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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
Jacob Blesses His Sons
1Then Jacob called all his sons to him. He said, “My sons, come here to me. I will tell you what will happen in the future.
2“Children of Jacob, gather around.
Come listen to Israel, your father.
Reuben
3“Reuben, my first son, you are my strength,
the first proof of my manhood.
You were the most honored
and powerful of all my sons.
4But your passion was like a flood you couldn’t control.
So you will not remain my most honored son.
You climbed into your father’s bed
and slept with one of his wives.
You brought shame to my bed,
to the bed you lay on.
Simeon and Levi
5“Simeon and Levi are brothers.
They are violent with their swords.
6I will not join their secret meetings.
I will not take part in their evil plans.
They have killed people out of anger
and crippled animals for fun.
7Their anger is so strong that it is a curse.
They are too cruel when they are angry.
They will not get their own land in the land of Jacob.
They will be spread throughout Israel.
Judah
8“Judah, your brothers will praise you.
You will defeat your enemies.
Your brothers will bow down to you.
9Judah is like a young lion.
My son, you are like a lion standing over the animal it killed.
Like a lion, Judah lies down to rest,
and no one is brave enough to disturb him.
10Men from Judah’s family will be kings.
The sign that his family rules
will not leave his family before the real king comes.#49:10 before the real king comes Or “until Shiloh comes,” “until the man it belongs to comes,” or “until his tribute comes.”
Then many people will obey and serve him.
11He ties his donkeys to the best grapevines.
He washes his clothes in the best wine.
12His eyes are red from drinking wine.
His teeth are white from drinking milk.#49:10-12 Or “10 The ruler’s scepter will not pass from between Judah’s feet before he gets what is his, that is, the people’s obedience. 11 His young donkey will be tied to the very best grapevines. He will wash his finest clothes in wine, the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes will be redder than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.”
Zebulun
13“Zebulun will live near the sea.
His seacoast will be a safe place for ships.
His land will continue as far as the city of Sidon.
Issachar
14“Issachar is like a donkey that has worked too hard.
He will lie down under his heavy load.
15He will see his land is pleasant
and that his resting place is good.
But he will agree to carry heavy loads;
he will agree to work as a slave.
Dan
16“Dan#49:16 Dan This name means “judge” and is a wordplay with “rule.” will rule his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17Dan will be like a snake at the side of the road.
He will be like a dangerous snake lying near the path.
That snake bites a horse’s foot,
and the rider falls to the ground.
18Lord, I am waiting for your salvation.
Gad
19“A group of robbers will attack#49:19 A group of robbers will attack The Hebrew words for “group of robbers” and “attack” sound like the name Gad. Gad,
but Gad will chase them away.
Asher
20“Asher’s land will grow much good food.
He will have food fit for a king!
Naphtali
21“Naphtali is like a deer running free,
and his words are beautiful.
Joseph
22“Joseph is like a wild donkey,
like a young donkey by a spring,
like colts grazing in a pasture.#49:22 Or “Joseph is very successful. Joseph is like a vine covered with fruit, like a vine growing by a spring, like a vine growing along a fence.”
23People attacked him and made life hard for him.
Men with arrows became his enemies.
24But he won the fight
with his mighty bow and his skillful arms.
He gets power from the Mighty One of Jacob,
from the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25the God of your father who helps you.
May God All-Powerful bless you
and give you blessings
from the sky above and from the deep below.
May he give you blessings
from breast and womb.
26My parents had many good things happen to them.
And I, your father, was blessed even more.
Your brothers left you with nothing.
But now I pile all my blessings on you,
as high as a mountain.
Benjamin
27“Benjamin is like a hungry wolf.
In the morning he kills and eats.
In the evening he shares what is left.”
28These are the twelve families of Israel. And this is what their father said to them. He gave each son a blessing that was right for him. 29Then Israel gave them a command. He said, “When I die, I want to be with my people. I want to be buried with my ancestors in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite. 30That cave is in the field of Machpelah near Mamre in the land of Canaan. Abraham bought that field from Ephron so that he could have a burying place. 31Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried in that cave. Isaac and his wife Rebekah are buried in that cave. I buried my wife Leah in that cave. 32That cave is in the field that was bought from the Hittites.” 33After Jacob finished talking to his sons, he lay down, put his feet back on the bed, and died.