Prophetic Blessings of Jacob and Moses: Genesis 49, Deuteronomy 33

Genesis 49  •  25 min. read  •  grade level: 10
In the remarkable prophecy here uttered (Gen. 49), the dying patriarch and the last of the pilgrim fathers of Israel presents the great moral features of Israel's history, from the rise in Egypt as a nation till her establishment in millennial glory, under the peaceful and righteous sway of the Messiah. "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." For the professing church, "the last days" have already set in (2 Tim. 3), and very soon they will arrive for Israel. The figures here used are full of meaning, forcibly presented, and easily read.
Reuben sets forth the nation as in Ex. 4:2222And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: (Exodus 4:22), "Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my Son, even my first-born." In the Scriptures, "Son" is the expression of dignity, as in Psa. 89:2727Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. (Psalm 89:27), and this place Israel ought to have occupied amongst the nations—"the head, and not the tail;" but weakness and utter departure from God characterized that highly-favored people, and for her sins the crown was plucked from her brow, and the regal power transferred to the Gentile (Dan. 227Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; (Daniel 2:27)); henceforth she became the "tail," and not as she was set to be, the "head," amongst the peoples of the earth. By-and-bye, however, her sad condition will be reversed, the days of her captivity and mourning will be ended. Judah will acknowledge her offense and national iniquity, and return to the Lord. Then Zion shall become a "praise in all the earth," served by nations and kingdoms; the Gentiles shall flock to her light, and kings to the brightness of her rising (Isa. 605And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. (Isaiah 61:5)).
Corruption of the truth, or idolatry, was the special feature of Israel's early history. Abram, their great and justly celebrated progenitor, was an idolater in the land of Mesopotamia when called out by the God of glory (Josh. 24:22And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. (Joshua 24:2)); and the people whose chief boast it was that they had Abram to their father (John 8:33,39,5333They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? (John 8:33)
39They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. (John 8:39)
53Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? (John 8:53)
), were not a whit behind: for in Egypt, before their redemption, they had actually forgotten the name of their father's God (Ex. 4:1313And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. (Exodus 4:13)); and even after their deliverance they carried out with them the gods of the country, Moloch and Remphan (Acts 7:4343Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon. (Acts 7:43)). The "golden calf" too is a standing witness of the love of priest (Aaron) and people for that terrible sin (Ex. 328And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle. (Exodus 33:8); Acts 7:40, 4140Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. 41And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. (Acts 7:40‑41)). The wonders of Jehovah in Egypt and at the Red Sea; Divine grace and favor in the terrible wilderness; the majesty of God at Sinai; glory filling the land under Solomon; and the historical associations of Bethel, were actually used as occasions and places by the people for indulgence in their national iniquity. For this, God rent the kingdom in two; and for this he sent Israel to Assyria and Judah to Babylon.
Reuben, the first-born, to whom therefore pertained "a double portion," besides certain other privileges (Deut. 21:1717But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his. (Deuteronomy 21:17)), was disinherited because of special sin (1 Chron. 5:11Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. (1 Chronicles 5:1)), and royalty conferred upon Judah (1 Chron. 5:1, 21Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. 2For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph's:) (1 Chronicles 5:1‑2)), and priesthood upon Levi (Ex. 32:2626Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. (Exodus 32:26)). How true it is that nature cannot maintain itself in the place of blessing. Every human vessel has leaked and let out the blessing; but what God does, He does perfectly and forever. If grace conferred priesthood upon Levi, it is an everlasting one; and if royalty is transferred to Judah, it too is everlasting.
Here we have other sad phases of Israel's condition—the union of people (Simeon) and priest (Levi) in cruelty and violence. The craftily planned and cruelly executed murder of the Shechemites (Gen. 34), figures in certain respects that awful scene when priestly craft and human violence compassed the destruction of the blessed Son of God. "The chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus" (Matt. 27:2020But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. (Matthew 27:20)). Priests and people were united in that terrible cry, "Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas" (Luke 23:13, 1813And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, (Luke 23:13)
18And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas: (Luke 23:18)
). In Zech. 12:10-1410And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. 11In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. 12And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; 13The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; 14All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. (Zechariah 12:10‑14), we have a vivid picture of Israel's national repentance. The king and the prophet, the priest and the people, are fully represented. David the king and Nathan, the prophet—the reproved and the reprover (2 Sam. 12)—are mourners in common. Levi, the priest and Shimei (or Simeon), the people—brethren united in cruelty—are weeping together, and all look upon Him whom they pierced.
Again we learn the solemn and deeply humbling lesson, that every union (Levi means joined or united) short of what God has formed, will be broken up—"though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished" (Prov. 11: 21). The prediction has been strikingly verified, "I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel." Simeon and Levi were punished (and are so still) with a perpetual dispersion among their brethren; they were not only separated as tribes, but Simeon, the least of the tribes who entered Canaan, was incorporated in the tribe and inheritance of Judah (Josh. 19:1-91And the second lot came forth to Simeon, even for the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families: and their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah. 2And they had in their inheritance Beer-sheba, or Sheba, and Moladah, 3And Hazar-shual, and Balah, and Azem, 4And Eltolad, and Bethul, and Hormah, 5And Ziklag, and Beth-marcaboth, and Hazar-susah, 6And Beth-lebaoth, and Sharuhen; thirteen cities and their villages: 7Ain, Remmon, and Ether, and Ashan; four cities and their villages: 8And all the villages that were round about these cities to Baalath-beer, Ramath of the south. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families. 9Out of the portion of the children of Judah was the inheritance of the children of Simeon: for the part of the children of Judah was too much for them: therefore the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of them. (Joshua 19:1‑9)). The Hebrews were accustomed to regard almost all scribes and schoolmasters as Simeonites. Levi, on the other hand, the least of the tribes who left Egypt (Num. 3:3939All that were numbered of the Levites, which Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the Lord, throughout their families, all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty and two thousand. (Numbers 3:39)) were scattered throughout all Israel. Joshua, in dividing the land, "gave none inheritance" to Levi (Josh. 13:1414Only unto the tribe of Levi he gave none inheritance; the sacrifices of the Lord God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as he said unto them. (Joshua 13:14)), but set apart for them forty-eight cities, with their suburbs, throughout the country (Josh. 2114And Jattir with her suburbs, and Eshtemoa with her suburbs, (Joshua 21:14)). Thus the dispersion of this tribe amongst all Israel, although the direct fruit of their own sin, was yet used of God to the blessing and profit of His people, as, thus scattered, they became the religious instructors of the people, and judges in their civil causes and matters. Hence piety and righteousness were in a measure, and for a time at least, preserved in the land through this general dispersion of the Levites (Deut. 17:8-138If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the Lord thy God shall choose; 9And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and inquire; and they shall show thee the sentence of judgment: 10And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the Lord shall choose shall show thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee: 11According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall show thee, to the right hand, nor to the left. 12And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel. 13And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously. (Deuteronomy 17:8‑13); 2 Chron. 19).
In this tribe, from whence sprang the Messiah, we have royalty and majesty, making good blessing in Immanuel's land and amongst Jehovah's people. The correct reading of and a little explanation may remove the difficulty of some in regard to Gen. 49:1010The 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. (Genesis 49:10) —"The scepter 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." The "scepter," or rather "rod," denotes the tribal character, characteristic of Israel; "Shiloh" signifies rest or peace; "gathering" means obedience; "people " is in the plural, hence it should be peoples, that is, the Gentiles or nations. We might paraphrase the verse thus:-"The tribal character would not cease from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh, or the Prince of Peace, come, and to Him shall the Gentiles yield obedience." Israel refused to be gathered in the days of the Messiah's humiliation (Luke 13:3434O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! (Luke 13:34)), who in grace "came unto His own (things), and His own (people) received Him not" (John 1:1111He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (John 1:11)). But who can frustrate the counsels of God? Delayed they may be until Jehovah gets His people morally ready, but every counsel and purpose of God shall stand. The holy basis on which these counsels of grace and glory rest have been laid in the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus; their fulfillment will be accomplished by the power of God. "Judgment also will I lay to the line and righteousness to the plummet" (Isa. 28:1717Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. (Isaiah 28:17)); then will be introduced the era of glory, when the hidden thoughts, as well as the revealed counsels, of our God will be made good in power by Israel's once-rejected Messiah. The latter clause or part of Gen. 49:1010The 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. (Genesis 49:10) goes into the millennium, the reference to Christ being distinct and clear. As the "Lion," His royal power and majesty are set forth (see Rev. 5:55And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. (Revelation 5:5)), also the rest and peace subsequent to the exercise of His power and majesty as "Shiloh."
Idolatry in Reuben is followed by violence and murder in Simeon and Levi, and rejection of the Messiah in Judah. Israel having refused Christ and killed her Messiah, although God used it as the ground of far deeper and richer blessing to both Jews and Gentiles, is yet scattered world-wide in judgment, accomplished by the Romans in the year 70. The sorrowful thing in this brief and graphic account of Israel's present condition amongst the nations is, that she is content to dwell amongst the Gentiles for mere money-making and gain; yea, becoming the center and spring of Gentile commercial life and greatness: "he shall be for an haven of ships." All this has been wonderfully verified in the past and present history of Israel among the Gentiles. Their wealth, commercial importance, shrewdness, and sagacity in business are proverbial. Their political importance, in a monetary point of view, has been admitted and practically recognized by perhaps all European governments; and as their wealth is allowed to accumulate or laid out in movable property, they can always command any amount of ready money. The part of Canaan allotted to this tribe was so situated that she richly benefited by the commerce flowing up the Mediterranean -"his border shall be unto Zidon "- besides driving a strong inland trade (Josh. 19:10-1610And the third lot came up for the children of Zebulun according to their families: and the border of their inheritance was unto Sarid: 11And their border went up toward the sea, and Maralah, and reached to Dabbasheth, and reached to the river that is before Jokneam; 12And turned from Sarid eastward toward the sunrising unto the border of Chisloth-tabor, and then goeth out to Daberath, and goeth up to Japhia, 13And from thence passeth on along on the east to Gittah-hepher, to Ittah-kazin, and goeth out to Remmon-methoar to Neah; 14And the border compasseth it on the north side to Hannathon: and the outgoings thereof are in the valley of Jiphthah-el: 15And Kattath, and Nahallal, and Shimron, and Idalah, and Bethlehem: twelve cities with their villages. 16This is the inheritance of the children of Zebulun according to their families, these cities with their villages. (Joshua 19:10‑16)). Zebulun, therefore, true to her derivation, sets forth Israel, after the rejection of her Messiah, dispersed among the Gentiles, dwelling amongst them, and amassing wealth—being also the center of the world's commerce.
These two tribes—Zebulun and Issachar—set forth the present state of Israel from the rejection of the Messiah. Not only have we Israel, the active spring and center of commerce, but in Issachar her degradation is lower still: she is content to be beneath the heel of the Gentile; to bear any burden and pay any tribute, if only allowed to rest in her exile. What forgetfulness of Jehovah and her hopes and glorious destiny! The most peaceable and industrious subjects of any kingdom are the Jews; and yet they have been universally oppressed, pillaged, robbed, and ill-treated. Even in this free country, it is in the recollection of many when certain civil disabilities, resting for centuries upon that people, were abrogated. For nearly 2000 years they have patiently suffered the most unheard of cruelty and oppression. It is doubtful if a clear case can be established of a rising of that much-persecuted people against their Gentile oppressors. In their land they were troublesome enough, and probably cost their Roman masters more treasure and blood to keep them in due subjection than any other of the subject provinces of the empire; but since their exile they have become the least troublesome of any people—paying tribute to any amount if only allowed to dwell quietly. Many an impoverished exchequer has been replenished by the taxes levied upon the Jews. What is here prophesied of these two tribes is fulfilled before our eyes to the very letter.
The following extract shows the position of this tribe in the land; "Issachar stayed at home and attended to husbandry, the taking care of and feeding cattle, in which employment the tribe was most prosperous. Being delighted with the tranquility of an agricultural life, and content with its fortunes, the tribe was not desirous of enlarging its borders by war, nor of increasing its wealth by the hazardous speculations of commerce, or the toils and dangers of a maritime life. The people of the tribe were willing to give a large portion of the abundant produce of their land, that they might enjoy the remainder free from strife and contention." In Issachar then we have subjection to the Gentiles, and in Zebulun commerce with them.
Here we have Israel energized by Satan. The "Serpent" is the well-known and familiar expression of satanic power and influence, hence the application is direct and positive to that solemn crisis, yet future in Israel's history, when the full power of satanic evil will rise to its height in Judea (Matt. 12:4545Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. (Matthew 12:45)). The nation restored in unbelief will receive "the man of sin," "whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders." A remnant or faithful few in midst of these scenes of abounding iniquity is intimated in Gen. 49:1818I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord. (Genesis 49:18): "I have waited for Thy salvation, O LORD." This rapid transition from Satan and his power, to Jehovah and His salvation is very beautiful This coming period of Israelitish history is not far distant. Soon the Jewish people will become all-important in a political point of view, as now they are commercially. Satan's power and diabolic energy will, for a short time, be paramount in the land trod by the feet of the blessed Son of God, afterward, Jehovah's salvation will be known in Zion, for it is written: "Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted His people, and will have mercy upon His afflicted (Isa. 49:1313Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. (Isaiah 49:13)). It is a generally accepted tradition among the Jewish doctors that the "Antichrist to come" will be of this tribe. Certain it is that idolatry—Satan's master-piece—was introduced into Israel by Dan, and further, that in the city of Dan, Jeroboam set up one of his golden calves (1 Kings 12:2929And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. (1 Kings 12:29)). The tribes of Dan and Ephraim, both notoriously guilty of idolatry, are omitted in the enumeration of the tribes sealed in Rev. 713And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? (Revelation 7:13), but both are remembered in the future millennial settlement of the land—Dan being first named (Ezek. 4813And over against the border of the priests the Levites shall have five and twenty thousand in length, and ten thousand in breadth: all the length shall be five and twenty thousand, and the breadth ten thousand. (Ezekiel 48:13)).
"Gad, a troop shall overcome him; but he shall overcome at the last." Here the Jewish remnant in "the day of Jacob's trouble" come publicly into view. Many of these Jewish confessors will swell the noble army of martyrs (Rev. 15): others will have to flee for their lives (Matt. 24:1616Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: (Matthew 24:16)), for there "shall be affliction such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be" (Mark 13:1919For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. (Mark 13:19)). The blood of these beloved Jewish saints will be shed as water in the streets and environs of Jerusalem (Psa. 79:1-31<<A Psalm of Asaph.>> O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps. 2The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth. 3Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them. (Psalm 79:1‑3))- the remnant will be "overcome." But the victory of the enemy is not final, and his triumphing is but short-lived, for after the divinely appointed period of distress, which God will shorten for the preserving of life (Matt. 24:2222And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. (Matthew 24:22)), victory will be claimed by the remnant of Judah, and a remnant will emerge out of "the great tribulation" conquerors at last.
"Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties." After the latter-day conflicts are over, the earth shall yield its rich and abundant increase to victorious and blessed Israel; even the tops of the mountains, where vegetation is almost unknown, shall be covered with fruit both rich and abundant (Psa. 72). "And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD: I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine ('bread' and 'dainties') and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel," i.e., restored and happy Israel (Hos. 2:21,2221And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; 22And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. (Hosea 2:21‑22)).
"Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words." In Gad we have victory; in Asher fruitfulness; while in Naphtali we have liberty. Israel from the time she bartered the liberty of grace in which she stood before God as a redeemed people, for the acceptance of law as the ground of her blessing (Ex. 19:88And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord. (Exodus 19:8)), came under a yoke of bondage which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear. Ere the law was given, they were sinners, under it they became transgressors, and by the gospel, they are proved to be enemies of God and of Christ. Israel's indictment was proclaimed by Stephen, and written out by Luke in Acts 7:51-5351Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. 52Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. (Acts 7:51‑53). The testimony of the Holy Ghost resisted; the prophets persecuted and slain; the just One betrayed and murdered; and the law, although received by the ministry of angels, broken. What a solemn charge! When restored to their land, effected by the powerful aid of a certain maritime people (Isa. 1813The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companies of Dedanim. 14The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled. 15For they fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war. (Isaiah 21:13‑15)), they will suffer under the righteous government of God. Stephen's charge against them will again be preferred, and God will demand an answer. "His blood be on us and on our children" was the cry of all the people, and so God will answer the cry in the coming crisis of woe. But the blood of their Messiah, so cruelly and wantonly shed, was the blood of atonement on God's part, and so the very sin of shedding it will be wiped out, and they shall look upon Him whom they pierced and mourn (Zech. 12:10-1410And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. 11In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. 12And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; 13The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; 14All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. (Zechariah 12:10‑14)); then will have arrived the true day of atonement for Israel; then will the people pass into the blessed liberty of grace. "Naphtali is a hind let loose," is the striking figure employed by the Holy Ghost to set forth Israel's deliverance and liberty when under the terms of the new covenant, the old being superseded and set aside forever (Jer. 31:31-3431Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31‑34)). Saved and liberated, Israel will then sing her songs and celebrate the works and ways of Jehovah; "he giveth goodly words."
Christ is here seen (for Joseph is the most perfect type of the Lord in the pages of the Old Testament) the heir of all things, the center of all blessing, heavenly and earthly, with power to hold the blessing forever. He is strengthened by the "mighty God of Jacob," that is, He will take all and hold all for the glory of His people—Israel. Christ personally will uphold the glory and blessing of millennial days, as it was prophetically announced, "they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separated from his brethren." Thus the glory and blessedness are taken and held in connection with, and on behalf of, Israel.
Here again we have Christ personally, but as victorious on Israel's behalf, Glory is witnessed in Joseph, power in Benjamin, but both center in Christ. Thus the history (Gen. 43) and the prophecy correspond. Joseph (Christ glorified) cannot make himself known to his brethren till Benjamin (Christ in power) be brought to him. As the two brothers were associated, so we have the union of glory and power, in order to secure the blessing of Israel on earth. It is Christ glorified in whom we find our deepest, richest blessings. We are blest now with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3-53Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (Ephesians 1:3‑5)), but the Jew will be blest on the earth; hence power will be needed to clear the scene of evil, and thus we get the union of Joseph and Benjamin—glory and power—in connection with Israel and earthly blessing.
BRIEF SUMMARY.
Past History of the Nation.
Reuben.-The early history of the nation, exhibiting instability and idolatry.
Simeon and Levi.-People and priest united in cruelty and wickedness.
Judah.-Royalty and majesty established in Christ.
Present History of the Nation.
Zebulun.-Israel the center of commerce in the world.
Issachar.-Israel content to pay tribute, and in subjection to the Gentiles.
Future History of the Nation.
Dan.-The power and energy of Satan, and the cry of the remnant in the coming crisis.
Gad.-The remnant " overcome " in the tribulation, but at last "over-comers."
Asher.-The earth yielding its increase to victorious Israel.
Naphtali.-The liberty of grace enjoyed and victory celebrated.
Joseph and Benjamin.-Personal types of the Lord in glory and power united for Israel.
THE BLESSINGS OF MOSES (DEUT. 33.).
The blessings of Moses, the man of God, are governmental in character, and not prophetic as Jacob's. Thus the notable point of difference between the predictions of Jacob and Moses is, that the former gives a brief but very complete sketch of Israel's history from her establishment as a nation till her full blessing under her Messiah. Moses, on the contrary, and in keeping with the character of the book of Deuteronomy, looks at the tribes entering the land and continuing therein in relationship to God, on the ground of obedience. Their place in Canaan, under the government of God, blessed when they did well, punished when they sinned, is in the main the subject of the blessings which in their range and bearing are much more narrow and circumscribed than those of Jacob's. The order of the tribes is different here from that noted in Gen. 49.
"Let Reuben live and not die, and let (omit 'not') his men be few." It might have been expected that Reuben, being the eldest of the twelve sons, would have had a numbering somewhat more in keeping with his position (Num. 1:2121Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Reuben, were forty and six thousand and five hundred. (Numbers 1:21)), but instead of being the largest of the tribes, he was amongst the smallest, and after the conquest of Canaan was ever reckoned with Gad and half-tribe of Manasseh. Reuben, although small in numbers, was continued as a tribe, but never figured prominently in the land. The prediction was exactly fulfilled.
"And this is the blessing of Judah: and he said, Hear, LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people; let his hand be sufficient for him; and be Thou an help to him from his enemies." The birth-right of Reuben, the eldest, was transferred to Joseph (1 Chron. 5:11Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. (1 Chronicles 5:1)), but power or authority, which generally accompanied the birth-right, went to Judah. Jehovah specially identifies Himself with this tribe and with Judah too as a nation. It was of this tribe of whom Christ came according to the flesh. "Bring him unto his people," no doubt refers to the future union of the now broken sticks, "beauty" and "bands"- Judah and Israel (Zech. 11:7-147And I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock. And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock. 8Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me. 9Then said I, I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another. 10And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. 11And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the Lord. 12And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord. 14Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. (Zechariah 11:7‑14); Ezek. 37:15-2215The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, 16Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: 17And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. 18And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest by these? 19Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. 20And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes. 21And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: 22And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: (Ezekiel 37:15‑22)). This is one of the few yet future prophetic announcements contained in these predictions. "The voice of Judah" is heard again and again in the prayers, songs, and prophecies of David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Daniel, and others of the royal tribe. "Be Thou an help to him from his enemies" is witnessed in the signal and remarkable deliverances vouchsafed to Judah, as a tribe and as a nation.
Here Simeon is omitted, and the brotherhood existing between him and Levi spoken of by Jacob (Gen. 49) broken up. Levi is blest with priesthood, service, and teaching, so that the scattering and dispersion of this tribe throughout the land, while in the first instance one of judgment, was yet used of God for the good and blessing of His people.
"The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by Him, and the LORD shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between His shoulders." Jehovah established His throne and sanctuary in Jerusalem; from the one He governed the people in righteousness, in the other He dwelt in their midst in grace; and, as Jerusalem was within the territory assigned to Benjamin, this beautiful prayer expressed, in words most touching and tender, Jehovah's special place in midst of the tribe. What an honor, what a blessing was conferred upon Benjamin—the living God dwelling in her midst!
The heavens and earth yield their treasures in rich and full abundance, and center on the head of Joseph. Glory, too, is his, and strength reaching his enemies to the end of the earth. All this might have followed Jehovah's appropriation of the people and His dwelling in their midst, had they been ready for the reception of their Messiah and for the blessings He brought; but, alas! Israel knew not the day of her gracious visitation, and so the blessing is postponed, but not lost. The full blessing of Joseph awaits millennial days. Joseph's sons come in for Reuben's portion and blessing (1 Chron. 5:11Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. (1 Chronicles 5:1))
Of Zebulun he said, "Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and Issachar in thy tents." Both tribes are called upon to rejoice. The former "in going out," that is in commerce with the Gentiles; the latter as dwelling in her "tents," that is in remaining in the land and trafficking at home. The river Belus, on the coast of Zebulun, furnished this commercial and maritime tribe with enormous quantities of fine sand, which they manufactured into glass. 'Twas here, consequently, that the art of glass-making was first discovered, and which yielded a considerable revenue to this clever and industrious people. Besides this source of wealth, the seaport towns bordering on the Mediterranean, as Tire and Sidon, poured their treasures into the country occupied by these tribes. Zebulun, particularly, looked after the sea trade, while the inland traffic was mainly taken up by Issachar.
The Gadites were a brave and courageous people, and, owing to their peculiarly exposed position on the eastern side of Jordan, were often in conflict with the surrounding nations. For mutual defense and protection, this tribe leagued itself with Reuben and half-tribe of Manasseh. The prowess of the people and their lion-like character were proverbial (Deut. 33:2020And of Gad he said, Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad: he dwelleth as a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head. (Deuteronomy 33:20)). Gad "provided the first part for himself," that is, the rich meadows and fertile lands of Gilead, particularly suitable for their numerous cattle. This very extensive and fine tract of country was claimed by the two tribes and a half already alluded to ere they crossed the Jordan (Num. 3220And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the Lord to war, (Numbers 32:20)). This apparent break in the unity of all Israel hitherto preserved, justly roused the jealousy of Moses and the tribes generally, which certainly was not allayed by their after action of building an altar apart from their brethren (Josh. 2220Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity. (Joshua 22:20)). Gad, however, and the associate tribes had no intention to sever themselves from the nation, or break the link of relationship established between Jehovah and Israel. Gad passed "armed before the LORD " into Canaan, and even encouraged Joshua, in view of the conquest of the land (Josh. 1:12-1812And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying, 13Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, The Lord your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land. 14Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valor, and help them; 15Until the Lord have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the Lord your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the Lord's servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising. 16And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. 17According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. 18Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage. (Joshua 1:12‑18)): Thus Gad "came with the heads of the people—he executed the justice of the LORD, and His judgments with Israel."
"Of Dan he said, Dan is a lion's whelp; he shall leap from Bashan." The bold, cruel, reckless daring of this tribe, and their gross idolatry, are well known. Judges 18, furnishes a terrible example of their cruelty and idolatry combined. Six hundred Danites stealthily surrounded Laish (Lion), the people of which were living in careless ease, and far from their allies and friends the Zidonians. The leaping of a "lion's whelp" from the hills of Bashan is the expressive symbol of this and other war exploits by the Danites. The city of Laish was taken, and all put to the sword; then they named it Dan, after their father. Samson, the lion-judge of Israel, was of this tribe. Satan is termed a "serpent" and a "lion;" so Jacob connects with this tribe the subtlety of the "serpent," and Moses the daring of the "lion."
"O Naphtali! satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the LORD; possess thou the west and the south." Josephus, the Jewish historian, says of the territory possessed by this tribe, "One might call it the ambition of nature," their part of the country abounding with gardens, palm, fig, olive, and other trees, and being exceedingly fruitful in flower and fruit. The full blessing of Jehovah rested upon this tribe; hence little wonder that Naphtali's satisfaction with her portion is here dwelt upon. The cities of Capernaum and Chorazin, embraced in the bounds of this tribe and of Zebulun, were specially visited by the favor of Jehovah, not merely in temporal blessing, but also by the personal ministry of Jesus (Isa. 9:1, 21Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. 2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. (Isaiah 9:1‑2); Matt. 4:12-1612Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; 13And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: 14That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 15The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; 16The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. (Matthew 4:12‑16)).
"Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil. Thy shoes shall be iron and brass (copper), and as thy days, so shall thy strength be." This tribe multiplied greatly, and although it is difficult, if not impossible, to define with geographical accuracy the exact boundaries of the tribes, yet it is certain that Asher's portion was not only extensive but crowded with cities, towns and villages, as the abundant ruins fully testify. Here is the testimony of the Jewish historian "Moreover, the cities be here very thick; and the numerous villages are so full of people through the richness of the soil, that the very least of them contain about 15,000 inhabitants."
The prediction "Let Asher be blessed with children" has been fulfilled to the letter. The favor with which the tribe was regarded by their brethren is next noted; "Let him dip his foot in oil," is an expression referring to the wonderful fertile hills and plains, stretching down to the sea coast for many miles. The mountains are now bare enough, but at one time they were covered with olive trees, and the many oil presses yet extant, and of ancient origin, show that northern Palestine must have been an exceedingly rich country.
Here, too, abounded "iron and brass," rather "copper " (Deut. 33:2525Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be. (Deuteronomy 33:25)). The inhabitants of Tire and Sidon were famous artificers and workers in metals generally, and were employed by Solomon in casting and preparing the holy vessels for the temple. The purple produced from the beautiful shellfish on the sea coast of the tribe is largely spoken of in Scripture, and altogether the portion of Asher was exceedingly large and full.
We would conclude these remarks—prophetic and historic—with the grand conclusion: "There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in His excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency."