Jacob blesses his sons
1 Then Jacob called for all his sons. He said, ‘Come here to me. Then I can tell you what will happen to you, in future years. 2 You sons of Jacob, come together now and listen to your father, Israel.’
49:2Jacob calls himself by both his old name, ‘Jacob’, and the new name that God has given to him, ‘Israel’. He says what is going to happen to each of his sons and to their descendants.
3 Jacob said, ‘Reuben you are my firstborn son. You were born first, when I was a strong young man. Of all my sons, you are the most famous and the strongest.
4 Yet you are as wild as the sea. You had sex with your father's slave wife. This bad thing brought me shame. So you will not become great.
Simeon and Levi
5 Simeon and Levi are brothers. They use their swords as weapons to destroy people.
6 I will not join them when they decide to do bad things. I will not meet with them. They have killed people when they are angry. They have hurt animals because it makes them happy.
7 Their anger is so strong that God will curse them. Their anger makes them do cruel things. So God will curse them. I will make your descendants separate from one another. They will live all over the country of Israel.
8 Judah, your brothers will praise you. You will win against your enemies. Your father's sons will bend down towards the ground in front of you.
9 Judah is like a young lion who has eaten good food. He has eaten what he killed and now he rests. Nobody would want to try and wake him up!
10 Judah's descendants will always rule as king. They will continue to hold the stick and the sceptre that show the king's authority. They will do that until the man comes who truly has that authority. People from all nations will obey that king.
49:10King David was from the tribe of Judah, and so was Jesus Christ. Jesus is the true King who rules for ever. A sceptre is something that a king holds. Its shape is like a stick with a ball on the top.
11 Judah will tie his young donkey to a vine. It will be a vine that has the best grapes. He will wash his clothes in the red wine that is made from those grapes.
49:11Vines were valuable plants in Old Testament times. Jacob is saying that Judah will be very rich. He will tie his donkey to the best of his valuable plants. He will wash his clothes in wine. He will be very rich.
12 His eyes will become red because he drinks so much wine. His teeth will become white because he drinks so much milk.
49:12Jacob is saying that Judah will have plenty of everything.
13 Zebulun will live by the shore of the sea. His town will be a safe place for ships to stay. His land will go as far as Sidon.
14 Issachar is like a strong donkey that is lying down between two of its bags.
15 He will see that he has a good place to live, with good land. Then he will agree to work hard. He will work like a slave for other people.
49:15Jacob is saying that Issachar is strong. He is saying that he will work like a donkey. Donkeys carry heavy things in their bags. Issachar will work for other people, to get food and a nice place to stay.
16 Dan will be a ruler for his people. His descendants will be equal with the other tribes of Israel.
49:16The tribe of Dan was a small tribe, but they had the same authority as all the other tribes.
17 He will be small and dangerous, like a snake that lies beside the road. He will be like a snake that bites the legs of horses so that the riders fall off.
18 I trust you to save me from trouble, Lord.
49:18Jacob prays for himself and then he continues.
19 Robbers will attack Gad, but he will fight back against them.
20 Asher will have much good food. It will be good enough for kings to eat.
21 Naphtali is like a deer that runs freely and gives birth to beautiful babies.
22 Joseph is like a vine that has lots of fruit. It grows near a well and its branches go over a wall.
49:22Jacob means that Joseph's descendants will go and live all over the land.
23 His enemies will attack him with arrows. 24 But he will hold his own bow strongly. He will shoot his arrows well. The Mighty One of Jacob will give Joseph strength. God, who is Israel's Shepherd and Rock, will help him.
49:24Mighty One means the God who is very strong. It is a name for the Lord God. Shepherd is also a name for God (see Genesis 48:15). Rock of Israel, means that God is strong and does not change. Jacob knows that God will continue to help Joseph.
25 The Almighty God, the God of your father, will help you and he will bless you. He will give you rain that comes from the sky above. He will give you water that comes up from below the ground. He will cause you and your animals to give birth to many children. That is how God will bless you.
26 The blessings that I, your father, give to you are great! They are greater than any good things that the old mountains or hills can give to you. They are special blessings for you, Joseph, because you are the leader of your brothers.
27 Benjamin is like a hungry wolf. He kills an animal and eats it in the morning. In the evening, he gives what remains to his people.’
49:27Jacob is saying that Benjamin will go out and kill his enemies in the morning. And he will return in the evening. In the evening, he will give what he has taken from his enemies to his people.
28 All these are the 12 tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He told each of his sons what was right for them and their descendants.
49:28The descendants of each of Jacob's sons would become a separate group of people. Those are the tribes of Israel (Jacob).
Jacob dies and Joseph buries him
29 Then Jacob said to his 12 sons, ‘I am soon going to die. You must take my dead body back to Canaan. Bury me there with my ancestors. Bury me in the cave in the field that belonged to Ephron the Hittite. 30 The cave is at Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan. Abraham bought this cave from Ephron as a place to bury his family. 31 That is where they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah. They also buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah there. I buried Leah there too. 32 Abraham bought the cave and the field from the Hittites.’ 33 Jacob finished telling his sons what they should do. Then he lay down on his bed again. He breathed for the last time and he died there.