Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Genesis
Book: Genesis
Chapter: 49

Jacob calls his sons to Bless them. (1,2) Reuben, Simeon,
Levi. (3-7) Judah. (8-12) Zebulun, Issachar, Dan. (13-18) Gad,
Asher, Naphtali. (19-21) Joseph and Benjamin. (22-27) Jacob's
charge respecting his Burial, His Death. (28-33)

1,2 All Jacob's sons were living. His Calling them together was
a precept for them to unite in Love, not to mingle with the
Egyptians; and foretold that they should not be separated, as
Abraham's sons and Isaac's were, but should all make one people.
We are not to consider this address as the expression of private
feelings of Affection, resentment, or partiality; but as the
language of the Holy Ghost, declaring the purpose of God
respecting the character, circumstances, and situation of the
tribes which descended from the sons of Jacob, and which may be
traced in their histories.

3-7 Reuben was the First-born; but By gross Sin, he forfeited
the Birthright. The character of Reuben is, that he was unstable
as water. Men do not thrive, because they do not fix. Reuben's
Sin left a lasting infamy upon his family. Let us never do evil,
then we need not fear being told of it. Simeon and Levi were
passionate and revengeful. The Murder of the Shechemites is a
proof of this. Jacob protested against that barbarous act. Our
soul is our honour; By its powers we are distinguished from, and
raised above, the beasts that perish. We ought, from our hearts,
to abhor all bloody and mischievous men. Cursed be their Anger.
Jacob does not Curse their persons, but their lusts. I will
divide them. The sentence as it respects Levi was turned into a
blessing. This Tribe performed an acceptable service in their
zeal against the worshippers of the Golden Calf, Ex 32. Being
set apart to God as priests, they were in that character
scattered through the nation of Israel.

8-12 Judah's name signifies praise. God was praised for him,
chap. 29:35, praised By him, and praised in him; therefore his
brethren shall praise him. Judah should be a strong and
courageous Tribe. Judah is compared, not to a lion raging and
ranging, but to a lion enjoying the satisfaction of his power
and success, without creating vexation to others; this is to be
truly great. Judah should be the royal Tribe, the Tribe from
which Messiah the Prince should come. Shiloh, that promised Seed
in whom the Earth should be blessed, "that peaceable and
prosperous One," or "Saviour," he shall come of Judah. Thus
dying Jacob at a great distance saw Christ's Day, and it was his
comfort and support On his Death-Bed. Till Christ's coming,
Judah possessed authority, but after his Crucifixion this was
shortened, and according to what Christ foretold, Jerusalem was
destroyed, and all the Poor harassed remnant of Jews were
confounded together. Much which is here said concerning Judah,
is to be applied to our Lord Jesus. In him there is plenty of
all which is nourishing and refreshing to the soul, and which
maintains and cheers the Divine Life in it. He is the true Vine;
Wine is the appointed symbol of his Blood, which is Drink
indeed, as shed for sinners, and applied in Faith; and all the
blessings of his Gospel are Wine and Milk, without Money and
without price, to which every thirsty soul is welcome. Isa

13-18 Concerning Zebulun: if Prophecy says, Zebulun shall be a
Haven of Ships, be sure Providence will So plant him. God
appoints the bounds of our Habitation. It is our Wisdom and duty
to accommodate ourselves to our Lot, and to improve it; if
Zebulun Dwell at the Haven of The Sea, let him be for a Haven
of Ships. Concerning Issachar: he saw that the land was
pleasant, yielding not only pleasant prospects, but pleasant
fruits to recompense his toils. Let us, with an Eye of Faith,
see the heavenly Rest to be good, and that land of promise to be
pleasant; this will make our present services easy. Dan should,
By art, and policy, and surprise, gain advantages against his
enemies, like a Serpent biting the heel of the traveller. Jacob,
almost spent, and ready to faint, relieves himself with those
words, "I have waited for thy Salvation, O Lord!" The Salvation
he waited for was Christ, the promised Seed; now that he was
going to be gathered to his people, he breathes after Him to
whom the gathering of the people shall be. He declared plainly
that he sought Heaven, the better country, Heb 11:13,14. Now
he is going to enjoy the Salvation, he comforts himself that he
had waited for the Salvation. Christ, as our way to Heaven, is
to be waited On; and Heaven, as our Rest in Christ, is to be
waited for. It is the comfort of a dying Saint thus to have
waited for the Salvation of the Lord; for then he shall have
what he has been waiting for.

19-21 Concerning Gad, Jacob alludes to his name, which
signifies a troop, and foresees the character of that Tribe. The
cause of God and his people, though for a time it may seem to be
baffled and run down, will be victorious at last. It represents
the Christian's conflict. Grace in the soul is often foiled in
its conflicts; troops of corruption overcome it, but the cause
is God's, and Grace will in the End come off conqueror, yea,
more than conqueror, Ro 8:37. Asher should be a rich Tribe.
His inheritance bordered upon Carmel, which was fruitful to a
Proverb. Naphtali, is a Hind let loose. We may consider it as a
description of the character of this Tribe. Unlike the laborious
Ox and Ass; desirous of ease and liberty; active, but more noted
for quick despatch than steady labour and perseverance. Like the
suppliant who, with goodly words, craves Mercy. Let not those of
different tempers and Gifts censure or envy one another.

22-27 The blessing of Joseph is very full. What Jacob says of
him, is history as Well as Prophecy. Jacob reminds him of the
difficulties and fiery darts of temptations he had formerly
struggled through. His Faith did not fail, but through his
trials he bore all his burdens with firmness, and did not do
anything unbecoming. All our strength for resisting temptations,
and bearing Afflictions, comes from God; his Grace is
sufficient. Joseph became the Shepherd of Israel, to take care
of his Father and family; also the Stone of Israel, their
foundation and strong support. In this, as in many other things,
Joseph was a remarkable Type of the Good Shepherd, and tried
Corner Stone of the whole Church of God. Blessings are promised
to Joseph's posterity, typical of the vast and Everlasting
blessings which come upon the spiritual seed of Christ. Jacob
blessed all his sons, but especially Joseph, "who was separated
from his brethren." Not only separated in Egypt, but, possessing
eminent dignity, and more devoted to God. Of Benjamin it is
said, He shall ravin as a Wolf. Jacob was guided in what he said
By the Spirit of Prophecy, and not By natural Affection; else he
would have spoken with more tenderness of his beloved son
Benjamin. Concerning him he only foresees and foretells, that
his posterity should be a warlike Tribe, strong and daring, and
that they should enrich themselves with the spoils of their
enemies; that they should be active. Blessed Paul was of this
Tribe, Ro 11:1; Php 3:5; he, in the morning of his Day,
devoured the prey as a persecutor, but in the Evening divided
the spoils as a preacher; he shared the blessings of Judah's
Lion, and assisted in his victories.

28-33 Jacob blessed every one according to the blessings God in
after-times intended to bestow upon them. He spoke about his
Burial-place, from a principle of Faith in the promise of God,
that Canaan should be the inheritance of his seed in due time.
When he had finished both his blessing and his charge, and So
had finished his Testimony, he addressed himself to his dying
work. He gathered up his feet into the Bed, not only as one
patiently submitting to the stroke, but as one cheerfully
composing himself to Rest, now that he was weary. He freely gave
up his Spirit into the Hand of God, the Father of spirits. If
God's people be our people, Death will gather us to them. Under
the care of the Shepherd of Israel, we shall lack nothing for
body or soul. We shall remain unmoved until our work is
finished; then, breathing out our souls into His hands for whose
Salvation we have waited, we shall depart in peace, and leave a
blessing for our children after us.