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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 Twelve Sons
1Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together so that I can tell you what will happen with you in days to come.#Literally “the latter days”
2Assemble and hear, O sons of Jacob!
Listen to Israel your father!
3Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my strength, and the firstfruit of my vigor,
excelling in rank and excelling in power.
4Unstable#Or “reckless” as water, you shall not excel any longer,
for you went up upon the bed of your father,
then defiled it. You went up upon my couch!
5Simeon and Levi are brothers;
weapons of violence are their swords.
Let me#Or “my soul” not come into their council.
6Let not my person#Or “my glory” be joined to their company.
For in their anger they killed men,
and at their pleasure they hamstrung cattle.
7Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
and their wrath, for it is cruel.
I will divide them in Jacob,
and I will scatter them in Israel.
8Judah, as for you, your brothers shall praise you.
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies.
The sons of your father shall bow down to you.
9Judah is a lion’s cub.
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He bowed down; he crouched like a lion and as a lioness.
Who shall rouse him?
10The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff between his feet,
until Shiloh comes.
And to him shall be the obedience of nations.
11Binding his donkey to the vine
and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
he washes his clothing in the wine
and his garment in the blood of grapes.
12The eyes are darker than wine,
and the teeth whiter than milk.
13Zebulun shall settle by the shore of the sea.
He shall become a haven for ships,
and his border shall be at Sidon.
14Issachar is a strong donkey,
crouching between the sheepfolds.
15He saw a resting place that was good,
and land that was pleasant.
So he bowed his shoulder to the burden
and became a servant of forced labor.
16Dan shall judge his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17Dan shall be a serpent on the way,
a viper on the road
that bites the heels of a horse,
so that its rider falls backward.
18I wait for your salvation, O Yahweh.
19Bandits shall attack Gad,
but he shall attack their heels.
20Asher’s food is delicious,
and he shall provide from the king’s delicacies.
21Naphtali is a doe running free
that puts forth beautiful words.
22Joseph is the bough#Or “son” of a fruitful vine,
a fruitful bough#Or “son” by a spring.
His branches climb over the wall.
23The archers#Literally “the masters of the bow” fiercely attacked him.
They shot arrows at him and were hostile to him.
24But his bow remained in a steady position;
his arms#Literally “the arms of his hands” were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob.
From there is the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.
25Because of the God of your father he will help you
and by Shaddai#Or “the Almighty” he will bless you
with the blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
blessings of the breasts and the womb.
26The blessings of your father
are superior to the blessings of my ancestors,
to the bounty of the everlasting hills.
May they be on the head of Joseph,
and on the forehead of the prince of his brothers.
27Benjamin is a devouring wolf,
devouring the prey in the morning,
and dividing the plunder in the evening.
The Death and Burial of Jacob
28All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, each according to their blessing. 29Then he instructed them and said to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me among my ancestors#Or “fathers” in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah that is before#Or “east of” Mamre in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite as a burial site. 31There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife. And there I buried Leah—32the purchase of the field and the cave which was in it from the Hittites.” 33When Jacob finished instructing his sons he drew his feet up to the bed. Then he took his last breath and was gathered to his people.