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Bible: What Does Genesis 49-50 Teach Us About the Destinies of Israel's Sons?

Updated on September 9, 2016

Jacob Blesses His Sons


Israel Prophesies About His Sons' Futures

Gathering all of his sons to his deathbed, Israel now prophesies concerning their individual tribal futures (vv. 1-2).

[Apparently, the blessing of a patriarch had a revelatory, prophetic nature. It also appears in the text as poetic in form].

Although he was Israel’s firstborn, Reuben’s unstable character, as well as his disrespect for his father’s “bed,” will prevent his success (vv. 3-4).

Likewise, Simeon and Levi will be scattered because of their uncontrollable anger, an anger resulting in cruelty toward man and animals alike (vv. 5-7; cf. 34:25).

Judah, on the other hand, his brothers will praise, for he will defeat enemies and gain respect (“bow down”) from his grandchildren (v. 9).

Like a mighty lion, he will rule and enforce the law until “Shiloh” comes; Him people will obey (v. 10).

[Undoubtedly, “Shiloh” is a name for Messiah, but no source consulted seems to know what the grammatical interpretation of the word is.

Shiloh was also a town in Canaan where Joshua set up the tabernacle of meeting and divided the land to the children of Israel (cf. Josh. 18:1, 10).

The LORD first set His name there, but had to destroy the city because of the people’s wickedness (cf. Jer. 7:12)].

His association with the “blood of grapes” may indicate a connection with judgment (v. 11; cf. Is. 63: 2, 3; Rev. 19:13, 15), and his outward description is almost Solomonic (v. 12; cf. Song of Solomon 5:10-16).

Verses 13-21 deal briefly with six more brothers:

(1) Zebulun’s future is in shipping (v. 13);

(2) Issachar’s stubbornness and laziness will lead to slavery (vv. 14-15);

(3) Dan’s destiny appears full of treachery and antagonism (vv. 16-18);

(4) Gad’s a long-term victor over adversaries (v. 19);

(5) Asher will become rich and prosperous (v. 20); and

(6) Napthali’s descriptions remind one of freedom and cleverness (v. 21).

Israel’s attention now focuses on Joseph whose continual fruitfulness (v. 22) and divine blessings, despite attacks from enemies (vv. 23-26), are in the offing.

Benjamin, however, he describes as a famished wolf (possibly referring to his exploits in the Benjamite War) [v. 27; cf. Judges 20].

Thus are Israel’s blessings such as they were (v. 28).

[Out of the twelve blessings, only two (Judah and Joseph) receive extremely “positive” ones, while only three others (Gad, Asher, and Napthali) seem relatively good].

The patriarch’s final words direct his sons to bury him with his fathers in that very familiar spot in Canaan (vv. 29-32).

[Why is it so important to Israel that his sons bury him in Canaan?]

After this command, Israel lay back in bed and passes away (v. 33).

Israel Dies in Egypt


Jacob's Funeral


Deathbed Prophecy

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Joseph Mourns, Forgives, and Dies

Genesis 50

After mourning his father’s passing for a period of time, Joseph has him embalmed—a process which took forty days—and the Egyptians weep for Israel thirty days longer (vv. 1-3).

Joseph then approaches Pharaoh through the latter’s household, asking his permission to bury Israel in Canaan, as he had promised his father (vv. 4-5).

Pharaoh allows him to go, sending him with most of his family servants and elders, as well as chariots and horsemen (vv. 6-9).

Joseph observes a week of mourning at the threshing floor of Atad; so great is the lamentation that the Canaanites name it the “Mourning of Egypt” (vv. 10-11).

Afterwards, he and his brothers fulfill Israel’s wishes by burying him in Abraham’s cave, and then they return to Egypt (vv. 13-14).

Fearing Joseph’s reprisals now that Israel is gone, the brethren (apparently) fabricate a message from their father, asking that Joseph might forgive them their trespass (vv. 15-17).

Compassionate and forgiving man that he is, Joseph speaks gently to his repentant brothers, telling them not to fear (vv. 18-19).

Hearkening back to their original treachery, he instructs them that God used their evil to bring about a great good— the “salvation” of many (v. 20)—and then repeats his intention of providing for them (v. 21).

Joseph lived to the age of only one hundred ten—enough years to see his great-grandchildren (vv. 22-23).

As he lay dying, he reminds his brethren that God will take them back to the Land, and that they (actually, their descendants) would someday carry his bones back with them (vv. 24-25).

The great “savior of the world” then passes away, and is entombed in Egypt (v. 26).


1. Discuss instances in Genesis where God stepped into the flow of history, checked man’s evil actions or reversed the human condition, and preserved His creation.

2. What structural device does the author use to arrange his narrative?

How many times does he employ this device throughout the book?

3. What are the passages that intimate that God is more than one Person?

4. Choose a controversial story or two, and interact with the author’s views.

For instance, since the act of naming something signifies one’s superiority to it, what can one say about Adam’s naming Eve?

5. Examine Yahweh’s relationship with various men and women in this book.

What surprises you? What confuses you, if anything? What delights you?

6. Which biblical and theological covenants does Genesis introduce?

7. What are some of the character deficiencies and strengths of the following major players:

Noah ___________________________________________________


Lot ______________________________________________________

Jacob ____________________________________________________

Esau ____________________________________________________

Isaac ____________________________________________________

Joseph ___________________________________________________



8. What covenant ritual must males undergo on their eighth day of life?

What results will occur if they do not undergo this procedure?

9. Describe the ritual God performed with Abraham in Genesis 15.

10. Examine some of the dreams and visions experienced in this book.

11. What are the three aspects of the covenant God made with Abraham?

12. Examine passages in which a Christophany occurs.

13. What are the roles of women in this book?

14. What can explain the decrease in the longevity of the patriarchs?

15. What is/are the purpose/purposes of the considerable repetition in this book?

16. Name several of the outstanding locations in this book, and discuss what events occurred there.

17. What are the names given to God in this book, and what significance do they have in the various contexts?

18. Who were the various kings with whom the patriarchs related? Determine the quality of those relationships.

19. Interact with the sexual proclivities of the ancient world.

20. Examine the names given to major characters, and determine their significance.

21. What role did angels play in the book?

22. What do we learn about the Messiah from Genesis?

23. Examine the concept of “remembrance.”

24. God is reportedly omniscient. Interact with the passages where He asks for information.

25. Discuss the character traits of the following sons of Israel (Reuben, Simeon, and Judah).

26. Identify the “interruptions” to the flow of narrative sections, and formulate a reason for their insertion into the text.

27. Interact with God’s curse upon the serpent.

28. What is noteworthy about Lamech? About Nimrod?

29. Discuss the person of Melchizedek.

30. When did Abraham believe God for salvation?In Genesis 15 or earlier? Explain.

31. What does Abraham’s steward teach us?

32. Describe the general character of Laban and Bethuel.

33. What attempt at self-preservation did both Abraham and Isaac make?

34. What do “Jacob’s ladder” and the “descending and ascending” angels represent?

35. Compare and contrast Laban’s handling of Isaac and Jacob.

36. Which brothers avenge the “rape” of Dinah?

How does Jacob handle this tragedy?

37. “Possessions” seems to be a prominent theme in Genesis.

Why do you think this is so?

38. Was Joseph’s bringing his family down to Egypt in any sense a self-fulfilling prophecy?

39. Why do Israelites such as Lot and Reuben appear so cavalier and callous about sacrificing their own children’s lives?

40. Is there any significance as to why Benjamin receives five times more provisions than do his brothers?

41. What procedures does Joseph implement during the seven years of famine?

© 2014 glynch1


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    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      I appreciate your words; thanks for the encouragement.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi Greg,

      Excellent study in Genesis. Thanks for sharing it with us.