Friday

Genesis 49:2-10 Friday 9 October 2015

Psalm: Psalm 106:1-8


Background

This chapter contains the final thoughts of Jacob, about each ofhis twelve sons, all of whom survive him, and our portion coversthe four oldest sons, whose mother was Leah. What Jacob/Israel - heuses both of his names in verse 2 - says about each son can bedescribed as prophecy concerning what would become of theirdescendants. Genesis and its source documents were all written longafter both Jacob's time and the periods of distinctive tribalhistories to which the prophecies appear to relate.

For Reuben, Simeon and Levi, Jacob prophesies impacts on theirdescendants which are viewed as outcomes of their own pastbehaviour. Reuben might expect to inherit the privileges of thefirstborn including a double share in the dividing of the father'sinheritance, as well as the special place the firstborn of a largefamily naturally holds in a father's affection. But Jacob indicatesthat Reuben will forfeit his rights because he had a sexual liaisonwith Bilhah his father's concubine, which Genesis 35:22 mentions briefly in passing.History shows that the tribe of Reuben, one of those that settledeast of the Jordan eventually became assimilated into the tribe ofGad.

Simeon is paired with his brother Levi, because they had actedtogether in highly disproportionate vengeance for the shaming oftheir sister Dinah by a Hivite prince (the story is in Genesis 34). As verse 7 indicates neither tribewould possess lands of their own in future, Levi being set asidefor priesthood and Simeon being incorporated in particular townswithin the territory of Judah.

Jacob has more to say about Judah than any of the other sonsexcept Joseph, and makes no reference to acts in Judah's pastequally despicable to those of Reuben, Simeon and Levi. Likened toa lion in several images in these verses, the period of Judah'sgreat accomplishments describes the time of the Judges (reported inthe book of that name). But the tribe of Judah would eventuallyachieve even greater prominence through its descendant David, andmuch later, Jesus.


To Ponder

  • Reflecting on the case of Reuben, how far do you think it istrue that greater privilege should entail greater responsibility?Why?
  • Is it fair that according to the understanding of historyportrayed here the sins of an individual may have an effect on thedestiny of his or her descendants? What might be said for andagainst such a principle?
  • "Cursed be their anger" Jacob says of two of his sons in verse7. To what extent is it acceptable to love a person yet curse anaspect of their character?
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