What Each Of These Tribes Will Become!
Last week we finished examining the Cross-Handed Blessing of Jacob, as told in Genesis 48; this was a prophetic blessing made upon Ephraim and Manasseh, but the primary target of this blessing was Ephraim.
We discovered that Ephraim would in some way, not yet fully clear, be a blessing to the gentile world.
And, as we looked yet again at Ezekiel 37, learned why the prophecy that Ephraim and Judah would be reunited in the Land of Israel, never to be removed, had everything to do with what we are witnessing today, in our time.
Today we are going to look at another, separate set of blessings made by Jacob. Recall that we are speaking of a time when the 12 tribes of Israel were in Egypt; Joseph was the Vizier of Egypt, and Israel were honored guests of Pharaoh. So, it’s probably around 1700 to 1750 B.C. when the events of Genesis 48 and 49 occurred.
In Genesis 49, we are going to look at the destinies, as described in the form of blessings, which were prophetically called out for each of the 12 tribes of Israel.
We have come a long way, haven’t we?
In earlier parts of Genesis we saw Israel created by God via giving Jacob a name transplant (to Israel), and now we will see prophecies concerning the future of the individual tribes of Israel called out hundreds of years before their fulfillment.
Much of what we will learn about them is already fulfilled prophecy. What we can take from this is the absolute inerrancy, and the literal nature, of Bible prophecy. And, that is important to us in our time, because there are STILL many prophesies about the tribes of Israel that are in process of being fulfilled, and others that soon will be.
True enough, some of these prophecies are a little obscure, and their meaning cloudy, but the veil IS starting to lift. I think that if you pay close attention to what we’ll study about these tribes, the book of Revelation in particular will have new meaning to you.
Recall that last week, for instance, we discovered that the make-up of the 12 tribes of Israel looks different in Revelation 7, than it does in the Torah: with Ephraim and Dan being removed, and Joseph and Levi being added back in.
Now, as we read through Genesis 49, we need to put it in proper perspective; what Jacob was pronouncing was overall pictures of each of these tribes. These were not prophecies about things they would necessarily DO, they were prophecies about what each of these tribes would BECOME.
Jacob would pronounce what each of these tribes’ CHARACTERISTICS and attributes would be over the long haul. Not exactly how they would behave at some given moment in time, though we can see moments when a certain tribe eerily reflected the blessing Jacob gave it.
We need to keep in mind that it was more than 3500 years ago that Jacob made these pronouncements concerning what the traits of the DESCENDANTS of the sons gathered around his deathbed would look like, if one could look at the history of each tribe from beginning to end.
And, let’s remember: from here on out, when the Bible speaks of a one of the 12 Israelite tribes such as Rueben, or Judah, or Ephraim, it’s not speaking about the destiny of any particular man… For these men, these 12 sons of Jacob, were long dead before the individual tribes that went by their names grew large enough to even form identifiable characteristics.
Rather, the Bible is speaking of the thousands and millions of descendants of each of these men who stayed together in family groups called tribes; this was the typical social structure then, and it might surprise you to know that the largest part of the world population today is still tribal.
So, far from tribalism being a thing of the past, it is alive and well and how it operates has everything to do with the intractable troubles we face in the Middle East, as well as the horrible genocides of modern day Africa.
READ GEN. 49
Like a modern-day family, sitting around a table while an executor reads the will of the departed one who had held sway on all the family wealth and power, there was an air of anticipation among the 12 brothers. The 12 sons of Jacob were anxiously waiting to hear what their particular blessing might be; and, like the family at the reading of the will, some were going to be pleasantly surprised at their portion, while others would be drained with disappointment. And, still others would walk away content however modest their lot.
Later, after it all had time to sink in, hard feelings would also likely result as some of those sons of Jacob who received the lesser blessing burned with envy against those who received the greater.
Of course, those who received the greatest blessings looked down smugly upon those who never deserved as much as they had rightfully received, anyway. And, time doesn’t necessarily solve these hurts and rejections; sometimes it can actually magnify the animosity.
Such would be the case as we follow the history of Israel from this point forward. For we will find some of the tribes of Israel will have long term hatred against other tribes of Israel, and at times they will actually war against one another.
The 12 sons of the last Patriarch, Jacob, called Israel, gathered around their father who has just enough strength left in that aged body to perform his final duty on earth; and, they listen intently as the all-important blessings begin, predictably, with Rueben, the firstborn, and progress in approximate, but not exact, accordance with the order of their birth.
Jacob’s Last Words to His Sons
And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days:
In V1, Jacob begins by saying something that has an unclear meaning to scholars even to this day: he says “…that I may tell you what shall befall you in the days to come”.
Some versions say “in the latter days”, and still others say “in the last days”.
Now, the Hebrew used here is acharit ha’yamim. In its MOST literal sense, it means “in the end of the days”.
Some Rabbis and scholars say that this speaks of the time when Israel’s days in Egypt will be over, and Moses leads them out. Others say this is speaking of the latter days and end-times of the world, as we are so prone to call it. There have been very reasonable arguments for both sides.
Probably, Jacob’s sons were not thinking in terms of thousands of years into the future. But, as with every pronouncement in the Bible that is of God, as were these blessings, we must remain aware that there is simultaneously a physical AND a spiritual manifestation. Certainly, Jacob’s sons could only see the physical, material side. But, we can, with hindsight, also see the spiritual.
About 1000 years after this blessing 10 of the twelve tribes, all but Judah and Benjamin (and the tribe of special category, the Levites), would vanish; therefore one would have to think that indeed the meaning of Jacob’s words, “the end of days”, spoke of a time BEFORE they vanished; a time that represented the state of each tribe in the years that would lead up to their exodus from Egypt. This as opposed to Jacob’s words referring to the end-times of the world.
Yet, as we are just now suddenly aware that Ephraim who represents all those currently lost tribes, is supposed to mysteriously reappear in some form in the end-times, it leaves open the possibility that indeed Jacob DID mean end-times of the world, and not simply the end of Israel’s time in Egypt.
Of course, it could mean both. Time will tell. Likely, it has some elements of both past and future; for we see many Biblical prophesies repeat themselves. Bible prophecy tends to create patterns as much as they foretell future events. For the present, I prefer to leave this as an unknown, rather than to dogmatically say it means one thing over the other. Perhaps over the next few months and years, God will make this clearer to us.
In my next blog we will examine the blessing given to each son.
To Be Continued…