The time was nearing for Papa Jacob to depart from the planet earth, then he called his sons to bless them. This blessing was more of a prophetic declaration proposing what their future will be under the present circumstances. Though they have all been drafted into the commonwealth of Israel, but each one still had the responsibility to give account of his personal life and the way he had lived. This was going to be a major deciding factor to their destiny. One by one, Jacob began to call his children, and what he said concerning most of them is worthy of note.
REUBEN: He was his firstborn, and the first show of his strength. By birth, excellence and dignity was his right. However, a charge came against him, “unstable as water, you shall no longer have excellence”. The charge against Reuben was his instability. Yes, it manifested in the fact that he defiled his father’s bed by sleeping with his father’s concubine. However, that was only a manifestation of his character which robbed him of a glorious destiny- he was unstable as water. You could not count on Reuben; you could not build anything around him. He is here today and gone tomorrow, with no single backbone. Like water, he never walked the highway of holiness and consecration; rather he followed the path of least resistance and always sought the lower levels. Though the firstborn, he could not provide leadership to his brothers. Hence the verdict on him was this- YOU SHALL NOT EXCEL.
SIMEON & LEVI: They were next in line for the glorious destiny, but they too lost it. Not for the same reason that Reuben lost it, but for a different reason. Their father said of them, “Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.” (Gen 49:5 KJV) These days, immorality has been very well touted as one thing that will make a man lose his glorious destiny; but what of anger, malice, revenge in the heart? They had a reason to be angry (their sister was raped by someone, and they sought revenge), yet that act of vengeance in anger cost them their place. “I will not join in their secret talks, nor will I take part in their meetings, For they killed people in anger And they crippled bulls for sport. A curse be on their anger, because it is so fierce, and on their fury, because it is so cruel. I will scatter them throughout the land of Israel. I will disperse them among its people.” (Gen 49:6-7 GNB) Hence, while those with immorality issues are crying out to God for help, those with anger issues must do the same – whether your anger is the hot explosive one that last a few minutes and days, or the silent, simmering one that can last centuries; know that it has the power to rob you of a glorious destiny.
JUDAH: He was not perfect himself. In fact, he had his flaws, and they were quite many. However, he was a stable brother, a leader. He was the voice through which God sent Joseph on his errand into the land of Egypt. He was the one that convinced his father to release Benjamin to them for their second journey into Egypt. Oh, you needed to read his intercession/plea for Benjamin when the silver cup of the prince of Egypt was found in his custody. “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.” (Gen 49:10 KJV) Judah was to hold the sceptre. The kingdom of Israel was to be from his loins. He will preserve the sceptre until Shiloh come. He will bear rule until Christ come. I do not know if Jacob fully understood the implications of his statement, but here he was declaring that the Christ will come, but Judah will bear rulership in the meanwhile until He comes. He proclaimed Judah victorious and made the throne of Israel his own.
ZEBULUN & ISSACHAR: He prophesied that the land of the people of Zebulun will extend toward the sea and will be a haven for ships to arrive and exit. Many years later, in Joshua 19 vs. 10-16, this prophecy was fulfilled; not by a deliberate attempt to make Jacob’s prophecy come to pass. Rather, lots were cast and by chance Zebulun got the border towards the sea.
As for Issachar, the prophecy that went out was that Issachar was a strong donkey lying between burdens. They were a people who were willing to suffer and take the pains of discipline to secure the pleasant land. In the coming days, Issachar was to become a force to reckon with in Israel, always making themselves available to fight for the pleasant land.
DAN: He shall provide judgement for his people. Unlike Judah that was a bold confronting lion, Dan was to be a serpent, lying quietly by the road waiting to topple the horse and its rider. They will not use direct affront, but with wisdom and subtility shall gain mastery over their enemies.
GAD, ASHER & NAPHTALI: He proclaimed Gad a war-like tribe. “Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.” (Gen 49:19 KJV) Though a troop will appear to conquer him, but he will conquer at the end. Asher was going to be a rich tribe, yielding royal food and delicacies fit for the king. As for Naphtali, he shall be strong and zealous as a loose deer, yet, filled with words of encouragement for those who come around him.
JOSEPH: Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: 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:) (Gen 49:22-24 KJV) Joseph was unstoppable; nothing could hinder him as he proceeded on his journey into destiny. Though he was hated, sorely grieved, and shot at by his enemies; though, he had lots of troubles and difficulties to contend with, “…but his bow abode in strength…” Those that thought they could wear Joseph out with many troubles were disappointed. Despite the troubles, his hands remained steady, he kept on shooting, not giving up. However, his steadfastness in his pursuit was for one reason: “the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob” Jacob blessed Joseph exceedingly and gave him great honour over all his brethren.
BENJAMIN: Surely, Jacob was speaking by the Spirit of prophecy, otherwise, he would have given the kingdom of Israel into the hands of Joseph and would have spoken more tenderly of his beloved last-born son, Benjamin. But guided by the Spirit of Jesus, he prophesied that the tribe of Benjamin was going to be war-like and strong, striking great fear in the heart of their neighbours.
After he had finished this blessing, he also charged them that they should bury him when he dies in the same place where his grandparents – Abraham and Sarah, his parents – Isaac and Rebekah and his first wife – Leah were buried at the cave of Machpelah. He insisted that his burial was to be in the promised land, where God had given him and his ancestors.
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. (Gen 49:33 KJV)
This is the end of Jacob’s story; or was it really the end? For the story has only just begun and the nation of Israel continues today – a towering testimony to a Covenant-keeping God. In the remaining days, I would tie this journey up with a few more articles on certain matters of application. However, permit me to say here that as I study the life of these men who followed God, I see that no one who trusts in the Lord will be put to shame. For He is a Faithful God, and His mercies endure forever and ever.