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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
1Jacob called his sons together, and said, “Gather round so I can tell you what's going to happen to you in the future. 2Come here, sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel your father.
3Reuben. You are my firstborn, conceived when I was strong, born when I was vigorous! You were above all others in position, above all others in power. 4But you boil over like water, so you won't be above anyone anymore, because you went and slept with my concubine;#49:4. See 35:22. you violated my marriage bed.
5Simeon and Levi are two of the same kind—they use their weapons for destructive violence.#49:5. See 34:25. 6I refuse to be part of their decisions; I refuse to participate in what they do. For they killed men in their anger; they crippled cattle just for fun. 7I curse their anger because it is too harsh; I curse their fury because it is too cruel! I will separate their descendants throughout Jacob; I will scatter them throughout Israel.
8Judah, your brothers will praise you. You will defeat your enemies. Your father's sons shall bow down to you in respect. 9My son Judah is a young lion coming back from eating its prey. He crouches and lies down like a lion. Like a lion, who would dare to disturb him? 10Judah will always hold the scepter, and the staff of authority will always be at his feet until Shiloh#49:10. “Shiloh”: there is considerable disagreement among commentators over this word. Many see this as a prophecy relating to the Messiah. comes; the nations will obey him. 11He ties his donkey to the vine, his donkey's colt to the best vine. He washes his clothes in wine, his robes in the red juice of grapes.#49:11. The intent of this verse is that the descendants of Judah would have such prosperity that they could afford to tie donkeys to their vines and have so much wine they could wash their clothes with it. 12His eyes sparkle more than wine, and his teeth are whiter than milk.
13Zebulun will live on the seashore and provide a harbor for ships; his territory will extend towards Sidon.
14Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between two saddle bags.#49:14. “Saddle bags”: or, “sheepfolds.” 15He sees that the place where he's resting is good, and the land is lovely, so he's willing to lower his back to accept the burden and to work as a slave.
16Dan will judge#49:16. Dan means judge, see 30:6. his people as one of the tribes of Israel. 17Dan will be as dangerous as a snake beside the road, a viper by the path that bites the horse's heel, throwing its rider off backwards.
18I trust in you to save me, Lord.
19Raiders will attack Gad, but he will attack their heels.
20Asher will have delicious food—he'll produce fancy food for royalty.
21Naphtali is a deer that's free to run; it gives birth to beautiful fawns.#49:21. “Gives birth to beautiful fawns”: or “gives beautiful words.”
22Joseph is a fruitful tree, a fruitful tree beside a spring, whose branches climb over the wall. 23The archers viciously attacked him; they shot their arrows at him with hate. 24But he held his bow steady, and his arms and hands moved quickly in the strength of the Mighty One of Jacob, who is called the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel. 25The God of your father will help you and the Almighty will bless you with blessings from the heavens above, with blessings from the depths below, with blessings for many children.#49:25. “Many children”: literally “breasts and womb.” 26The blessings your father received were greater than the blessings of his forefathers, more than the blessings of the eternal mountains.#49:26. The Hebrew of this verse is unclear. May they be upon the head of Joseph, on the forehead of the one set apart as a leader from his brothers.
27Benjamin is a vicious wolf. In the morning he destroys his enemies,#49:27. “Destroys his enemies”: literally “eats the prey.” in the evening he divides the loot.”
28These are all of the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father told them as he blessed them, each according to their respective blessings.
29Then he gave them the following instructions: “I'm going to die soon. Bury me with my forefathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite. 30This is the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, that Abraham bought together with the field from Ephron the Hittite to own as a burial site. 31Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried there, Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried there, and I buried Leah there. 32The field and the cave were bought from the Hittites.”
33When Jacob finished giving these instructions he pulled up his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and joined his forefathers in death.