Reading: Genesis 49:1,2, 8-12 and 28.
Jacob blesses his 12 sons, one by one; they are under God’s special care, unlike all other nations. More details are revealed about God’s covenant blessings: for example, Canaan will be pleasant, fertile and rich in food (vs 11, 20). Israel will be preserved against enemies (vs 8, 17). They will be successful in trade (vs 13). Kings will come from the tribe of Judah, including Jesus Christ the King of kings. Jesus will bring all nations under His rule. From them He will gather the church and they will obey Him. In the future, believers from all nations will be included in the covenant, and joined to the one church, under one Head, Jesus Christ. He will redeem all his people from their sins. These are rich blessings indeed.
Jacob recalls the sins of his sons and reveals their serious consequences. For example, Reuben loses his the blessing of the firstborn (“you shall not excel” vs 4). Simeon and Levi’s anger is cursed (vs 7). However, God is not just a judge, but also a healer; therefore Jacob’s prophecy is a warning against sin and an instruction to repent.
Jacob also gives a general blessing (vs 28), showing His boundless mercy. Jacob’s family is often sinful and unfaithful. They should be cursed, but God blesses. They earn nothing, yet God gives everything: temporal and eternal blessings through the Messiah who carried their curses.
We also receive God’s covenant blessings because we belong to the same church as Jacob’s sons. Let us be very thankful for God’s grace through Jesus Christ, who also carried our curses.
Jacob summarises some Genesis’ central messages: the fall into sin and its consequences; redemption through Jesus Christ. Furthermore it includes a command to live in obedience to God’s Word (vs 10). These reflect the three parts of the Heidelberg Catechism, namely our sin and misery, redemption, and sanctification.
Key text: Gen 49:28 “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them. And he blessed them; he blessed each one according to his own blessing.”
Question: We understand from this chapter, and others before it, that Jacob’s twelve sons were sinful and undeserving of any blessings. Why then does Jacob still bless them?