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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 49


Jacob called his sons and said: "Gather around, that I may tell you what is to happen to you in days to come.


"Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob, listen to Israel, your father.


"You, Reuben, my first-born, my strength and the first fruit of my manhood, excelling in rank and excelling in power!


Unruly as water, you shall no longer excel, for you climbed into your father's bed and defiled my couch to my sorrow.


1 "Simeon and Levi, brothers indeed, weapons of violence are their knives.


Let not my soul enter their council, or my spirit be joined with their company; For in their fury they slew men, in their willfulness they maimed oxen.


Cursed be their fury so fierce, and their rage so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob, disperse them throughout Israel.


"You, Judah, shall your brothers praise  - your hand on the neck of your enemies; the sons of your father shall bow down to you.


Judah, like a lion's whelp, you have grown up on prey, my son. He crouches like a lion recumbent, the king of beasts - who would dare rouse him?


2 The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, While tribute is brought to him, and he receives the people's homage.


3 He tethers his donkey to the vine, his purebred ass to the choicest stem. In wine he washes his garments his robe in the blood of grapes.


His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth are whiter than milk.


"Zebulun shall dwell by the seashore (This means a shore for ships), and his flank shall be based on Sidon.


"Issachar is a rawboned ass, crouching between the saddlebags.


When he saw how good a settled life was, and how pleasant the country, He bent his shoulder to the burden and became a toiling serf.


4 "Dan shall achieve justice for his kindred like any other tribe of Israel.


Let Dan be a serpent by the roadside, a horned viper by the path, That bites the horse's heel, so that the rider tumbles backward.


"(I long for your deliverance, O LORD!)


5 "Gad shall be raided by raiders, but he shall raid at their heels.


"Asher's produce is rich, and he shall furnish dainties for kings.


"Naphtali is a hind let loose which brings forth lovely fawns.


"Joseph is a wild colt ,a wild colt by a spring, a wild ass on a hillside.


Harrying and attacking, the archers opposed him;


But each one's bow remained stiff, as their arms were unsteady, By the power of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,


6 The God of your father, who helps you, God Almighty, who blesses you, With the blessings of the heavens above, the blessings of the abyss that crouches below, The blessings of breasts and womb,


the blessings of fresh grain and blossoms, The blessings of the everlasting mountains, the delights of the eternal hills. May they rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers.


"Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; mornings he devours the prey, and evenings he distributes the spoils."


All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said about them, as he bade them farewell and gave to each of them an appropriate message.


Then he gave them this charge: "Since I am about to be taken to my kindred, bury me with my fathers in the cave that lies in the field of Ephron the Hittite,


the cave in the field of Machpelah, facing on Mamre, in the land of Canaan, the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite for a burial ground.


There Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried, and so are Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there, too, I buried Leah - 


the field and the cave in it that had been purchased from the Hittites."


When Jacob had finished giving these instructions to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was taken to his kindred.


1 [5] Knives: if this is the meaning of the obscure Hebrew word here, the reference may be to the knives used in circumcising the men of Shechem ( Genesis 34:24; cf Joshua 5:2).

2 [10] While tribute is brought to him: this translation is based on a slight change in the Hebrew text, which, as it stands, would seem to mean, "until he comes to Shiloh." A somewhat different reading of the Hebrew text would be, "until he comes to whom it belongs." This last has been traditionally understood in a Messianic sense. In any case, the passage foretells the supremacy of the tribe of Judah, which found its fulfillment in the Davidic dynasty and ultimately in the Messianic Son of David, Jesus Christ.

3 [11] In wine . . . the blood of grapes: Judah's clothes are poetically pictured as soaked with grape juice from trampling in the wine press, the rich vintage of his land; cf Isaiah 63:2.

4 [16] In Hebrew the verb for achieve justice is from the same root as the name Dan.

5 [19] In Hebrew there is a certain assonance between the name Gad and the words for "raided," "raiders" and "raid."

6 [25-26] A very similar description of the agricultural riches of the tribal land of Joseph is given in Deut 33:13-16.

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