Well, that’s Genesis. Anyone understand the why Israel ‘blessed’ his sons the way he did? Was it just cultural practice for them to bless their children as they faced death? Is the accuracy of his prophecy particularly relevant?
I found a wonderful article that goes through the blessing and explains both what Jacob is referring to and how that prophecy is fulfilled for each of the tribes. It’s very helpful in understanding what is being said, what is actually happening, but I can’t say I understand the purpose of the prophecy.
This is what comes to mind: It explains why the first three, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, were passed over in favor of Judah through the nations growth. These three had all forfeit their right to leadership among their brothers. Any doubt as to why the elder sons did not prosper as clearly as Judah would be answered. There is no fault in the blessing or inheritance, no chance in the fortune of the tribes.
It also provides a contrast between Simeon and Levi. They are both to be divided for their sins, but the tribe of Levi redeems itself, they become faithful, and for their faithfulness they are blessed. They are still divided according to their judgment, but they are divided to a new inheritance, a new purpose. They are given a position of service to the other tribes, but also one of honor.
Could Simeon, and Reuben, also have redeemed themselves? Could Issachar have determined not to favor rest quite so much? I don’t know. This isn’t presented as an opportunity, a repent and change your ways lest ye… Rather, this is a proclamation of what will be. An observation of future events. I suppose technically they could have made other choices, chosen other paths. At least, Simeon and Issachar, but they weren’t going to, and they didn’t.
It is interesting to look at the history of Israel as a nation laid out against this prophecy. If it is just a demonstration of God’s presence and foreknowledge, it’s an impressive one. If it’s an explanation for how and why God’s presence is experienced with apparent inequality throughout the tribes, it serves it purpose well.
This is not the first time I have begun to write without really knowing what to make of the passage. I sincerely hope I have friends taking this journey with me, that my reflections are keeping you company if nothing else, but I can absolutely say that setting out to discuss each passage has already deepened my understanding of passages and stories I have always skimmed over in the past. So for that, I thank you.
What is your take on this passage? What questions do you have?