Genesis Chapter 49

In the previous chapter, Jacob (Israel) had blessed his son Joseph and Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh. He knows his time on earth is coming to an end, so he continues to bless his sons and their families in this chapter.

1 And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.
2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.

Jacob gathers his family together just as so many of the great prophets of old have done just before they pass away. What a blessing it is to live to an age where you can feel that time is drawing to an end and you are able to teach, exhort, and bless your children one last time before passing on. Jacob was both the patriarch of their family, as well as the covenant servant of the Lord or prophet, Israel, and as such was able to give the kind of blessings which told them of what was to come to these men and their families.

3 Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:
4 Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.

Jacob reminds Reuben that while he is his first born and has brought strength and power to Jacob’s family, he will not be greatly blessed because he sinned against his father many years earlier. Reuben had slept with Jacob’s wife among other awful things, which took away his birthright. Instead the birthright was given to Joseph and to his two sons.

5 Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.
6 O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall.
7 Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.

Simeon and Levi had also brought great shame to Jacob, when they sought revenge for their sister and killed men. They would not receive the blessings of his family.

8 Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.
9 Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:
12 His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.

Judah’s family would be blessed to rule over others in the house of Israel. The house of Judah would rule and make the laws until Shiloh would come, which is Jesus. Then at that time, the law would rightfully be the Savior’s. He would then establish a new and higher law.

13 Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon.

I’m guessing that this blessing on Zebulun, meant his family would live near the sea and work with ships and the like.

14 Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens:
15 And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.

This sounds as though Issachar’s family would be happy to serve others and work the land.

16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.
18 I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.

Dan’s family would be a judge for the children of Israel and I think some kind of protection to them.

19 Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.

Jacob prophesies here that Gad and his descendants would be taken by another force, but in the end they would overcome.

20 Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.

The line of Asher would produce the wealthy of the house of Israel.

21 Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.

I’m not exactly sure what this mean, but I know a hind is sometimes referring to cattle of some type. It should as though his family would advise others.

22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
24 But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
25 Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:
26 The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.

Joseph and his family would be strong and fruitful. His branches, which are the Nephites and the Lamanites we learn of in the Book of Mormon, would run over the wall. I think this means they would separate themselves from the House of Israel (part of the scattering of the tribes of Israel), which they did by crossing the waters to the Americas. They would be blessed by the Savior, who is the shepherd and the stone of Israel.

27 Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.

Benjamin and his family would plunder and take from their enemies for their own benefit. This doesn’t sound very positive, but perhaps that is just because of my limited understanding of how they spoke at that time.

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.
29 And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto 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 with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace.
31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.
32 The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth.
33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.

Jacob had blessed each of his sons and their families with prophecies of what was to come for them. He told them that he was to be buried with his family back in Canaan, in the cave where his fathers were buried. This was what he had previously asked Joseph to make sure happened to him when he died. Then when he was done speaking to his sons, he laid down his mortal body and died. He was gathered to his people then, meaning he returned to the family which he had been sealed to eternally by the Lord.

I may not be fully correct in my interpretation of what each blessing meant that was given by Jacob, but the point is that each was given a patriarchal blessing by the prophet and their father. It is such a blessing to have the priesthood on the earth today, which gives men the power to bless their families with the authority and power of God. I am so glad that I have the opportunity to request blessings from my husband and that I have been able to receive blessings from my own father. I have truly felt the love of God through these blessings. It is also such a blessing that the power to give patriarchal blessings, which are prophetic blessings, as these blessings that Jacob gave to his children. Patriarchal blessings are those which can tell us more information about where we came from as well as what can be ours if we can remain true and faithful to the Lord.

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