Ge 49:1-33. Patriarchal
1. Jacob called unto his sons—It is not
to the sayings of the dying saint, so much as of the inspired prophet,
that attention is called in this chapter. Under the immediate influence
of the Holy Spirit he pronounced his prophetic benediction and
described the condition of their respective descendants in the last
days, or future times.
Ge 49:3, 4.
Reuben forfeited by his crime the rights
and honors of primogeniture. His posterity never made any figure; no
judge, prophet, nor ruler, sprang from this tribe.
Simeon and Levi were associate in
wickedness, and the same prediction would be equally applicable to both
their tribes. Levi had cities allotted to them (Jos 21:1-45) in every tribe. On account of
their zeal against idolatry, they were honorably "divided in Jacob";
whereas the tribe of Simeon, which was guilty of the grossest idolatry
and the vices inseparable from it, were ignominiously "scattered."
Ge 49:8-12. Judah—A high pre-eminence is destined to this
tribe (Nu 10:14; Jud 1:2). Besides the honor of giving name to
the Promised Land, David, and a greater than David—the
Messiah—sprang from it. Chief among the tribes, "it grew up from
a lion's whelp"—that is, a little power—till it became "an
old lion"—that is, calm and quiet, yet still formidable.
10. until Shiloh come—Shiloh—this
obscure word is variously interpreted to mean "the sent" (Joh 17:3), "the seed" (Isa 11:1), the "peaceable or prosperous one"
2:14)—that is, the
Messiah (Isa 11:10; Ro 15:12); and when He should come, "the tribe of
Judah should no longer boast either an independent king or a judge of
their own" [Calvin]. The Jews have been
for eighteen centuries without a ruler and without a judge since Shiloh
came, and "to Him the gathering of the people has been."
Zebulun was to have its lot on the
seacoast, close to Zidon, and to engage, like that state, in maritime
pursuits and commerce.
Ge 49:14, 15. Issachar—
14. a strong ass couching down between two
burdens—that is, it was to be active, patient, given to
agricultural labors. It was established in lower Galilee—a "good
land," settling down in the midst of the Canaanites, where, for the
sake of quiet, they "bowed their shoulder to bear, and became a servant
Ge 49:16-18. Dan—though the son of a secondary wife, was to
be "as one of the tribes of Israel."
17. Dan—"a judge."
a serpent … an adder—A serpent,
an adder, implies subtlety and stratagem; such was pre-eminently the
character of Samson, the most illustrious of its judges.
Gad—This tribe should be often
attacked and wasted by hostile powers on their borders (Jud 10:8; Jer
49:1). But they were
generally victorious in the close of their wars.
Asher—"Blessed." Its allotment was
the seacoast between Tyre and Carmel, a district fertile in the
production of the finest corn and oil in all Palestine.
Naphtali—The best rendering we
know is this, "Naphtali is a deer roaming at liberty; he shooteth forth
goodly branches," or majestic antlers [Taylor, Scripture Illustrations], and the
meaning of the prophecy seems to be that the tribe of Naphtali would be
located in a territory so fertile and peaceable, that, feeding on the
richest pasture, he would spread out, like a deer, branching
Ge 49:22-26. Joseph—
22. a fruitful bough, &c.—denotes
the extraordinary increase of that tribe (compare Nu
1:33-35; Jos 17:17; De 33:17). The patriarch describes him as
attacked by envy, revenge, temptation, ingratitude; yet still, by the
grace of God, he triumphed over all opposition, so that he became the
sustainer of Israel; and then he proceeds to shower blessings of every
kind upon the head of this favorite son. The history of the tribes of
Ephraim and Manasseh shows how fully these blessings were realized.
Ge 49:27-33. Benjamin
27. shall ravin like a wolf—This tribe
in its early history spent its energies in petty or inglorious warfare
and especially in the violent and unjust contest (Jud
19:1-20:48), in which it
engaged with the other tribes, when, notwithstanding two victories, it
was almost exterminated.
28. all these are the twelve tribes of
Israel—or ancestors. Jacob's prophetic words obviously refer
not so much to the sons as to the tribes of Israel.
29. he charged them—The charge had
already been given and solemnly undertaken (Ge 47:31). But in mentioning his wishes now and
rehearsing all the circumstances connected with the purchase of
Machpelah, he wished to declare, with his latest breath, before all his
family, that he died in the same faith as Abraham.
33. when Jacob had made an end of commanding his
sons—It is probable that he was supernaturally strengthened
for this last momentous office of the patriarch, and that when the
divine afflatus ceased, his exhausted powers giving way, he yielded up
the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.