The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 49

Gen 49:1

Vv 1,2: These blessings were given publicly, it seems -- at a specially convened family gathering. It is significant as it means that each faced the blessing, which was related quite specifically to some degree to their performance in life so far, in front of the others, which must have made quite an emotional scene. We have here a picture of God's judgment upon His children.

Order / meaning of names of sons: "See a son, hear him, join him, praise him, dwell with him. He will reward, at the judgment, in a company of blessed ones, who have wrestled and been added to the son of my right hand."

IN DAYS TO COME: AV has "in the last days". May refer to both end of Jewish times, and end of Gentile times.

Gen 49:3

MY FIRSTBORN: Actually, what might have been! The firstborn was to receive a double portion (Deu 21:15-17). As with Cain, Ishmael, Esau, Manasseh -- Reuben was deposed.

THE FIRST SIGN OF MY STRENGTH: The double inheritance was later given to Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh).

EXCELLING IN HONOR: The priesthood was given to Levi (Exo 32; Num 3:2,13,40-51).

EXCELLING IN POWER: The rulership was given to Judah (vv 8,10).

Gen 49:4

TURBULENT AS THE WATERS: Lit "flowing down", trusting in flesh, weak as water (Eze 7:17). Decreasing numerically (Num 2:16; 26:7). Or "an unruly stream" (Candlish 448).

YOU WILL NO LONGER EXCEL: Reuben typ Israel, God's "firstborn" (Exo 4:22,23), who lost his authority to Christ and spiritual Israel (Rom 2:29; Jam 1:17,18; Rev 14:4; Heb 12:23). No king or judge came from Reuben. And the birthright that would have normally gone to the firstborn Reuben instead went to Judah, and to Ephraim and Manasseh. Also, in the ill-fated rebellion against Moses in Num 16, Dathan and Abiram were Reubenites (v 1).

Gen 49:5

BROTHERS: Or, close allies, in opposing Jesus: Simeon = scribes, and Levi = priests.

Gen 49:6

LET ME NOT ENTER THEIR COUNCIL: That is, their alliance or friendship. Jacob wants no part of their deeds.

LET ME NOT JOIN THEIR ASSEMBLY: The "assembly" of the wicked, who took Christ (Psa 22:16; Mat 26:3,4).

FOR THEY HAVE KILLED MEN IN THEIR ANGER: The men of Shechem (Gen 34,35). "Shechem" sig "burden bearer", a city of refuge (Jos 21:21). Therefore, could sig Christ himself, the "burden bearer" and a refuge for sinners. Like the young man Shechem, Jesus is "more honorable than his fellows" (Gen 34:19).

HAMSTRUNG OXEN AS THEY PLEASED: Or "digged down a wall" (AV). They destroyed a city, Jerusalem, in AD 70 -- ruined because of their rejection of Jesus (cp Mat 22:7; 23:37). God's wall of fire round about (Zec 2:5) was withdrawn. Or, again, "they killed a bull" -- ie, Jesus, the bullock of a sin offering (Lev 8:17; Heb 13:11-13).

Gen 49:7

CURSED BE THEIR ANGER, SO FIERCE, AND THEIR FURY, SO CRUEL!: "Anger is not properly controlled when a man is cool in the pursuit of revenge. It has become more evil, for instead of being merely a matter of feeling, it has engaged the intellect and the will, so that such a man can act a part with skill and subtlety. It is still anger, by reason made more deadly. We have scriptural authority for this judgment, for Jacob so described the cold craftiness of two of his sons, 'Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel' " (PrPr).

I WILL SCATTER THEM IN JACOB AND DISPERSE THEM IN ISRAEL: Simeon had no individual territory (Jos 19:1-9). Simeon's inheritance was a number of towns within Judah's inheritance. Levi was scattered to various priestly cities throughout the tribal regions. Typ Jews, scattered among all the nations after 70 AD. Simeon was the smallest tribe in Num 26:14,24; no mention in Deu 32; no individual territory in Josh 19; settled outside land in 1Ch 4:38,42.

Gen 49:8

JUDAH: The birth of Judah brings praise from his mother, as the birth of Jesus will at last bring praise from Israel. For spiritual sense, see Rom 2:28,29: "Whose praise is of God".

Gen 49:9

Cp "Lion of Judah": Rev 5:5. Lion sym Israel (Isa 29:1, "Ariel"; Eze 43:16 mg). Christ is the lion/altar (Heb 13:10; cp also Heb 12:29; Psa 50:22; Joel 3:16; Rev 5:5). Three types of lions here: repr youth, strength, experience.

YOU RETURN FROM THE PREY: Or "go up from the prey." Poss ref to the lion's ascent, after a raid, to his mountain fastness, where he rests in unassailable security.

LIKE A LION HE CROUCHES AND LIES DOWN: See Elp 280: Judah is prostrate now, to be roused up by "Shiloh" (v 10) and made a goodly horse in battle (Zec 10:3). Then v 9 will be fulfilled.

LIONESS ("old lion": AV): Means not aged, but "ferocious" (from rt "to roar") -- same as Num 23:24 ("great"); Num 24:9; Deu 33:20,21.

WHO DARES TO ROUSE HIM?: Or, "to provoke him", or challenge him. 'Let sleeping lions lie!'

Gen 49:10

The Pentateuch contains 6 "image" titles for Messiah. Four are mentioned in this ch. Christ is here described as "scepter", "Shiloh", "shepherd" (v 24), and "stone" (v 24 again). And elsewhere he is described as "the seed" (Gen 3:15; 22:17) and "the star" (Num 24:17).

The Seed of promise, who shall be King ["scepter"], will bring tranquility, security and prosperity ["Shiloh"]. He will nourish ["shepherd"] his people and increase ["stone", ie "build"] the family name, raising men up to be heavenly ["star"] rulers (Dan 12:3).

See Elp 280,281: Here, 2 appearances of "Shiloh": (1) After departure of "scepter" in 589 BC; (2) As a lawgiver (Isa 2:2).

SCEPTER: Lit "a stick (for ruling or correction) -- as "rod" in Exo 21:20; 2Sa 7:14 -- impl also clan or tribe. Thus sig kingly authority or power. See promise of Christ in Num 24:17.

DEPART: Turn away, or decline: cp Jer 33:17.

THE RULER'S STAFF: "Judah is my lawgiver (sw)" (Psa 60:7; 108:8). "The Lord is my lawgiver" (Isa 33:22). From rt "to engrave" (ie upon stone): cp Job 14:23.

FROM BETWEEN HIS FEET: That is, from his descendants.

UNTIL: The meaning is indefinite. It does not imply scepter will depart even then (for it will continue as long as Christ reigns). Kingdom of God is perpetual, but liable to interruption (as now, of course).

UNTIL HE COMES TO WHOM IT BELONGS: AV has "until Shiloh comes" (cp NIV mg; RSV mg). "Shiloh" related to "Salem"/peace: Peace sig unity, security, oneness with God. Ref to Messiah, the "prince of peace" (Isa 9:6). Other possible meanings: (1) "the one sent" (cp Joh 9:7); (2) "he for whom it is laid up" (or promised) (from LXX: cp quotations in Eze 21:27; Gal 3:19). Christ, the "lion of Judah" (v 9; Rev 5:5), will inherit "throne of father David" (Luk 1:32,33). Note also Num 23:2; 24:9,17; Psa 89:20-37; Psa 72; Isa 8:6,7; Isa 9; 11; Zec 9:9.

OBEDIENCE: AV has "gathering", but "obedience" is more correct (cp sw in Pro 30:17).

NATIONS: Ref to Gentiles: see Isa 55:4,5; 11:10; Zec 8:20-23; 14:16.

Gen 49:11

The ass-colt of rebellious Israel being bound to the true vine of Christ (Joh 15), in his entry into Jerusalem.

DONKEY: Sym Israel: ridden by Abraham (Gen 22:3-5), Moses (Exo 4:20), judges and kings (Jdg 5:10; 10:4; 2Sa 16:1-4). Jesus, a king, rode an ass (Zec 9:9; Luk 19:38). Ass, only firstborn beast which was redeemable (Exo 13:13). Ct with horse (sym war, pride: Jos 11:6; Psa 33:7). Lesson: Israel was to be a faithful, patient plodder.

VINE: National Israel, planted in the land (Psa 80:8-11), but at last unfruitful (Psa 80:15; Isa 5:2-5), an "empty vine" (Hos 10:1).

CHOICEST BRANCH: The best branch of the Israel-vine would be spiritual Israel, or Christ (the true vine of Joh 15:1-5).

HE WILL WASH HIS GARMENTS IN WINE: The conquests of the saints: Rev 14:18; 19:12; Isa 63:1-3.

Gen 49:12

Instruction (ie Isa 55) for all needs of subjects: "Milk" = first principles (1Pe 2:2). "Wine" = deeper things, like the "strong meat" of Heb 5:14. Cp Pro 9:5; Psa 104:15. Cp the description of Christ in Psa 45:2; Song 5.

The connection of an ideal earth with a coming ruler was made at several points in later writers (eg, Isa 11:1-9; Eze 34:23-31; Amo 9:11-15; Psa 72:16).

Gen 49:13

ZEBULUN WILL LIVE BY THE SEASHORE: This has never happened (Jos 19:10-16; Eze 48:27), but it will, in the Kingdom. In south of Gulf of Aqaba, Zebulun will receive worshipers traveling to Temple (Deu 33:18,19; Zec 14:16; Isa 2:3; 56:7; 60:11). Zebulun "dwelling" at the haven of the sea is another play on words (Gen 30:19,20). Zebulun is from "Zabal" (= he dwelt) and matches up with Leah's statement: "Now will my husband dwell with me." Jonah dwelt at Gath-hepher (2Ki 14:25), a city of Zebulun (Jos 19:13) and naturally took to the sea in his flight because of Zebulun's close proximity to the sea. Because of their geographical location it is possible that the people of Zebulun tended to be traders rather than farmers.

HIS BORDER WILL EXTEND TOWARD SIDON: "Border" = "back"; ie, he will turn his back on the Canaanites, or apostates (Jdg 1:13; 10:12; 1Ki 16:31 -- Jezebel, daughter of king of Zidon). "No more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord" (Zec 14:21).

Gen 49:14

DONKEY: Sym of Israel (see v 11). Issachar means "hire" -- an ass, along with an ox, being a beast of burden hired to do the difficult work of treading out the grain, etc. Instead of burdens in v 14, the RV has "sheepfolds" (same word as Jdg 5:16). Nazareth, Jesus' hometown, is in Issachar. In Joh 10:16 Jesus refers to other sheep that will listen to his voice (ie, the Gentiles), and here Jacob might be alluding to that fact (ie, he who dwells in Issachar will bring together both Jew and Gentile).

BETWEEN TWO SADDLEBAGS: Poss ref to Issachar's territory, between two mountain ridges. Or, sym bearing the burden of service, dedication.

Gen 49:15

RESTING PLACE: "Menuchah" = shelter, protection -- ie as found in house of husband (Rth 3:1). God will be Israel's husband (Isa 62:4).

SUBMIT TO FORCED LABOR: Or, "became a servant unto tribute" (AV).

Gen 49:16

DAN: "Judge": Sym the Israel of God carrying out His judgments. Dan dwelt in the north: see Psa 75:6,7. Dan would poss be so remote from his bros that he would judge his own people independently of the rest. Jewish tradition says that the Danites never returned from Babylon (thus their omission in 1Ch 1-8). Dan might be referred to as a serpent because the tribe introduced idolatry among the 12 tribes (Jdg 18:30). Also, when the Babylonian invader came from the north, Dan would be the first tribe it would encounter and should have acted as a serpent in their path, but instead apparently was defeated by these tactics (cp Jer 8:16,17). Also see Danite Samson's escapades against the Philistines.

Gen 49:17

SERPENT/VIPER: Cp the seraphim in Isa 6:2.

THAT BITES THE HORSE'S HEELS: Horse sym war: "The riders of horses shall be confounded" (Zec 10:5). Cp Hag 2:22.

Gen 49:18

I LOOK: Or, "I have waited" (AV). Ct with the earlier attitude and character of Jacob.

DELIVERANCE: Sw as "Joshua/Jesus": cp Lam 3:26. Jacob had waited for deliverance from his son Joseph in Egypt. Jacob, like Abraham, waited for the salvation of God, and rejoiced to see the day of the Messiah.

Gen 49:19

GAD WILL BE ATTACKED BY A BAND OF RAIDERS: Gad was on the east side of the Jordan, and constantly subject to erosion from Ammon and other tribes. But unlike Reuben, Gad resisted encroachment and survived. See 1Ch 12: 8.

AT THEIR HEELS: Or, "at the last" (AV). "Aqeb" (sw v 17). Cp sense in Gen 3:15. Also see Luk 21:24: "Jerusalem to be trodden down... until.."

Gen 49:20

Asher dwelt prosperously on the Phoenician coast (see also Deu 33:24,25). Its prosperity would come mainly thru trade, and possibly from olive-growing (Deu 33: 24: "let him dip his foot in oil").

The tribes will bring gifts to mountain Zion: Eze 45:16. Christ is the "bread of life" (Joh 6), and will provide a feast of fat things (Isa 25:6).

Gen 49:21

NAPHTALI: From Naphtali came most of the apostles. The word for "let loose" = "sent forth" and is the equivalent of "apostle". The "goodly words" = Apostolic message. Of Naphtali Moses said in Deu 33:23 that it would possess the west and the south. Not lit true of the tribe, but poss ref to the apostles and their gospel proclamation in Jerusalem, Judea, and finally the uttermost parts of the earth (Act 1:8).

A DOE SET FREE: Fleet of foot (Rom 10:15), carrying gospel throughout land: Nah 1:15; Song 2:17; Psa 18:33. Or, "an oak stretched forth", with its twisted ("wrestling") branches. Oak impl strength and permanence. Perh the idea of a numerous progeny (cp Deu 33:24).

Gen 49:22

A FRUITFUL VINE: Cp v 11. Joseph, with his slavery in Egypt, = Jesus: this is pruning of the bough to bring forth much fruit. Cp Joh 15:1-6: Jesus gives life to any who would drink of him (Joh 6:53,54).

NEAR A SPRING: A reservoir of God's spiritual power (Joh 4:14), coming thru God's word. The spirit of wisdom and understanding, given to Christ (Isa 11:1,2). Israel will draw waters out of the well of salvation: Isa 12:3.

BRANCHES: The ecclesia (Joh 15:2). Also, "daughters" (AV mg) -- ie offspring of Christ, as Eve of Adam, taken out of his wounded side.

OVER A WALL: The wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles, or between God and man: Eph 2:14. Or, "whose branches stretch out" (to heal the nations): Rev 22:2.

Gen 49:23

ARCHERS: "Chief archers": Joseph's brothers, who cast bitter words at him (cp Psa 64 ideas).

Gen 49:24

HIS BOW REMAINED STEADY: Joseph, as Jesus, was strengthened by God's Spirit for a particular purpose (Gen 45:7).

BECAUSE OF THE HAND OF...: "Notice in what a blessedly familiar way God gives this strength to Joseph... God is represented as putting His hands on Joseph's hands, placing His arms on Joseph's arms. Like as a father teaches his children, so the Lord teaches them that fear Him. He puts His arms upon them. Marvellous condescension! God Almighty, Eternal, Omnipotent, stoops from His throne and lays His hand upon the child's hand, stretching His arm upon the arm of Joseph, that he may be made strong!" (CHS).

MIGHTY ONE: "Abhir", from rt "to soar" -- ie elevated above man.

SHEPHERD: God fed (shepherded) Jacob: Gen 48:15; cp Psa 77:20; 78:52; 80:1; Jer 31:10; Mic 7:14. David was a "shepherd" of God: Psa 78:70-72. These are types of Christ: Isa 40:11; Eze 34:23. Note parables: Mat 12:11; 18:12. Joseph is esp a type of Christ: See Gen 37.

ROCK: The stone set up at Bethel (Gen 28:17,22) sym Christ: 1Pe 2:5,6; 1Ti 3:15; Rev 3:12; Eph 2:19-22; Dan 2:35; Zec 4:10.

Gen 49:25

Heavens = divinity of Christ, "deep" = resurrection; "womb" = virgin birth. Cp Hos 10:8; 9:14.

BLESSINGS OF THE HEAVENS ABOVE: Doctrine as rain (Deu 32:2; 33:28) upon mown grass (Psa 72:6), or flesh (Isa 40:6). Note also "rains" of Joel 2:28-32.

BLESSINGS OF THE DEEP THAT LIES BELOW: Wells of water (Psa 1:3; Isa 12:6; Joh 4:14).

BLESSINGS OF THE BREAST AND WOMB: Numerous healthy descendants: in Joshua, Ephraim and Manasseh, the 2 tribes. In Christ, the ecclesia (Heb 2:11-14), whom no man can number (Rev 7:9). See Isa 53:10: "He shall see his seed".

WOMB: The Virgin Birth in the OT: Psa 71:6; 89:26,27; 110:3, LXX; Gen 3:15; 49:1,25; Isa 7:14; 49:1; Jer 31:22; Mic 5:1,2; 2Sa 7:14.

Gen 49:26

AMONG (SEPARATED FROM): "Nether", used of a Nazarite (Num 6; Heb 7:12-14), or of a prince.

Gen 49:27

Ehud and Esther, first and last deliverers of Israel, were out of Benjamin.

Paul was of Benjamin (Phi 3:5). "In the morning of his life, tearing the sheep of God; in the evening, feeding them, as a teacher of the nations" (Isa 11:6; 65:25) (C&H 36).

A RAVENOUS WOLF: Ferocious in war: cp Jdg 3:15; 5:14; ch 20; 1Sa 8:20; 9:1).

IN THE MORNING: Coming of Kingdom, when "sun of righteousness" shall rise (Mal 4:2).

IN THE EVENING: The end of 1,000 years; last judgment.

Gen 49:29

Why should Jacob wish to be buried with Leah and not Rachel? Perh in his declining years Jacob came to realize that Leah was God's first choice as his wife rather than Rachel. Also, there was a strong connection between Jacob and his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham and the promise of the land of Canaan being theirs as an inheritance.

Gen 49:31

ISRAL: (I)saac, (S)arah, (R)achel, (A)braham, (L)eah.

Gen 49:32

A calm and peaceful close to life. A contented surrender to an inexorable gatherer. Cp Gen 47:30; Deu 31:16.

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