וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב אֶל־בָּנָיו וַיֹּאמֶר הֵאָסְפוּ וְאַגִּידָה לָכֶם אֵת אֲשֶׁר־יִקְרָא אֶתְכֶם בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים 49:1
Gene. 49:1 And Jacob called to his sons and said, “Gather together so I may declare to you what will befall you in the end of days.”
Jacob was truly a remarkable man. Only the Lord knows what will happen to anyone in the end of days. He tells us that He will impart knowledge to us in the end of days – and we will then know all. But apparently Jacob had an inside track with God. In fact, in some of the verses of this chapter it seems as if God Himself could be talking through Jacob. However, without trying to diminish the foregoing discussion, when looking over the description below for each of Jacob’s sons, I find that it hardly seems as if Jacob is speaking of the end of days. An exaggeration on his part? Maybe.
By the way, there’s also a word with a non-inverting vav prefix, the sixth word in the verse. The word is וְאַגִּידָה, translated as so I may declare. The verb is first-person imperfect.
הִקָּבְצוּ וְשִׁמְעוּ בְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב וְשִׁמְעוּ אֶל־יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲבִיכֶם 49:2
Gene. 49:2 “Assemble yourselves and hear, sons of Jacob,
and hearken to Israel, your father.”
This simple verse seems to be making a powerful statement. By imparting his wisdom to his sons, Jacob is transforming them from the sons of Jacob to the children of Israel.
רְאוּבֵן בְּכֹרִי אַתָּה כֹּחִי וְרֵאשִׁית אֹונִי יֶתֶר שְׂאֵת וְיֶתֶר עָז 49:3
Gene. 49:3 “Reuben, you are my first born,
my strength and the beginning of my vigor,
excellent of dignity and excellent of power --
פַּחַז כַּמַּיִם אַל־תֹּותַר כִּי עָלִיתָ מִשְׁכְּבֵי אָבִיךָ אָז חִלַּלְתָּ יְצוּעִי עָלָה 49:4
Gene. 49:4 unstable as water! You shall not excel,
because of your ascending the bedchambers of your father;
at that time, going up, you defiled my bed.”
שִׁמְעֹון וְלֵוִי אַחִים כְּלֵי חָמָס מְכֵרֹתֵיהֶם 49:5
Gene. 49:5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers;
their weapons are instruments of injustice.”
בְּסֹדָם אַל־תָּבֹא נַפְשִׁי בִּקְהָלָם אַל־תֵּחַד כְּבֹדִי כִּי בְאַפָּם הָרְגוּ אִישׁ וּבִרְצֹנָם עִקְּרוּ־שֹׁור 49:6
Gene. 49:6 “My soul shall not enter into their council,
my honor shall not be united with their assembly,
for in their anger they killed men,
and in self-will they hamstrung oxen.”
אָרוּר אַפָּם כִּי עָז וְעֶבְרָתָם כִּי קָשָׁתָה אֲחַלְּקֵם בְּיַעֲקֹב וַאֲפִיצֵם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל 49:7
Gene. 49:7 “Cursed is 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.”
Verses 49:6 and 49:7 seem to be coming from God through Jacob.
Besides this intriguing observation, there’s a word in the last line that has a non-inverting vav prefix. It is the word וַאֲפִיצֵם, translated as and I will scatter them. The verb is first-person imperfect. Notice that even in poetry, so far, there is no compromise in the Hebrew grammar (other than the omission of the ets signifying direct objects).
יְהוּדָה אַתָּה יֹודוּךָ אַחֶיךָ יָדְךָ בְּעֹרֶף אֹיְבֶיךָ יִשְׁתַּחֲוּוּ לְךָ בְּנֵי אָבִיךָ. 49:8
Gene. 49:8 “Judah, you shall be praised by your brothers.
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies.
The sons of your father shall bow down to you.”
גּוּר אַרְיֵה יְהוּדָה מִטֶּרֶף בְּנִי עָלִיתָ כָּרַע רָבַץ כְּאַרְיֵה וּכְלָבִיא מִי יְקִימֶנּוּ 49:9
Gene. 49:9 “Judah is a lion cub.
You, my son, have risen from the prey,
crouched low like a lion or a lioness.
Who would rouse it?”
לֹא־יָסוּר שֵׁבֶט מִיהוּדָה וּמְחֹקֵק מִבֵּין רַגְלָיו עַד כִּי־יָבֹא (שִׁילֹה) [שִׁילֹו] וְלֹו יִקְּהַת עַמִּים 49:10
Gene. 49:10 “The rod shall not depart from Judah,
and from the lawgiver, from between his legs,
until Shiloh will come,
and according to Him shall be the purging of the peoples.”
Shiloh is assumed by some to refer to the Messiah. The word appears no where else in the bible in this way. In Judg 21:21 the word שִׁילֹו, a close approximation, appears, but there it presumably refers to a city in ancient Israel. Nothing is known with certainty of what the word שִׁילֹה means. Here the word is assumed to be in error and is changed to שִׁילֹו. Another possibility for interpreting the meaning of the word in question is revealed if the letter שׁ is taken as an adjective pronoun. It then can mean “he whose it is.” The one objection to this intriguing possibility is that the noun the pronoun it refers to is the rod, which is masculine while the it is feminine. If we assume the correction, then the word can easily be translated as “He Whose it is” (meaning the Messiah). The term lawgiver may refer directly to Judah himself. This possibility is reinforced by Psal. 60:9. [Return to Psal. 60:9]
אֹסְרִי לַגֶּפֶן (עִירֹה) [עִירֹו] וְלַשֹּׂרֵקָה בְּנִי אֲתֹנֹו כִּבֵּס בַּיַּיִן לְבֻשֹׁו וּבְדַם־עֲנָבִים (סוּתֹה) [סוּתֹו 49:11
Gene. 49:11 “My binding his colt to a vine,
and the young of his ass, to a choice vine,
he washes his clothing in wine,
and his garment, in the juice of grapes,
At first glance the Hebrew of this verse appears incomprehensible, and apparently contains errors as well. Note first that the word עִירֹה in parentheses is followed by what is thought to be its correct form, עִירֹו, in brackets. The first word can mean her foal or colt, the second word, his foal or colt. Next note the word סוּתֹה in parentheses followed by the word סוּתֹו after the right bracket. The first word can mean her garment and the second, his garment. However, there is a strange coincidence in the two verses 49:10 and 49:11. All three apparent errors seem to have a heh pronoun suffix where there should perhaps be a vav. If we translate the verse just as it appears in the Hebrew it is “My binding her colt to a vine, and the young of his ass, to a choice vine, he washes his clothing in wine, and her garment, in the juice of grapes.” If I may speculate here, Judah can refer to the man himself, to the people Judah, or to the land that his descendants will occupy in Israel. The first two are masculine, the last is feminine. It’s just possible that this prophecy refers to both the people and the land and there are no errors in either of the verses. In fact, I hold to this belief.
חַכְלִילִי עֵינַיִם מִיָּיִן וּלְבֶן־שִׁנַּיִם מֵחָלָב 49:12
Gene. 49:12 eyes redder than wine,
and teeth, whiter than milk.”
זְבוּלֻן לְחֹוף יַמִּים יִשְׁכֹּן וְהוּא לְחֹוף אֳנִיֹּות וְיַרְכָתֹו עַל־צִידֹן 49:13
Gene. 49:13 “Zebulun will dwell at the shore of the seas
and shall be a haven of ships,
and his flank shall be against Zidon.”
Until this verse, Jacob’s sons are mentioned in their birth order, oldest first. Here Jacob deviates. Issachar was born before Zebulun. After v. 49:14, Jacob returns to the natural birth order.
יִשָּׂשכָר חֲמֹר גָּרֶם רֹבֵץ בֵּין הַמִּשְׁפְּתָיִם 49:14
Gene. 49:14 “Issachar shall be a strong ass,
couched among the sheepfolds.”
וַיַּרְא מְנֻחָה כִּי טֹוב וְאֶת־הָאָרֶץ כִּי נָעֵמָה וַיֵּט שִׁכְמֹו לִסְבֹּל וַיְהִי לְמַס־עֹבֵד 49:15
Gene. 49:15 “And he will see a resting place that is good
and the land that is pleasant,
but his back will be inclined to labor,
as he will be a forced laborer.”
דָּן יָדִין עַמֹּו כְּאַחַד שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל 49:16
Gene. 49:16 “Dan will be a judge of his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.”
יְהִי־דָן נָחָשׁ עֲלֵי־דֶרֶךְ שְׁפִיפֹן עֲלֵי־אֹרַח הַנֹּשֵׁךְ עִקְּבֵי־סוּס וַיִּפֹּל רֹכְבֹו אָחֹור 49:17
Gene. 49:17 “Dan will be a serpent along the way,
a horned adder along the road,
striking heels of horse
so his rider falls backward.”
לִישׁוּעָתְךָ קִוִּיתִי יְהוָה 49:18
Gene. 49:18 “I wait for your deliverance, O Lord.”
What is this? A digression? Or is it a note of apprehension, concern, or resignation regarding Dan or Gad (next verse), and perhaps some of the other sons.
גָּד גְּדוּד יְגוּדֶנּוּ וְהוּא יָגֻד עָקֵב 49:19
Gene. 49:19 “Gad, a troop will attack him
but he will attack back.”
מֵאָשֵׁר שְׁמֵנָה לַחְמֹו וְהוּא יִתֵּן מַעֲדַנֵּי־מֶלֶךְ 49:20
Gene. 49:20 “Of Asher, rich will be his loaf
and he will deliver royal delicacies.”
נַפְתָּלִי אַיָּלָה שְׁלֻחָה הַנֹּתֵן אִמְרֵי־שָׁפֶר 49:21
Gene. 49:21 “Naphtali shall be a hind let loose,
giving words of goodness.”
בֵּן פֹּרָת יֹוסֵף בֵּן פֹּרָת עֲלֵי־עָיִן בָּנֹות צָעֲדָה עֲלֵי־שׁוּר 49:22
Gene. 49:22 “Joseph is a fruitful son,
a fruitful shoot against a fountain,
its branches running over the wall.”
וַיְמָרֲרֻהוּ וָרֹבּוּ וַיִּשְׂטְמֻהוּ בַּעֲלֵי חִצִּים 49:23
Gene. 49:23 “But the masters of archers dealt bitterly with him
and shot him and opposed him.”
וַתֵּשֶׁב בְּאֵיתָן קַשְׁתֹּו וַיָּפֹזּוּ זְרֹעֵי יָדָיו מִידֵי אֲבִיר יַעֲקֹב מִשָּׁם רֹעֶה אֶבֶן יִשְׂרָאֵל 49:24
Gene. 49:24 “Yet his bow remained strong,
and from then the power of his hands was made stronger
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob,
the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel,
מֵאֵל אָבִיךָ וְיַעְזְרֶךָּ וְאֵת שַׁדַּי וִיבָרְךֶךָּ בִּרְכֹת שָׁמַיִם מֵעָל בִּרְכֹת תְּהֹום רֹבֶצֶת תָּחַת בִּרְכֹת שָׁדַיִם 49:25
Gene. 49:25 by the God of your father,
as He helped you, the Almighty,
and He blessed you blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the crouching deep beneath,
bosom blessings, and compassion.”
בִּרְכֹת אָבִיךָ גָּבְרוּ עַל־בִּרְכֹת הֹורַי עַד־תַּאֲוַת גִּבְעֹת עֹולָם תִּהְיֶיןָ לְרֹאשׁ יֹוסֵף וּלְקָדְקֹד נְזִיר אֶחָיו 49:26
Gene. 49:26 “The blessings of your father are mighty
beyond the blessings of my progenitors.
Until the limit of the hills of everlasting
they shall be for the head of Joseph,
and for the crown of the head of the separated of his brothers.”
בִּנְיָמִין זְאֵב יִטְרָף בַּבֹּקֶר יֹאכַל עַד וְלָעֶרֶב יְחַלֵּק שָׁלָל 49:27
Gene. 49:27 “Benjamin is a wolf who will feed.
In the morning he will eat the prey
and in the evening he will divide the spoil.”
כָּל־אֵלֶּה שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר וְזֹאת אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּר לָהֶם אֲבִיהֶם וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹותָם אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר 49:28
כְּבִרְכָתֹו בֵּרַךְ אֹתָם
Gene. 49:28 All these were the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them and blessed them; each one according to his blessing he blessed him.
These twelve “blessings,” better, prophesies, seem pretty strange. But if, as stated in v. 49:1, they are end-time prophesies, then how could we understand them beyond the simplest of terms?
וַיְצַו אֹותָם וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם אֲנִי נֶאֱסָף אֶל־עַמִּי קִבְרוּ אֹתִי אֶל־אֲבֹתָי אֶל־הַמְּעָרָה אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׂדֵה 49:29
Gene. 49:29 And he charged them and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron, the Hittite,
בַּמְּעָרָה אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׂדֵה הַמַּכְפֵּלָה אֲשֶׁר עַל־פְּנֵי־מַמְרֵא בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן אֲשֶׁר קָנָה אַבְרָהָם אֶת־הַשָּׂדֶה 49:30
מֵאֵת עֶפְרֹן הַחִתִּי לַאֲחֻזַּת־קָבֶר
Gene. 49:30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which was bought by Abraham, with the field, from Ephron, the Hittite, to keep as a burial place.”
שָׁמָּה קָבְרוּ אֶת־אַבְרָהָם וְאֵת שָׂרָה אִשְׁתֹּו שָׁמָּה קָבְרוּ אֶת־יִצְחָק וְאֵת רִבְקָה אִשְׁתֹּו וְשָׁמָּה 49:31
Gene. 49:31 “There they buried Abraham and Sarah, his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah, his wife, and there I buried Leah.”
מִקְנֵה הַשָּׂדֶה וְהַמְּעָרָה אֲשֶׁר־בֹּו מֵאֵת בְּנֵי־חֵת 49:32
Gene. 49:32 “The purchase of the field, and the cave that is in it, were from the children of Heth.”
וַיְכַל יַעֲקֹב לְצַוֹּת אֶת־בָּנָיו וַיֶּאֱסֹף רַגְלָיו אֶל־הַמִּטָּה וַיִּגְוַע וַיֵּאָסֶף אֶל־עַמָּיו 49:33
49:33 When Jacob finished charging his sons, then he put up his feet on the bed and expired, and he was gathered to his people. [Return to Exod. 35:2 notes] [Return to Ezek. 18:20]
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