“Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come. 2 “Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob, listen to Israel your father.” (Genesis 49:1–2 (ESV)
Following Jacob’s blessing upon Joseph’s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, he then proceeded to bless his other sons. Jacob summoned them so he could prophecy what would happen to them, and their progeny, in the future. Rather than taking upon himself the role of a fortune teller or one conducting a psychic reading, Jacob heralded a divine oracle from God. This divine revelation would contain elements not only of blessings but also of judgments.
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “The blessings of the inspired patriarch prophesy the fate of the twelve tribes descended from his sons, mostly by means of wordplays on their names or comparisons to animals. The names and actions (good or bad) of the twelve sons portend the destiny of the tribes. These prophetic blessings at the end of the patriarchal era are arranged according to their mothers –Leah’s six sons (vv.3-15), the handmaids’ four (vv.16-21) and Rachel’s two (vs. 22-27—exhibit God’s sovereignty over the nation. These blessings will be expanded in the parallel final blessing of Moses upon Israel that is given on the threshold of Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land (Deut. 33).”
Dr. John Walvoord explains, “A fundamental principle in God’s economy is that the lives and natures of the patriarchs affected their descendants. God works out the manifold destinies of His people in accordance with their moral distinctions. Genesis 49 gives a glimpse into such a program of God. This chapter includes the last of the several great sayings of destiny in Genesis—blessings, cursings, judgments, and promises. Jacob, in faith and as God’s covenantal instrument, looked forward to the conquest and settlement of Israel in the land of Canaan, and then beyond to a more glorious age. God gave His people this prophecy to bear them through the dismal barrenness of their experiences and to show them that He planned all the future.”
The future of Jacob’s family lay beyond the impending bondage of Egypt and into the land of promise. However, the enjoyment of the blessings of hope would depend on the participants’ faithfulness. So from the solemnness of his deathbed, Jacob evaluated his sons one by one. This appraisal would look forward to the future of the twelve tribes.
We will begin studying Jacob’s blessings upon each of his sons when next we meet. Until then, have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!