Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come. “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel. “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it. “Simeon and Levi are brothers— their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel. “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk. “Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon. “Issachar is a rawboned donkey lying down among the sheep pens. When he sees how good is his resting place and how pleasant is his land, he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor. “Dan will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan will be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward. “I look for your deliverance, Lord. “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels. “Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king. “Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns. “Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall. With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and womb. Your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers. “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder.” All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him. Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.” When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
Dear God, it is an interesting to consciously choose to curse some of your children (and seemingly their descendants as well). I mean, who does that? That can’t be a sign of good parenting, right?
I also notice that Jacob seems to have completely embraced the idea that the rights of the firstborn are NOT absolute. Again, maybe this is because he was the second-born child and he took his brother’s birthright and blessing. His father, Isaac, was second-born to Ishmael and had taken his brother’s blessing. Now, he actually had a grudge against Reuben so he kind of let him have it. Then he showed he still remembered how Simeon and Levi slaughtered that town in the name of defending their sister’s honor and he cursed them as well. That brought the first positive blessing to Judah, the fourth-born son. I suppose what I should probably do is break the blessings down by who the mother was. There are four mothers here (as I recall). Was their a difference in how he looked at his son based on their mother?
- Reuben – Bad blessing
- Simeon – Bad blessing
- Levi – Bad blessing
- Judah – Good blessing
- Issachar (born after Asher) – Good blessing
- Zebulun (born after Issachar) – Good blessing
Bilhah (Rachel’s servant (slave?))
- Dan – Good blessing
- Naphtali – Good blessing
Zilpah (Leah’s servant (slave?))
- Gad – Medium blessing
- Asher – Good blessing
- Joseph – Good blessing
- Benjamin (Rachel died in childbirth) – Good blessing
Hmm. That’s interesting. Only the first three got bad “blessings,” if you want to call them that. Gad’s was okay, but he has to be attacked first. When I just read them through, it felt like there was more negativity than that, but, no, it was limited to the first three, with whom Jacob had a specific beef. And, going back to an earlier prayer about him and his fathering, his problems seemed to center more on how the boys’ actions impacted him than whether they were right or wrong. The thing about Reuben and the concubine is interesting. It gets half of one verse (Gen 35:22a – While he was living there Reuben had intercourse with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, and Jacob soon heard about it.” This is right after Rachel died in childbirth with Benjamin and Bilhah had been Rachel’s slave. I wonder if Reuben thought she was unimportant to Jacob because Rachel was dead. Who knows? But it doesn’t say that Jacob did anything about it at the time. It seems that he waited until this moment to blast him with it. Not very good parenting.
Father, my dad had a friend who used to say, “Everyone has a purpose in life, even if it’s to serve as a bad example.” Well, I have to tell you, God, I don’t think much of the example that Jacob was for us. He lied and cheated. He was passive aggressive and selfish. He didn’t mind showing all of his boys who his favorites were. He held grudges. I have to say, it’s hard for me to see how he compares favorably with Esau. But there it is. You used him. You used him to build a nation. You used him to shape the world, an influence that continues to this day, thousands of years later. So thank you that I don’t have to be perfect to be used by you. Thank you that you just ask me to love you and do my best and then work around when I fail. Thank you for the redemption you offer me as a Gentile. I am very grateful.
In Jesus’s name I pray,