Updated: Aug 3
Jacob finishes well. His last words are a long prophecy about the future of everyone of his sons. All blessings are a consequence of God’s work in the lives of his sons. That become visible in the biblical narrative as the reader discovers the historical development of the tribes. All these attributes can become reality in our life by the work of the Holy Spirit. We can become powerful as Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn (49:3) through our identification with Jesus, the premise, the firstborn regarding the physical resurrection. However, instability in ethical firmness, he lacked respect of his father (49:4). The power of the Holy Spirit is not only for charismatic gifts but also for ethical living. The Corinthians were in a similar situation. They wanted power for charismatic gifts but were lacking in using that power for ethical living. May God keep us to be faithful in all.
Jacob remembers how he had to flee because of their uncontrolled anger (49:5–7) and put in danger the whole family. They used the weapons of the flesh, the strongest one, which is uncontrolled anger. This weapon was sharpened by revenge and self-righteousness. The point of that cruel fleshly weapon was the pretext of righteousness. Injustice was done to Dinah and the honour of the whole family. Shechem had raped Dinah (Gen 34), Jacob’s daughter, justice had to be done. Nevertheless, their revenge outrageously went beyond by a universe the injustice that had been committed by the Canaanites. Shechem was guilty, not the whole city. Why had everyone to die? Because someone dropped the feather and it broke, even our most precious one, we have no right to kill him (Matt 5:21–24).
Our good acts might be quickly forgotten if, at one occasion, we overshadowed them by a heinous crime. How much more will a life of many good deeds be overshadowed by constant outbreaks of anger? That habit is fueled by constantly justifying it before ourselves, by excusing it based on what the other has said and done. A better solution is to invite the Holy Spirit to change our minds, to fill our hearts with grace and love so that we can learn to forgive, and to forgive quickly. So that we can learn to respond to a bad word with a good one. So that we can live to be the good model for the other so that he or she can also change. This is possible by the ethical power of the Holy Spirit. He wants to draw us closely into his presence to that we can be more like him and so that his presence can lead us to offer peace to the one who does not know it. Let us fight the good fight of faith and trust in Him, using the sword of the Word, which is his Spirit, to live according to God’s mishpat, his righteousness so that we are clothed with it (Eph 6:10-20), clothed even with Christ (Rom 13:14). These are the weapons of the Spirit laying down the weapons of the flesh. Let us transform the swords of the flesh into ploughs of peace. The prophetic texts of the messianic kingdom and his inhabitants are fulfilled when we are governed by the same Spirit that governs Christ (49:5; Isa 2:2–5; 11:2–11).
Judah means “praise” so he will praise God and his brothers will praise him (49:8) for what God will do through him and his offspring. Indeed, the Messiah is from the tribe of Judah. The true Israel will bow down before the Messiah, son of Judah. He is compared to a lion (49:9) because the lion is the king of the animals. The scepter and the ruler’s staff (49:10; Ps 45:6; Hebr 1:8) are used for the Messiah to carry out his misphat in the messianic kingdom (Isa 11).
The donkey’s colt (49:11) is used to carry the Messiah as messenger of peace (Zechariah 9:9; Mark 11:4–7). However, this Messiah will return for judgment. The choice vine, the best wine is referred to in John 2 as well as the link with the blood of grapes (49:11; cf. Isa 5), God’s wrath that Jesus took upon himself for us. The opposition between the dark red of wine and white teeth is remarkable in texts such as Isaiah 1:18, where the people of Israel draw God’s judgment upon themselves but God’s purpose is peace through cleansing and transformation by the Spirit.
Dan, meaning judgment, son of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant (Gen 30:6; 35:25), will judge his people (49:16), but also be like a serpent (49:17). Many people are like Dan. They attack and bite, without purpose. They raid like Gad (49:19). They are wolves like Benjamin (49:27). They are just emotionally driven. They cannot hold in check their own emotions. They do not feel well inside and they do not know what to do with that. Thus, they look for others to be responsible for their own frustrations and they bite and feel justified because the other is wrong and the the cause for their inner turmoils. However, they are never satisfied because, deep inside, they know that this is wrong. Is there any help to this and for them? Jacob exclaims: “I wait for your salvation, O Lord” (Gen 49:18).
When we turn to the Lord, the Holy Spirit comes. When the Holy Spirit comes, all is different. He transforms our emotions by the change of our thinking. The Holy Spirit teaches us to cope with our own emotions and unjust behaviour of others. When she or he experiences this, we can teach them by being a model, by being different, by having the peace they also want. What we sow, we will reap one day. Be it for good, be it for bad. The one who sows to the flesh, will reap from the flesh. The one that sows to the Spirit, reaps from the Spirit, eternal life, eternal peace.
Like Zebulun became a haven for ships (49:13), God is our haven and we can become haven for others. The well from whom we drink becomes a well inside us to give to others (Jn 7:37-39). This is what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit living in us. He makes us strong donkeys, crouching between the sheepfolds, like Issachar (49:14). Thus, we can carry the burden of others (Gal 6:2), animated by a soft Spirit to help them (Gal 6:1) when they are trapped and entangled.
Together we can then find the resting place (49:15), God’s place of shalom, which is in Him by the Spirit. This is the pleasant land, God’s messianic kingdom. This makes of any land a pleasant land because it is God’s land in which we live by the Spirit. The heavenly realms come down on earth when we walk by the Spirit. Christ’s mishpat is more righteous than that of Dan (49:16). Christ’s mishpat means protection, salvation, help, defence of the humble, who places his trust in Him.
Asher means happy, someone who has found shalom in God. Someone who has found a delicious food in God’s Word. That one always eats peacefully and is satisfied, knowing of a food that the others do not know (Jn 4:32). This person does not curse but blesses even those that seem not to deserve it, with beautiful words of edification instead of destruction, just like Naphtali (49:21). This one always brings forth fruit, like Joseph (49:22). She and he live by running waters (Ps 1:1-3), the righteous one reflecting God’s character as a consequence of the work of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23). This one is attacked and wounded, but quickly recovers and continues his walk because of the mighty hands of the Lord that sustain him or her (49:23–24). Joseph had almost been killed by his brothers, sold as a slave, thrown into prison. All of this did not make Joseph stumble. He forgave, he bore witness faithfully to the Lord. He went through all of these circumstances facing evil enemies. He brought light into the darkness and shone so that others could see God’s light shining bright. A lamp cannot be hidden under the bushel. A man or a woman like Joseph always experiences God as shepherd, as the Rock from which water of life flows (49:24) as a stream of never-ending blessing and is nourished by God as a mother nourishes her baby (49:25).
Jacob dies with the living hope of being gathered with his ancestors (49:29) in the part of sheol that is for the living, awaiting the physical resurrection at Yom Adonai, the Lord’s day. As a token of the promised land, he wanted to be buried in the field of Ephron the Hittite (49:29), Machpelah, close to Mamre, bought by Abraham (49:30), together with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah and Leah, Jacob’s first wife. Jacob accomplished the ministry that he had to accomplish leaving his legacy behind him to join his eternal father.