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Jacob’s Last Words to His Sons


Then Jacob called his sons, and said: “Gather around, that I may tell you what will happen to you in days to come.


Assemble and hear, O sons of Jacob;

listen to Israel your father.



Reuben, you are my firstborn,

my might and the first fruits of my vigor,

excelling in rank and excelling in power.


Unstable as water, you shall no longer excel

because you went up onto your father’s bed;

then you defiled it—you went up onto my couch!



Simeon and Levi are brothers;

weapons of violence are their swords.


May I never come into their council;

may I not be joined to their company—

for in their anger they killed men,

and at their whim they hamstrung oxen.


Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,

and their wrath, for it is cruel!

I will divide them in Jacob,

and scatter them in Israel.



Judah, your brothers shall praise you;

your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;

your father’s sons shall bow down before you.


Judah is a lion’s whelp;

from the prey, my son, you have gone up.

He crouches down, he stretches out like a lion,

like a lioness—who dares rouse him up?


The scepter shall not depart from Judah,

nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,

until tribute comes to him;

and the obedience of the peoples is his.


Binding his foal to the vine

and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,

he washes his garments in wine

and his robe in the blood of grapes;


his eyes are darker than wine,

and his teeth whiter than milk.



Zebulun shall settle at the shore of the sea;

he shall be a haven for ships,

and his border shall be at Sidon.



Issachar is a strong donkey,

lying down between the sheepfolds;


he saw that a resting place was good,

and that the land was pleasant;

so he bowed his shoulder to the burden,

and became a slave at forced labor.



Dan shall judge his people

as one of the tribes of Israel.


Dan shall be a snake by the roadside,

a viper along the path,

that bites the horse’s heels

so that its rider falls backward.



I wait for your salvation, O L ord.



Gad shall be raided by raiders,

but he shall raid at their heels.



Asher’s food shall be rich,

and he shall provide royal delicacies.



Naphtali is a doe let loose

that bears lovely fawns.



Joseph is a fruitful bough,

a fruitful bough by a spring;

his branches run over the wall.


The archers fiercely attacked him;

they shot at him and pressed him hard.


Yet his bow remained taut,

and his arms were made agile

by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob,

by the name of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,


by the God of your father, who will help you,

by the Almighty who will bless you

with blessings of heaven above,

blessings of the deep that lies beneath,

blessings of the breasts and of the womb.


The blessings of your father

are stronger than the blessings of the eternal mountains,

the bounties of the everlasting hills;

may they be on the head of Joseph,

on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.



Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,

in the morning devouring the prey,

and at evening dividing the spoil.”


28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, blessing each one of them with a suitable blessing.

Jacob’s Death and Burial

29 Then he charged them, saying to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my ancestors—in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30in the cave in the field at Machpelah, near Mamre, in the land of Canaan, in the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial site. 31There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried; there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried; and there I buried Leah— 32the field and the cave that is in it were purchased from the Hittites.” 33When Jacob ended his charge to his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.

25. Even by the God of thy father. Again, he more fully affirms that Joseph had been delivered from death, and exalted to such great dignity, not by his own industry, but by the favor of God: and there is not the least doubt that he commends to all the pious, the mere goodness of God, lest they should arrogate anything to themselves, whether they may have escaped from dangers, or whether they may have risen to any rank of honor. By the God of thy father. In designating God by this title, he again traces whatever good Joseph has received, to the covenant, and to the fountain of gratuitous adoption; as if he had said, “Whereas thou hast proved the paternal care of God in helping thee, I desire that thou wouldst ascribe this to the covenant which God has made with me.” Meanwhile, (as we have said before,) he separates from all fictitious idols the God whom he transmits to his descendants to worship.

After he has declared, that Joseph should be blessed in every way, both as it respects his own life, and the number and preservation of his posterity; he affirms that the effect of this benediction is near and almost present, by saying, that he blessed Joseph more efficaciously than he himself had been blessed by his fathers. For although, from the beginning, God had been true to his promises, yet he frequently postponed the effect of them, as if he had been feeding Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with nothing but words. For, to what extent were the patriarchs multiplied in Egypt? Where was that immense seed which should equal the sands of the seashore and the stars of heaven? Therefore, not without reason, Jacob declares that the full time had arrived in which the result of his benediction, which had lain concealed, should emerge as from the deep. Now, this comparison ought to inspire us with much greater alacrity at the present time; for the abundant riches of the grace of God which have flowed to us in Christ, exceeds a hundredfold, any blessings which Joseph received and felt.

What is added respecting the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills, some wish to refer to distance of place, some to perpetuity of time. Both senses suit very well; either that the felicity of Joseph should diffuse itself far and wide to the farthest mountains of the world; or that it should endure as long as the everlasting hills, which are the firmest portions of the earth, shall stand. The more certain and genuine sense, however, is to be gathered from the other passage, where Moses repeats this benediction; namely, that the fertility of the land would extend to the tops of the mountains; and these mountains are called perpetual, because they are most celebrated. He also declares that this blessing should be upon his head, lest Joseph might think that his good wishes were scattered to the winds; for by this word he intends to show, if I may so speak, that the blessing was substantial. At length he calls Joseph נזיר(nazir) among his brethren, either because he was their crown, on account of the common glory which redounds from him to them all, or because, on account of the dignity by which he excels, he was separated from them all.217217     “The blessings of thy father have prevailed over the blessings of the eternal mountains,
   And the desirable things of the everlasting hills.
These shall be on the head of Joseph,
And on his crown who was separated from his brethren.”

   — Dr. A. Clarke.
It may be understood in both senses. Yet we must know that this excellency was temporal, because Joseph, together with the others, was required to take his proper place, and to submit himself to the scepter of Judah.

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