Genesis 49 – Jacob’s Blessings

Genesis 49 Bible with Justins Dark Chocolate Organic Peanut Butter Cups

Today’s Chocolate: Justin’s Dark Chocolate Organic Peanut Butter Cups

Today’s PassageGenesis 49

Here we have Jacob’s final message to his sons: an individual blessing for each son. According to the NASB’s subject heading, it’s also a prophecy. Jacob himself describes his message as “what will befall you in the days to come,” literally “the end of the days” (1). I sense that there’s a lot going on underneath the surface here, but here’s what I’ve got.

When Jacob gives a blessing to sons like Zebulun and Issachar, we can’t really contextualize them in terms of their lives, because Zebulun and Issachar aren’t really active characters in the Genesis narrative. The bulk of their lives happen off-camera. But Reuben, Simeon, and Levi’s blessings call back to incidents from previous chapters. Jacob calls out Reuben for having sex with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah (35:22), and he censures Simeon and Levi for their killing spree to avenge their sister Dinah’s honor. Jacob doesn’t wish a single positive thing on any of them. Some blessing, huh?

Judah, though, gets the lion’s share (pun absolutely intended). In my estimation, his portion of the chapter is second only to Joseph’s in desirability. “Your father’s sons shall bow down to you” (49:8), Jacob pronounces, granting him rule over his brothers. Joseph was the one with the dreams of his brothers bowing down to him, but that already came to pass when they came to Egypt to buy food. In the ancient world, a man and his offspring were in many senses considered synonymous with each other, and we can expect Judah’s blessing, along with the others, to apply to future generations.

But only in Dan’s and Joseph’s blessings does Jacob explicitly invoke God. His remark from Dan’s blessing, “For Your salvation I wait, O Lord” (49:18), almost seems like a non-sequitur, and as desirable as salvation is, I’m not sure what to make of that verse in context. But for Joseph?

The blessings of your father
Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors
Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills;
May they be on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers. (49:26)

Jacob sees himself as one man in a line that God has been blessing with progressively greater fortunes. And every good thing that God has done for him, he desires for the son of his most beloved wife.

I suppose Jacob’s been one to play favorites. He’s a human being, and hardly unbiased. But I don’t think I’d be out of line to say that he does well to wish the best and more for Joseph, and that we’d do well to desire Joseph’s blessing for every single human we meet.

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