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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
1And Ya’akov (he who holds onto the heel of) called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you [that] which shall befall youf in the last days.
2Gather yourselves together, and hear, youf sons of Ya’akov (he who holds onto the heel of); and hearken unto Isra’el (he who holds onto God-The Creator) yourf father.
3Re’uven (behold a son), youi [are] my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:
4Unstable as water, youi shall not excel; because youi went up to youri father’s bed; then defiled youi [it]: he went up to my couch.
5Shim’on (heard; he who hears; man of hearing) and Levi (Levite) [Joined to] (joined) [are] brethren; instruments of cruelty [are in] their habitations.
6O my soul, come not youi into their secret; unto their assembly, my honour, be not youi united: for in their anger they killed a man, and in their stubbornness they dug down a wall.
7Cursed [be] their anger, for [it was] fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Ya’akov (he who holds onto the heel of), and scatter them in Isra’el (he who holds onto God-The Creator).
8Y’hudah (Let the Powerful One be Praised [Yah]), youi [are he] whom you(i) brethren shall praise: your(i) hand [shall be] in the neck of youri enemies; your(i) father’s children shall bow down before youi.
9Y’hudah [is] a lion’s whelp (a cub; a young one): from the prey, my son, youi are gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
10The sceptre shall not depart from Y’hudah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh [Place of Rest] come; and unto him [shall] the gathering of the people [be].
11Binding his foal unto the vine, and his donkey’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:
12His eyes [shall be] red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.
13Z’vulun (exalted; Glorious Dwelling Place) shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he [shall be] for an haven of ships; and his border [shall be] unto Tzidon [Hunting].
14Yissakhar (there is recompense) is a strong donkey couching down between two burdens:
15And he saw that rest [was] good, and the land that [it was] pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.
16Dan (Judge) shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Isra’el (he who holds onto God-The Creator).
17Dan (Judge) shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that bites the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.
18I have waited for youri salvation, O Lord-Yehōvah (Messiah Pre-Incarnate).
19Gad, (troop; good fortune with much effort) a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.
20Out of Asher (happy) his bread [shall be] fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.
21Naftali (My Wrestling) [is] a hind let loose: he gives goodly words.
22Yosef (Increaser; May God the Powerful One add [Yah]) [is] a fruitful bough, [even] a fruitful bough by a well; [whose] branches run over the wall:
23The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot [at him], and hated him:
24But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God-Elōhīm [The Living Word - The Many Powered] of Ya’akov (he who holds onto the heel of); (from there [is] the shepherd, the stone of Isra’el [he who holds onto God-The Creator])
25by the God-Elōhīm [The Living Word - The Many Powered] of youri father, who shall help youi; and by the EL Shaddai [The Powerful/Almighty Living Word], who shall bless youi with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:
26The blessings of youri father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Yosef, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.
27Binyamin (This Son Is Strength) shall voracious [as] a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil (plunder; prey; booty).
28All these [are] the twelve tribes of Isra’el (he who holds onto God-The Creator): and this [is it] that their father spoke unto them, and Blessed (Favored by God; happy; prosperous) them; every one according to his blessing he Blessed (Favored by God; happy; prosperous) them.
29And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that [is] in the field of ‘Efron (fawn-like) the Hitti (terrorists),
30In the cave that [is] in the field of Makhpelah (portion; double cave), which [is] before Mamre (firmness; fatling (fat cattle) offering), in the land of Kena’an (merchant; trader; or that humbles and subdues), which Avraham [exalted father/Fly They Will] bought with the field of ‘Efron (fawn-like) the Hitti (terrorists) for a possession of a burying place.
31There they buried Avraham [exalted father/Fly They Will] and Sarah [Princess] his wife; there they buried Yitz’chak [Laughter] and Rivkah (Tied Up; Secured) his wife; and there I buried Le’ah (weary; grieved).
32The purchase of the field and of the cave that [is] in it [was] from the children of Het (terror).
33And when Ya’akov (he who holds onto the heel of) had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.