“That which God knows to be a future certainty He reveals to we who are uncertain of the future through repetition.”
The blessings or prophetic words Jacob pronounces over his sons while on his death bed are probably best defined as future character descriptions of the tribes that will bear their names. While the sons are addressed according to their own actions, they are not to be the recipients of the outworking of those actions. The closest parallel to this in the Tanakh (OT) is Deuteronomy 33, where Moses blesses most of the tribes of Israel prior to his death and before Israel enters the Promised Land.
The word play and phrasings of Jacob’s prophetic blessing are difficult to convey in English. Some of the Hebrew is cryptic and rare in places and includes some unusual and ancient divine names.
The sayings are ordered according to the tribal mothers Leah, Zilpah, Bilhah, Rachel. The first four tribes of Leah appear in birth order, as do the sons of Rachel. However, the sons of the Handmaidens, who are previously listed in chronology through the Genesis narrative, are here listed in the alternate order of Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher and Naphtali. In fact each of the twelve sons of Jacob are listed according to the roles they will play in the strengthening of the nation of Israel.
Gen 49:1 And Yaakov (Follower) called to his sons, and said, “Gather yourselves together, so that I may tell you asher-yik’ra etchem what you will encounter in the latter ha-yamiym days (years).
Yaakov, the follower of HaShem, musters the last of his energy and calls his sons. He asks them to gather together because although he will pronounce prophetic words specific to each of them, he wants the brothers to understand that their futures are intrinsically linked. The suffering of one will be the suffering of another, and the success of one will be the prosperity of another. Israel’s tribes are to be echad (a complex and indivisible unity).
The phrase “asher-yik’ra etchem” translates literally as, “what will call to you”. There is a subtle difference between the root קרה and the root קרא which is used here. The former means “befall”, the latter, “call”. In one sense, the words that Jacob is about to pronounce are the respective callings of each tribe.
The phrase “b’chariyt ha-mayim” speaks of days/years far beyond the brothers’ own lifespans. With the benefit of hindsight we’re able to see that the words of Jacob reach beyond the land of Egypt, and while partially fulfilled in Israel’s future history within the land of Israel, they reach still further, even beyond our own years.
Concerning the phrase “b’chariyt ha-mayim” the orthodox commentator Sforno writes:
“At the end of the period allocated to life on earth as we know it. Yaakov speaks of the arrival of the Messiah which will signify the end of existence of the nations that oppose God and the kingdom of God on earth… Yaakov speaks of the time frame he has in mind as the one when Shiloh will arrive, the one to whom nations will pay homage.”
Sforno understands “Shiloh”, which means “Tranquillity, rest, belonging”, to be a name for the future King Messiah.
Rashi agrees, and explains that “the End Days” refers to the Messianic age. He goes on to say, in accordance with the Midrash, that “Jacob wished to tell his children when Messiah would come”.
Gen 49:2 Gather yourselves together, v’shemu and hear, receive, obey, you sons of Yaakov (Follower); v’shemu and hear, receive, and be in obedience to Yisrael (Overcomes in God) your father.
Akeidat Yitzchak asks, “Why does Jacob seem to commence with the blessing twice…?”
We know that a thing is repeated in the Torah in order to show the reader that the matter is firmly established. That which God knows to be a future certainty He reveals to we who are uncertain of the future through repetition. Thus the repetition of Jacob’s call to gather and the use of the names Yaakov and Yisrael are informing us that what is to follow is firmly established.
Specifically, the gathering of Israel is firmly established, both at the time of Jacob’s blessing and in the last days. Israel’s ability to hear from God and act in obedience to Him is also firmly established with the repetition of the Hebrew “v’shemu”: which is first used in implicit reference to hearing from God and subsequently used in explicit reference to obeying the words of the patriarch Jacob. The sons of Jacob are sons of a follower: that is, one who was once a follower who wrestled in relationship with HaShem and as a result of yielding to Hashem has now become one who overcomes in God. Thus the sons will also become those who overcome in God through Mashiyach (Messiah). Therefore, they are being called as obedient followers and as victorious overcomers in God’s redemptive plan for Israel and for humanity.
Jacob’s words are prophetic blessing. But he is not a fortune teller. Prophecy has more to do with relationship than it does with power, and it has nothing to do with men manipulating spiritual forces. God has not imbued Jacob with some metaphysical gift for the purpose of conjuring up futures, to the contrary, Jacob is relaying the observations of God. God, in intimate relationship with Jacob, has shared with Jacob that which has already happened outside of time and space. Jacob is not making predictions, he is making what he knows to be statements of future fact.
Gen 49:3 Reuven (Behold/Now a son), you are my firstborn, my strength, and beginning of my substance, excellent, exalted, and superior, fierce: Gen 49:4 Unstable as water, not to remain; because you aliyat went up, lying on your father's bed; then you cholal’ta defiled, profaned, desecrated: to my bed, you alah went up.
“Reuben, my son, I did not rebuke you all these years so that you should not leave me and stay with my brother Esau” –Sifre Devarim
Jacob begins his words over Reuben by stating that which once belonged to him: 1.) The blessing and portion of the firstborn 2.) The role of priest [Passed from Patriarch to Patriarch, an obligation of the firstborn which was first despised by Esau] 3.) The kingship [Strong, exalted, superior]. Each of these would now be given to the sons Whom God had chosen: The rights of the firstborn would go to Joseph and his sons, the priesthood would go to Levi (because his tribe would not participate in the sin of the Golden Calf), and Judah would become the tribe from whom Israel would receive her kings, and ultimately, the King Messiah.
“But because you sinned my son, the birth right is given to Joseph, the kingship to Judah and the priesthood to Levi” –Targum Yonatan
The idiom “Unstable as water” seems to imply fast-flowing water and or the waters of the body. In other words, Reuben lacked self-control, rushing to sin sexually with Bilhah (Gen. 35:22), his father’s wife.
Though once the firstborn head, the tribe of Reuben has left little mark in Israel’s Biblical history. Moses later calls Reuben “Small and in danger of extinction” (Deut. 33:6), and the song of Deborah the prophetess rebukes Reuben for their indecision (Judges 5:15-16; ref. Gen 42:36-38).
While the p’shat (plain meaning) of the text refers to the act of sexual sin committed by Reuben, the rabbis interpret a remez (hint) alluding to spiritual defilement. This is in part due to the repetition of the Hebrew Aliyah, to ascend which is often used in connection with Israel’s ascent to Jerusalem for the regalim, aliyot festivals (moadim).
“You did defile Him (Holy spirit) Who used to ascend my bed.” –Daat Zkenim
Sforno writes, “Alternatively, Yaakov may have referred to Reuven’s act being a desecration of God’s honour.”
“The sons of Reuven the firstborn of Yisrael—he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s bed, his birth right was given to the sons of Yosef son of Yisrael—so he is not reckoned as the firstborn in the genealogical record.” -1 Chronicles 5:1
Gen 49:5 Shimon (Heard) and Levi (Joined) are brothers; instruments of chamas cruelty, injustice: m’ceirotei’hem swords stabbing (habitation).
Having explained why Reuben failed to inherit the birth right Jacob now makes it clear that the sons who would otherwise have been next in line are also unworthy of inheriting positions of leadership in Israel. The Levites would of course become priests and servants of God but they would not have authority over the nation. In fact they depended on the rest of the tribes for their livelihood.
Simeon and Levi are coupled together because they had heard (Shimon) of what had been done to their sister and had joined (Levi) together in violent vengeance rather than awaiting just recompense (Gen. 34). They were also instigators of the sale of Joseph.
The meaning of the Hebrew “mekerah” is debated. However, its literal meaning is “swords, weapons”. Thus it’s likely that the Torah intends to convey the idea of the use of swords and violence as a way of life. Yeshua uses this same idiom when He says, “Those who make the sword their way of life will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). This should not be confused with self-defence or just warfare, which the Bible clearly teaches are acceptable expressions of violence.
The Stone Chumash translates the last phrase as, “their weaponry is a stolen craft”.
Rashi explains that violence was a trait they had stolen from Esau because it was he who lived by the sword and not his brother Jacob (Genesis 27:40).
Gen 49:6 Don’t enter into their secret council my nefesh (Soul, life); or into their assembly, to join my honour to them: because in their b’afam flaring nostrils (anger) they killed a man, and in their delight they cut an ox.
Wicked actions are often planned in secret. A righteous man should not associate with men who live a lifestyle of uncontrolled violence.
The last phrase is interpreted literally by Rambam to mean that they slaughtered the cattle of Shekhem. Rashi interprets it figuratively of Joseph (Simeon and Levi being instrumental in harming him), who he likens to a strong ox.
“Do not enter the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evil people.” –Proverbs 4:14
Gen 49:7 Cursed be their nostrils (anger), because it was fierce; and their wrath was excessive: I will divide them in Yaakov, and scatter them in Yisrael.
We note that Jacob does not curse his sons, rather he curses their sin.
The curse is against a lifestyle of perpetual and unjust violence. Yaakov cannot abide cruelty, nor does he want Israel to be infected with it.
The division and scattering probably refers to Simeon’s absorption into Judah and Levi’s being redefined as a priestly tribe, without land of its own (Deut. 18:1-2).
Gen 49:8 Yehudah (Praise), you who your brothers shall praise: your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's children will bow down before you.
With regard to the kingly tribe of Judah the Midrash says that all his brothers will chose to call themselves Yehudi (Jews) rather than by their own tribal names. One Biblical example of this is the book of Esther, where Mordechai is known as a Yehudi (Jew) even though he was from the tribe of Benjamin. Of course with regard to the modern Jewish people, all the tribes have become known as Jews. This came about after the return from the second exile when all the tribes merged under the remnant of Judah who had remained in the land. Thus all the tribes of Israel call themselves Yehudi (Jews) to this day.
Chiddushei HaRim says that the reason for Judah being honoured was the motivation of Leah when naming him. She had given Judah his name as a way of expressing her gratitude to God for having received more than her share of children (Gen. 29:35).
Gen 49:9 A lion’s cub Yehudah (Praise): from the prey, my son, you are aliyat gone up: he bent down and stretched himself out as a lion, and as a mature lion; who shall rouse him up?
We note that whereas Reuben went up aliyat to sin, Judah will go up aliyat in victory over his enemies.
The phrase concerning Judah’s victory over his prey is interpreted by Tur to refer prophetically to David’s killing of a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17:34).
Ultimately Judah’s victory refers to the King Messiah Who, having been born of Judah, will defeat ha-Satan and take hold of the keys of mot (death) sheol (holding place of the dead), triumphing in resurrected glory and redeeming Israel and the nations.
Gen 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Yehudah (Praise), nor a lawgiver (Scribe, governor) from between his feet (euphemism for reproduction), until Shiloh (Messiah, rest, tranquillity) comes; and to Him (Shiloh) the yik’hat gathering, cleansing, purging of the peoples.
“The rule of Israel shall not depart from Judah nor will one depart who will challenge Israel to keep God’s Instruction/Law (Such as Moses, the prophets, being literally present) and stay close to her kings, until the Messiah (Shiloh: rest, tranquillity) comes. And to Him (Shiloh, the Messiah), shall be the purging, cleansing, gathering of the peoples.” –Paraphrase by author
“Until the Messiah comes to Whom the kingdom belongs”-Onkelos
The Hebrew “Shiloh” is explained by the Midrash as a composite of Shai (Gift) and Lo (him), a reference to the King Messiah to Whom all nations will bring gifts.
There can be no doubt that this passage is saying that in the future, when the Messiah (Shiloh) will come, Israel’s kings, descended from Judah, will cease to reign. Therefore, the Messiah had to have come in the first century CE. And if there are those among our people who are awaiting Him still, they await His second coming.
Gen 49:11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: Gen 49:12 His eyes made dull with wine, and his teeth (sharpness) white (pale) from milk.
Shiloh (The Messiah: rest, tranquillity) is the subject of these verses.
The vine of Israel is HaShem. Meaning that it is from HaShem that Israel receives her fruitfulness. Likewise, Shiloh (The Messiah) will tether His humble ministry (ass’s colt) to the vine of HaShem, completely reliant on God and echad (one) with His Father’s purpose.
The eyes are the window to the inner man, they offer insight to the one who views them and they make observations and give vision to the one who possesses them. The eyes of Shiloh will be burdened and made dull with the weight of the sins of humanity.
“He appointed Him sin, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” –2 Corinthians 5:21
Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (16th century) says that the King Messiah rides an ass rather than a horse because it is God Who wages the wars by which He (King Messiah) comes to reign, “And He will become King in peace”.
“Rejoice greatly, daughter of Tziyon (Parched Land)!
Shout, daughter of Yerushalayim (Flood of Peace)!
Now, your King is coming to you,
a righteous one bringing salvation.
He is lowly, riding on a donkey--
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” –Zechariah 9:9
“Go into the village before you. Right away, you’ll find a donkey tied up and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me.” –Yeshua [Matthew 21:2] (TLV)
Wine is a symbol of prosperity and sweetness. And there is certainly some sense of the prosperity and fruitfulness of the vines of Israel, Judah and specifically Shiloh (The Messiah) in the abundance of wine mentioned here. However, the fruit of the vine is also a representation of the life blood. During the Passover Seder we drop that life blood on our plates and in the Yemenite tradition we shout “Blood, blood, blood, I am saved by the blood of the (Pesach) Lamb!”
The juice of the grape is called blood by the Apocryphal writings of Sirach:
"The principal things for the whole use of man's life are water, fire, iron, and salt, flour of wheat, honey, milk, and the blood of the grape, and oil, and clothing.'' –Sirach 39:26
"He stretched out his hand to the cup, and poured of the blood of the grape, he poured out at the foot of the altar a sweet smelling savour unto the most high King of all.'' –Sirach 50:15
When blood remains in the body it is the life of a man, for “the life is in the blood”(Leviticus 17:11). But when that blood is poured out, it is loss of like, death, sacrifice, atonement. In these verses we read that the Messiah will attach His donkey colt to the choice vine of Israel, meaning He will be born of God and of the Jewish people and His life blood is intrinsically linked to both God and the nation of Israel. Yeshua is the vine, we are the branches (John 15:5). He washes His garment in the blood of His own sacrificial death, His eyes made bloodshot (dull) with the cup (wine) of His suffering, for the sake of His people’s spiritual prosperity, His teeth milk white, the white washed colour of the tomb where He would lie, albeit temporarily.
“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” –Luke 22:42
“His teeth white from milk” infers strong bones from childhood, and in particular, a pure voice, both seen and heard: the Hebrew chalav (milk, dairy) being figuratively linked to sucking, like the nursing child. However, it’s also possible that this phrase is a metaphor regarding the pallor of a dying man’s skin.
White is also a symbol of purity and holiness. Thus the words of Messiah’s (Shiloh’s) mouth are to be white, without sin, pure, holy, and faultless.
Gen 49:13 Zebulun (Exalted) at the coastline of the sea will dwell; and he shall be a coastal shelter for ships; and his border upon Zidon (Hunting/fishing).
Having established the position of Judah and Israel’s kings, Jacob now gives Zebulun precedence over Issachar, despite the fact that Issachar is the older of the two. It seems that Jacob abandons the birth order for a progression of blessing that addresses the need to provision Israel. Therefore, following the appointing of the kingly tribe (Judah) he now assigns blessing to the hunter (Zebulun), the labourer (Issachar) and so on.
Zebulun’s role as sea fearing merchant would see his territory reach from Yam Kinneret (Galilee) to the Mediterranean and as far north as Zidon near the border of Northern Israel and Lebanon (Joshua 19:10-15).
Gen 49:14 Yissaschar (Wages, recompense: figuratively: labourer) is a strong boned ass, he lies down between two boundaries: Gen 49:15 And he saw that comfort was good, and the land pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became an indentured labourer.
The name Issachar seems to be a play on words “Ish sakhar”, literally “man hired”.
The indentured servant portion of this pronouncement may refer to Issachar’s subjugation under the Canaanites in the northern regions (Judges 1:3), although the text seems to infer that Issachar will willingly serve as a labourer for the sake of Israel.
Gen 49:16 Dan (Judge) shall yadin judge his people, as one of the tribes of Yisrael (Overcomes in God). Gen 49:17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.
Jacob having finished blessing the six sons of Leah, now goes on to the oldest son born to Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant. The sons of Rachel are left for last because they are favoured by Jacob above his other sons.
Rabbinical commentary interprets Samson as the judge of Dan who will be like a viper. The use of the serpent metaphor denotes wisdom or cunning rather than opposition to God e.g. “Be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
“An adder in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider shall fall backward” is said by both Rashi and Rambam, to be an allegory of Samson’s last act, the destruction of the Philistine temple and the subsequent deaths of 3000 of Israel’s enemies (Judges 16:29).
Gen 49:18 I have waited for Your salvation (Yeshua), O HaShem (YHVH: Mercy).
This verse is the only verse in Genesis 49 that uses the Holy Name YHVH. It seems unattached to both the preceding blessing and the blessing that follows. It may be a sort of intermission, where Jacob himself is calling on the Name of the Lord and as he approaches death is acknowledging the mercy and salvation he has received. This phrase is replicated almost word for word in Psalm 119:166.
However, it’s possible that this line is a phrase attributed to Samson (Like the sun). In his last moments, through true repentance (not selfish vengeance), Samson calls on God for Salvation and the strength to overcome the enemies of HaShem and of his people Israel. In a very real sense Samson is redeemed through Yeshua long before Yeshua’s birth into time and space.
Gen 49:19 Gad (Troop), g’dud a troop that will be y’gudenu overcome: but he shall yagid invade and overcome in the end.
The root from which Gad derives his name is used repeatedly in this verse to show that the tribe will journey from armed conflict to armed conflict until the final day when they will overcome in Messiah.
Gad is the oldest son of Zilpah and his tribal allotment was on the east of the Jordan. Gad vowed to support the other tribes in conquering the land of Israel and fought the Canaanites valiantly, not ceasing until the land was overcome, at which time they returned to their own allotment on the east of the Jordan. Thus the tribe of Gad is known for its warrior spirit and loyalty to the people of Israel.
Gen 49:20 From Asher (Happy) comes sh’meinah rich/fat lechem food/bread, and he shall give royal delicacies.
“Asher’s land will be so rich in olive groves that it will flow with oil like a fountain” –Rashi
The plain meaning is that kings of both Israel and foreign lands will desire the delicacies grown in the tribal land of Asher.
Gen 49:21 Naphtali (Wrestling) is a deer let loose: he gives sayings of beauty.
Naphtali is the last of the sons of the maidservants, he is Bilhah’s youngest son.
“A deer let loose” denotes swiftness. Naphtali is said to have been swift in battle during the time of Deborah the judge (Judges 4).
The sayings of beauty attributed to Naphtali are said to be given in praise of God for the swiftly growing vegetation of his territory, and in praise of the Lord for His hand in enabling Naphtali to be swift in battle.
Gen 49:22 Son of fruitfulness Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) a son fruitful upon the ground near an eye/fountain; daughters run over a wall:
It is here that the rabbis fall short, offering only trite analogies and desperate explanations. The plain meaning is full of remez (hints) that reveal a sod (mystery) of great consequence.
The plain meaning likens Joseph to a fruitful vine growing by an eye of the earth, that is a natural well or fountain of mayim chayim (waters living). This links Joseph (a figure for the coming Messiah) to Shiloh (A name for the Messiah), Who tethers His donkey colt to the vine. The living waters strengthen the fruitful vine of HaShem and Mercy adds (Joseph) redemption through blood (garments washed in wine), the offering of the innocent life of Shiloh and gifting the people with tranquillity and rest (Shiloh), a gift to him (Israel).
Gen 49:23 Now embittering him greatly and hating him my ba’alei husband/lord, they shot him with arrows:
Again, the rabbis fall short, arguing over who is more righteous or worthy to be king, Judah or Joseph. They miss the obvious, that the description, while in its plain sense refers to the mistreatment of Joseph, is none the less prophetic of the Messiah (Shiloh), to Whom the previous verse attaches itself.
“Then I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication, when they will look toward Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son and grieve bitterly for Him, as one grieves for a firstborn.” –Zechariah 12:10 (cf. John 19:34, 37; Rev. 1:7) [TLV]
Gen 49:24 But his bow dwells in strength, and supple arms, hands made strong from the hand of the Mighty One of Yaakov (Follower); from there the Shepherd, the e’ven Stone of Yisrael (Overcomes in God):
The unusual and prophetic names of God in this passage prompt the question, “If these names have not been prolifically used prior to this, why are they now employed?” God is called 1.) Mighty One of Jacob (Follower) 2.) The Shepherd 3.) The Stone. In fact The Stone can only refer to the stone of the altar of Isaac, the stone of the Temple Mount, of Zion, of the Hill, the foundation stone through which Jewish tradition says all things were created, the stone and foundation of the Temple, of Har-Beit (Mountain House). Again, this is not in reference to Joseph but in reference to the One for Whom Joseph is a pre-figure. That is, Shiloh, the Messiah.
In the plain sense this verse is speaking of the deliverance of Joseph and the subsequent deliverance of Israel. It speaks of the Shepherd of Israel, HaShem and the firm foundation that He has provided for the sons of Jacob through Joseph. At the same time it continues the story of the coming Messiah (Shiloh), Who, after being pierced, will be strengthened again by the hand of God and will become the foundation stone of Israel’s eternal security, shepherding her throughout the ages.
“Therefore thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Elohim (God: Judge):
‘Now, I am laying in Tziyon a stone,
a tested stone,
a costly cornerstone, a firm foundation--
whoever trusts will not flee in haste.” –Isaiah 28:16 (ref. 1 Corinthians 3)
The Hebrew “e’ven” translated “stone” can be seen as a contraction of the words “Av” (Father) and “Ben” (Son). In the plain sense the father is Jacob and the son is Joseph, but in the metaphysical sense the Father is HaShem and the Son is the coming Messiah Shiloh (Yeshua).
Gen 49:25 From El God (Judge) of your father (Jacob), and your helper; and the Shaddai All Sufficient Protector (Almighty), Who will bless you, from the heavens will come blessings, blessings of the deep that lie under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: Gen 49:26 The blessings of your father have prevailed above the blessings of those who conceived me, to the boundary limit of the hill everlasting: they shall be on the head of Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brothers.
Once again the blessing is filled with descriptive names of God: 1.) The Judge 2.) The Helper 3.) All Sufficient Protector, the Almighty 4.) The One Who blesses [In fact, all blessing comes from God].
Once again Zion’s hill is spoken of. In fact it can be no other hill because the hill in question is called “Olam” meaning “eternal, everlasting”.
It is not Jacob who blesses, it is God, the Judge, the Helper, the All Sufficient Protector. He is bringing blessing upon Joseph that alludes to Shiloh, the Messiah. Eternal blessing that could not apply to Joseph alone. A form of blessing which is over Jacob and will prevail as an over those blessings given to his parents. Greater blessing means the greater outworking of the blessings placed upon Abraham and Isaac. Blessing from the heavens, meaning God will come down (Messiah). Blessing from below, meaning that the Messiah will rise from sheol (Holding place of the dead). Blessing from the breast and womb, which refers to disciples feeding at the breast of Messiah, who will be born at Israel’s breast Miriam (Mary: rebellion).
Of the plain meaning we read that Joseph, who was separated from his family temporarily will be crowned with blessing. Of the remez (hint) we read that Shiloh (The Messiah) will be separate from His brothers temporarily (Dead for three days and three nights like Jonah), He will be unique in all Israel, crowned before He descends from God and crowned with blessing and with the k’vod HaShem glory of God (Mercy) when He ascends to be seated at God’s right hand. Speaking of the right hand…
Gen 49:27 Benyamin (Son of my right hand) shall ravage as a wolf: in the morning he will devour the prey, and at night he will divide the spoil.”
It is true that the descendants of Benjamin became known for their fierce wolf like warrior nature, as recorded in the affair of the concubine at Gibeah (Judges 19-20). King Saul of Benjamin was also like a wolf, defeating Moab, Edom and Philistia.
The morning is said to refer to the rise of Saul as Israel’s first human king, and the night is said to refer to the overcoming of Mordechai and Esther (Both of Benjamin) and the dividing of the spoils of their enemies (Israel’s enemies)[Esther 8:7].
Gen 49:28 All these are the twelve tribes of Yisrael: and this is what their father spoke to them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.
“Everyone according to his blessing” again affirms the core doctrine that teaches all blessing comes from God and is the speaking into time of that which God has already seen fulfilled outside of time and space.
Gen 49:29 And he charged them, and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people: inter me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron (Fawn like) the Chiti (Descendant of Chet [terror]), Gen 49:30 In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah (Double portion), which is before Mamre (Strength, fatness, abundance), in the land of K’naan (Lowland, humility), which Avraham (Father of many peoples) purchased along with the field of Ephron the Chiti (terrorist) for a possession of a place for interment. Gen 49:31 There they interred Avraham and Sarah (Princess, queen) his wife; there they interred Yitzchaak (He laughs) and Rivkah (Fetching beauty) his wife; and there I interred Leah (weary). Gen 49:32 The purchase of the field and of the cave that is there was from the children of Chet (Terror).
The Torah affirms yet again the legal purchase of the land surrounding Hebron and the cave therein. Despite the revisionist history of the enemies of Israel, there can be no argument, Hebron was, is and will always be a Jewish holy site.
This is Jacob’s final request. He has already obligated Joseph through an oath, now he also commands Joseph’s brothers. Jacob’s interment at Hebron is not merely a dying man’s selfish demand, to the contrary, Jacob knows that his interment there will become a physical manifestation of the divine promise to bring all Israel into that Promised Land. By instructing all his sons to honour his wish, he is laying a foundation of hope, not only in the physical promises of God relating to the land of Israel, but also in the eternal hope of the resurrection and the Olam haba (World to come).
Gen 49:33 And when Yaakov (Follower) had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and died, and was gathered to his people.
The phrase “He gathered his feet into the bed” concludes Jacob’s last earthly journey, he has entered death well: something he had begun in 48:2. This action is a symbolic representation of the gathering to his people. Just as the feet are drawn from the open air and beneath the covers, so too Jacob will be drawn from this life and beneath the earth into that part of Sheol (Gan Eden) where the righteous dwell.
As I have explained in previous commentary, those who die in Messiah are dead to this temporary world but alive to Messiah in Gan Eden (Paradise). Jacob was gathered to his people. One cannot be gathered to a people who have ceased to exist. Both Judaism and Christianity teach the eternal nature of the human Spirit/Soul. This teaching originates here in the first book of the Torah and not (As so many foolish Christian scholars suggest) post Hellenism.
“But concerning the dead being raised, haven’t you read in the book of Moses about the burning bush? How God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He’s not the God of the dead, but of the living. You have gone far astray!” –Yeshua Mark 12:26-27 (TLV)
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.