Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Genesis 49 - Israel's Prophecies

LINK: Genesis 49


The sins of some of the sons of Israel are remembered as Israel prophesied over each of his sons before his death: 

Reuben did not get a glowing prophecy because of sleeping with his father's concubine in Genesis 35:22. He lost his legal status as firstborn. It states that he was "uncontrolled as water," and his descendants were known for their indecision (Judges 5:15-16).

Simeon and Levi's prophecy foretold a scattering of their tribe because of their violence toward the men of Shechem after their sister, Dinah, had been raped in Genesis 34. This was fulfilled in the tribe of Simeon as they were absorbed into the land of Judah (Joshua 19:1, 9). Levi's descendants became the priests of Israel and were dispersed throughout the land.

Judah was blessed. He started down a wrong path in his dealings with Tamar in Genesis 38, but we have seen his leadership emerging throughout the Joseph story. His blessing was the most significant because it relates to the scarlet thread of redemption. Look closely at the prophecy in Genesis 49:10. Judah is declared as the royal tribe that will beget David and eventually Jesus. Stay tuned! 

Zebulun was prophesied as living near the sea shore. His tribe would be ten miles from the Mediterranean Sea and able to feast on its abundance (Deuteronomy 33:19).

Issachar obtained land that was in the lower part of Galilee. Israel prophesied that he would "bow his shoulder to bear burdens and become a slave of forced labor" (49:15). Many commentators believe this indicated that he would have an agricultural way of life and not try to be dominant politically.

Dan's tribe was prophesied to be a "servant." This is fulfilled in Judges 18 where Danites are treacherous and lead Israel into idolatry. Samson was from this tribe (Judges 14-16).

Gad's tribe lived east of the Jordan River (Joshua 13:24-27) along what is called "the King's Highway" which was a north-south trade route. Israel prophesied that he would be raided by raiders but he would attack at their heels. One example of how this prophecy is played out is how effective Gad is at counterattacking the Ammonites in Judges 11-12.

Asher was prophesied to have rich food. The land of Asher was fertile and near the Mediterranean (Joshua 19:24-30). Being close to the coast would also give this tribe the ability to trade with other places in the Mediterranean world.

Naphtali was prophesied to be a doe let loose who gave beautiful words. Some commentators believe this is in relation to their isolated location in the hills north of Galilee (Joshua 19:32-38).

Joseph was given a beautiful prophecy that tells metaphorically of his life story. He was described as a "bow" that "remained firm." He would receive abundant blessing in Israel's prophecy. This would be realized through his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.

Ephraim's tribe became prosperous and fruitful as they settled in an area with good rainfall and abundant harvests in the central hill-country of what is now known as Samaria. Joshua was the most famous person from this tribe. When the tribes split into northern and southern kingdoms, the northern kingdom was referred to as Ephraim (Isaiah 7:2, 5, 8-9; Hosea 9; 13; 12:1, 8). This will be important to remember when we get to the prophecy books! Ephraim means "twice fruitful" and he is also the youngest; and according to the blessing in the previous chapter, he did become greater than his older brother, Manasseh. Ephraim's descendants did "run over a wall" as they expanded their territory (Joshua 17:14-18).

Manasseh's tribe was located on each side of the northern part of the Jordan River dividing it into two half tribes. There was good rainfall and abundant crops.

Benjamin's tribe was described as a "ravenous wolf" (Perhaps because Joseph kept giving him those HUGE portions of food!). Famous Benjaminites included Ehud (Judges 3:12-30), Saul, and Jonathan (1 Samuel 11-15). We will soon see how "ravenous" this tribe was when we get to Judges 19-21!

This chapter concludes with Israel's charge to bury him at the caves at Machpelah where all his ancestors were buried. We learned from Genesis 22 that Abraham had purchased it and made a "beachhead" in the land of Canaan.


A possible application for those of you with children is to spend part of today blessing and praying for each of your children! For those of you without children, are there spiritual children that you could pray for?

You may not have prophecies like Israel, but God may tell you some things about your children as you pray that you might want to write down. Often, when I pray for my kids, I will write their names next to Scriptures God leads me to pray for them. It is fun to look back and see how God has fulfilled those prayers, and I try to go back and write the answer next to the verses too.

Several years ago, two of my friends put "31 Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Kids" by Bob Hostetler on business size cards for me. (A big thank you to Kim and MaryAnn!)

God's timing is so perfect! I woke up early this morning with a strong desire to pray for my youngest son, and then I find that Genesis 49 was the chapter for today! I am going to pray through these virtues as they are right next to my computer!

Here is an adapted version in a nice calendar form:

Praying for Our Children


Lord, thank You that all Your prophecies are true. Help us to believe You and Your Word! Bless our children today. Amen.
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