Genesis 49:1-28

 |  April 9, 2018

Gen. 49:1-28

  1. Locate the passage

As Joseph faced the end of his life, he gathered his sons to him and delivered a prophetic oracle related to their future. The “blessings” did not always contain positive declarations, as we tend to understand blessing today.

  1. Genre

The passage is narrative and records a judgment oracle of Jacob for each of his 12 sons.

  1. Determine the structure of the passage

49:1-2 – Jacob’s call to his sons

49:3-4 – Jacob’s blessing of Reuben

49:5-7 – Jacob’s blessing of Simeon and Levi

49:8-12 – Jacob’s blessing of Judah

49:13 – Jacob’s blessing of Zebulun

49:14-15 – Jacob’s blessing of Issachar

49:16-18 – Jacob’s blessing of Dan

49:19 – Jacob’s blessing of Gad

49:20 – Jacob’s blessing of Asher

49:21 – Jacob’s blessing of Naphtali

49:22-26 – Jacob’s blessing of Joseph

49:27 – Jacob’s blessing of Benjamin

49:28 – Summary of Jacob’s blessings of his sons

  1. Exegete the passage

This passage bears striking similarities to the blessing of Moses on the twelve tribes in Deut. 33:1-21. The primary difference between the blessings of Jacob and Moses being that blessing pronounced by Moses on the tribes is more consistent with the normal connotation of blessing. Moses actually pronounces favor on each of the tribes. Jacob’s “blessing” is more of a prophetic oracle related to their future.

The passage adds a nuance to our understanding of the Hebrew concept of blessing. Vs. 28 uses the word, “blessing” (Hb. “barak”) three times (twice as a verb and once as a noun). While it is true that normally the concept of blessing “has been most frequently understood in terms of benefits conveyed;” [1]Kent Harold Richards, “Bless/Blessing,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 754. there are other occasions where the word is used to convey the opposite meaning (1 Kgs. 21:13; Job 2:9).

Much of Jacob’s life revolved around blessing. He received the blessing of his father through manipulation; he received the blessing of God through Divine favor; he sought the blessing of his father-in-law, but never attained it; he sought the blessing of his brother by returning a blessing to him (33:11); he received the blessing from the Lord through Joseph of provision; he passed the blessing of the Lord given to him to Joseph; he blessed Joseph’s sons; he blessed his children according to the blessing that was due to them; and he died still clinging to God’s promise of blessing of land.

The term “Latter Days” is found thirteen times in the Old Testament (Gen. 49:1; Num. 24:14; Deut. 4:30, 31:29; Isa. 2:2; Jer. 23:20, 30:24, 48:47, 49:39; Ezek. 38:16; Dan. 10:14; Hos. 3:5; Mic. 4:1).

49:1-2 – Jacob summoned his sons to assemble

49:3-4 – Jacob’s blessing of Reuben

49:5-7 – Jacob’s blessing of Simeon and Levi

49:8-12 – Jacob’s blessing of Judah

49:13 – Jacob’s blessing of Zebulun

49:14-15 – Jacob’s blessing of Issachar

49:16-18 – Jacob’s blessing of Dan

49:19 – The blessing of Gad

49:20 – The blessing of Asher

49:21 – The blessing of Naphtali

49:22-26 – The blessing of Joseph

49:27 – The blessing of Benjamin

49:28 – This verse records the summary of Jacob’s blessing of his sons

  1. Let the structure of the text drive the sermon

This is a complicated passage, though rich with solid preaching material

The text reveals that decisions have consequences, character matters to God, decisions we make today can have long-reaching impact on our families, God’s blessings often are in accordance with our character, and God’s grace can turn today’s curse into tomorrow’s blessing.

 

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