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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
1 Then Jacob called his sons, and he said to them: "Gather together, so that I may announce what will happen to you in the last days.
2 Gather together and listen, O sons of Jacob. Listen to Israel, your father.
3 Reuben, my firstborn, you are my strength and the beginning of my sorrow: first in gifts, greater in authority.
4 You are being poured out like water, may you not increase. For you climbed onto your father's bed, and you defiled his resting place.
5 The brothers Simeon and Levi: vessels of iniquity waging war.
6 Let not my soul go by their counsel, nor my glory be within their meeting. For in their fury they killed a man, and in their self-will they undermined a wall.
7 Cursed be their fury, because it was obstinate, and their indignation, because it was harsh. I will divide them in Jacob, and I will scatter them in Israel.
8 Judah, your brothers will praise you. Your hand will be at the necks of your enemies; the sons of your father will reverence you.
9 Judah is a lion's young. You have gone up to the prey, my son. While resting, you have lain like a lion. And just like a lioness, who would rouse him?
10 The scepter from Judah and the leader from his thigh will not be taken away, until he who will be sent arrives, and he will be the expectation of Gentiles.
11 Tying his young colt to the vineyard, and his donkey, O my son, to the vine, he will wash his robe in wine, and his cloak in the blood of the grape.
12 His eyes are more beautiful than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.
13 Zebulun will live at the seashore and by the outpost of ships, reaching as far as Sidon.
14 Issachar will be a strong donkey, reclining between the borders.
15 He saw that rest would be good, and that the land was excellent. And so he bent his shoulder to carry, and he became a servant under tribute.
16 Dan will judge his people just like any other tribe in Israel.
17 Let Dan be a snake in the way, a viper in the path, biting the hooves of horses, so that his rider may fall backward.
18 I will wait for your salvation, O Lord.
19 Gad, being girded, will fight before him. And he himself will be girded backward.
20 Asher: his bread will be fat, and he will provide delicacies to the kings.
21 Naphtali is a stag sent forth, offering words of eloquent beauty.
22 Joseph is a growing son, a growing son and stately to behold; the daughters run back and forth on the wall.
23 But those who held darts, provoked him, and they contend with him, and they envied him.
24 His bow sits in strength, and the bands of his arms and hands have been let loose by the hands of the mighty one of Jacob. From there he went forth as a pastor, the stone of Israel.
25 The God of your father will be your helper, and the Almighty will bless you with the blessings of heaven above, with the blessings of the abyss that lies beneath, with the blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
26 The blessings of your father are strengthened by the blessings of his fathers, until the desire of the hills of eternity shall arrive. May they be at the head of Joseph, and at the summit of the Nazarite, among his brothers.
27 Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning he will eat the prey, and in the evening he will divide the spoil."
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. These things their father spoke to them, and he blessed each one with their proper blessings.
29 And he instructed them, saying: "I am being gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the double cave, which is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
30 opposite Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought, along with its field, from Ephron the Hittite, as a possession for burial.
31 There they buried him, with his wife Sarah." And there Isaac was buried with his wife Rebekah. There also Leah lies preserved.
32 And having finished these commands by which he instructed his sons, he drew his feet onto the bed, and he passed away. And he was gathered to his people.