Genesis 49

Patriarchal Prophecy

Jacob calls his sons to come and gather before him that he may speak some words of prophecy over them. Joseph, Judah, and Reuben are the only ones who Jacob addressed directly. Reuben was Jacob's firstborn, but he was unstable and had defiled his father's bed so he would lose his preeminence. Simeon and Levi are violent, and Jacob distances himself from their brutality, cruelty, and blood thirst. Jacob tells them that they would be scattered throughout Israel. Jacob speaks positively of Judah and in effect gives Judah the rights of the firstborn. Judah would retain the scepter, and he would exercise leadership over the rest. Zebulun would live by the sea and provide a haven for ships. Issachar would be strong, but he would rather be a slave and have peace than fight for his liberty. Dan would give justice to his people, and he would be dangerous to strangers. Asher would have a fertile land that produced foods fit for a king. Naphtali would be graceful, swift, and fertile. Joseph is likened to a fruitful vine. Jacob refers to his difficult years but reminds him that God has helped him and that he would continue to do so while enjoying God's favor and blessing. Jacob's blessings are greater than the mountains and Joseph was set apart from his brothers. Finally, Benjamin would be like a ravenous wolf and a warrior. 

Gathered To His People

Seventeen years pass between the arrival of Jacob and his family in Egypt and his death at the age of one hundred and forty-seven. Jacob is not in despair but looks at death as a reunion, and he wants to be buried where his ancestors are buried as a representation of that reunion. It is at the moment of his death that the scripture tells us that Jacob is reunited with his forebears. Jacob is not just looking back; he is looking forward as he teaches and reminds his sons of their inheritance. Jacob does not just want to be buried with specifically named ancestors, but he wants to be buried in a particular place that belongs to him. The cave is mentioned three times in quick sequence and Jacob repeats the fact that the cave was purchased. It truly belongs to him and his family. The cave matters as much for what it represents about the future as for what it represents about the past. There is hope and instruction in Jacob’s last words because the promises of God were given to Jacob’s father and grandfather. What a moment of closure for this family. Having said all that he needed to say, Jacob goes to be with his people.  

Thing To Consider:

  • Why is it important to speak words of grace over your family?
  • What do we learn about the consequences of weakness and sin in the lives of these brothers?
  • How does the prophecy about Judah point to Jesus?
  • What do we see about Jacob's faith as he nears the end of his life?  
  • What can we learn from this story about caring for the elderly?  
  • How can we find hope in the way scripture describes death? Does that hope extend to everyone?
  • What does Jacob remind us when we think of God's covenant with him?