the above writings, the apostle Paul recorded his explanation, saying, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…There is neither Jew nor Greek…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:26-29). In other words, through faith in Jesus, the believers of Christ are the seed of Abraham, the children of Israel—the “one hundred and forty-four thousand” of “the servants of our God” of all the sealed “tribes of the children of Israel” (Rev 7:3-4).
Describe the blessings of Judah in the prophecy of Jacob in Gen Gen 49:8-12.Hide Answer
The blessings of Judah in the prophecy of Jacob were as follow: First, the praise of Judah among his family (Gen 49:8). Second, the strength of Judah which is like a lion (Gen 49:9). Third, the leadership of Judah among his people (Gen 49:10). Fourth, the abundance of Judah which is like a choice vine and the wine (Gen 49:11-12).
How did the word “praise” in Jacob’s prophecy echo the meaning of Judah’s name in Gen 29:35?Hide Answer
The word “praise” in Jacob’s prophecy, which refers to the praise of the brothers to Judah, echoes the meaning of Judah’s name. In Gen 29:35, Leah called the name of her fourth son, Judah, which means “Now I will praise the LORD.” Just as Judah’s presence into the world brought his mother’s praise to the LORD, Judah’s victory over his enemies would bring praise among his brothers.
Describe the symbolization of lion throughout the Scriptures that is related to Gen 49:9. Symbol of royalty;Hide Answer
Several examples from the Scriptures mentioned how a lion was used as a symbol of royalty. First, in the book of
1st Kings, the writer described that the image of two lions were made to be put “beside the armrests” of the great throne of King Solomon and “twelve lions stood” on the throne’s steps, “one on each side of the six steps” ( 1 Kgs 10:18-20). Second, the writer of the book of Zephaniah mentioned how the princes of Jerusalem were like “roaring lions” (Zeph 3:3). Third, the prophet Ezekiel likened the princes and the princes’ mother of Israel to “young lions” and “a lioness” (Ezek 19:1-3).
Symbol of a Messiah;Hide Answer
The Scriptures described several examples of how a lion was used as a symbol of Messiah. The writer of the book of Revelation mentioned of a “Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” who “has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals” from the “right hand of [God] who sat on the throne” (Rev 5:5-7). The writer explained further that the Lion of the tribe of Judah was none other than the Lamb of God who has “seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God,” Jesus the Christ (Isa 53:7; Jn 1:29;
1 Pet 1:19).
Symbol of God’s judgment;Hide Answer
The prophet Hosea used lion as a symbol of God’s judgment against Ephraim and Judah for their offense. In Hos 5:14, the prophet wrote how the Lord “[would] be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah,” tearing them and taking them away that “no one [would be able to] rescue” them. In addition, the prophet Isaiah likened the judgment of God upon Moab to “lions [who waited] upon him who [had escaped]” (Isa 15:9). Lastly, the writer of the book of Jeremiah described that God’s judgment upon Jerusalem for her transgressions and backslidings was like “a lion from the forest” who “[would] slay them” (Jer 5:6).
Symbol of God’s delivery;Hide Answer
In the book of Isaiah, the writer narrated how the Lord would “defend Jerusalem” and would “fight for Mount Zion” against multitude of enemies. Just as a roaring lion was not afraid of the voice of “a multitude of shepherds” and was not “disturbed by their noise,” the Lord would come down to deliver His people from their enemies (Isa 31:4).
Symbol of a destroyer;Hide Answer
The prophet Jeremiah described God’s case against Israel for her transgression. In the book of Jeremiah, the writer explained how “[Israel’s] sword [had] devoured [her] prophets like a destroying lion” (Jer 2:30). Moreover, the prophet Jeremiah narrated how the “destroyer of nations” who would make the land of Israel desolate was like “the lion [who came up] from his thicket” (Jer 4:7).
Symbol of might and fearlessness;Hide Answer
The Scriptures view lion as a symbol of might and fierceness. For example, in the book of Proverbs, the writer described a lion as one which was “mighty among beasts and [did] not turn away from any” (Prov 30:30). Furthermore, valiant men were usually described as ones whose heart was like a lion’s heart (
2 Sam 17:10) and whose face was like the face of a lion ( 1 Chr 12:8) and whose teeth were like the teeth of a lion (Joel 1:6). Lastly, the Scriptures often portrayed lion as a symbol of fearlessness. For example, in the book of Amos, the prophet Amos described how a roaring lion was feared (Amos 3:8) and caused men to tremble (Hos 11:10)
The phrase “the scepter shall not depart from Judah” in Gen 49:10 was significant in relation to the historical kingship of David. The Scriptures mentioned that “David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah” (
1 Sam 17:12). After David became the king of Israel ( 2 Sam 2:4), the prophet Nathan delivered the words of God to him concerning his kingship, saying that “[the Lord would] set up [David’s] seed after [him]…and [God would] establish the throne of his kingdom forever…And [David’s] house and [his] kingdom [would] be established forever before [him]” ( 2 Sam 7:12-16). Later, the psalmists in the book of Psalms confirmed the mentioned promise of God to David in regards to his kingship. The writer of the book of Psalms narrated that the Lord “[had] made a covenant with [His] chosen [and He had] sworn to [His] servant David” that God would establish his seed forever and would “build up [his] throne to all generations” (Ps 89:3-4, 33-37). Thus, God’s promise of the kingship of David throughout the Scriptures historically was the fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy in regards to the scepter of Judah.
The phrase “the scepter shall not depart from Judah” in Gen 49:10 was significant in relation to the spiritual kingdom of Christ. The Scriptures described that “our Lord arose from Judah” (Heb 7:14) and that the Lord Jesus was “the son of David…the son of Judah…the son of Adam, the son of God” (Lk 3:23-38). In addition, a certain blind man near Jericho upon hearing that Jesus of Nazareth was coming, he cried out and acknowledged that “Jesus [was] the son of David” (Lk 18:38). And in the letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul confirmed that “Jesus Christ our Lord…was born of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom 1:3). In regards to the spiritual kingdom, the Lord Jesus Himself in the gospel of John emphasized that “[His] kingdom is not of this world. If [His] kingdom were of this world, [His] servants would fight, so that [He] should not be delivered to the Jews; but now [His] kingdom is not from here” (Jn 18:36). Moreover, the apostle Paul described further in his letter to the Romans that the spiritual kingdom of our Lord Jesus “is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). Therefore, the prophecy of Judah’s royalty does not only refer to the historical kingship of King David but also refers to the spiritual kingdom of righteousness and peace and joy of our Lord Jesus.
The description of wine, grapes and milk in Gen 49:11-12 can be associated in general with the abundance of the historical Promised Land. Throughout the Scriptures, the Promised Land of Canaan is often described as “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3:8, 17; Num 13:27; Deut 6:3) which refers to a fertile and highly productive land of grain, vine and milk of the flock (Deut 8:8, 32:14, 33:28).
The future blessing of the spiritual Promised Land. See Isa 24:23 and 25:6-9.Hide Answer
The description of wine, grapes and milk in Gen 49:11-12 can also be generally associated with the future blessing of the spiritual Promised Land mentioned in the book of Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah mentioned about the mountain, Mount Zion, on which”the LORD of hosts will reign (Isa 24:23),” on which “[the Lord] will swallow up death forever [and] will wipe away tears from all faces” and on which His people will wait “for His salvation” (Isa 25:8-9). On that mountain, according to the prophet Isaiah, “the LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees” (Isa 25:6).