Destined to Make History (Genesis 49:1-18)

Destined to Make History (Genesis 49:1-18)

  • Review big picture > immediate context.
  • One of the oldest poems in history.

Genesis 49:1-18

  • Jacob, speaking prophetic words.
  • Judah and Joseph make up 40% of the section.
  • Includes blessings/curses.
    • V.28?
    • Several (cf. 1-3) all punishment.
    • How can this be described as a blessing?
    • Punishments do not nullify Covenant of Grace.
    • Admonition > Restoration as patriarchs.
    • Provides a secure future for the 12 in Egypt/exile.
  • Big Idea: Consequences for sin, but God can turn to blessings.
  • No simplified division. Sovereign, Savior, Supplier.
  • Prologue (v.1) provides prophetic purpose.
  • Poetry + Prophecy = Difficult to interpret.
  • Not for establishing major positions of theology.
    • Early church too allegorical (temporal).
    • Modern church too Literal (spiritual).
    • Both make the text unedifying.
  • “In the days to come” = near + distant fulfillment.
    • Partial: Land distribution
    • Full: Reign of Jesus Christ from Judah.
  • All sons called into Jacob’s presence. Openly censured.
  • Reuben:
    • Slept with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah (35:22).
    • Transfer of firstborn status forbidden (Deut. 21:15-17).
    • Only occurs when serious offense against the family.
    • Settled on the other side of the Jordan (Josh. 1:12-15).
    • Indecision (Judg. 5:15-16).
    • Never produces a prophet, judge, priest, or king.
  • Simeon & Levi:
    • Because violence against Shechem > scattered.
    • Simeon enveloped into Judah (Josh. 19:9).
    • Levi’s ferociousness condemned, but later used for God’s judgment (Ex. 32:25-29), valued as guards of the sanctuary (Num. 25:7-14; 1:51b). No land, but cities as priestly tribe.
    • Both scattered (land), but preserved by whole.
  • How do we reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? God in control, but people held accountable?
  • How can God be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent?
  • Sovereign + Anthropomorphism.
  • WCF Chapter V – Of Providence, Section 4 “The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as has joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceeds only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.” God = Power + Wisdom + Goodness.
  • God accomplishes his will through successes & failures of his people.
  • God brings blessing out of curse.
  • Sin not personal, but has far-reaching effects.
  • Defiling sin should bring shame (cf. 1 Cor. 6:5) > restored.
  • Calvin, “But when we, are having been reproved for our sins, repent, this result not only absorbs the curse which was felt at the beginning, but also proves that the Lord blesses us more by punishing us, than he would have done by sparing us.”
  • Judah:
    • Trembling much? Past > appropriate judgment.
    • Tamar (prostitute > daughter-in-law).
    • Not cursed. Why? Lord’s mercy > brought to repentance.
      • Called Tamar more righteous than himself.
      • Offers himself as a substitute for Benjamin.
    • Praised, victorious, honored, scepter shall not depart, fruitful, and blessed.
    • Kidner, “Every line speaks of exuberant, intoxicating abundance: it is the golden age of the coming one, whose universal rule was glimpsed in v.10c.”
      • Donkeys were reserved for chiefs in the time of the judges (Judg 10:4; 12:14; cf. Zach. 9:9). Royalty and humility.
      • Tethering a donkey to a vine implies tremendous wealth. Donkey will consume grapes.
      • Wine used as scrub water.
    • Judah > David > Christ
    • Ancient Jewish interpretation saw Messianic fulfillment.
    • Jesus changed water to wine (John 2:1-12) implying that ushering in beginning stages of this abundance.
    • His presence brought a foretaste of the everlasting blessings that await.
    • Boice, “The point of this prophecy is that an eternal ruler should come in Judah’s line, that Jesus came in that line and fulfills the prophecy, and that if he has not fulfilled it, there will at least never be another person who can do so. The proof lies in Jesus’ genealogies.
  • Jesus in the line of David through Solomon’s line.
  • Problem: Jehoiakim (same line) cursed by God > No descendant upon the throne of David.
  • “Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah” (Jer. 22:30).
  • Couldn’t be natural descent of Jehoiakim.
  • Another line through Nathan (Solomon’s older brother). This line leads to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
  • Two lines of descent: One under a curse, other had never ruled. Any ancestor of Mary would have been challenged by those who had descended from Solomon.
  • Resolution: Boice “Humanly speaking, the problem is unsolvable. But when God the Father caused the Lord Jesus Christ to be born of the Virgin Mary without benefit of a human father, the child that was born became the seed of David according to the flesh. And when Joseph married Mary at God’s command and thus took the unborn child under his adoptive and protective care, the Holy One to be born became his heir also and thus took to himself the title that had come down to Joseph through his illustrious ancestor Solomon.
  • “In this way Jesus exhausted both lines; he was the oldest son of both Joseph and Mary and he himself had no children. By this divinely simple means Jesus became the true Messiah, the royal Messiah, the uncured Messiah, the only possible Messiah. So I repeat, if Jesus is not the fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy, there will at least never be another to fulfill it. Anyone who should ever come into the world purporting to be the Messiah will actually be a false Messiah, a liar, and the Antichrist.”
  • Zebulun:
    • Haven for ships. Zebulun surrounded by tribes (Josh. 19:10-16).
      • May refer to tribe’s Solomonic borders, which extended to Mediterranean.
      • May refer to shared land with Issachar. They shared a mountain sanctuary (Deut. 33:18-19).
      • Stationed “to/toward the seashore” it could be referring to their prime spot for trade.
  • Issachar:
    • Submissive, lazy (?).
    • Located in battlefield (2 Kings 23:29; Judg 4-5).
  • Dan:
    • Justice, snake.
    • First tribe in Judges to practice idolatry (Judg. 18:1-31).
  • V.18 – Almost in the middle, Jacob testifies of his waiting for the salvation of the Lord. This is the “center line” of the poem. He makes an outburst of supplication for deliverance.
  • Waiting for the Lord’s salvation (2 Pt. 3:9). God is patient with the unrepentant. He desires repentance.
  • God exalts the humble.
  • How can you respond if a blessing/curse has been written alongside your name? When Ichabod is attached to your house, how do you act?
    • Those who repent are restored. We see examples of this happen occasionally.
    • Just because a person was from the tribe of Judah did not guarantee they would be great. Many evil kings from Judah.
  • Can the curse be reversed? Yes! Romans 11:23-24. If Jews do not continue in unbelief they will be grafted in again.
    • Maybe you think the branch of a loved one has been broken off. Maybe because of unbelief it has.
    • But there is always hope of regrafting (from our perspective). Do not lose hope.
    • Anticipate the grace of God to restore to fellowship anyone who has departed.


We depend upon God to be gracious to us and to cause us to persevere. He is both Sovereign and Savior! God does not dispense his blessings indiscriminately. He is a just God. At the same time, we know that he sent his Son to be the propitiation for all who place their faith in him.

  1. Jesus is the preeminent firstborn. Where Reuben lost his birthright, Jesus shares his with everyone who believes in him.
  2. Jesus fulfills the fierceness of Simeon and Levi in his righteous anger at the religious leaders of his time.
  3. A priest from the order of Melchizedek who himself became the perfect sacrifice.
  4. Jesus is the reigning lion of the tribe of Judah who conquered all his and our enemies, including sin and death!
  5. Jesus is the ultimate safe haven of Zebulun. He holds us in the palm of his hand and no one can snatch us away!
  6. Jesus wasn’t lazy or passive like Issachar, but he willingly submitted himself to the ruling authorities in order that he might suffer death for us.
  7. Jesus never succumbed to idolatrous temptation as the tribe of Dan. Rather than being erased from the Book of Life, Jesus adds names written with his own blood.