After 17 years in Egypt, Jacob fell ill and the time of his death drew near. He gathered all his sons after blessing Manasseh and Ephraim and gave most of them blessings while some were a recipient of admonitions and curses befitting their deeds while they lived in Canaan. This event is listed on the Bible Timeline around 1670 BC. These were given first to the sons of Leah, then to the sons of his concubines Bilhah and Zilpah, and last to the sons of Rachel (see Genesis 49).
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Sons Who Received Blessings
- Judah was the first son to receive blessings from his father. Jacob said that his brothers shall praise him while enemies and his brothers will bow down before him (Genesis 49:8). He was also likened to a lion (v 9) and his role as the family’s leader was established by Jacob (v 10). King David and Jesus were also descended from Judah. Additional blessings in the form of material prosperity were also bestowed upon Judah (v 11, 12).
- Issachar’s ‘blessing’ started off as positive with him being described as a “rawboned (strong) donkey lying between saddlebags” (v 14) and inheriting a good land. But when he saw “how pleasant the land was, he worked too hard and became a slave” (v 15 CEV).
- Zebulun, Leah’s youngest son “will live by the seashore and become haven for ships” (v 13).
- Joseph: Apart from Judah, Jacob’s blessings for Joseph is one of the longest and probably, the most eloquent. Jacob recounted his son’s suffering and eventual triumph in Egypt (v 22-24), as well as reiterated God’s help during his trials.
- Benjamin was described as a ravenous wolf who was set to devour the prey and divide the plunder (v 27). The future tribe’s reputation will be that of warriors starting from Ehud (Judges 3:15) to Saul, who later on would become Israel’s first king.
- Dan: Jacob said that this handmaid’s son “will provide justice to his people” (v 16), but “will be a snake by the roadside… that bites horse’s heels” (v 17).
- Naphtali: Bilhah’s son “is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns” (v 21).
- Gad: Zilpah’s first son “will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels.” (v 19)
- Asher: Jacob blessed Zilpah’s second son with prosperity, saying that “Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king (v 20).
Sons Who Received Admonitions and Curses
- Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn by Leah, but his birthright was forfeited because of his sexual involvement with his father’s concubine Bilhah (v 3-4).
- Simeon and Levi were lumped together for admonitions and curses (v 5-7) for their acts of violence against the men of Shechem after the rape of their sister Dinah (Genesis 34). Jacob’s curse against the two was explicitly stated in Genesis 49: 7.Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.
Picture By Painters of Sultan Murad III – Zubdat-al Tawarikh (Illustrated manuscript)http://www.ee.bilkent.edu.tr/~history/Ext/Zubdat.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19900596
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