This is one of those chapters that most people read through and scratch their heads, shrug their shoulders, and sadly move on without really studying it. This chapter is prophetic. Ya'akov gives prophecies for each of his sons that are amazingly accurate. We will see how the prophecies come true in each of the tribes that they father. They are based for the most part on their character.
Each tribe of Israel has a symbol associated with it. Many of those symbols originate in this prophecy. Also many of the prophecies have some association with the meaning of the person's name.
B'resheet 49:1 Then Ya'akov summoned his sons and said, "Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what shall befall you in the days to come.
In the days to come - this is a prophecy that Ya'akov is about to deliver.
Through the spirit - Ya'akov tells them what lies ahead for each tribe.
The letter that corresponds to this chapter is Hay -spirit of G-d. Also five is the number of mercy.
B'resheet 49:2 "Gather together and hear, O sons of Ya'akov ; And listen to Israel your father.
The sons are grouped by their birth mother and not by birth order.
B'resheet 49:3-4 "Re'uven, you are my first-born; My might and the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. "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.
Re'uven is reminded of his privileged position as the first-born. He probably assumed that he would be getting a double portion of the inheritance, as was the custom of the day.
D'varim (Deuteronomy) 21:15-17 "If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him sons, if the first-born son belongs to the unloved, then it shall be in the day he wills what he has to his sons, he cannot make the son of the loved the first-born before the son of the unloved, who is the first-born. But he shall acknowledge the first-born, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the first-born.
Of course this command was given years later.
The first-born was also expected to be the leader of his family. Re'uven did not receive the leadership role or a double inheritance. Ya'akov went on to explain why this was so.
Re'uven was unstable in his actions. He slept with his father's concubine Bilhah.
B'resheet 35:22 And it came about while Israel was dwelling in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine; and Israel heard of it.
Divrei-HaYamim Alef (1 Chronicles) 5:1-2 Now the sons of Re'uven the first-born of Israel (for he was the first-born, but because he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Yosef the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright. Though Y'hudah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came the leader, yet the birthright belonged to Yosef),
The tribe of Re'uven was also unstable. They joined the Korah rebellion in B'midbar (Numbers) 16. They did not want to cross the Yarden (Jordan) river but requested to stay on the east side, in what is now the country of Jordan.
In the Song of Deborah and Barak, they are chastised for their indecisiveness.
Shof'tim (Judges) 5:16 " Why did you sit among the sheepfolds, To hear the piping for the flocks? Among the divisions of Re'uven (Reuben) there were great searchings of heart.
You shall not have preeminence - meaning you will not excel.
Compare the size of the tribe listed in B'midbar (Numbers) 1:20 and B'midbar (Numbers) 26:7
Moses prayed in D'varim (Deuteronomy) 33:6 "May Re'uven live and not die, Nor his men be few."
The tribe of Re'uven never produced a prophet, military leader, judge, or any other notable character in the history of Israel.
James 1:6-8 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the L-rd; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
We can learn from Re'uven life that our sins can be forgiven but often we must suffer the consequences of our sins.
Shim'on - Meaning, "Hearing"
Levi - Meaning, "joining"
B'resheet 49:5-7 "Shim'on and Levi " are brothers; their swords are implements of violence. "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. "Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Ya'akov, and scatter them in Israel.
Shim'on and Levi are brothers - Ya'akov is saying they are "two peas in a pod", they are "partners in crime". They evidently shared similar interests and were very close. We learned in B'resheet 34:1-31 that after their sister was seduced by Sh'khem (Shechem), Shim'on and Levi deceived the men of the town into being circumcised and then killed them when they were not able to defend themselves. They went far beyond taking the law into their own hands when they took their anger out not only on Sh'khem (Shechem) but also the innocent people of the town.
Surely the entire family was upset when Dinah was violated; only Shim'on and Levi were not able to control their rage.
Mishlei (Proverbs) 25:28 Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.
Because of their sin neither of them would assume the position as leader of the family. Also neither of them would inherit a separate territory in the Promised Land.
Y'hoshua (Joshua) 19:1 The second lot came out for Shim'on, for the tribe of the children of Shim'on according to their families. And their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Y'hudah.
In Y'hoshua (Joshua) 19:1-9 the cities that the tribe of Shim'on was given were in the Negev, the barren desert in the south of Israel.
In B'midbar (Numbers) chapter 25 we learn that the tribe of Shi'mon was involve in idolatry of Baal-peor. This may be why their numbers greatly decreased. Compare B'midbar (Numbers) 1:23 with B'midbar (Numbers) 26:14.
Levi was also given cities instead of tribes.
B'midbar (Numbers) 35:1-3 Now the L-RD spoke to Moshe (Moses) in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, "Command the sons of Israel that they give to the Levites from the inheritance of their possession, cities to live in; and you shall give to the Levites pasture lands around the cities. And the cities shall be theirs to live in; and their pasture lands shall be for their cattle and for their herds and for all their beasts.
Y'hoshua (Joshua) chapter 21 tells us the Levites received 48 cities.
When the nation of Israel worshipped the golden calf in Sh'mot (Exodus) chapter 32. The Levites sided with Moshe and the L-rd.
The tribe of Levi became the priestly tribe.
B'resheet 49:8-12 "Y'hudah (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. " Y'hudah 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? "The scepter shall not depart from Y'hudah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. "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. "His eyes are dull from wine, And his teeth white from milk.
Y'hudah, the 4th born son, became the leader of his brothers.
He helped to spare Yosef life by getting his brothers to sell him rather than kill him. We see him in the leadership role in B'resheet 44:14-34.
The tribe of Y'hudah was the first tribe to march through the desert. B'midbar (Numbers) 10:14
They also had the largest tribal population.
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies - This is another way of saying you will defeat your enemies. Israel's second greatest conqueror was King David from the tribe of Y'hudah. David is a type of the greatest conqueror of all Yeshua Ha Mashiach who will conquer, rule, and reign in the future.
Yeshua is also from the tribe of Y'hudah. In fact the Messiah MUST be from the tribe of Y'hudah. That is what this Ya'akove prophecy is saying:
The scepter shall not depart from Y'hudah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Shiloh comes from the word that means tranquil or peaceful. "The Messiah is known as the Prince of Peace"
Isaiah 9:6-7 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty G-d, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore.
Y'hudah is the ruling tribe.
The symbol of the tribe of Y'hudah is the Lion.
Yeshua is known as the Lion from the tribe of Judah.
Revelation 5:5 "...Look, 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."
Y'hudah means praise. Praise G-d for giving us His son to redeem us.
B'resheet 49:13 "Z'vulun shall dwell at the seashore; And he shall be a haven for ships, And his flank shall be toward Sidon.
His name means dwelling. They will dwell by the sea and be maritime traders.
Their tribal allotment was between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee. (See Joshua 19:10-16)
D'varim (Deuteronomy) 33:18-19 And of Z'vulun (Zebulun) he said, "Rejoice, Z'vulun (Zebulun), in your going forth, And, Issakhar (Issachar), in your tents. "They shall call peoples to the mountain; There they shall offer righteous sacrifices; for they shall draw out the abundance of the seas, And the hidden treasures of the sand."
Sidon is today in Lebanon.
Shof'tim (Judges) 5:18 " Z'vulun (Zebulun) was a people who despised their lives even to death, And Naftali (Naphtali) also, on the high places of the field.
This tribe was willing to risk their lives for the cause of G-d.
Divrei-HaYamim Alef (1 Chronicles) 12:33 Of Z'vulun (Zebulun), there were 50,000 who went out in the army, who could draw up in battle formation with all kinds of weapons of war and helped David with an undivided heart.
An undivided heart - enabled them to be stable and successful.