Exit Parallel Mode
 

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 [Israel] Blesses His 12 Sons
1Jacob called for his sons and said, “Come here, and let me tell you what will happen to you in the days to come.
2“Gather around and listen, sons of Jacob.
Listen to your father Israel.
3Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my strength, the very first son I had,
first in majesty and first in power.
4You will no longer be first
because you were out of control like a flood
and you climbed into your father’s bed.
Then you dishonored it.
He climbed up on my couch.
5Simeon and Levi are brothers.
Their swords are weapons of violence.
6Do not let me attend their secret meetings.
Do not let me join their assembly.
In their anger they murdered men.
At their whim they crippled cattle.
7May their anger be cursed because it’s so fierce.
May their fury be cursed because it’s so cruel.
I will divide them among ⌞the sons of⌟ Jacob
and scatter them among ⌞the tribes of⌟ Israel.
8Judah, your brothers will praise you.
Your hand will be on the neck of your enemies.
Your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9Judah, you are a lion cub.
You have come back from the kill, my son.
He lies down and rests like a lion.
He is like a lioness. Who dares to disturb him?
10A scepter will never depart from Judah
nor a ruler’s staff from between his feet
until Shiloh comes
and the people obey him.
11He will tie his donkey to a grapevine,
his colt to the best vine.
He will wash his clothes in wine,
his garments in the blood of grapes.
12His eyes are darker than wine.
His teeth are whiter than milk.
13Zebulun will live by the coast.
He will have ships by the coast.
His border will go as far as Sidon.
14Issachar is a strong donkey,
lying down between the saddlebags.
15When he sees that his resting place is good
and that the land is pleasant,
he will bend his back to the burden
and will become a slave laborer.
16Dan will hand down decisions  #49:16 There is a play on words here between Hebrew Dan and yadin (he will hand down decisions). for his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17Dan will be a snake on a road,
a viper on a path,
that bites a horse’s heels
so that its rider falls off backwards.
18“I wait with hope for you to rescue me, O Lord.
19Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders,
but he will strike back at their heels.
20Asher’s food will be rich.
He will provide delicacies fit for a king.
21Naphtali is a doe set free
that has beautiful fawns.
22Joseph is a fruitful tree,
a fruitful tree by a spring,
with branches climbing over a wall.
23Archers provoked him,
shot at him,
and attacked him.
24But his bow stayed steady, and his arms remained limber
because of the help of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the name of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25because of the God of your father who helps you,
because of the Almighty who gives you
blessings from the heavens above,
blessings from the deep springs below the ground,
blessings from breasts and womb.
26The blessings of your father are greater than
the blessings of the oldest mountains
and the riches of the ancient hills.
May these blessings rest on the head of Joseph,
on the crown of the prince among his brothers.
27Benjamin is a ravenous wolf.
In the morning he devours his prey.
In the evening he divides the plunder.”
28These are the 12 tribes of Israel and what their father said to them when he gave each of them his special blessing.
29Then he gave them these instructions, “I am about to join my ancestors in death. Bury me with my ancestors in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite. 30Abraham bought the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, east of Mamre in Canaan, from Ephron the Hittite to use as a tomb. 31Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried there. Isaac and his wife Rebekah are buried there. I also buried Leah there. 32The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.”
33When Jacob finished giving these instructions to his sons, he pulled his feet into his bed. He took his last breath and joined his ancestors in death.