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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.
49
1Then Iaakob called his sonnes, and sayde, Gather your selues together, that I may tell you what shall come to you in the last dayes. 2Gather your selues together, and heare, ye sonnes of Iaakob, and hearken vnto Israel your father. 3Reuben mine eldest sonne, thou art my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellencie of dignitie, and the excellencie of power: 4Thou wast light as water: thou shalt not be excellent, because thou wentest vp to thy fathers bed: then diddest thou defile my bed, thy dignitie is gone. 5Simeon and Leui, brethren in euill, the instruments of crueltie are in their habitations. 6Into their secret let not my soule come: my glory, be not thou ioyned with their assembly: for in their wrath they slew a man, and in their selfe will they digged downe a wall. 7Cursed be their wrath, for it was fierce, and their rage, for it was cruell: I will deuide them in Iaakob, and scatter them in Israel. 8Thou Iudah, thy brethre shall praise thee: thine hande shalbe in the necke of thine enemies: thy fathers sonnes shall bowe downe vnto thee. 9Iudah, as a Lions whelpe shalt thou come vp from the spoyle, my sonne. He shall lye downe and couche as a Lion, and as a Lionesse: Who shall stirre him vp? 10The scepter shall not depart from Iudah, nor a Lawegiuer from betweene his feete, vntill Shiloh come, and the people shall be gathered vnto him. 11He shall binde his Asse foale vnto ye vine, and his Asses colte vnto the best vine. hee shall wash his garment in wine, and his cloke in the blood of grapes. 12His eyes shalbe red with wine, and his teeth white with milke. 13Zebulun shall dwell by the sea side, and he shalbe an hauen for shippes: and his border shalbe vnto Zidon. 14Issachar shalbe a strong asse, couching downe betweene two burdens: 15And he shall see that rest is good, and that the land is pleasant, and he shall bow his shoulder to beare, and shalbe subiect vnto tribute. 16Dan shall iudge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. 17Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder by the path, byting the horse heeles, so that his rider shall fall backward. 18O Lord, I haue waited for thy saluation. 19Gad, an hoste of men shall ouercome him, but he shall ouercome at the last. 20Concerning Asher, his bread shalbe fat, and he shall giue pleasures for a king. 21Naphtali shalbe a hinde let goe, giuing goodly wordes. 22Ioseph shalbe a fruitefull bough, euen a fruitful bough by the well side: the small boughs shall runne vpon the wall. 23And the archers grieued him, and shotte against him and hated him. 24But his bowe abode strong, and the hands of his armes were strengthened, by the handes of the mighty God of Iaakob, of whom was the feeder appointed, by the stone of Israel, 25Euen by the God of thy father, who shall helpe thee, and by the almightie, who shall blesse thee with heauenly blessinges from aboue, with blessings of the deepe, that lyeth beneath, with blessings of the brestes, and of the wombe. 26The blessings of thy father shalbe stronger then the blessings of mine elders: vnto the ende of the hilles of the worlde they shall be on the head of Ioseph, and on the top of the head of him that was separate from his brethren. 27Beniamin shall rauine as a wolfe: in the morning he shall deuoure the pray, and at night he shall deuide the spoyle. 28All these are the twelue tribes of Israel, and thus their father spake vnto them, and blessed them: euery one of them blessed hee with a seuerall blessing. 29And he charged them and sayd vnto them, I am ready to be gathered vnto my people: burie mee with my fathers in the caue, that is in the fielde of Ephron the Hittite, 30In the caue that is in the field of Machpelah besides Mamre in the land of Canaan: which caue Abraham bought with the fielde of Ephron the Hittite for a possession to burie in. 31There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife: there they buryed Izhak and Rebekah his wife: and there I buried Leah. 32The purchase of the fielde and the caue that is therein, was bought of the children of Heth. 33Thus Iaakob made an end of giuing charge to his sonnes, and plucked vp his feete into the bed and gaue vp the ghost, and was gathered to his people.