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Jacob blesses the Twelve Tribes before breathing his last breath

After blessing Joseph and his sons, Jacob called for his other sons and said, “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in the days to come.”

“Rueben: The firstborn, excels in honor and power but is turbulent as the waters. He will no longer excel because you went onto your father’s bed and defiled it.”

“Simeon and Levi: Their swords are weapons of violence. They have killed men in anger. They will be scattered and dispersed throughout Israel.”

“Judah: His brothers praise him. His hand will be on the neck of his enemies. His brothers will bow down to him. Like a lion, who dares rouse him? He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch. He will wash his garments in wine and his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk. The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until he to whom it belongs shall come.”

Jacob blessing his sons - Adam van Noort (1641)“Zebulun: He will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships. His border will extend toward Sidon.”

“Issachar: The rawboned donkey lies among the sheep pens. When he sees how good his resting place is and how pleasant his land, he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor.”

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“Dan: He will provide justice for his people. He will be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles.”

“Gad: He will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels.”

“Asher: His food will be rich. He will provide delicacies fit for a king.”

“Naphtali: He is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.”

“Joseph: He is a fruitful vine near a spring whose branches climb over a wall. With bitterness, archers attacked him and shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber because of the hand of the Mighty One, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father’s God who helps you, because of the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of the skies above, the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and womb. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers.”

“Benjamin: He is a ravenous wolf. In the morning, he devours his prey. In the evening, he divides the plunder.”

These are the Twelve Tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

Then Jacob gave these instructions:

“I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.”

When Jacob finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last breath, and was gathered to his people.

What the story means to us today

In a surprise twist, Judah is elevated over Joseph

Jacob Blesses His Sons and Prophesies on His Deathbed - Unknown artistThe blessings Jacob bestowed on his children are prophetic and set the stage for many key biblical stories to come. Jacob blesses the sons in roughly the order they were born. The sons of Leah (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, and Issachar) are blessed first followed by the sons of Bilhah (Dan), Zilpah (Gad, Asher), then Bilhah (Naphtali) and finally the sons of Rachel (Joseph and Benjamin). For each son, Jacob blesses them with blessings “appropriate to each”.

The most remarkable blessings are the ones given to Joseph and Judah. Thus far, Joseph has been the focal point of the narrative, but in a surprise turn of events, Judah takes center stage. Joseph is described as the one that remained steady, not because of goodness or inner strength, but because of the “hand of the Mighty One of Jacob” – Judah.

Judah is unexpectedly elevated in Jacob’s blessings who says his line is the one the brothers will praise, the one that will become a ruler, the one that nations will follow, and the one who will “wash his garments in wine with eyes darker than wine and teeth whiter than milk.”

Why is Judah’s blessing so important? Because Judah’s royal line will ultimately produce mankind’s savior – Jesus Christ.

Additional thoughts and considerations

The blessing of Reuben

Reuben, the eldest, was blessed first. Jacob told him he would no longer excel. Genesis 35:22 tells us that “Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.” Reuben’s act dishonored his father and may have been an attempt to obtain Jacob’s position of leadership. As a result, Reuben forfeited his rights as firstborn.

The Bible does not tell us who firstborn rights passed to. Rights may have passed to Joseph or his sons (Jacob tells Joseph, “Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine”). More likely, the rights passed to Judah, the next in line.

In later verses, we find that Reuben’s land lay far away from the coast, isolated on the other side of the Dead Sea, a small sliver of territory bordering Judah, Benjamin, and Gad.

The blessing of Simeon

Jacob blesses his twelve sonsSimeon is grouped with Levi during the blessing and together, mentioned as the instigators of the massacre in Shechem (Genesis 34:25). As a result of their violence, Jacob says they will be “scattered” and “dispersed in Israel. From this point in the biblical narrative, Simeon virtually disappears.

The land of Simeon lies far south of the other tribes, separated from the coast of the Great Sea, bordering the lands of Judah and the southernmost lands by the Dead Sea.

The blessing of Levi

Levi is grouped with Simeon in the blessings. Jacob says, “I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel” because of their violence. The tribe of Levi however, will redeem itself in later verses. Still, the tribe becomes a priesthood and thus, is given no land to govern. Instead, they are relegated to roaming lands they do not own.

The blessing of Judah

After the forfeiture of rights for Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, Judah is the first son to be truly blessed. He is described as the most preeminent son, even ahead of Jacob’s beloved son Joseph. Judah is positioned ahead of the others and noted as the tribe the brothers will praise and bow down to. Even in Joseph’s blessing, Judah is mentioned (as the Shepherd and the Rock of Israel).

Up to this point in the biblical narrative, Joseph was given center stage, the brother to whom the other brothers bowed down to. Now the tables are turned in a surprise revelation. Judah, not Joseph, is revealed to be the royal lineage.

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Jacob tells us that Judah’s royal status will be retained until the “one to whom it belongs” arrives. Through the remainder of the Bible, we will learn the identity of the “one to whom it belongs”. We will discover that this person is given the “obedience of nations” and becomes the greatest figure the world has ever known. Judah’s is the line that Jesus Christ hails from.

The blessing of Zebulun

Jacob tells us that Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships. His border will extend toward Sidon. This prophetic blessing is surprisingly detailed but difficult to discern. Zebulun’s territory did not border the Mediterranean (but was near the Sea of Galilee) nor did it border the city of Sidon (it was adjacent to Phoenicia). To date the discrepancy is unclear.

The blessing of Issachar

Issachar is described by Jacob as the strong donkey that does not want to work. Issachar will find his land pleasant but will ultimately submit to forced labor.

The blessing of Dan

Jacob says the tribe of Dan, although small, will be shrewd and cunning and provide justice for the people. Samson, a judge, was from the tribe of Dan. Jacob finishes Dan’s blessing by noting, “I look for your deliverance”.

The blessing of Gad

Gad’s blessing is brief. Jacob says Gad will be attacked but will attack back. In later verses, we find the land he possesses is a prime area bordered by the lands of Manasseh, Ephraim, Benjamin, and Reuben. The land was east of the Jordan River and was regularly attacked by Ammonites, Moabite, Arameans, and other seminomadic groups.

The blessing of Asher

Jacob prophecies that Asher will be rich with abundance. According to later verses, the land Asher possesses lines the coast of The Great Sea and is bordered by the lands of Zebulun, Issachar, Manasseh, and Naphtali.

The blessing of Naphtali

Jacob blesses his sons woodcut - Artist unknownNaphtali’s blessing is brief. Naphtali will bear beautiful fawns, implying he will be prosperous.

The blessing of Joseph

Like Judah’s blessing, Joseph’s blessing is detailed. Jacob says Joseph will be blessed with prosperity and abundance. He reveals that Joseph’s success is because of God and the hand of the “Mighty One of Jacob”, the “Shepherd”, the “Rock of Israel”. Jacob is almost certainly referring to Judah, the brother who saved Joseph on more than one occasion.

The blessing of Benjamin

Benjamin’s blessing is similar to Judah’s. He is portrayed as a strong, conqueror. Indeed, in later chapters we learn that Benjamin’s tribe are experts with swords and slings. We also learn that the land Benjamin governs borders Judah’s, both centered around the important city of Jerusalem.

The hamstringing of cattle

Simeon and Levi’s status are removed by Jacob because of their demonstrated violence. Jacob mentions the men have “hamstrung oxen as they pleased”. This practice was particularly repulsive. If Simeon and Levi hamstrung oxen after slaying the men of a village, the oxen would be unable to plow fields. This would harm the women and children by depriving them the means to farm their lands.

The lion of Judah

The phrase “lion of Judah” derives from these verses. In the blessing of Judah, Jacob references Judah as a “lion’s cub” and a “lion that crouches and lies down like a lioness”. The lion is a common Old Testament metaphor for strength.

Tethering a donkey to a vine and a colt to the choicest branch

Jacob says Judah will “tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch”. Either animal would easily trample vines and tear loose from a branch. There are two possible meanings here and both could hold true.

Jacob could be suggesting Judah will be prosperous, with such an abundance of vines and trees, the trampling of breaking of branches will cause little impact on his prosperity. Or he could be implying Judah’s strength is so great, his animals follow his instructions without being tightly bound or restricted.

Jacob follows this statement with “he will wash his garments in wine”. Since only the richest people could afford washing clothes in expensive wine, it is likely the focus of all these verses refer to Judah’s excessive wealth.

Jacob’s burial instructions

Jacob gave burial instructions earlier (Genesis 47:29). Jacob’s burial instructions are repeated here. He is to be buried “in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan”. This is the burial plot purchased by his grandfather, Abraham, from Ephron the Hittite for 400 shekels of silver (Genesis 23:1). His family, including Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah are already buried there.

Notes on Biblical translation

“Until to whom it belongs shall come” – Shiloh

In Judah’s blessing, Jacob says, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come.” The phrase “to whom it belongs” is translated from the word “Shiloh”. Shiloh is a geographic location, the place where the ark was kept. But, it also refers to the future Messiah. It is often translated as “man of peace”, “the one to whom tributes”, or as in this case, “the one to whom it belongs”. The translation “the one to whom it belongs” is seen in the Aramaic texts as well as some copies of the Septuagint (LXX).

Rueben is “turbulent as the waters”

Jacob tells Rueben that he will not excel because he defiled his father’s bed with Bilhah. Most translations say “you are destructive like water” or “turbulent as the waters, you will not excel”. However, the word used here is only known in this one sentence. Many have speculated about the word’s meaning and various translations exit including “run riot”, “poured out”, and “you followed your own direction”. Possibly a more apt translation would be “turbulent like water” or “directionless like water”.

Simeon and Levi’s weapons of violence are their knives

Jacob mentions the violence of Simeon and Levi, particularly the slaughter at Shechem. He says the weapons of their violence are knives. The word translated to knives is uncertain. It has been translated variously as swords, knives, merchandise, habitations, and wedding feasts. The word seems to relate to tools, possibly circumcision knives.

Do not come into their council, do not be united to their assembly, my heart, for in their anger they have killed men

In reference to Simeon and Levi, Jacob says, “let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased”. Some translations include the exclamation “my heart” or “my glory” and render the sentence “Do not come into their council, do not be united to their assembly, my heart, for in their anger they have killed men”. Most translations eliminate “my hear” entirely. The original verse reads “my liver”. In ancient times, the liver was considered the center of emotions, the way we view the heart today.

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs

Most translations read “the scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs”. However, some translations render this sentence in a near incomprehensible manner. For instance, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes”. The original Hebrew is vague and difficult to translate. Most likely, the word translated as “lawgiver” refers to a staff. The phrase “until he comes to whom it belongs” is more difficult. As mentioned above, the original text reads “Shiloh” which has various meanings.

Bible Text

NIV

Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.

2 “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;

listen to your father Israel.

3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn,

my might, the first sign of my strength,

excelling in honor, excelling in power.

4 Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel,

for you went up onto your father’s bed,

onto my couch and defiled it.

5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers—

their swords are weapons of violence.

6 Let me not enter their council,

let me not join their assembly,

for they have killed men in their anger

and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.

7 Cursed be their anger, so fierce,

and their fury, so cruel!

I will scatter them in Jacob

and disperse them in Israel.

8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you;

your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;

your father’s sons will bow down to you.

9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah;

you return from the prey, my son.

Like a lion he crouches and lies down,

like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?

10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,

nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,

until he to whom it belongs shall come

and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,

his colt to the choicest branch;

he will wash his garments in wine,

his robes in the blood of grapes.

12 His eyes will be darker than wine,

his teeth whiter than milk.

13 “Zebulun will live by the seashore

and become a haven for ships;

his border will extend toward Sidon.

14 “Issachar is a rawboned donkey

lying down among the sheep pens.

15 When he sees how good is his resting place

and how pleasant is his land,

he will bend his shoulder to the burden

and submit to forced labor.

16 “Dan will provide justice for his people

as one of the tribes of Israel.

17 Dan will be a snake by the roadside,

a viper along the path,

that bites the horse’s heels

so that its rider tumbles backward.

18 “I look for your deliverance, LORD.

19 “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders,

but he will attack them at their heels.

20 “Asher’s food will be rich;

he will provide delicacies fit for a king.

21 “Naphtali is a doe set free

that bears beautiful fawns.

22 “Joseph is a fruitful vine,

a fruitful vine near a spring,

whose branches climb over a wall.

23 With bitterness archers attacked him;

they shot at him with hostility.

24 But his bow remained steady,

his strong arms stayed limber,

because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,

because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,

25 because of your father’s God, who helps you,

because of the Almighty, who blesses you

with blessings of the skies above,

blessings of the deep springs below,

blessings of the breast and womb.

26 Your father’s blessings are greater

than the blessings of the ancient mountains,

than the bounty of the age-old hills.

Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,

on the brow of the prince among his brothers.

27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;

in the morning he devours the prey,

in the evening he divides the plunder.”

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

29 Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 31 There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.”

33 When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

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Jacob gathers his sons around his deathbed - Yoram RaananThe NET Bible

49:1 Jacob called for his sons and said, “Gather together so I can tell you what will happen to you in the future.

49:2 “Assemble and listen, you sons of Jacob;

listen to Israel, your father.

49:3 Reuben, you are my firstborn,

my might and the beginning of my strength,

outstanding in dignity, outstanding in power.

49:4 You are destructive like water and will not excel,

for you got on your father’s bed,

then you defiled it—he got on my couch!

49:5 Simeon and Levi are brothers,

weapons of violence are their knives!

49:6 O my soul, do not come into their council,

do not be united to their assembly, my heart,

for in their anger they have killed men,

and for pleasure they have hamstrung oxen.

49:7 Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce,

and their fury, for it was cruel.

I will divide them in Jacob,

and scatter them in Israel!

49:8 Judah, your brothers will praise you.

Your hand will be on the neck of your enemies,

your father’s sons will bow down before you.

49:9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah,

from the prey, my son, you have gone up.

He crouches and lies down like a lion;

like a lioness—who will rouse him?

49:10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,

nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,

until he comes to whom it belongs;

the nations will obey him.

49:11 Binding his foal to the vine,

and his colt to the choicest vine,

he will wash his garments in wine,

his robes in the blood of grapes.

49:12 His eyes will be dark from wine,

and his teeth white from milk.

49:13 Zebulun will live by the haven of the sea

and become a haven for ships;

his border will extend to Sidon.

49:14 Issachar is a strong-boned donkey

lying down between two saddlebags.

49:15 When he sees a good resting place,

and the pleasant land,

he will bend his shoulder to the burden

and become a slave laborer.

49:16 Dan will judge his people

as one of the tribes of Israel.

49:17 May Dan be a snake beside the road,

a viper by the path,

that bites the heels of the horse

so that its rider falls backward.

49:18 I wait for your deliverance, O LORD.

49:19 Gad will be raided by marauding bands,

but he will attack them at their heels.

49:20 Asher’s food will be rich,

and he will provide delicacies to royalty.

49:21 Naphtali is a free running doe,

he speaks delightful words.

49:22 Joseph is a fruitful bough,

a fruitful bough near a spring

whose branches climb over the wall.

49:23 The archers will attack him,

they will shoot at him and oppose him.

49:24 But his bow will remain steady,

and his hands will be skillful;

because of the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob,

because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,

49:25 because of the God of your father,

who will help you,

because of the sovereign God,

who will bless you

with blessings from the sky above,

blessings from the deep that lies below,

and blessings of the breasts and womb.

49:26 The blessings of your father are greater

than the blessings of the eternal mountains

or the desirable things of the age-old hills.

They will be on the head of Joseph

and on the brow of the prince of his brothers.

49:27 Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;

in the morning devouring the prey,

and in the evening dividing the plunder.”

49:28 These are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He gave each of them an appropriate blessing.

49:29 Then he instructed them, “I am about to go to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite. 49:30 It is the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought for a burial plot from Ephron the Hittite. 49:31 There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah; there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah; and there I buried Leah. 49:32 The field and the cave in it were acquired from the sons of Heth.”

49:33 When Jacob finished giving these instructions to his sons, he pulled his feet up onto the bed, breathed his last breath, and went to his people.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

New King James Version

And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days:

2 “Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob,

And listen to Israel your father.

3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn,

My might and the beginning of my strength,

The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.

4 Unstable as water, you shall not excel,

Because you went up to your father’s bed;

Then you defiled it—

He went up to my couch.

5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers;

Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place.

6 Let not my soul enter their council;

Let not my honor be united to their assembly;

For in their anger they slew a man,

And in their self-will they hamstrung an ox.

7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;

And their wrath, for it is cruel!

I will divide them in Jacob

And scatter them in Israel.

8 “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;

Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;

Your father’s children shall bow down before you.

9 Judah is a lion’s whelp;

From the prey, my son, you have gone up.

He bows down, he lies down as a lion;

And as a lion, who shall rouse him?

10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,

Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,

Until Shiloh comes;

And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.

11 Binding his donkey to the vine,

And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,

He washed his garments in wine,

And his clothes in the blood of grapes.

12 His eyes are darker than wine,

And his teeth whiter than milk.

13 “Zebulun shall dwell by the haven of the sea;

He shall become a haven for ships,

And his border shall adjoin Sidon.

14 “Issachar is a strong donkey,

Lying down between two burdens;

15 He saw that rest was good,

And that the land was pleasant;

He bowed his shoulder to bear a burden,

And became a band of slaves.

16 “Dan shall judge his people

As one of the tribes of Israel.

17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way,

A viper by the path,

That bites the horse’s heels

So that its rider shall fall backward.

18 I have waited for your salvation, O LORD!

19 “Gad, 5a troop shall tramp upon him,

But he shall triumph at last.

20 “Bread from Asher shall be rich,

And he shall yield royal dainties.

21 “Naphtali is a deer let loose;

He uses beautiful words.

22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough,

A fruitful bough by a well;

His branches run over the wall.

23 The archers have bitterly grieved him,

Shot at him and hated him.

24 But his bow remained in strength,

And the arms of his hands were made strong

By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob

(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),

25 By the God of your father who will help you,

And by the Almighty who will bless you

With blessings of heaven above,

Blessings of the deep that lies beneath,

Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

26 The blessings of your father

Have excelled the blessings of my ancestors,

Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.

They shall be on the head of Joseph,

And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.

27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;

In the morning he shall devour the prey,

And at night he shall divide the spoil.”

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them. And he blessed them; he blessed each one according to his own blessing.

29 Then he charged them and said to them: “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 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 as a possession for a burial place. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave that is there were purchased from the sons of Heth.” 33 And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.

The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

The Message

Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather around. I want to tell you what you can expect in the days to come.”

2 Come together, listen sons of Jacob,

listen to Israel your father.

3–4 Reuben, you’re my firstborn,

my strength, first proof of my manhood,

at the top in honor and at the top in power,

But like a bucket of water spilled,

you’ll be at the top no more,

Because you climbed into your father’s marriage bed,

mounting that couch, and you defiled it.

5–6 Simeon and Levi are two of a kind,

ready to fight at the drop of a hat.

I don’t want anything to do with their vendettas,

want no part in their bitter feuds;

They kill men in fits of temper,

slash oxen on a whim.

7 A curse on their uncontrolled anger,

on their indiscriminate wrath.

I’ll throw them out with the trash;

I’ll shred and scatter them like confetti throughout Israel.

8–12 You, Judah, your brothers will praise you:

Your fingers on your enemies’ throat,

while your brothers honor you.

You’re a lion’s cub, Judah,

home fresh from the kill, my son.

Look at him, crouched like a lion, king of beasts;

who dares mess with him?

The scepter shall not leave Judah;

he’ll keep a firm grip on the command staff

Until the ultimate ruler comes

and the nations obey him.

He’ll tie up his donkey to the grapevine,

his purebred prize to a sturdy branch.

He will wash his shirt in wine

and his cloak in the blood of grapes,

His eyes will be darker than wine,

his teeth whiter than milk.

13 Zebulun settles down on the seashore;

he’s a safe harbor for ships,

right alongside Sidon.

14–15 Issachar is one tough donkey

crouching between the corrals;

When he saw how good the place was,

how pleasant the country,

He gave up his freedom

and went to work as a slave.

16–17 Dan will handle matters of justice for his people;

he will hold his own just fine among the tribes of Israel.

Dan is only a small snake in the grass,

a lethal serpent in ambush by the road

When he strikes a horse in the heel,

and brings its huge rider crashing down.

18 I wait in hope

for your salvation, GOD.

19 Gad will be attacked by bandits,

but he will trip them up.

20 Asher will become famous for rich foods,

candies and sweets fit for kings.

21–26 Naphtali is a deer running free

that gives birth to lovely fawns.

Joseph is a wild donkey,

a wild donkey by a spring,

spirited donkeys on a hill.

The archers with malice attacked,

shooting their hate-tipped arrows;

But he held steady under fire,

his bow firm, his arms limber,

With the backing of the Champion of Jacob,

the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.

The God of your father—may he help you!

And may The Strong God—may he give you his blessings,

Blessings tumbling out of the skies,

blessings bursting up from the Earth—

blessings of breasts and womb.

May the blessings of your father

exceed the blessings of the ancient mountains,

surpass the delights of the eternal hills;

May they rest on the head of Joseph,

on the brow of the one consecrated among his brothers.

27 Ben-jamin is a ravenous wolf;

all morning he gorges on his kill,

at evening divides up what’s left over.

28 All these are the tribes of Israel, the twelve tribes. And this is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each one with his own special farewell blessing.

29–32 Then he instructed them: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave which is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah facing Mamre in the land of Canaan, the field Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite for a burial plot. Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried there; Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried there; I also buried Leah there. The field and the cave were bought from the Hittites.”

33 Jacob finished instructing his sons, pulled his feet into bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

King James Version

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.

2  Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob;

And hearken unto Israel your father.

3  Reuben, thou art my firstborn,

My might, and the beginning of my strength,

The excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

4  Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel;

Because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed;

Then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.

5  Simeon and Levi are brethren;

Instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.

6  O my soul, come not thou into their secret;

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.

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.

8  Judah, 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.

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?

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.

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:

12  His eyes shall be red with wine,

And his teeth white with milk.

13  Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea;

And he shall be for an haven of ships;

And his border shall be unto Zidon.

14  Issachar is a strong ass

Couching down between two burdens:

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.

16  Dan shall judge his people,

As one of the tribes of Israel.

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.

18  I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.

19  Gad, a troop shall overcome him:

But he shall overcome at the last.

20  Out of Asher his bread shall be fat,

And he shall yield royal dainties.

21  Naphtali is a hind let loose:

He giveth goodly words.

22  Joseph is a fruitful bough,

Even a fruitful bough by a well;

Whose branches run over the wall:

23  The archers have sorely grieved him,

And shot at him, and hated him:

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:)

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:

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.

27  Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf:

In the morning he shall devour the prey,

And at night he shall divide the spoil.

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. 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, 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. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah. 32 The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth. 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 Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Sources: NIV, The Message, The NET Bible, King James Version, NET Bible Notes, Faithlife Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, The Bible Reader’s Companion, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, The Teacher’s Commentary, The Bible Guide, Word Studies in the New Testament, Holman Bible Handbook, Calvin Commentaries, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, The New Manner and Customs of the Bible, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Archaeological Encyclopedia, Biblical Archaeology Review, The New Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database
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