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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Genesis 49



Verses 1-33

Jacob Prophesies Over His Twelve Sons - In Genesis 49:1-33 we have Jacob's prophecy over his twelve sons. Jacob's calling was to father twelve sons and take the seventy souls into Egypt where they will make a nation. His final calling was to set the destiny of these twelve tribes, which he did through prophecy.

Genesis 49:3Comments- Jacob calls Reuben, his firstborn, his strength. Note similar verses:

Deuteronomy 21:15, "If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: But 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."

Psalm 78:51, "And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:"

Psalm 105:36, "He smote also all the firstborn in their land, the chief of all their strength."

Genesis 49:4Comments- A reference to when Reuben committed this evil act is found in Genesis 35:22.

Genesis 35:22, "And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father"s concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve."

Reuben forfeited birth right by this serious offence:

1 Chronicles 5:1, "Now 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. For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph"s:)"

When a king during the period of the Old Testament handed over a kingdom to an heir, the concubines were also handed over to this new king as a part of the inheritance. Perhaps Reuben was attempting to establish his position as the new leader to this clan. In his zeal, he made the decision to lay with his father"s concubine as an act of declaring his role as the new leader. Note that Ahithophel counselled Absalom to commit this same act that Reuben committed in an effort to show the nation of Israel that he was the new leader ( 2 Samuel 16:20-21).

2 Samuel 16:20-21, "Then said Absalom to Ahithophel, Give counsel among you what we shall do. And Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Go in unto thy father"s concubines, which he hath left to keep the house; and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of thy father: then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong."

Also, note that a birthright could be sold ( Genesis 25:31).

Genesis 25:31, "And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob."

The cutting off of Reuben from his birthright was a reflection of the customs of his day. The Code of Hammurabi, believed by some scholars to have been written by a Babylonian king around 2100 B.C, impacted its culture for centuries. It is very likely that this decision was based upon law 158 of this Code, which says, "If any one be surprised after his father with his chief wife, who has borne children, he shall be driven out of his father"s house."

Genesis 49:7"I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel" - Comments- Was this a foreknowledge of the name of the nation called Israel?

Genesis 49:10"The sceptre shall not depart from Judah" - Comments- Note that the qualities of Judah mentioned in Genesis 49:8-9 prepare him to be the ruler of the Jewish people. In Genesis 44:14 Judah seems to take the leadership role among his brethren as their spokesman, thus, foreshadowing this prophecy. Judah went ahead to meet Joseph in Genesis 46:28. Thus, indicating his leadership role.

Genesis 44:14, "And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph"s house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground."

Genesis 46:28, "And he sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen."

Genesis 49:10 — "nor a lawgiver from between his feet" - Comments- The phrase "nor a lawgiver from between his feet" means that the rulers over Israel will follow one another as descendants of the kings of Judah, as a royal lineage. Thus, from between his feet, that Isaiah , a man"s loins, will come the seed of this lineage.

— Note that this lineage does not descend from the mother, but from the father. Otherwise, this verse would have said, "from the womb" instead of the loins of a man.

Genesis 49:10 — "until Shiloh come" - Word Study on "Shiloh" - Strong says the Hebrew name "Shiloh" ( שִׁילׂה) (H 7886) literally means "tranquil," and comes from a root verb ( שָׁלָה) (H 7951) which means, "to be tranquil, that Isaiah , secure or successful," thus, "to be happy, to prosper, to be in safety."

Comments- Note that Genesis 49:10 is the first mention of the word "Shiloh" in the Bible. Shiloh as a City in Israel- This Hebrew word is not mentioned again until Joshua 18:1-10, when it becomes the location of the Tabernacle of Moses. This place will remain the location where the nation of Israel worships the Lord until the time of David, when the tabernacle is eventually moved to Jerusalem ( Judges 21:19).

Joshua 18:1, "And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them."

Judges 21:19, "Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah."

Shiloh as "the Peace-Maker" - In Genesis 49:10, the word Shiloh appears to be a proper name or title, which carries a messianic designation for the Lord Jesus, rather than the name of a location. Thus, Gesenius says the word "Shiloh" would means "the peaceable one, peace-maker" in this passage of Scripture. According to this definition, Genesis 49:10 would say that lawgivers and princes would not depart from Judah until "the peace-maker" comes.

Shiloh as "to whom it belongs" - Another possible meaning of the word "Shiloh" is "the one to whom tribute is brought." Scholars tell us that some Jewish authorities understand this word to be a compound of two Hebrew words: "shel" for "asher" ( אָשֵׁרִי), meaning "which," and "lo" ( עֲלֵה), meaning, "to him." The LXX translates this passage as: " ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ τὰ ἀποκείμενα αὐτῷ" "until the things laid up in store come into his possession." Leupold says the basis for this translation is to interpret the word "Shiloh" to mean, "which to him." He believes the LXX has Ezekiel 21:27 in mind with their translation of Genesis 49:10, which reads, "until he come whose right it is." 258]

258] H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis , 2 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, c 1942, 1970), in OnLine Bible, v 20 [CD-ROM] (Nederland: Online Bible Foundation, 1992-2005), comment on Genesis 49:10.

Ezekiel 21:27, "I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him."

Genesis 49:10 — "and unto him shall the gathering of the people be" - Comments- When the Messiah comes, much of the Jewish nation may reject Him, but Genesis 49:10 tells us that the Gentiles will receive Him as their Savior. Thus, here is a prophecy of the grafting in of the Gentile nations into the Vine, Jesus Christ. This Messiah is what the nations have been looking for in expectation for centuries.

Genesis 49:10Comments- The definition of Shiloh meaning, "to whom it belongs" is supported by Eusebius, one of the earliest Christian historians, who deals at length with this passage using the translation "until he come for whom it is reserved." Using this translation he says the prophecy of Genesis 49:10 was fulfilled when Herod, a non-Jew, became the ruler over the Jews. In other words, now that Herod had come, the Jews were for the first time in their history lacking a prince of Judah, at which time the Messiah could come (Ecclesiastical History 161-2). 259] The nation of Israel had been ruled by judges during the early years before a king was appointed. Israel was then ruled by kings until the Babylonian captivity, after which they were ruled by the priests and members of Jewish courts largely made up of descendants of the nation of Judah. Under Herod the last vestiges of Jewish leadership vanished. 260]

259] Eusebius writes, "When Herod, the first ruler of foreign blood, became King, the prophecy of Moses received its fulfillment, according to which there should ‘not be wanting a prince of Judah, nor a ruler from his loins, until he come for whom it is reserved.' The latter, he also shows, was to be the expectation of the nations. This prediction remained unfulfilled so long as it was permitted them to live under rulers from their own nation, that Isaiah , from the time of Moses to the reign of Augustus. Under the latter, Herod, the first foreigner, was given the Kingdom of the Jews by the Romans. As Josephus relates, he was an Idumean on his father"s side and an Arabian on his mother"s. But Africanus, who was also no common writer, says that they who were more accurately informed about him report that he was a son of Antipater, and that the latter was the son of a certain Herod of Ascalon, one of the Song of Solomon -called servants of the temple of Apollo." (Ecclesiastical History 161-2)

260] Eusebius writes, "After their return from Babylon they continued to have without interruption an aristocratic form of government, with an oligarchy. For the priests had the direction of affairs until Pompey, the Roman general, took Jerusalem by force, and defiled the holy places by entering the very innermost sanctuary of the temple. Aristobulus, who, by the right of ancient succession, had been up to that time both king and high priest, he sent with his children in chains to Rome; and gave to Hyrcanus, brother of Aristobulus, the high priesthood, while the whole nation of the Jews was made tributary to the Romans from that time. But Hyrcanus, who was the last of the regular line of high priests, was, very soon afterward taken prisoner by the Parthians, and Herod, the first foreigner, as I have already said, was made King of the Jewish nation by the Roman senate and by Augustus." (Ecclesiastical History 166-7)

Regardless which translation is used for the word "Shiloh," Genesis 49:10 refers to the coming of Jesus, who became the King of the Jews according to the royal lineage of Judah. Not only Song of Solomon , He became the King of Kings over all nations, a position appointed by the Heavenly Father, which He will now hold forever and ever, blessed be His wonderful name.

Genesis 49:11 — "Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass"s colt unto the choice vine" - Comments- In his comments on Genesis 49:11 Hippolytus (A.D 170-236) believes that the word "foal" is a reference to the Gentiles being grafted into the vine, which is Israel. 261]

261] Hippolytus, The Extant Works and Fragments of Hippolytus, trans. S. D. F. Salmond, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol 5, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Buffalo, New York: The Christian Literature Company, 1886), 164.

Genesis 49:11"he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes" - Scripture References- Note a similar verse:

Isaiah 63:1, "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come."

Genesis 49:10-12Comments- Prediction of the Messiah- Genesis 49:10-12 describes the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Genesis 49:12Scripture References- Note a similar verse:

Revelation 1:14, "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire."

Genesis 49:27Comments- Tertullian interpreted Genesis 49:27 as a prophetic reference to Paul the apostle, who was a Benjamite ( Acts 13:21, Romans 11:1, Philippians 3:5). He explains that he began as Saul of Tarsus devouring the church, but was glorious converted and nourished the church.

"Because even the book of Genesis so long ago promised me the Apostle Paul. For among the types and prophetic blessings which he pronounced over his sons, Jacob, when he turned his attention to Benjamin, exclaimed, ‘Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning He shall devour the prey, and at night he shall impart nourishment.' He foresaw that Paul would arise out of the tribe of Benjamin, a voracious wolf, devouring his prey in the morning: in order words, in the early period of his life he would devastate the Lord"s sheep, as a persecutor of the churches; but in the evening he would give them nourishment, which means that in his declining years he would educate the fold of Christ, as the teacher of the Gentiles." 262] (Against Marcion 51)

262] Tertullian, Against Marcion, trans. Peter Holmes, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol 3, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Buffalo, New York: The Christian Literature Company, 1885), 430.


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These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Genesis 49:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

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