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The Purpose of Prophecy (Genesis 49:1-28)

Introduction

As a student in my senior year of seminary, I was required to write a thesis. I chose to write on the themes of the Exodus as they were employed in Isaiah 40-55. During my Christmas break I was trying to put all the pieces together and complete the thesis. At one point I became totally lost in the project and, in the midst of all the particulars, lost sight of the purpose of my paper. Only after consulting with Dr. Waltke, the department chairman, did I regain my perspective and complete the thesis.

I find biblical prophecy to be much the same for many Christians. There is a plethora of particulars, a mountain of minutia, which can overwhelm us and cause us to lose sight of the purpose of prophecy. Some Christians immerse themselves in the details of those “things to come” which comprise prophecy. They carefully chart out the future in even the most obscure and sketchy matters (so far as biblical revelation is concerned). And yet, while prophecy is a worthy matter for serious study and investigation, the details become an obsession while the weightier matters of godly living are brushed aside. In effect some Christians strain out eschatological gnats, while swallowing biblical camels.

Few would suppose that Genesis chapter 49 has much to say to the Christian of the 20th century. The prophecies contained in this text are related to the destiny of the descendants of Jacob. There are, of course, messianic prophecies here, and that we find of interest. But in addition to these we are given insight into the purpose of all prophecy as we consider the purpose which these prophecies had for the sons of Jacob and their descendants.

Jacob’s sons, who were the recipients of these prophecies, would die in Egypt. Like their forefathers, they would not live to see the fulfillment of God’s promises in their lifetime. Why, then, did God predict events which were beyond their lifetime? We may be able to grant that these prophecies had meaning to those who first read them from the pen of Moses. After all, these were the descendants of Jacob, who would begin to realize the prophecies of their forefather. But of what value were the words of Jacob to Rueben, Simeon, Levi, and the rest? I would like to suggest that they were of profit to them in precisely the same way that prophecy (yet unfulfilled) is important to us. Let us first learn from the sons of Jacob, and then consider the implications for ourselves.

Questions Which Provide the Key to this Passage

You may not agree with the answers which I find in this text, but I am convinced that none of us will understand the passage without answering a few key questions.

(1) Did every detail of Jacob’s prophecy come to pass? If not, why not?

(2) What purpose does this prophecy serve for the sons of Jacob, since none of them will live to see the fulfillment of them in Canaan?

(3) What reasons did Moses have for recording this conversation between Jacob and his sons?

(4) Why did Reuben, Simeon, and Levi receive a rebuke from their father for their sinful actions, when Judah, just as great a sinner (chapter 38), received the greatest blessing of all the sons, as he would be the forefather of the Messiah?

(5) What can we learn from these prophecies?

Observations Concerning the
Prophecy of Jacob Regarding His Offspring

Before we give our attention to some of the details of the prophecies of this passage, it would benefit us to look at the passage as a whole. Several characteristics can be identified.

First of all, these are the last words of Jacob. The prophecy is literally the final word of Jacob, spoken with his dying breath.

When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people (Genesis 49:33).

The dying words of any man should not be taken lightly, much less those spoken by a patriarch and recorded under the superintendence of the Spirit of God.

Second, this is poetry. We might tend to think that a man’s last words, spoken with great effort, should be disorganized and difficult to follow. A look at this passage in the NASV reveals that we are dealing with Hebrew poetry, for the form is noticeably different from the preceding pages. There are numerous indications that these final words of Jacob were thought out carefully in advance. Jacob’s words are ones that have been carefully planned and probably rehearsed.

Third, this is more than poetry, it is prophecy. While the form is poetry, the substance is prophecy. Jacob’s words reveal “things to come” for his descendants. As a rule,104 the prophecy is general. It is not intended to spell out the future for Jacob’s sons as individuals, but as tribal leaders. The future which is foretold is the future of the nation as manifested in the twelve tribes (cf. verse 28). Normally the prophecy will not speak of a particular place,105 nor of a certain person,106 nor of a specific point in time,107 but of the character and disposition of the various tribes throughout their history. This forewarns us that we must be careful to look for fulfillment which is too specific.

Fourth, the words spoken by Jacob are a blessing:

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him (Genesis 49:28).

All the sons of Jacob were blessed in that they were to be a part of the nation Israel. All would enter into the land of Canaan and have an inheritance there.

Some would certainly receive a greater blessing than others. Even those who were rebuked by Jacob and whose future was portrayed as dismal were blessed, as we shall point out later.

Fifth, the future which is foretold is not independent of the past, but an extension of it. Moses told us that every one of the sons was given “the blessing appropriate to him” (verse 28). As we think our way through these blessings of Jacob we find that each of them was related to the past. The blessings of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, were based upon the sins which they had committed in the past. Joseph, on the other hand, had been bitterly attacked, but had remained faithful (verses 23-24). Others found their blessings related to the name they had been given at their birth. Judah, derived from the Hebrew root, ‘to praise’ (cf. 29:35), is now prophesied to be praised by his brothers (49:8). Dan whose name seems to be the participle meaning ‘to judge’ (cf. 30:6), is foretold that he will “judge his People” (49:16). Prophecy, then, is not detached from history, but an extension of it into the future.

Reuben
(49:3-4)

Reuben, by virtue of his position as the first-born of Jacob, should have had pre-eminence over his brothers and the double portion of the inheritance (which was given to Joseph (cf. 48:5,6,22; I Chronicles 5:1-2). But these were taken from Reuben because of his instability:

Reuben, you are my first-born; My might and the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, Because you went up to your father’s bed; Then you defiled it—he went up to my couch (Genesis 49:3-4).

As suggested earlier, I do not think Reuben’s lust was sexual as much as it was political—it was a lust for power. Reuben, like Satan, was not content with his exalted position and wanted more power, more pre-eminence (cf. Isaiah 14:12ff.; Ezekiel 28:12ff.). He therefore took Bilhah, his father’s concubine, not because of her sexual desirability, but because she was symbolic of the right to rule over the family. To possess the harem of the ruler was to usurp the authority of the ruler (cf. I Kings 2:13f.). Since “the last shall be first” (Mark 10:31) and those who serve shall rule in the kingdom of God (Mark 9:35), Reuben had to be rejected from his position of power and pre-eminence. He who would rule must surely first rule himself.

Simeon and Levi
(49:5-7)

Like Reuben, Simeon and Levi had demonstrated character that was not befitting to godliness:

Simeon and Levi are brothers; Their swords are implements of violence. Let my soul not enter into their council; Let not my glory be united with their assembly; Because in their anger they slew men, And in their self-will they lamed oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel (Genesis 49:5-7).

These two brothers of Dinah were greatly angered by the violation of her purity at the hand of Shechem, but it was not righteous indignation. By their submitting to circumcision they had deceived the men of Shechem, letting them believe that a treaty was being ratified. And in their anger they slew the men of the city. The hamstringing of the oxen was a further evidence of their uncontrolled anger, a detail not mentioned in the account of Genesis 34:25-30. Horses were hamstrung because of their military use, pulling chariots (cf. Joshua 11:6), but oxen were used for peaceful purposes. The hamstringing of these oxen evidenced wanton violence and senseless destruction. The alliance of Simeon and Levi was an unholy one, and thus, like those at Babel who joined together in disobedience (Genesis ll:lff.), they would be dispersed.

Judah
(49:8-12)

After learning of Judah’s folly in Genesis 38 we would not expect him to prosper spiritually, but Jacob’s words speak of a bright future for his descendants:

Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. He ties his foal to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are dull from wine. And his teeth white from milk (Genesis 49:8-12).

The pre-eminence which was taken from Reuben is clearly transferred to his younger brother, Judah (cf. also I Chronicles 5:2). He would not only rule over his brothers in the days to come,108 but he would also prevail over his enemies (verse 8). His military might is compared to the strength of a lion (verse 9). Verse 10 has long been held to be a messianic prophecy by both Jews and Christians, but the precise meaning of “Shiloh” is uncertain. It is either a reference to a place, as it is elsewhere in the Old Testament (e.g. Joshua 18:1,8,9; 19;51; I Samuel 1:13, etc.), or it may refer to the person of the Messiah.109

The prosperity of the tribe of Judah is depicted in verses 11 and 12. He will be so blessed in the vineyard that his vines will be strong enough to hold fast a young donkey, and the produce of the vine will be so abundant that he could, so to speak, wash his garments in its wine. In other words, wine will be as abundant as water. The quantity would be sufficient to more than meet a man’s capacity to consume it, thus the reddening of the eyes (verse 12). The cattle will prosper such that milk will also be readily available (verse 12).

The first six sons referred to are the offspring of Jacob and Leah. The next four are the sons of the concubines of Rachel and Leah. The last two sons are the children of Jacob and Rachel, the wife of his preference.

Zebulun and Issachar
(49:13-15)

The prophecy concerning Zebulun is disturbing, for it has not yet come to pass:

Zebulun shall dwell at the seashore; And he shall be a haven for ships, And his flank shall be toward Sidon (Genesis 49:13).

Kidner comments:

Zebulun’s allotted land in Joshua 19:l0-l6 did not reach the coast, unlike the neighboring Asher’s (cf. Jdg. 5:l7), nor did it closely approach Sidon. But it was near enough to both to be enriched by seaborne trade (to ‘suck the abundance of the seas’, Dt. 33:l9), and the prepositions in the verse could mean ‘towards.’110

In contrast to Judah, who subdued his enemies like a lion, Issachar failed to do so, and as a result, instead submitted to the service of the Canaanites. That which we do not master often tends to become our master.

Dan
(49:16-18)

Our hopes are raised initially, for it seems that the prospects for this tribe are bright, but they are suddenly dashed upon the rocks of reality:

Dan shall judge his people, As one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, A horned snake in the path, That bites the horse’s heels, So that his rider falls backward (Genesis 49:16-17).

Dan was the first child of Rachel, through Bilhah her handmaid (Genesis 30:1-6). Rachel felt that she would be vindicated through this son, and thus his name suggested that God had heard her cries and had judged in her favor. Dan would judge his people, as one of the sons of Israel, but he would eventually serve more destructive purposes. The incident in Judges 18 serves to reflect the bent which this tribe took. In the listing of the tribes of Israel in Revelation 7:5-8, Dan is omitted.

Verse 18 is an unusual outburst of hope and expectation, but it is difficult to relate to its context: “For thy salvation I wait, O Lord (Genesis 49:18).

I understand it to be a reflection of the faith and hope of Israel, in the light of the prophecies spoken. The prognosis for the tribes of Israel thus far has not been particularly good, with the exception of the tribe of Judah. Through David much of the prophecies will be fulfilled, but the ultimate fulfillment is in the Messiah, who is the son of David. Having finished his prophecy concerning Dan, and thus being halfway through his descendants, Jacob bursts out with these words in verse 18. An expression that the hope of the nation does not lie in the sons he has borne, but in the God who has borne him along throughout his sojourn. Salvation surely will not come from his sons, but from God. Salvation will not come from within, but from without. That, I believe, is the substance of Jacob’s words here.

Gad and Asher
(49:19-20)

As for Gad, raiders shall raid him, But he shall raid at their heels. As for Asher, his food shall be rich, And he shall yield royal dainties (Genesis 49:19-20).

Gad would be continually plagued by his neighbors, but would not be overcome.111 Asher,

With a fertile plain and trade routes to the sea, … would ‘dip his foot in oil’ (Duet. 33:24) and produce a notable annual quota for the palace (cf. I Ki. 4:7).112

Naphtali
(49:21)

Naphtali is a doe let loose, He gives beautiful words (Genesis 49:21).

The portrait of Naphtali’s future is one of unhindered freedom and increase. While the NASV translates verse 21 to read “words” in the second line, it seems preferable to render it more naturally, “fawns,” as in the King James Version. Under Barak, Israel was led to break their bonds (Judges 4-5).

Joseph
(49:22-26)

Joseph, we would all have to agree, was most worthy of any blessing which Jacob might pronounce. While he is greatly blessed by God, he does not have the privilege of being the forefather of Messiah, as does Judah.

Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, And shot at him and harassed him; But his bow remained firm, And his arms were agile, From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob. (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), From the God of your father who helps you, And by the Almighty who blesses you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; May they be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers (Genesis 49:22-26).

Joseph’s future is described as one of fruitfulness and abundance. He had been bitterly attacked, yet remained steadfast (verses 23-24). I believe the primary reference here to be to the rejection and persecution he experienced at the hand of his brethren. Joseph remained firm and the God of Jacob sustained him. His blessings are largely material. He will be pre-eminent among his brothers, but not in the same way as Judah. Because of Ephraim’s pride (Judges 8:1; 12:1) and apostasy (Hosea 4:17; 5:3f.), enjoyment of these blessings was not what it could have been.

Benjamin
(49:27)

Jacob described Benjamin as one who would be fierce and aggressive:

Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he devours the prey, And in the evening he divides the spoil (Genesis 49:27).

This side of Benjamin can be seen in Judges 19-21. Moses, in a later pronouncement of blessing, has a more gentle word about Benjamin:

Of Benjamin he said, “May the beloved of the Lord dwell in security by Him, Who shields him all the day, And he dwells between His shoulders” (Deuteronomy 33:12).

Conclusion

Having given a very brief explanation of the prophecies of Jacob concerning each of his sons, we must return to our original questions if we are to gain a grasp of the purposes of prophecy.

(1) Did every detail of Jacob’s prophecy come to pass, as he predicted? I believe we can say with a fair degree of confidence that the answer is no. For example, Zebulun did not dwell at the seashore (verse 13). Also, we must remember that while Levi is rather harshly rebuked by his father here, and he is said to be dispersed among his brethren (verse 7), he is to become the head of the priestly tribe. In this position there is great blessing.

What explanation can we give for the fact that some prophecies are not precisely fulfilled, as we have come to expect? First, let me remind you that God’s purposes for Israel are not yet complete:

For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.” “AND THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS” (Romans 11:25-27).

The promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were never fully realized in Israel’s history, and thus they are still viewed to be future. How can we be surprised, then, that some prophecies are not yet fulfilled?

Secondly (and this will sound like a great heresy) God never intended to fulfill every prophecy. Before you turn me off and tear up this page, let me explain what I am saying. While most prophecies are specific and certain of their fulfillment, not all are so. Some prophecies are God’s warning of what would come to pass if men did not repent and change their attitudes and actions. This is why Jonah had no intention of prophesying impending judgment to the Ninevites:

When God saw their deeds and that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity” (Jonah 3:10-4:2).

Some years later, the truth which Jonah knew was clearly stated by the prophet Jeremiah:

At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it, if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it, if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it (Jeremiah 18:7-10).

(2) What purpose does this prophecy serve the sons of Israel, since they will all die before God causes the nation to return to Canaan? For the twelve sons of Jacob, the primary lesson I see is that their character not only affects their own destiny, but also the conduct of future generations and the consequences which that conduct conceives. In other words, the sons of Jacob are reminded of the lesson which Jacob had himself recently learned, that present actions have future results and repercussions. Jacob’s deceptiveness could be seen in his two sons, Simeon and Levi. The prophecies of Jacob remind his sons that what they are tends to shape what the nation will be in years to come. If they live godly lives, this will be a blessing to coming generations. If they are godless, the nation will likewise reap the consequences:

“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, … Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever! Go, say to them, ‘Return to your tents.’ But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess.” So you shall observe to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. You shall walk in all the way which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess (Deuteronomy 5:9, 29-33).

(3) Why did Moses record the words of Jacob? What did the ancient Israelites learn from them? The lesson for those Israelites was precisely that which Jacob sought to teach his sons, that present actions tend to shape the future. The early chapters of Deuteronomy (such as Deut. 5:9, 29-33, quoted above) record Moses’ attempt to underscore the importance of trusting and obeying God, for present and future blessing.

(4) Why did Reuben, Simeon and Levi receive rebuke from their father for their past sins while Judah is greatly blessed? Genesis 38 surely teaches us that Judah, like his brothers, was guilty of misconduct. But there is a significant difference between Judah and Reuben (for example). We are never told that Reuben repented of his evil, or that he changed his conduct significantly. Judah, when faced with his sin, confessed it and forsook it:

And Judah recognized them, and said, “She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not have relations with her again (Genesis 38:26).

Furthermore, Reuben’s response to their distress in Egypt was to “pass the buck” by telling his brothers, in effect, “I told you so” (42:22). Judah, on the other hand, took full responsibility for the safety of Benjamin (43:8-10) and offered himself as a hostage in place of his youngest brother (48:18ff.).

These observations bring us to the purpose of Jacob’s prophecy, and thus the purpose of all prophecy. Here, we can find the meaning of the many prophecies which are yet to be fulfilled, whether in our day or not.

The Purpose of Prophecy

(1) Prophecy focuses our attention upon future things. Our tendency is to live our lives as though there were no future. Israel’s hope, like ours, was a future hope. The ultimate reality is not in things seen, but in things unseen. Faith focuses upon the future rather than the present:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

While at the moment Jacob and his sons lived comfortably in Egypt, there was a grave danger in placing their hope and trust in what Egypt offered them. Israel’s hope and the fulfillment of God’s promises lay in Canaan, not Egypt. The sons of Jacob must look ahead.

We, too, must not fix our hopes on earthly things, in the momentary, temporal pleasures of this life, but in those things which God has yet in store for us:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (I Peter 1:3-5).

(2) Prophecy focuses not only on the future, however, but on living in the present in the light of the future. The promises of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were to prompt purity in the lives of Israel’s sons, not passivity or complacency. The future blessings (and judgments) which are in store for us are intended to encourage Christians to live in peace and purity:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells (II Peter 3:10-13).

So it was that Moses was prompted to forego passing pleasures for eternal glory:

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward (Hebrews 11:24-26).

Prophecy, then, is given not to satisfy our curiosity, but to prompt us to purity. Many Christians have an obsession with prophecy, seeking to fill in their charts and laying out God’s program for the future in minutest detail, as though it were some kind of puzzle to be solved. I fear that it is possible for us to strain eschatological (prophetic) gnats while we swallow biblical camels. While prophecy has future promises, it also contains present implications which are intended to prompt us to purity and piety.

I must make a momentary aside for yet another reason why we must exercise caution in attempting to too precisely plot out all of God’s prophetic program.

We know that while all of the prophecies of our Lord’s first coming were literally and exactly fulfilled, no one, before the fact, could have predicted how it would happen. While the particulars of prophecy were known, the program was not. Dare we suppose that we will see the plan for our Lord’s second coming any more precisely than did those saints of olden days see the first? Let us be careful about a fixation on particulars when the purpose of prophecy is purity.

(3) While we may be certain that specific prophecy (such as the second coming of Christ) will be fulfilled as specifically and literally as were those prophecies of Christ’s first coming, more general prophecies may be given to warn men of the possibility of future things which can be avoided. Judgment did fall upon Ninevah, but it was delayed (from a human point of view) by repentance (Jonah 3:5ff.). And while judgment may fall on others, we may escape through the acceptance of divine grace.

In general we must say that all of the prophecy of Jacob either was fulfilled or will be in the future outworking of God’s plan for Israel. To the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob, the prophecy was a warning of the potential for following in the footsteps of their father. As sons of their father, they had the predisposition to sin just as their forefathers. These words of warning were also words of hope for, through the grace which God provided, they need not follow in the steps of their fathers. The warning of sin and its consequences was designed to turn men from their sin to the Messiah, through whom deliverance would come. The sons of Jacob, like Jacob himself, must wait for God’s salvation: “For Thy salvation I wait, O Lord” (verse 18).

We should also add that none of the blessings which Jacob pronounced upon his descendants were realized apart from divine grace. No one could inherit grace from their forefathers, they must accept it personally. This was the error of those in Jesus’ day:

They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You shall become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is the slave of sin. And the slave does not remain forever. If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:33-36).

Nationally, the prophecies of Jacob were certainties; they were sure to be fulfilled sooner or later in that tribe. But individually one could be the exception to the rule of the consequences of sin, or the participant in the divine promises of blessing, by trusting the Messiah who was to come.

The Scriptures abound in passages which speak of days ahead of suffering and eternal torment, of judgment and condemnation:

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. And death and Hades were thrown in to the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-15).

While some will surely face this judgment, you need not. Prophecy such as this is written so that you might turn from sin and judgment to Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers to all who will believe:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him (John 3:16,17).

By acknowledging your sin and the judgment you deserve, by personally trusting in Jesus Christ as Messiah and Savior, you may avoid the judgment to come and may live in purity and expectation of the promise of God of the blessed hope:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).

For the unbeliever, the purpose of prophecy is to warn him of the wages of sin. For the Christian, the purpose of prophecy is to motivate him to live in this life in purity and hope, assured that God has even greater blessings in store for those who will trust and obey.


104 “To such an attempt it is important to premise the following remarks: (1) That these blessings or announcements have respect mainly to posterity not to the persons of the twelve sons of Jacob. (2) That, consequently, the materials of a just interpretation are to be sought for in the subsequent history of these tribes. It is only from the documents furnished in the sacred record, that the leading characteristic traits, and the most important events related of each tribe, can be determined, and the appropriateness of the predictions clearly made out. (3) That the fulfillment of these blessings is to be traced not in any one event, or in any single period of time, but in a continuous and progressive series of accomplishments, reaching down to the latest era of the Jewish polity” George Bush, Notes on Genesis (Minneapolis: James Family Christian Publishers, ((Reprint)) 1979), II, p. 385.

105 In the case of Zebulun, he did not and has not, as yet, possess land on the coast.

106 Blessings were prophesied through Messiah in verse 10, but this is still not very specific.

107 Reuben’s loss of the rights of the first-born was immediate, but the pre-eminence of Judah did not occur immediately. It was partially realized under David, and will be fully so under Messiah, when He comes.

108 It was Joseph who had pre-eminence over his brothers for the remainder of his life, not Judah. Only later would Judah rise to the position of preeminence.

109 “On the precise meaning of this clause it is still unsafe to dogmatize. Shiloh (AV, RV) is not elsewhere a biblical title of the Messiah, nor has it any clear meaning as a word. The alternative construction, ‘until he comes to Shiloh,’ corresponds to no Messianic event. But an early variant, revocalizing a shortened spelling of the consonants as selloh, yields either ‘till what is his comes’ (i.e. ‘till Judah’s full heritage appears’; cf. LXX) or ‘until he comes, to whom [it belongs]’ (cf. RSV). The latter, elliptical though it is, seems to be taken up and interpreted by Ezekiel 2l:26f. (MT. 31 f.) in words addressed to the last king of Judah: ‘Remove the mitre, and take off the crown . . . until he comes whose right it is: and I will give it to him.’ Here is the best support for the Messianic content which Jewish and Christian exegesis has found in the saying from earliest times2” Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Chicago: Inter-Varsity Press, 1967), p. 218.

110 Ibid, p. 219.

111 “Four of the six Hebrew words of this verse consist of God’s name and of word-plays on it. This may indicate that AV was right to translate it ‘a troop’ in 30:11; but puns can go by sound as well as sense (cf. the Hebrew of Is. 10:30: ‘poor Anathoth’).” Ibid, p. 220.

112 Ibid.

Related Topics: Prophecy/Revelation