Genesis 49 - Outline of Genesis (Book Notes menu page)
49:1 And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together,
that I may tell you [that] which shall befall you in the last days.
49:2 Gather yourselves together,
and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.
that which shall befall you in the last days.-
Jacob's words are prophetic of the character of Israel and of the individual tribes,
from the time of Jacob to their receiving of the Messiah. Some aspects of Jacob's words have been fulfilled, others await future fulfillment.
  • In the OT, wherever the phrase 'the last days' appears in the KJV, the Hebrew phrase is identical to 'the latter days' which refers to the whole range of Israel's historic and prophetic experience, but emphasizes points b.-c. below:
    1. Their rebellion from God, sometime after the time of Moses. Deu 31:28,29
    2. The period of their great Tribulation, prior to their final restoration.
      Deu 4:30; Eze 38:16; Jer 30:1-24 (note the last verse)
    3. The final restoration of Israel, under the Messiah. Isa 2:2; Hos 3:5; Mic 4:1
  • This term ('the latter days') is also used in reference to the close of the 'times of the Gentiles,' at the end of the Tribulation period (Dan 2:28). In the NT, 'the last days' refers to the period between Christ's first and second comings, with special emphasis upon the growing apostasy, as the end of the Church age approaches (eg., 2Tim 3:1; 2Pet 3:3).
the sons of Jacob- are organized here into three groups:
  • The Sons of Leah (v.3-15),
  • the sons of the handmaids (v.16-21), and
  • the sons of Rachel (v.22-27).
The sons in each group are addressed in the order of their birth (except that Leah's sixth son is addressed before the fifth).
The sons of Leah -
49:3 Reuben, thou [art] my firstborn, {Gen 29:31,32}
my might, and the beginning of my strength,
the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:
49:4 Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel;
{cp. Jam 1:8}
because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou [it]:
he went up to my couch.
my might... my strength...- Reuben, like Jacob in his early years, was self-directed.
But what the fleshly mind considered to be strength, was actually weakness.
Reuben probably thought no one knew about his adultery with Bilhah (Gen 35:22).
But Jacob knew, and now makes the matter known to all his sons.
Because of his unstable act, Reuben forfeited:
  1. his birthright (a double portion) to Joseph. (see note at Gen 48:21)
  2. his right to family leadership to Judah (v.8). cp. 1Chr 5:1,2
unstable {HB= pachaz, frothy, impetuous, licentious} as water, thou shalt not excel.- cp. Prov 6:32,33
  • Reuben's descendants, characterized by instability, were often associated with unrest within the nation. eg., Their participation in the rebellion of Korah (Num 16:1-4); their choice of possession outside of Canaan (Num 32:1-5); the misunderstanding about their unapproved altar (Josh 22:11,12); and their indecision regarding joining the other tribes in battle (Judg 5:15,16, read the chapter for context).
  • They did not excel. Their decline in numbers motivated Moses to pray for their preservation.
    cp. Num 1:20,21; 26:7; Deu 33:6
49:5 Simeon and Levi [are] brethren {Gen 29:33,34};
instruments of cruelty [are in] their habitations.
49:6 O my soul, come not thou into their secret
{ie., secret counsel};
unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united:
for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall.
49:7 Cursed [be] their anger, for [it was] fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel:
I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.
Simeon and Levi are brethren (ie., they were two of a kind, or, partners in crime).-
Together, they had devised the deceptive scheme and massacre at Shechem. Gen 34:25,26
There had been nothing honorable about their action.
I will divide them... scatter them in Israel.-
Neither tribe would possess their own portion in the promised land.
  • Simeon's allotment was inside Judah's portion. Josh 19:1-9
  • Levi received no allotment, but occupied cities scattered throughout the possessions of the other tribes. Num 18:24; 35:1-4
    Levi's scattering, originally seen as a consequence of past fleshly actions, would eventually become a mark of spiritual distinction, by God's grace. God honored this tribe for their zeal in defending His honor (Ex 32:25-29), by making Levi the priestly tribe. God took away their 'instruments of cruelty' and entrusted them with the ministry of His Word and of the Tabernacle. Deu 10:8,9; 33:8-11
49:8 Judah {ie., 'praise', Gen 29:35}, thou [art he] whom thy brethren shall praise:
thy hand [shall be] in the neck of thine enemies;
thy father's children shall bow down before thee.
49:9 Judah [is] a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up:
he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
until Shiloh come; and unto him [shall] the gathering of the people [be].
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:
49:12 His eyes [shall be] red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.
Prophecies concerning Judah-
  1. He will lead his brothers (v.8a,c)-
    1. This was characteristic of the man,
      - - at first, in evil (37:26,27),
      - - later, for good (44:13-34).
    2. This was characteristic of the tribe:
      - - First in order (eg., Num 10:14; Josh 15:1),
      - - Largest in size (see census in Numbers ch.1 and ch. 26).
    3. All tribes of Israel are now called by his name: Jew.
  2. He will conquer his enemies (v.8b,9)- This speaks of:
    - - King David. 2Sam 22:41; Psa 18:40
    - - The Messiah, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Rev 5:5
  3. He will have the right to reign as king (v.10)-
    Israel's first king was Saul of the tribe of Benjamin. God rejected him.
    After him came King David, of the tribe of Judah.
    All of Israel's legitimate kings would descend from David.
    The phrase 'from between his feet' is an idiom meaning 'from among his children.'
    - - Jesus Christ qualifies for the throne, being in the line of Judah through David, legally through his step-father, and physically through his mother (see the genealogies in Mat 1:1-17 and Luk 3:23-38; also see the notes on the genealogy in Matthew ch.1).
  4. He is in the line of the Messiah (v.10-12)-
    • 'Shiloh', the meaning has been explained in various ways:
      1. 'The one to whom it belongs' or 'whose it is,' referring to the Messiah's right to the throne. cp. Eze 21:27
      2. As a derivative of the HB word 'shalom' (peace).
        This also speaks strongly of the Messiah. cp. Isa 9:6,7; Mic 5:2,5; Psa 122:6
      3. As referring to the town of Shiloh. (This theory has no scriptural support.)
    • his foal... his ass's colt... - cp. Zech 9:9; Mat 21:4-9
      - A sign by which to identify the coming One.
    • ...unto the vine ...unto the choice vine -
      - The true identity of the One so identified. cp. Mat 21:1-3; Joh 15:1-5
      - His personal inspection of Israel's fruit. cp. Isa 5:1-4; Jer 2:21; Mat 21:33-42
    • washed his garments in wine...- cp. Luk 22:15-20; Rev 1:5; 7:14
    • his clothes in the blood of grapes...- cp. Isa 63:1-3
    • his eyes red with wine... his teeth white with milk-
      This may refer to the abundance during the Messiah's reign. cp. Isa 55:1; Joel 3:18; Zech 3:8-10
49:13 Zebulun {ie., 'dwelling', Gen 30:19,20} shall dwell at the haven of the sea;
and he [shall be] for an haven of ships;
and his border [shall be] unto Zidon.
Zebulun's allotment was between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. Deu 33:18,19; Josh 19:10-16
Zidon (Sidon) was originally part of Asher's possession (Josh 19:24,28). Apparently, Zebulun was able to conquer territory which Asher was not able to protect from the Philistines. Zebulun's reputation in battle was better than that of Asher. cp. Judg 5:16-18; 1Chr 12:33
49:14 Issachar {ie., 'hire', Gen 30:17,18} [is] a strong ass couching down between two burdens:
49:15 And he saw that rest [was] good, and the land that [it was] pleasant;
and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.
Issachar was known as a valiant tribe, both in strength and wisdom.
cp. Judg 5:15; 1Chr 7:1-5; 12:32
The sons of the handmaids (v.16-21):
- A son of Bilhah -
49:16 Dan {ie., 'judging', Gen 30:5,6} shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.
49:17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path,
that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.
49:18 I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.
Dan shall judge his people...-
Samson (a Danite) was a judge of the nation, in the days of the judges (Judg 13:2,24-25; 15:20).
However, Jacob's prophecy looks far beyond those days (v.1).
Dan shall be a serpent...-
Satan, the ancient serpent who deceived Adam and Eve, seeks to destroy God's people, thwart His purposes, and prevent the coming of the promised Seed (Gen 3:14,15). Satan often exercises his influence through human proxies.
Dan shall be a serpent... that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.-
  1. The tribe of Dan would contribute to the historic ruin of the nation.-
    • This tribe led Israel in idol worship, and occult practices.
      cp. Judg 18:22-31; 1Kin 12:26-30; 2Kin 10:29
    • The idolatrous and occult religious influences, introduced by Dan, would ambush the nation, causing great injury, as the kings of Israel and Judah fell back from following the Lord, with the result that kings and people were dispersed from their land under His judgment.
      In Jer 8:15-17 (read the whole chapter), Dan is mentioned in the context of Israel's stubborn refusal to heed God's Word, and their futile reliance upon their own strength and wisdom to save themselves and secure peace, even as the judgment was breaking upon them. The hardness of their hearts broke God's heart, for He knew how greatly His people would suffer.
  2. The tribe of Dan may play a part in the future 'time of Jacob's Trouble' (Jer 30:7).-
    • The tribe of Dan is absent from the list of tribes, during the Tribulation period (Rev 7:4-8).
    • During the future seven year Tribulation period, a 'rider on a white horse' will present himself as the savior of the world and the great friend (a false messiah) of Israel (Rev 6:2).
      At that time, he will make a firm covenant to ensure peace and prosperity for Israel. However, by the middle of that period, he will be overtaken by satanic influence, blaspheme the God of Israel and break his covenant with that nation (Dan 9:27).
      By then, it will be evident that the false messiah has been transformed into 'the Beast' (the Antichrist, who arises from the sea of humanity, Rev 13:1-f), through the same satanic spirit that controls his false prophet who arises 'from the land' of Israel (and perhaps, from the tribe of Dan, Rev 13:11-f). Perhaps a Danite will encourage the apostasy and fall of this rider on a white horse.
I have waited for thy salvation {HB= yeshua}, O LORD.-
Jacob, troubled by the prophetic picture of Satanic influence through Dan, and reminded of the promised Seed who would defeat the enemy, prays for the coming of the Redeemer.
     This is the first occurrence of the word 'salvation' (HB= 'yeshua'). 'Thy salvation' is closely connected with the Person of God. See Isa 12:2,3; 49:6; 62:11; Mat 1:21 ('Jesus' is an English transliteration of 'Yeshua'); Luk 2:25-32
     At His second coming, 'Yeshua' will reign in righteousness and He will be known by His people (Isa 25:9; 52:6-10). At that time, by God's grace, the tribe of Dan will have an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah. Eze 48:1,2
- The sons of Zilpah -
49:19 Gad {ie., 'a troop', Gen 30:10,11}, a troop shall overcome him:
but he shall overcome at the last.
{or, 'Gad, a troop shall troop upon him, but he shall troop on their heels.' [NKJV]}
Descendants of Gad were known as 'mighty men of valor.' cp. 1Chr 5:18-20; 12:8
49:20 Out of Asher {'happy', Gen 30:12,13} his bread [shall be] fat,
and he shall yield royal dainties.
Asher's blessing speaks of rich and bountiful provision.
The word for 'fat' is closely related to the word for 'olive oil.' cp. Deu 8:7-9
- Another son of Bilhah -
49:21 Naphtali {'wrestling', Gen 30:7,8} [is] a hind {ie., a doe, a female deer} let loose:
he giveth goodly words.
The tribe of Naphtali distinguished themselves in battle. cp. Judg 5:18; 4:6
a hind... goodly words.- The feet of the hind are swift and sure.
Jacob foresees them carrying a beautiful message. cp. Rom 10:15
Part of Jesus' ministry was in the region of Naphtali (Mat 4:13-15). Perhaps some of His disciples, who first carried His Gospel message to others, were from this tribe.
The sons of Rachel -
49:22 Joseph {'adding', Gen 30:22-24} [is] a fruitful bough,
[even] a fruitful bough by a well; [whose] branches run over the wall:
49:23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot [at him], and hated him:
49:24 But his bow abode in strength,
and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty [God] of Jacob;
(from thence [is] the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
49:25 [Even] by the God of thy father, who shall help thee;
and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:
49:26 The blessings of thy father have prevailed
above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills:
they shall be on the head of Joseph,
and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.
Joseph is 'fruitful' (the meaning of the name 'Ephraim', Joseph's second son, 41:52).
His fruitfulness was because he knew God, and trusted Him in his trials. cp. 45:5-8
He was fruitful, like a tree by a well (ie., drawing from the abundant source of life). Psa 1:1-3
Jacob's words to Joseph are rich with Messianic overtones (v.22-26):
  1. The richness of this fruitfulness is seen in...
    1. its Source. Identified with five names of God:
    2. its Outflow.
  2. The reward - This fruitfulness is his reward for his faithfulness in trial.
    • He was grieved, shot at, and hated, by various 'archers,' but strengthened by God.
      Joseph's enemies included his brothers, the wife of Potiphar, the circumstances of slavery and imprisonment.
      Jesus was similarly attacked and hated. cp. Psa 69:1-4; 118:13; Joh 15:25
    • He was separate from his brethren, and exalted by God. Psa 69:8,9; Joh 1:11; 13:33; 16:16; Eph 1:20-23
49:27 Benjamin {'son of my right hand', Gen 35:16-20}
shall ravin
{ie., tear in pieces} [as] a wolf:
in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.
The tribe of Benjamin was associated with zeal to the point of cruelty. Examples - -
A foreshadowing of the Messiah's zeal - cp. Psa 69:9; Joh 2:15-17
  • At His first coming, via His birth in Bethlehem, Christ came to cleanse sinners.
    He was both Benoni {'son of my sorrow', Isa 53:3,4},
    and Benjamin {'son of my right hand', Heb 12:2}. (see note at Gen 35:16)
    He took the 'tearing' that we deserved upon Himself. Psa 22:13
  • At His second coming, when the true Messiah returns, at the end of the great Tribulation period,
    He will tear and none shall deliver from Him. Psa 50:22; 2The 2:8; Rev 19:11-21
[ For a more developed discussion of Jacob's blessing of his sons, see the book:
[ Jacob's Dozen: A Prophetic Look at the Tribes of Israel, by William C. Varner,
[ published 1987, by The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, PO Box 908, Bellmawr, NJ 08099
[ This book is available for purchase at their website: or ]
Remember that Jacob was telling his sons "that which shall befall you in the 'latter' days" (v.1).-
Above, we looked at the historic and prophetic character of the individual tribes.
The order in which Jacob addressed the tribes may also have significance,
in tracing the prophetic course of Israel's history,
which may be divided as follows -    [major points of this outline are from GWms]
  1. The moral history of Israel up to the first advent of the Messiah -
  2. The first advent and rejection of the Messiah -
    • Judah- Jesus offered Himself to Israel as their King (the sceptre), but was rejected.
      Jesus offered Himself as the sinner's substitutionary sacrifice (the blood).
      Jesus promised to return in power to establish His kingdom.
      The rejected King, the Lamb slain, was exalted to the Father's throne, to await the time of His return. Rev 5:5,6
  3. Dispersion and subjection of Israel among the Gentiles. Luk 21:24
    • Zebulun- 'ships' and 'sea', look beyond the Land.
    • Issachar- 'a servant to tribute', in subjection.
      Near the close of the times of the Gentiles, Israel is again in the Land, but burdened. Jer 30:3-7
  4. The appearing of the Antichrist and his kingdom -
    • Dan- The serpent rises to violently oppose the work of God. cp. 2The 2:3,4
  5. The moral character of the Remnant during the Tribulation ('Jacob's Trouble')-
  6. The second coming of the Messiah-
    • Joseph- the exalted One, once rejected and separated from His brethren,
      is recognized and received by them. Zech 12:10
    • Benjamin-
      'the Right Hand of the Lord' consumes & devours His enemies. Rev 19:11-16
49:28 All these [are] the twelve tribes of Israel:
and this [is it] that their father spake unto them, and blessed them;
every one according to his blessing he blessed them.
49:29 And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people:
bury me with my fathers in the cave that [is] in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
49:30 In the cave that [is] in the field of Machpelah,
which [is] before Mamre, in the land of Canaan,
which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace.
49:31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife;
{Gen 23:17-20; 25:8,9}
there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife;
{Gen 35:29}
and there I buried Leah.
49:32 The purchase of the field and of the cave that [is] therein [was] from the children of Heth.
49:33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons,
he gathered up his feet into the bed,
and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.
The cave of Machpelah was the first installment on Israel's promised possession of Canaan.
Jacob's desire for burial there reflected his faith that God would fulfill His promises.

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