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Genesis 49

49
Jacob’s Testament.#The testament, or farewell discourse, of Jacob, which has its closest parallel in Moses’ farewell in Dt 33:6–25. From his privileged position as a patriarch, he sees the future of his children (the eponymous ancestors of the tribes) and is able to describe how they will fare and so gives his blessing. The dense and archaic poetry is obscure in several places. The sayings often involve wordplays (explained in the notes). The poem begins with the six sons of Leah (vv. 2–15), then deals with the sons of the two secondary wives, and ends with Rachel’s two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Reuben, the oldest son, loses his position of leadership as a result of his intercourse with Bilhah (35:22), and the words about Simeon and Levi allude to their taking revenge for the rape of Dinah (chap. 34). The preeminence of Judah reflects his rise in the course of the narrative (mirroring the rise of Joseph). See note on 44:1–34. 1Jacob called his sons and said: “Gather around, that I may tell you what is to happen to you in days to come.
2“Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel, your father.
3“You, Reuben, my firstborn,
my strength and the first fruit of my vigor,
excelling in rank and excelling in power!
4Turbulent as water, you shall no longer excel,
for you climbed into your father’s bed
and defiled my couch to my sorrow.#Gn 35:22; 1 Chr 5:1–2.
5#This passage probably refers to their attack on the city of Shechem (Gn 34). Because there is no indication that the warlike tribe of Levi will be commissioned as a priestly tribe (Ex 32:26–29; Dt 33:11), this passage reflects an early, independent tradition. “Simeon and Levi, brothers indeed,
weapons of violence are their knives.#Knives: if this is the meaning of the obscure Hebrew word here, the reference may be to the knives used in circumcising the men of Shechem (34:24; cf. Jos 5:2).
6Let not my person enter their council,
or my honor be joined with their company;
For in their fury they killed men,
at their whim they maimed oxen.#Gn 34:25.
7Cursed be their fury so fierce,
and their rage so cruel!
I will scatter them in Jacob,
disperse them throughout Israel.
8“You, Judah, shall your brothers praise
—your hand on the neck of your enemies;
the sons of your father shall bow down to you.
9Judah is a lion’s cub,
you have grown up on prey, my son.
He crouches, lies down like a lion,
like a lioness—who would dare rouse him?#1 Chr 5:2.
10The scepter shall never depart from Judah,
or the mace from between his feet,
Until tribute comes to him,#Until tribute comes to him: this translation is based on a slight change in the Hebrew text, which, as it stands, would seem to mean, “until he comes to Shiloh.” A somewhat different reading of the Hebrew text would be, “until he comes to whom it belongs.” This last has been traditionally understood in a messianic sense. In any case, the passage aims at the supremacy of the tribe of Judah and of the Davidic dynasty.
and he receives the people’s obedience.
11He tethers his donkey to the vine,
his donkey’s foal to the choicest stem.
In wine he washes his garments,
his robe in the blood of grapes.#In wine…the blood of grapes: Judah’s clothes are poetically pictured as soaked with grape juice from trampling in the wine press, the rich vintage of his land; cf. Is 63:2.
12His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth are whiter than milk.
13“Zebulun shall dwell by the seashore;
he will be a haven for ships,
and his flank shall rest on Sidon.
14“Issachar is a rawboned donkey,
crouching between the saddlebags.
15When he saw how good a settled life was,
and how pleasant the land,
He bent his shoulder to the burden
and became a toiling serf.
16“Dan shall achieve justice#In Hebrew the verb for “achieve justice” is from the same root as the name Dan. for his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17Let Dan be a serpent by the roadside,
a horned viper by the path,
That bites the horse’s heel,
so that the rider tumbles backward.
18“I long for your deliverance, O Lord!#This short plea for divine mercy has been inserted into the middle of Jacob’s testament.
19“Gad shall be raided by raiders,
but he shall raid at their heels.#In Hebrew there is assonance between the name Gad and the words for “raided,” “raiders,” and “raid.”
20“Asher’s produce is rich,
and he shall furnish delicacies for kings.
21“Naphtali is a hind let loose,
which brings forth lovely fawns.
22“Joseph is a wild colt,
a wild colt by a spring,
wild colts on a hillside.
23Harrying him and shooting,
the archers opposed him;
24But his bow remained taut,
and his arms were nimble,
By the power of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25The God of your father, who helps you,#A very similar description of the agricultural riches of the tribal land of Joseph is given in Dt 33:13–16.
God Almighty, who blesses you,
With the blessings of the heavens above,
the blessings of the abyss that crouches below,
The blessings of breasts and womb,
26the blessings of fresh grain and blossoms,
the blessings of the everlasting mountains,
the delights of the eternal hills.
May they rest on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of the prince among his brothers.
27“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
mornings he devours the prey,
and evenings he distributes the spoils.”
Farewell and Death. 28All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said about them, as he blessed them. To each he gave a suitable blessing. 29Then he gave them this charge: “Since I am about to be gathered to my people, bury me with my ancestors in the cave that lies in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30the cave in the field of Machpelah, facing on Mamre, in the land of Canaan, the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite for a burial ground.#Gn 23:17. 31There Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried, and so are Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there, too, I buried Leah— 32the field and the cave in it that had been purchased from the Hittites.”
33When Jacob had finished giving these instructions to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.

Genesis 49

49
Jacob Gives Blessings to His Sons
1Then Jacob sent for his sons. He said, “Gather around me so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
2“Sons of Jacob, come together and listen.
Listen to your father Israel.
3“Reuben, you are my oldest son.
You were my first child. You were the first sign of my strength.
You were first in honor. You were first in power.
4But you are as unsteady as water. So you won’t be first anymore.
You had sex with my concubine on my bed.
You lay on my couch and made it ‘unclean.’
5“Simeon and Levi are brothers.
Their swords have killed a lot of people.
6I won’t share in their plans.
I won’t have anything to do with them.
They became angry and killed people.
They cut the legs of oxen just for the fun of it.
7May the Lord put a curse on them
because of their terrible anger.
I will scatter them in Jacob’s land.
I will spread them around in Israel.
8“Judah, your brothers will praise you.
Your enemies will be brought under your control.
Your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9Judah, you are like a lion’s cub.
You return from hunting, my son.
Like a lion, you lie down and sleep.
You are like a mother lion. Who dares to wake you up?
10The right to rule will not leave Judah.
The ruler’s scepter will not be taken from between his feet.
It will be his until the king it belongs to will come.
The nations will obey that king.
11He will tie his donkey to a vine.
He will tie his colt to the very best branch.
He will wash his clothes in wine.
He will wash his robes in the red juice of grapes.
12His eyes will be darker than wine.
His teeth will be whiter than milk.
13“Zebulun will live by the seashore.
He will become a safe harbor for ships.
His border will go out toward Sidon.
14“Issachar is like a wild donkey
lying down among the sheep pens.
15He sees how good his resting place is.
He sees that his land is pleasant.
So he will carry a heavy load on his back.
He will obey when he’s forced to work.
16“Dan will do what is fair for his people.
He will do it as one of the tribes of Israel.
17Dan will be a snake by the side of the road.
He will be a poisonous snake along the path.
It bites the horse’s heels
so that the rider falls off backward.
18Lord, I look to you to save me.
19“Gad will be attacked by a group of robbers.
But he will attack them as they run away.
20“Asher’s food will be rich and sweet.
He will provide food that even a king would enjoy.
21“Naphtali is a female deer set free
and gives birth to beautiful fawns.
22“Joseph is a vine that grows a lot of fruit.
It grows close by a spring.
Its branches climb over a wall.
23Mean people shot arrows at him.
They shot at him because they were angry.
24But his bow remained steady.
His strong arms moved freely.
The hand of the Mighty God of Jacob was with him.
The Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, stood by him.
25Joseph, your father’s God helps you.
The Mighty God blesses you.
He gives you blessings from the sky above.
He gives you blessings from the deep springs below.
He blesses you with children and with a mother’s milk.
26Your father’s blessings are great.
They are greater than the blessings from the age-old mountains.
They are greater than the gifts from the ancient hills.
Let all those blessings rest on the head of Joseph.
Let them rest on the head of the one who is prince among his brothers.
27“Benjamin is a hungry wolf.
In the morning he eats what he has killed.
In the evening he shares what he has stolen.”
28All these are the 12 tribes of Israel. That’s what their father said to them when he blessed them. He gave each one the blessing that was just right for him.
Jacob Dies
29Then Jacob gave directions to his sons. He said, “I’m about to join the members of my family who have already died. Bury me with them in the cave in the field of Ephron, the Hittite. 30The cave is in the field of Machpelah near Mamre in Canaan. Abraham had bought it as a place where he could bury his wife’s body. He had bought the cave and the field from Ephron, the Hittite. 31The bodies of Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried there. So were the bodies of Isaac and his wife Rebekah. I also buried Leah’s body there. 32Abraham bought the field and the cave from the Hittites.”
33When Jacob had finished telling his sons what to do, he pulled his feet up into his bed. Then he took his last breath and died. He joined the members of his family who had already died.