The Final Words of Jacob, Part II
Text: Genesis 49: 13-33
Proposition: When God pictures Israel’s future it is shows a tension between the consequences of their sin and the grace that He applies for future generations.
Introduction: Last week we read about the blessing that Jacob bestowed on Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. We heard how Jacob pictured a future for each that was yet to be fulfilled some 500 years in the future. Today we want to look at the remaining 8 brothers and see what Jacob their father would pronounce in prophetic form of the future that lay ahead. Look for a moment at the order in which Jacob blesses his sons.
Leah Zilpah Rachel Bilhah
1. Reuben 7. Gad 12. Joseph 5.Dan
2. Simeon 8. Asher 13. Benjamin 6.Naphtali
10.Zebulun (put this all on one slide please)
The first four oldest were sons by Leah, the next should have been Dan, but instead Jacob changes the order of the blessing and continues with the children of Leah and even there he puts Zebulun ahead of Issachar. Then he jumps to Dan the first born of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid. Passing over Naphtali he then goes to Gad, Zilpah’s first born, then Asher and then back to Naphtali before finishing with Rachel’s two sons, Joseph and Benjamin.
Were not sure what to make of this change up, perhaps it was the order in which they were favoured, least to most, perhaps it reflected his special love for Rachel over all the others. Let’s continue with our look at this first known prophecy by a man as Jacob blesses Zebulun. Turn with me to Genesis 49:13.
10th Son in Order of Birth, Zebulun – a haven for ships.
Jacob blesses Zebulun with these words, “Zebulun shall dwell by the haven of the sea; he shall become a haven for ships and his border shall adjoin Sidon.” The land of this tribe stretched in an east west direction between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea, though their borders didn’t actually reach either. The intent of Jacob’s blessing was that Zebulun would prosper or benefit in some way from the marine traffic. The via Maris, or Way by the Sea, was a trade route that went from Egypt up the coast to Syria cut right through Zebuluns territory, giving them profit from the Sea. The people of Zebulun were blessed by Moses in Deuteronomy 33:18-19, “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going forth, and Issachar, in your tents. They shall call peoples to the mountain; There they shall offer righteous sacrifices; For they shall draw out the abundance of the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand.” The most famous city in Zebulun’s territory is where Jesus grew up, a small town not far from the Sea of Galilee called Nazareth.
9th Son Isachar in Order of Birth – between two burdens.
The land of Issachar lay directly south and attached to the territory of Zebulun. Through Issachar’s territory ran the Jezreel valley, a lush land running west to east that was a Canaanite stronghold. Perhaps the most famous city here is Megiddo, the plain before this city is what we would know as Har Megiddo, where the battle of Armageddon is to be. When King Solomon’s sons split the kingdom of Israel in two, Issachar belonged to the northern part of this split but had strong ties with the southern part of the kingdom.
5th Son Dan in Order of Birth– shall judge his people.
The most famous judge to come out of this tribe was Samson, a man of great strength and weakness. Samson became a champion of Israel as they fought with the fierce people from the coast called the Philistines. However after Samson’s death the Philistines began to overrun Israel more and more so the tribe of Dan sought to move north out of conflicts path and took over the city of Laish and extended their control over this region as their new territory. When the tribe moved north they fell more and more into idolatry and were condemned by the prophet Amos (Amos 8:14). When the 12 tribes are listed in Revelation 7, the tribe of Dan is not included in that list of those included as part of the remnant of Israel.
7th Son Gad in Order of Birth – he shall triumph at last.
Moses led the peoples out of Egypt and after the 40 years of being in the wilderness the tribe of Gad was the first to be given a portion of land by Moses. They were to lead the attack on the king of Sihon and Og, the Ammorites and Ammonites. Moses had requested passage through their land but they refused and consequently were invaded and defeated by Israel with the tribe of Gad leading. The land they took was lush, pleanty of water, forests and grazing land.
8th Son Asher in Order of Birth – bread from Asher shall be rich.
In the book of Judges 1:31-32 it describes the failure of Asher to inhabit the land fully. "Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon, or of Ahlab, or of Achzib, or of Helbah, or of Aphik, or of Rehob. so the Asherites lived among the Caanites, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not drive them out." The result was that the tribe of Asher lived in hill country which nonetheless was very prosperous. Moses makes reference to oil in his blessing of Asher, saying "may he dip his foot in oil" (Deut. 33:24). As it turns out Asher was one of the wealthiest tribes of Israel, olive oil especially became their major export.
6th Son, Naphtali in Order of Birth – a deer let loose. As per the order of birth, the tribe of Naphtali was the sixth largest tribe to exit Egypt under Moses with 53,400 men over the age of 20 (Num1). Of all the 12 tribes, none received a better land than this tribe. Their land has been called the "Garden of Palestine". It bordered the Sea of Galilee on the west side and ran north to Mount Hermon. Joshua 11 describes a coalition of Canaanite forces that came against Israel as they sought to take the land of northern Canaan. It describes how they took the forces of the Canaanites with a swift and sudden victory. It’s supposed that the fighters of Naphtali led this charge. Judges 5:18 says, "Zebulun was a people who despised their lives even to death, and Naphtali also, on the high places of the field."
This leaves just two sons, Joseph and Benjamin, the only two that were the children of Rachel directly. We’ll look at their legacy in the next sermon but one or two points need to made regarding what we have read today.1. Other than the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half tribe of Manasseh who received their territorial allotments from Moses all the other tribes received their land assignments through a casting of lots (Joshua15, 19). What this means is that it was entirely by the drawing of lots that each tribe received what they did for territory which points us again to the amazing fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy. What God foretold in Jacob, God fulfilled through Joshua 500 years later.
2. When Moses led the people of Israel out from Egypt God gave the instruction for how they were to encamp around the Tabernacle tent.
All the tribes were involved but it was Judah who led the way. The formation each time was in the shape of a cross, it pictured the people continually centered around the Tabernacle, all with equal access in one unity. It is for us a reminder of how we too have equal access to the throne of God, how there is no distinction from one group to another, slave or free, male or female, Gentile or Jew.
In three weeks let’s look at the prophecy that Jacob pronounced over Joseph and Benjamin.