The Last Words of Jacob

Genesis 49.

Jacob, purified by discipline, ended his days like a true pilgrim father.

The blessing and prophetic history given by Israel to his sons is full of the very highest interest. I do not propose now to look at the detail of the blessings to the twelve tribes, but to consider especially two immense truths clearly marked out in this prophecy.

1. Man's responsibility and his ignominious failure.

2. The purpose of God.

The first part is in connection with "the first man," the second in connection with "the second Man"; both are of great importance.

Reuben, Simeon, and Levi are the first-mentioned sons of Israel; and here we see failure in the responsibility of the first-born, and violence with corruption - the old, old story of the first man.

Reuben, the first-born, the strength and dignity of his father, was unstable* as water; and with the instability there was the wanton conduct in his father's house. If Reuben is a specimen of the corruption of man, Simeon and Levi follow close after, as using nature's force (violence) with instruments of cruelty; their fierce anger was not according to God.

*The word "unstable" means the boiling and swilling of water; the ebullition of the passion and force of nature which cannot be depended upon in the things of God. It ends here in positive evil.

I believe that we need not say much more as to this part of our prophecy. There is a complete downfall of the heads and hope of the family; it may be summed up in a few words - nature's irrepressible energy, immorality and cruelty, failure. "Cursed be their anger!"

The remaining part of Jacob's speech gives us an historical insight into all that shall take place, consequent upon the exaltation of Christ (the Man of God's counsels), after His death and resurrection.

But first of all Christ Himself is introduced typically in Judah.* God's purpose is in Him, and Judah is the one whom his brethren shall praise. This could not be said of Reuben; there was nothing praiseworthy in him, whatever his position at the head of the family might have been. Judah is here mentioned in connection with Messiah's first coming (verse 10); and Messiah Himself is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. God's purpose is in Judah (Psalm 78:68), and here the Christ is brought before us as the One to be praised. Let us praise Him from our very hearts!

* Judah, Joseph, and Benjamin are all three of them types of Christ here: Joseph and Benjamin especially in His exaltation and reign.

But He has been rejected! And now this wonderful prophecy unfolds itself, giving us the present history of Israel. What is it?

Commercial prosperity and submission to the Gentiles, ending in apostasy!

Zebulun and Issachar represent the long period of Israel's patiently bearing the Gentile yoke, during which time the riches of the earth get into their hands; they are heavy-laden with wealth. But this leads us to Dan, the apostate tribe.* As a serpent by the way, he shall bite the horse's heels and everything fall backwards; this is the tendency of the present age, ending with Israel's apostasy. (It is a sad thing to think that Christendom's apostasy shall precede it.)

*I am told that any orthodox Israelite will affirm that the Antichrist is to come out of the tribe of Dan; this is remarkable.

But at the very time when this gross evil shall be developed, the remnant shall be formed, that well-known remnant in the Psalms, whose prophetic cry is here given to us in the form of an interjection: "I have waited for thy salvation, O Jehovah!" Compare the well-known voice of faith, "How long?" in Psalms 10, 13, 94, as well as in other parts of Scripture.

Apostasy shall terminate the present state of things, and then, the faithful having been delivered by judgment, blessing and joy shall follow.

This we may briefly notice in Gad, Asher, and Naphtali.

Gad is overcome by a troop, but overcomes at last. The prophet Daniel informs us what the final trooping together against Israel shall be (and read, too, Psalm 83), but the earthly people of God shall be brought out of the trouble. Then Asher is blessed with abundance and good cheer; and Naphtali, like a hind that has been freed, shall give glory to Jehovah. Deliverance, consolation, and liberty.

And this brings us to Joseph, type of Him who shall dispense all blessings, from His supreme position in glory, to His restored people. The branches run over the wall, for the Gentiles shall receive of the riches of the exalted Christ. If Joseph had been shot at by the archers and sorely grieved (compare Psalm 105:17-18), yet his bow abode in strength, and he was made strong by the mighty One of Jacob (from thence is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel). The power and might are not those of unstable Reuben, or cruel Simeon and Levi, but the strength of Jehovah Himself, the excellent force of God manifested in the Man of His counsels.

Our hearts long for that day when the glorious Anti-type of Joseph shall reign over the universe, and when every knee shall bow before Him. If we delight now to have part in His rejection and sufferings we shall rejoice above measure in the day of His glory; we desire to see Him honoured who went down into the pit for us!

Benjamin (verse 27) represents the power of the great King who shall break all the hostile nations to pieces like a potter's vessel.

In this short but I trust suggestive and pregnant sketch we have then Israel, as the responsible earthly man, set aside; then God's purpose in Christ seen in Judah, Joseph, and Benjamin.

At the same time a wonderful sketch of the history of God's ways, in view of His bringing the first-Begotten into the world. May we, who are not Israelites, but the co-heirs of the true Joseph called out from the Gentiles, be faithful to Him and love His appearing!

E. L. Bevir.

"In Joseph and Benjamin we have the crowning of all blessing in the double character of Christ, the heavenly Heir of all, and power and strength upon the earth that subdues all."