Community Group Study “Genesis: What Will Become of You”
Read Genesis 49:1-33
We’re in part two of Jacob’s last words to his kids before he dies. Jacob’s life was defined by wanting to find blessing and he would lie, cheat and steal to get it; however, at the end of his life we see that he has changed and is now a many who desires to give blessing rather than fight for it. All of the sons of Israel are gathered around Jacob’s death bed to receive a word about “what will happen to them in the days to come” and a “blessing suitable for them” (Genesis 49:1, 28). These words from Jacob cover the past and the general future of his children. As we read through the passage and highlight some of the children we get a picture of the mixed bag that make up the people of God. Character flaws and strengths, as well as holiness and sin are brought out in these verses. We cannot cover all 12 children in depth here, but will focus on some of the highlights.
Reuben, Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:3-7):
These are the three oldest sons of Leah and all receive an “anti-blessing”. They get called out for their sin and the ways they were destructive or damaging to the family of God. Rueben in particular was the firstborn and called to lead. Yet, he was “unstable as water” meaning he shifted to and from righteousness. We saw highlights like when he tried to protect Joseph from being sold into slavery (Genesis 37:21-22), but we also saw him try to take leadership by force from his father (Genesis 35:22). As a result, Reuben lost his place as firstborn in the family. Simeon and Levi get called out as weapons of violence and the other sons are given a warning to not join their council (Genesis 49:5-6). This is because of their unrighteous slaughter of the inhabitants of the city of Shechem. Historically, they will be separated and “not joined” to the other tribes. Simeon’s land in Canaan ends up being completely surrounded by the tribe of Judah and Levi is not given an inheritance in the land. Instead the Levites become the priesthood for the nation and are scattered throughout 48 different cities.
Judah (Genesis 49:8-12):
Probably the biggest change of character in the Joseph story is seen in Judah. He went from being selfish and ruled by his passions to being sacrificial and willing to give up his own future for the lives of his brothers and father. The turning point was a recognition of his own sin and need for God’s grace (Genesis 38:26). Throughout the chapters he has emerged as a leader among the brothers and that leadership position gets formalized in this blessing. The word “praise” is part of Judah’s name and we’re told that this time Judah will be praised by his brothers. More than that he is promised that the symbols of kingship will not depart from his hands — the scepter and the ruler’s staff. This is a foreshadowing to the tribe of Judah being the family line God will use to bring about the kingship of David and ultimately, the promised eternal king, Jesus (the son fo David) into the world. God’s heart from the beginning of scripture is for redemption of his sin cursed world and his separated people and that will come through Jesus’ everlasting kingdom and who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
Dan (Genesis 49:16-18):
The blessing for Dan starts out with a play on words with his name which means “judge”, but the tribe of Dan takes a negative turn in their history. Dan gets called out for “snake like” behavior, which comes to pass in the book of Judges. They fail to inherit the land they’re assigned in Canaan because of fear of the inhabitants. As a people they wander around until Judges 18 where they deceive a Levite into being their personal priest and then go on a killing spree in the Northern part of the land, taking out the people of Laish as they look for safety and security in a place that God did not give them. It seems they were seeking a “better land” than the place they were given. Ironically they will be the first of the tribes to be conquered by Assyria and they are the only tribe not mentioned in Revelation 7:5-8. Ultimately they seem to lose their inheritance by failing to claim the inheritance they were given in the land.
Joseph (Genesis 49:22-26):
The blessing for Joseph is the longest of all the sons. The picture given is that he will be a fruitful branch, like a tree planted by a source of water and this branch will be spilling over the wall. Joseph is the only son who has the name of God mentioned in their blessing with 4 references to God (Genesis 49:25). The Lord has also set Joseph apart from his brothers, both in his real life trials of being sold into slavery and thrown in prison, as well as in his purpose to be the one to preserve God’s people and have the promise of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob passed on to him. The blessing given to Joseph shows us God’s goal for his people to make them fruitful and to set them apart for their blessing and the blessing of the world; to be the branch running over the wall and to the bounty of the “everlasting hills” (Genesis 49:22, 26).
The blessings end with Jacob making his sons promise to bury him with his grandparents and great grandparents who formed the beginnings of this family line of the people of God: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and his wife Leah. Jacob then took his last breath and passed out of this world.
Main idea: God gives the children of Jacob a picture of who they are and who they will become as the people of God. Some of them are blessed with pictures of fruitfulness, leadership and peace; others are given an image of the hardship that awaits them in their rebellion, hard heartedness or lack of faith. God will use his people and the rollercoaster of faithlessness for his purposes which are expressed most clearly in the blessings to Judah and Joseph. God promises to bring an everlasting king through the line of Judah in Jesus and in the blessing to Joseph we see God’s desire to make his people fruitful for the good of the world.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read Genesis 49:1-32
How are Judah and Joseph blessed over the other brothers? What images are used to show us God’s desire for his people? How does the promise of Judah connect to Jesus? (See passages like Romans 1:1-5, Colossians 1:13-14 and Revelation 5:5)
Why would Jacob “curse” some of the kids and not try to offer each one a positive blessing? Which kids stand out as being given a negative or even a “mixed” blessing?
This passage gives us a snapshot of the future of Israel and we see that it is a mixture of success and failure. Yet God is determined to use this people to model his grace and faithfulness. Read Deuteronomy 7:6-8, how does the blessings to Jacob’s sons mirror this passage? What does this teach us about God’s redeeming of people who follow Jesus today?