Destiny! – Genesis 49

Destiny Gen. 49 1/19/20
We continue to worship God now, as we come to be feed from His Word. Our text in our Genesis study is in the 49th chapter- Genesis 49.
Most readers believe this chapter, Genesis 49, has little to say to us today. But we shall see how it is packed with encouragement for every Christian who desires to walk by faith and be blessed by God.
No doubt about it, each of us this morning wants to experience the blessing of God on our lives. We do and we should.
For God’s blessing is the outpouring of His undeserved favor on our lives.
That’s what Jacob, the grandfather of Abraham longed for in the lives of His sons- divine blessings. And that’s what he wanted for the 12 tribes they would represent.
And here’s what’s surprising. God gives Jacob insight to see how some would receive far greater blessings than others.
We tend to think, “Why, that’ not fair! Shouldn’t all be blessed the same by God?”
And the answer is not at all. Let me tell you why and what to look as we approach this chapter that explains this:
Enjoying the blessing of God flows from your obedience to God and God’s great grace to you.
1. Backdrop 1-2
2. Blessings on the sons of Leah 3-15
3. Blessing the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah 16-21
4. Blessing the sons of Rachel 22-28
5. Burial Request 29-33
Let’s begin where Moses the inspired writer begins. With the 1. Backdrop 1-2
There in the opening verse of chapter 49 we read: Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come.”
Jacob is there in his house in Goshen, Northern Egypt. We know it’s been 147 years since the day of his birth. And this now is the day of his death.
So, from his deathbed he calls for his sons to come to him for their final time together in this world.
It’s not merely a time to muse on the past and say their goodbyes.
Jacob takes final opportunity to tell them what’s ahead “in the days to come.” In fact, that can be more closely translated as the “end of the days.” That speaks of the conquest of Canaan all the way to the consummation of history and the future reign of Christ on earth.
So, this shows us Jacob now speaks as a prophet. He’s giving his sons inspired prediction of what’s ahead.
Now here’s what’s pivotal to grasp at the outset. Jacob’s final words here aren’t just about his 12 sons but are about the coming 12 tribes that will bear their names.
How can we be sure of that? Look at the first part of verse 28. It’s what he clarifies after speaking to his sons. “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them.”
So, Jacob’s prophetic words reach forward to describe the destiny of teach of the 12 tribes of Israel! These are the last of the promised blessings that punctuate the pages of Genesis.
Here’s what’s amazing, Jacob’s life began and ended with prophecy.
For when he was still in his mother’s womb with his twin brother Esau, the Lord said to Rebekah, “Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples shall be separated from your body.” Gen. 25:23
That spoke of the Edomites from Esau and Israel from Jacob.
So now, Jacob wants to be sure his sons pay special attention to his final words that describe the coming tribes of Israel.
He tells them (v. 2), “Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel your father.”
Those words “hear” and “listen.” It’s one and the same original word- Shema. It’s what we find in the great Shema to Israel: Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”
Why should Jacob’s sons hang on his every word he’s about to say?
Because it’s for their good AND for the good of their descendants.
You see, chapter 49 describes the destiny of God’s covenant people. It’s full of faith in affirming God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to make of them a great nation that would be a blessing to the world.
Now you need to realize that Jacob’s words of blessing contain promises of reward as well as of judgement.
So, watch to see the connection between how the particular son lived in the past and what’s coming in the present.
We can put it this way, “Character determines destiny.” The way you live before God does affect how you are blessed by God.
For Jacob’s evaluation of his son’ lives is carried forward to the tribes named after each of them.
First in order are the 2. Blessings on the sons of Leah 3-15
Beginning with the oldest, Jacob speaks to Reuben. And note in verse 3 what he tells him: “Reuben, you are my firstborn; my might and the beginning of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.”
Those accolades would make Reuben feel so privileged and special.
For Reuben’s life pictures great vigor, strength, and dignity.
He was the epitome of a man of unexcelled status and power. He was a man’s man that made his dad so proud.
Yet, with all that, Jacob puts his finger on Reuben’s fatal flaw. Verse 4: “Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch.
Jacob uses a vivid word picture to describe Reuben: he’s like turbulent water that’s raging out of control.
His reputation was stained by what he did over 40 years before after his mother Rachel died. He committed adultery with Bilhah, Jacob’s wife.
Reuben’s wicked deed was motivated by a craving for rulership. And it cost him dearly.
For that one act, Reuben forfeited the place of honor and leadership.
And that passed down to the tribe that would bear his name. For the tribe of Reuben would never excel. In fact, no prophet, no judge, no king and no military leader that we know of ever came from the tribe of Reuben. And the tribe of Reuben we are told in I Chron. 5:26 would be the first tribe hauled off into captivity by the Assyrians. The consequences of compromise. You play, you pay. Though so many years had passed, Reuben would now reaped what he sowed. His life was a lesson of wasted potential because of a lack of self-control. Spurgeon noted, “So a man may have great opportunities, and yet lose them. Uncontrolled passions may make him very little who otherwise might have been great.”
Our Lord would warn us. “Learn from Reuben who caved into his lust and paid the consequences.”
That’s why the Apostle Paul tells young Timothy, “Now flee from youthful lusts….” II Tim. 2:22
Christian, how can you say “no” to lust? Not on in your own strength- that’s impossible, but only in full reliance on Christ.
For we are told in Romans 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
The next two sons of whom Jacob speaks are treated in tandem- Simeon and Levi.
Continuing in verse 5: “Simeon and Levi are brothers; their swords are implements of violence.”
Simeon and Levi were blood brothers more than by birth.
For they were both murderers. In retaliation against Shechem who defiled their sister Dinah, they massacred all the men of that city.
What they did was barbaric and inexcusable. That’s why Jacob drops the gavel of judgement on them saying,
V. 6 “Let my soul not enter into their council; Let not my glory be united with their assembly; because in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they lamed oxen.
7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.”
Jacob did not forget their vicious anger. Simeon and Levi not only murdered all the men of the city, they even cut the tendons of oxen so no one could every use them for working.
All that made their father Jacob odious in the sight of the Canaanites. It brought shame on him.
That’s why Jacob sentences these two tribes from these sons to be scattered throughout Israel.
And that they were. While the tribe of Simeon was the 3rd largest tribe when the children of Israel left Egypt (Num. 1:23), at the 2nd wilderness census just 35 years later, 63% of the tribe had died and they shrank to be the smallest tribe (Num. 26:14). And it ends up we see in Joshua 19 that Simeon lost their identity as a tribe and shared some of the territory of Judah (I Chron. 4:27, 38-43).
And when Moses comes to bless the tribes of Israel before his death in Deuteronomy 33, there’s one tribe excluded: Simeon.
What about Levi? How were Jacob’s words of them being scattered fulfilled?
Well the tribe of Levi received no territory. Instead they resided in the 48 cities of refuge spread throughout Israel (Num. 35). That was God’s grace in spite of Simeon and Levi’s uncontrolled anger.
Friends, God hates selfish anger. And He calls us to hate it and deal with it too.
Psalm 37:8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
The first things in Paul’s Col. 3:8 list that we as Christians must rid ourselves of is anger. And
James 1:19–20 tells us: This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
Most of us don’t fight the battle with anger while with the church on Sundays. But every now and then, with those we are most comfortable- with spouses, children, and friends, we can slip into that sin of becoming angry.
I had to confess that sin to the Lord last week as I walked into the garage and saw a number of things our dog had chewed up.
How we need to be those who walk submitted to the Spirit and that show self-control in our words and actions.
Now the next son of Jacob receives special attention: Judah.
Verse 8: “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.”
With the first 3 sons being set aside, Jacob the fourth son receives the place of leadership and prominence. His brothers would honor and praise him.
That very word “praise” (yadah) is the very root of Judah’s name. Remember, when he was born, his mother Leah said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she named him Judah” (29:35).
So Jacob assures Judah his tribe would know the praise of the other tribes. Now think of Judah’s track record.
He had a big moral blotch on his life. For he had committed adultery with Tamar.
And this leaves us wondering, “how can God bless such a man?”
Here’s the key: Judah didn’t try to cover his sin but came clean on his sin.
We saw that in Gen. 38:24-26. And where there is repentance there is restoration, a new start.
And on top of that, God poured out his undeserved forgiveness and grace on Judah.
And then Jacob gives a fascinating metaphor to describe Judah, there in the 9th verse:
“Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up?”
Well, we don’t use the word “whelp” much these days. It means the offspring of a carnivorous animal especially a dog, wolf, or lion.
So, Judah is compared to a young and fearless lion. He’s the king of beasts. That’s why zoos go to great lengths to be sure lions don’t get out of
their cages. Those animals are bold and dangerous!
And Jacob is saying, “You don’t go and wake up a beast of prey like that or you are in trouble. If you treasure your life, you show respect for the lion. For he is powerful.”
Now how is it that the tribe of Judah gains such great power over her enemies?
Well, Judah would later become Israel’s chief tribe. And Jacob’s prophecy goes beyond the life of Judah and all O.T. history. How’s that?
Well, the apostle John tells us in Revelation 5:1–5 the heavenly vision God showed to him : “I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. 4 Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; 5 and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”
That Lion from the tribe of Judah, that’s none other than Jesus Christ.
For God designed that Jesus would be born in the line of Judah. And He is the all-powerful, resurrected Lord who has all power in heaven and on earth.
Now the very next words expand on the prophecy about our Lord Jesus who would come through the line of Judah.
Verse 10: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
We know that a scepter is a rod or mace that king’s carry showing their authority to rule.
The inspired writer, in Psalm 45:6 exclaims, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.”
So, the ruling line of those who would wield the scepter would go through the line of Judah.
From that line come the best kings Israel ever had: David, Solomon, Uzziah, Abijah, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Jotham and Josiah.
Yet the line of Judah leads forward to the greatest king, the King of all kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.
That’s the best way to understand, “Until Shiloh comes.” For Shiloh in Jacob’s thinking isn’t a place but a person. In fact, the Septuagint translates it as “until he comes to whom (rightful authority) belongs.
The Aramaic translation of the O.T. sees “Shiloh” as a title of Messiah.
Heb. 1:8 quotes the Psalm 45:6 I read for you a minute ago. And it corroborates the messianic rule of Christ.
Now that’s a wonderful text to share with your Jewish friend! It clearly shows Christ is divine! Further, in
Revelation 12:5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.”
Though Satan did his dead level best to destroy the messianic line, Jesus was born just as the prophets announced. And in His resurrected power He will one day rules over the nations.
Revelation 19:15 describes the scene of Christ second coming before the final battle of Armageddon.
“From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.”
Christ ruling with a scepter show He has authority equal to God’s. For He is God!
And what about the obedience of the peoples Judah mentions at the coming of the Messiah who will rule?
When will people submit to Him? At the judgment seat of Christ. For then, you, I and every person who ever lived in this world, “at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that
every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:10-11
Look further at what will happen during this future rule of Christ the Messiah.
V. 11 “He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes.
What happens if you tie a hungry young horse or donkey next to a vine? He will eat your vine.
At Sonya’s mom’s house in So. Cal. They have beautiful vines growing over 15 feet in the air covering most of their back fence. But there’s a part of the fence that the neighbor’s horses can get to. And they have eaten all the vines off that part of the fence. They are totally gone!
But the time Jacob describes will be different.
People will tie their young horses on vines with no worries. Here’s why. The vines will get so big and strong or they will be so prolific that the animals won’t be able to eat them all.
Well, that sounds like the Garden of Eden, doesn’t it? Well, it will be paradise restored. And it points to the future millennium, the 1,000 years of Christ ruling on earth.
And Isaiah 35:1 tells us abundant growth in vegetation will take place: “The wilderness and the desert will be glad, And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; like the crocus.”
And during the millennial age, the grape harvest would we so fruitful that wine would be abundant as water.
That’s the sense of what follows in verse 12: “His eyes are dull from wine. Then Moses mentions, “and his teeth white from milk.”
White teeth are not only attractive, but in the O.T. era, were considered a sign of health.
Those represents supernatural blessings of Christ as He rules from the throne of David in His millennial reign.
Well, friends, if you belong to Christ you will be an eyewitness of His rule over the nations on earth.
And you and all the redeemed will watch in real time the exciting fulfillment of Jacob’s words of the Messiah. And you will be part of what John calls the “priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6)!
The following prophecies of the 4 sons Jacob mentions are more obscure, and thus I will give you a more compact highlight of each.
Zebulun and Issachar are the last of Leah’s six sons.
There in the 13th verse, we find out that: Zebulun will dwell at the seashore; and he shall be a haven for ships, and his flank shall be toward Sidon.
Zebulun seems to at some point to have waterfront property. The men of Zebulun may have worked for the Phoenicians on the Mediterranean coast to the NW.
And it’s possible the tribe of Zebulun shared territory with Issachar and bordered the Sea of Galilee. For Moses in Deut. 33:19 predicts that both of these tribes “will draw out the abundance of the seas.”
Note would you the following fascinating representation of the tribe of Issachar. Verse 14: “Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between the sheepfolds. 15 “When he saw that a resting place was good and that the land was pleasant, He bowed his shoulder to bear burdens, and became a slave at forced labor.”
Now you see the word “sheepfold?” It’s mishpṯayim. And it can be translated saddlebags which fits well here and may refer to the two great elevations that marked the boundaries of Issachar including Mt. Tabor on the north.
Jacob’s description of Issachar lying down may point to their choosing comfort and ease even at the price of having to serve Canaanite masters.
It’s fascinating that the 4th century B.C. Amarna clay tablets describe forced laborers in the same region settled by Issachar.
3. Blessing the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah 16-21
What about the tribe of Dan? Jacob explains:
16 “Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 “Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a horned snake in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider falls backward.
The name Dan means judge. Dan would be dangerous and strike unexpectedly as Samson
from that tribe did to the Philistines Samson (Judges 13:2).
Dan chose treachery like a snake on a path waiting to strike the heels of a coming horse so that it is spooked and throws the rider.
This may refer to what the Danites do in stealing Micah’s idols and graven images and setting them before God’s people in Shiloh (Judges 18:30-31).
Jeroboam would later set up a golden calf in the city of Dan making it a center of idol worship (I Kings 12:26-30).
In spite of that, God shows grace to Dan. Because in Ezekiel 48 that describes the 12 tribes in the millennium, the first tribe that is mentioned is Dan!
Well, at this point as Jacob shares from his deathbed, he bursts forth with declaration of great faith.
Verse 18 “For Your salvation I wait, O LORD.
This shows Jacob’s heart of hope in God.
It’s the first of 78 times the word “salvation” appears in the O.T. It’s yeshua from which we get the name Joshua and Jesus.
Jacob longs for the salvation God would give His people.
And his prayer is answered in the opening chapter of the N.T. For the angel announces that Mary would bear a son, and “call his name Jesus [Yeshua]; for He shall save his people from their sins.” Mat. 1:21
So Jacob says to God, “for your salvation I wait.” Waiting for God’s salvation. That begins when you bow your knee in repentant faith in Christ. And that a life of daily trust in the Lord until He brings you into His presence.
Kings David exudes that in Psalm 25:5 in his prayer to God: “Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.” Spurgeon writes, “When you and I also are near our journey’s end, may we be able to say, as Jacob did, ‘I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.’” The following 3 tribes, Gad, Asher, and Naphatali, (along with Dan) are the sons of Leah and Rachel’s maids.
In the 19th verse, Jacob says, “As for Gad, raiders shall raid him, but he will raid at their heels.” Because Gad was a frontier tribe on the eastern side of the Jordan, it was often attacked Even in the days of Jeremiah, foreign armies attacked Gad (Jer. 49:1). All that made the Gadites courageous warriors.
Further, in the 20th verse: “As for Asher, his food shall be rich, and he will yield royal dainties.
This tribe of Asher was on a fertile plain next to the Mediterranean. That’s explains why their land would produce food literally fit for kings.
Church, we have been blessed as one of the most prosperous nations in the world. We have all the food and clothes we eat. But remember, we are called to “fix [our] hope on God who “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” I Tim. 6:17
And above all, the greatest things God has given us to fully enjoy is what? Himself.
For in His presence is fullness of joy, and in His right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11
Dying Jacob then says (v. 21): “Naphtali is a doe let loose, he gives beautiful words.”
This speaks of agility and grace.
Deborah and Barak came from Naphtali and experienced great victory by God’s grace (Judges 4:6).
And Naphtali was the very area where our Lord proclaimed beautiful words of God’s grace.
4. Blessing the sons of Rachel 22-28
The 11th tribe described (Joseph) receives great honor by Jacob. Verse 22: “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall.
A bough is the main branch of a tree.
Remember the awful nursery rhyme: Rock-a-bye baby on the treetop. When the wind blows the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall. And down will come Baby, cradle and all.
Awful! Well,Jacob’s bough will not break. It will be strong and extremely fruitful. The two tribes that bore Joseph’s sons’ names, Ephraim and Manasseh would enjoy the fulfillment of this blessing. But remember, Joseph had his share of trial and suffering.
That, no doubt is what Jacob means when he says, (v. 23): “The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him.”
Joseph’s evil brothers, Potiphar’s wife, being forgotten by the king’s butler in prison.
Yet look at how Joseph was able to endure it all:
Verse 24 “But his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
Jacob is saying, “Joseph, God shepherded and protected you at every point.”
When you were weak, He made you strong. When were down, he lifted you up!
And watch how he now personalizes his statement and pours on the blessing (five times).
V. 25 From the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty (El Shaddai) who blesses you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. 26 “The blessings of your father have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.
Blessing after blessing God poured out on Joseph. It’ like the finale of a great fireworks display.
And the future blessings of Joseph would far outweigh what he had already experienced. For they would reach to the everlasting hills meaning they will be forever!
Yet why is it that Joseph was set apart from his brothers with such honor?
Joseph lived a life of active trust in God. Of all the sons of Jacob, Joseph relied on God through faith.
And God poured out His grace on Joseph. For through Joseph, God saved the Jewish nation and the world of his day from famine.
Not to forget the youngest son, Jacob states, v. 27: “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, and in the evening he divides the spoil.”
The tribe of Benjamin gained a reputation for being fierce and aggressive. In fact in Judges 20, the tribe of Benjamin kill 40,000 soldiers from the other tribes. And the tribe of Benjamin then looses 25,000 men and almost goes extinct as a tribe.
King Saul and the Apostle Paul hail from that tribe of Benjamin.
Well it wasn’t just random thoughts Jacob gave in his final words to those future tribes. For Moses clarifies for us in verse 28:
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him.
Such appropriate blessings for their checkered track record of faith. And appropriate because of God’s perfect track record of faithfulness!
Well, Jacob makes his final plea to his sons that he previously made to Joseph.
5. Burial Request 29-33
V. 29: Then he charged them and said to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site. 31 “There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah— 32 the field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the sons of Heth.”
We have seen the significance of Machpelah. It wasn’t just a family burial plot.
It marked a tangible demonstration of faith in God’s promises. God said He would make His people a great nation. And He promised He would give them their own land.
They took Him at His word. That’s why Jacob pleads with his sons, after I die, take my bones back to Canaan. And bury me in the land of promise.
Friends, Jacob ends his life well because he ends in faith.
And God’s call to you is to end each day and end your life in faith in God’s promises.
For “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen!” Heb. 11:1
Well, we are told, v. 33 “When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.”
Why was it that Jacob died with such great peace and hope? Because his heart was anchored in faith in God.
And the moment he died, he woke up in the presence of God. There he joined all the men and women of faith who had gone before.
Friends, the only way to end well is to live well. And the only way to live well is to walk each day with full assurance in God’s precious promises.
Destiny! Genesis 49 Hope In Christ Bible Church 1/19/20
1. Backdrop 1-2
Deut. 6:4
2. Blessings on the sons of Leah 3-15
II Tim. 2:22; Rom. 13:14; Num. 1:23; Num. 26:14; I Chron. 4:27, 38-43; Psalm 37:8; Col. 3:8; James 1:19–20; Gen. 29:35; Gen. 38:24-26; Rev. 5:1–5; Psalm 45:6; Heb. 1:8; Rev. 12:5; 19:15; Phil. 2:10-11; Isa. 35:1; Rev. 20:6; Deut. 33:19
3. Blessing the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah 16-21
Judges 13:2; I Kings 12:26-30; Mat. 1:21; Psalm 25:5; Jer. 49:1; I Tim. 6:17; Psalm 16:11; Judges 4:6
4. Blessing the sons of Rachel 22-28
5. Burial Request 29-33
Heb. 11:1
How would God call me to be a faith-filled doer of His Word?