As we approach the end of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we also approach the end of the life of Jacob. It was he who had his name changed to Israel after a wrestling match with The Blessed One. It was he who carried the Blessing on after this father Isaac. It was he who would go on to birth twelve sons – who would all become the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Here, in chapter 49, we see Jacob gather his sons together and pronounce a blessing upon each of them. This blessing was much more than simply a gesture of goodwill – it was a prophetic pronouncement of what each had in store for them as they continue carrying the Blessing as a nation.

As we continue our trip through the early stages of human history as recorded in God’s Word, we will see how these simple words uttered by Jacob on his death bed will come to fruition in the lives of not only his sons, but the generations that follow them. Each son would go on to birth a portion of the nation of Israel – with it’s joint responsibilities and strengths/weaknesses. What an honor it is for us to be able to watch it all unfold!

Let’s take a moment and briefly list each son, along with a few details about their individual blessing, and also highlight some of their famous descendants who are to come upon the scene in the years to follow. Obviously – the full nature and power of what Jacob is saying would take much more beyond the limits of the blog to study. But we can touch on a few parts to keep us on track with the overall theme – The Blessing.

  1. Reuben (1) – Reuben is Jacob’s firstborn – and typically would be the next leader of the family, entitled to a double portion of the inheritance and full authority of his father as Priest and King. But, as Jacob explains, Reuben forfeited this right when he had unnatural relations with Jacob’s concubine, Bilhah (Gen 35:22). Although Jacob had forgiven his son, there is still a consequence for sin… and Reuben’s consequence was the loss of his rightful inheritance.
  2. Simeon (2) – As second oldest, naturally we would assume Simeon would gain the inheritance Reuben lost. But as Jacob explains – that is not the case as well. He is grouped with his next younger brother, Levi, as unfit due to their actions against the males of Shechem in defense of their sister, Dinah (Gen 34). (Famous Descendent: Zimri, who would attempt to lead the people into sinful rebellion in Numbers 25).
  3. Levi – Along with Simeon, Levi was denied the prerogatives of the firstborn. But, he was given a portion of the leadership that would have befallen on Reuben, that of Priest. It was the Tribe of Levi which would function as the nation’s priests in the future. Prophetically, this reflected much in what Jacob said, as this tribe would not own their own land – but would be dependent on their brother’s tithe for compensation. Many times Levi is left out of the count of the Twelve Tribes of Israel due to their unique job description. (Famous Descendant: Korach, who also attempts to lead a rebellion in Numbers 16).
  4. Judah (3) – After sternly rebuking his three oldest sons, Jacob finally announces the full rights of the birthright upon Judah. It is Judah who will carry the title of “King”. He will be acknowledged by his brothers and will be the source of Jewish leadership, royalty, and the Messianic Lineage. Quotes such as “The scepter shall not depart from Judah” and “He will tie his donkey to the vine”, (not to mention the promise of abundant wine) all point towards the future coming of Jesus through this Tribe. It is through Jesus that so much prosperity will come that a single vine will produce as many grapes as a donkey can carry. (Famous Descendant: King David, and of course, Jesus).
  5. Zebulun (4) – Although Issachar is older, Zebulun is mentioned first as future sea-faring merchants. In fact, the tribe of Zebulun would eventually settle in the area of Galil,right between the Sea of Kinerath and the Mediterranean.
  6. Issachar (5) – Known for deep study of the Torah, the Tribe of Issachar would become one of the spiritual pillars of the future nation. They would produce the 200 heads of the Sanhedrin listed in 1 Chron. 12:32.
  7. Dan (6) – Finishing with the 6 sons of Leah, Jacob moves to the eldest of Rachel’s maidservant – Bilah’s sons, Dan. Much of what Jacob has to say about Dan is assumed to be speaking prophetically about one of his major descendants, Samson. It was Samson who would amass the single-handed harassment of the Philistines – as we shall read in Judges chapter 16. (Famous Descendant: Samson)
  8. Gad (7) – Next Jacob blessed Leah’s maidservants Zilpah’s eldest son, Gad. During the conquering of the Promised Land, it would be the Tribe of Gad which would continue to help his fellow tribes, despite his territory being cleared.
  9. Asher (8) – It is from Zilpah’s second son, Asher, that the abundant produce of olives would come for the nation of Israel. Future king’s would seek these delicacies out of the land of Asher.
  10. Naphtali (9) – Concluding the son’s of his maidservants, Jacob blesses Naphtali. The Tribe of Naphtali would be swift in battle as well as it’s land abundant in crops.
  11. Joseph – Finally, Jacob blesses the two sons of his wife, Rachel. He acknowledges the key role Joseph played in the rescue of the entire family from the famine and their preservation in Egypt. He also speaks of Joseph as a true leader over the family due to his current power as Vicar of Egypt. It is with that honor that Jacob blesses both of the sons of Joseph – Manasseh (10) and Ephraim (11). In essence, Jacob blesses Joseph with a double portion – which is effectively split between his two sons. Most of the time both of these sons are listed as part of the 12 Tribes. It is through the lineage of Joseph that God will miraculously provide for Israel many more times in the future.
  12. Benjamin (12) – The final blessing of Jacob is for his final son. Known as a fierce warrior, Benjamin would birth several famous descendants in the history of his tribe. Namely King Saul, the first king of Israel – tall and warrior-like… as well as Queen Esther and Mordecai.

So that is the official blessing of the 12 sons of Jacob – who would grow to become the Twelve Tribes which make up the nation of Israel. As we shall see, these blessings point towards future strengths and weaknesses which will help steer the people both towards God and away from God at various times.

Be Fruitful & Multiply,