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Genesis Chapter 49
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Jacob's Blessings: Reuben, Simeon, Levi
49:1 Jacob called for his sons. [When they came,] he said, 'Come together, and I will tell you what will happen in the course of time.
49:2 Come and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel.
49:3 'Reuben, you are my firstborn, my strength and the beginning of my manhood, first in rank and first in power.
49:4 [But because you were] unstable as water, you will no longer be first. This is because you moved your father's beds, committing a profane act. He moved my bed!
49:5 'Simeon and Levi are a pair; instruments of crime are their wares.
49:6 Let my soul not enter their plot; let my spirit not unite with their meeting - for they have killed men with anger, maimed bulls with will.
49:7 Cursed be their rage, for it is fierce, and their fury, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, scatter them in Israel.

Judah
49:8 'Judah, your brothers shall submit (yodu) to you. Your hand shall be on your enemies' necks; your father's sons shall bow to you.
49:9 'Young lion, Judah, you have risen from prey, my son. He crouches, lies like a lion, like an awesome lion, who will dare rouse him?
49:10 'The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor legislation from his descendants. Nations will submit to him until the final tranquility comes.
49:11 'He loads down his donkey with a [single] grapevine, his young donkey with a single vine branch. He even washes his clothes in wine, his cloak in the blood of grapes.
49:12 But his eyes are more sparkling than the wine, his teeth whiter than milk.

Zebulun
49:13 'Zebulun shall settle the seashores; he will be a harbor for ships; his border shall reach Sidon.

Issachar
49:14 'Issachar is a strong-boned donkey, stretching out between the saddlebags.
49:15 But he sees that the resting place is good, and that the land is pleasant, so he will bend his back to the load, working like a slave.

Dan
49:16 'Dan shall fight for (dan) his people, like any one of the tribes of Israel.
49:17 Let Dan be a snake on the road, a viper on the path, biting the horse's heel, so the rider falls backward.
49:18 I pray that God will help you.

Gad
49:19 'Raiders (gad) shall raid Gad, but he will raid at [their] heel.

Asher
49:20 'From Asher shall come the richest foods; he shall provide the king's delights.

Naphtali
49:21 Naphtali is a deer running free; he delivers words of beauty.

Joseph
49:22 'Joseph is a fruitful son, [like] a fruitful vine by the fountain, with branches running over the wall.
49:23 '[People] made his life bitter and attacked him; masters of strife made him their target.
49:24 But his resolution remained firm, and his arms were [eventually] bedecked with gold. This was from Jacob's Champion, and from then on, he became a shepherd, a builder of Israel.
49:25 '[This was] from your father's God, who will [still] help you, and [from] the Almighty, who will bless you. [Yours will be] the blessings of heaven above, the blessing of the water lying beneath, the blessing of breast and womb.
49:26 'May your father's blessing add to the blessing of my parents, lasting as long as the eternal hills. May they be for Joseph's head, for the brow of the elect of his brothers.

Benjamin; Conclusion
49:27 'Benjamin is a vicious wolf. He eats a portion in the morning, and divides his prey in the evening.'
49:28 All these are the tribes of Israel, twelve in all, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He gave each one his own special blessing.
49:29 [Jacob] then gave [his sons] his final instructions. 'I am going to join my people [in death],' he said. 'Bring me to my fathers, to be buried in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite.
49:30 [This is] the cave in Makhpelah Field, bordering Mamre, in the land of Canaan. Abraham bought it along with the field from Ephron the Hittite as burial property.
49:31 This is where Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried; this is where Isaac and his wife Rebecca are buried; and this is where I buried Leah.
49:32 The purchase of the field and its cave from the children of Heth [is still recognized].'
49:33 Jacob thus concluded his instructions to his sons. He drew his feet back onto the bed, breathed his last, and was brought back to his people.



Commentary:

in the course of time
  Literally, 'at the end of days.' Compare Moses' blessing; Deuteronomy 33.

you moved
  (Sh'muel ben Chofni; Radak; Sherashim; Ibn Ezra; Bereshith Rabbah 98). See 1 Chronicles 5:1, that as a result of this, Reuben lost the birthright. There is a question as to whether this refers to the episode with the mandrakes (Genesis 30:14) or that with Bilhah (Genesis 35:22) (Bereshith Rabbah 98). The Hebrew can also be translated, 'he went up [on] his father's bed.' See note on Genesis 49:4, 'He moved my bed!'.

He moved my bed!
  (Ralbag; following cantellation notes). Literally, 'then you profaned my couch - went up.' Variously interpreted, 'You profaned that which went up on my couch' (Rashi); 'You profaned my couch, [but] went up [and repented]' (Lekach Tov); 'You profaned my exalted couch' (Saadia; Sekhel Tov); 'You profaned my couch; it is cut off' (Radak, Sherashim, s.v. Alah; Ibn Ezra; Bereshith Rabbah 98); 'You profaned my couch by removing it' (translation of Sh'muel ben Chofni); or '[Your instability] arose when you profaned my couch' (Radak, Sherashim).

a pair
  (Bereshith Rabbah 98; Rashi). Literally, 'brothers.'

wares
  (Saadia; Sh'muel ben Chofni; Ibn Ezra). Or 'weapons' (Rashi); 'brother' (Rashbam); 'companions' (Sekhel Tov); 'food' (Sh'muel ben Chofni); 'troops' (Ibn Janach). Others translate the verse, 'They are at home with instruments of crime' (Rashi; Ralbag; Bereshith Rabbah 98); or 'They plot with instruments of violence' (Septuagint).

spirit
  (Radak; cf. Psalms 16:9). The Hebrew word kavod here usually means honor.

killed men
  Referring to Shechem; see Genesis 34:26.

maimed bulls...
  Literally, 'maimed a bull.' Some say that this refers to Joseph (Targum Yonathan; Lekach Tov; Rashi; see Deuteronomy 33:17); see note on Genesis 37:19,24. Some translate the verse, 'they tore down a wall with their will' (Ibn Ezra).

submit...
  (Rashbam; Sforno). Or 'praise' (Rashi; Ibn Ezra; Ralbag).

awesome lion
  See Avoth deRabbi Nathan B 43. Cf. Hirsch. See Numbers 24:9.

legislation
  (Sh'muel ben Chofni; Radak; Ralbag; cf. Psalms 60:9, 105:9). The Hebrew me-chokek has the connotation of both law and writing. Hence, others translate it as 'the scribe's pen' (Sekhel Tov; Ibn Ezra); 'the scribe' (Bereshith Rabbah 98; Radak, Sherashim); or 'the law inscribing pen' (Hirsch).

from his descendants
  (Targum). A euphemism, literally, 'from between his legs.' Others, 'the scribal pen will not depart from his lap' (Ibn Ezra), or 'the scribe will not depart from near his feet' (Bereshith Rabbah 98).

submit to him
  (Targum; Ibn Ezra; Radak, Sherashim, s.v. Yikah; cf. Proverbs 30:17). Others, 'He will gather nations' (Ramban; Bereshith Rabbah 99); 'He will have a gathering of nations' (Rashi; Rashbam); or 'He will make nations gnash their teeth' (Bereshith Rabbah 99).

tranquility
  (Sforno; Torah Sh'lemah 157; cf. Jeremiah 12:1, Job 3:26). This may be seen as referring to the Messianic age. Others write that the Hebrew word shiloh here is from the root nashal, and translate the verse, 'until the exile comes' (Sh'muel ben Chofni; cf. Deuteronomy 7:1, 19:5, Job 27:8). Or, it can be taken as a form of she-lo (that which is his), and the verse is then rendered, 'until that which is [rightly] his comes' (Targum; Septuagint; Bereshith Rabbah 99; cf. Ezekiel 21:32). Or, it can be seen as two words shai lo (a gift to him), and the verse is, 'Until a gift is brought to him' (Rashi; Lekach Tov; cf. Isaiah 18:7). Or, shiloh can denote a special descendant; 'until he has a special descendant' (Targum Yonathan; Lekach Tov; Ibn Ezra; Ralbag Sh'muel ben Chofni; cf. Deuteronomy 28:57). Or, 'until it reaches its final nadir' (Hirsch). Others see Shiloh as a proper noun, possibly a name of the Messiah (Sanhedrin 98b; Bereshith Rabbah 99). Of course, Shiloh was also the name of the site of the Tabernacle before the Temple was built in Jerusalem (Joshua 18:1, 1 Samuel 1:3 etc.). Hence, some translate the verse, 'The scepter will not begin (yasar) in Judah....until Shiloh comes to an end' (Sekhel Tov; Ba'aley Tosafoth; Toledoth Yitzchak).

He loads down...
  (Kethuvoth 111b; Rashi).

his eyes are more sparkling...
  (Saadia Gaon; Sh'muel ben Chofni; Ibn Janach; Hirsch). Or, 'his eyes are red from wine' (Rashi; cf. Tzava'ath Yehudah 14); 'his face is redder than wine' (Radak; cf. Baaley Tosafoth); 'his mountains are red like (from) wine' (Targum; Rashi); 'his springs sparkle like (are red from) wine' (Rashi; Sekhel Tov).

his teeth...
  Or, 'his teeth white from milk' (Rashi); or 'His valleys are white [with sheep] with milk' (Targum; Rashi).

Sidon
  The northwest boundary of the Holy Land; Genesis 10:19. Cf. Genesis 10:15. Also see Tzava'ath Zebulun 6.

strong-boned donkey
  (Rashi; Ibn Ezra). Or, 'Issachar has a powerful body' (Saadia; Sh'muel ben Chofni), 'Issachar shall haul by donkey' (in contrast to Zebulun; Bereshith Rabbah 99); or 'Issachar was caused by a donkey' (Niddah 31a; Bereshith Rabbah 98). According to one opinion, a donkey found the mandrakes and died (Genesis 30:14; Midrash Aggadah, quoted Tzeror HaMor as Midrash HaGaluy).

saddlebags
  (Radak; Sforno). Or, 'resting between stops' (Rashi; Targum); or 'lying between the extremes [of the land]' (Sh'muel ben Chofni; cf. Ibn Janach).

But he sees...
  (Ibn Ezra; Sh'muel ben Chofni). Cf. Tzava'ath Yessachar 3:1, 5:5.

fight for...
  Or 'avenge' (Rashi), or 'judge' (Radak).

like any of the tribes...
  Although he was the son of a handmaid (Radak). Others, 'like the unique tribe of Israel' (Rashi); or 'the tribes of Israel will be united' (Rashi).

viper
  Shefifon in Hebrew, occurring only here. The Septuagint and Vulgate render it as Cerastes. On the basis of Semitic cognates, it is most probably the black and red horned viper, Pseudocerastes fieldi, that lives in the Holy Land. The Hebrew name comes from its rustling of scales. This snake digs into the sand with only his long thin horns protruding (cf. Yerushalmi, Terumah 8:3), and when birds take these horns for worms and peck at them, the snake kills them. Hence, this is seen as an indication that Dan will engage in guerilla warfare. In Talmudic tradition, this is seen as a prediction of Samson's career.

I pray...
  (Chizzkuni; HaKethav VeHaKabbalah). Or, 'I hope for your deliverance, O God' (Ramban).

Raiders shall raid God...
  (Ibn Ezra; Radak; Ralbag; Yerushalmi, Sotah 8:10; cf. Sh'muel ben Chofni). Literally, 'Gad, a troop (gedud) shall raid him (ye-gud-enu), and he shall raid (ya-gud) heel.' Others have, 'Gad shall provide a raiding troop, and his troop shall return on his path' (Rashi; Lekach Tov); 'Troops shall follow Gad, and then he shall bring up the rear' (Targum; Rashbam); 'Gad shall go forward and attack (in contrast to Dan), and he shall attack [the enemy's] heel' (Sforno); 'Gad shall constantly be attacked, but he will pursue his foes' (Ramban); 'Raiders will attack Gad, but he will cut off their heel' (Sh'muel ben Chofni; Bachya; Tur); 'Plunderers shall cut at Gad, but he will cut at their heel' (Hirsch); 'Gad shall overflow with troops...' (Lekach Tov); '...and he will have the final victory' (Tanchuma 12; Abarbanel); 'Gad's masses will come together, and he will remain together in the end' (Abarbanel); 'Gad will attack head-on, and he will [also] attack from the rear' (Malbim); or 'Good fortune will pursue Gad, and he will have good fortune in the end' (cf. Genesis 30:10).

the king's delights
  Or 'sweetmeats fit for a king.'

deer
  Literally, a 'she-deer' or 'hind.' Others, 'gazelle.' It can also be translated as a tree or plain (see other notes on Genesis 49:21).

running free
  Or 'sent.' Or, 'a gazelle-like messenger' (Hirsch); or, 'A hind sent as a gift' (Ibn Ezra). Cf. Tzava'ath Naphtali 2:1. See other notes on Genesis 49:21.

he delivers
  (Rashi; Rashbam). Or, 'which delivers' (Ramban).

words of beauty
  (Rashi; Ibn Ezra; Radak). Or, 'words of victory' (Rashbam). Others translate this verse, 'Naphtali is a spreading tree, that puts out beautiful branches (Baaley Tosafoth; Malbim); or 'Naphtali is a full-bearing field, that bears beautiful trees (Chizzkuni; HaKethav VeHaKabbalah; cf. Targum). Possibly, 'beautiful foals' (cf. Targum on Genesis 30:32; Eruvin 53b).

fruitful son
  Although in Hebrew the phrase ben porath is used twice, the first time it is translated as 'fruitful son,' and the second time, 'a fruitful vine' (Targum; Saadia Gaon; Sh'muel ben Chofni). Others see it as a repetition (Rashbam; Ibn Ezra).

fruitful vine
  Or 'branch' or 'bough' (Targum; Saadia Gaon; Ibn Ezra; Ramban; Sforno; cf. Psalms 80:16). Or, 'a handsome son' (Rashi); 'a noble, distinguished son' (Hirsch); 'a vine sending forth shoots' (Ibn Ezra); 'a young bull' (Bereshith Rabbah 98; cf. Deuteronomy 33:17); 'a son of cows' (referring to Pharaoh's dream; Genesis 41:2; Bereshith Rabbah 98); 'a young interpreter [of dreams]' (Aggadath Bereshith 73; Midrash Aggadah); 'a son suffering from treachery' (Bereshith Rabbah 78); or, 'a royal son' (Tzeror HaMor). In ancient Egyptian, porath or pereth is grain.

fountain
  Or 'well' or 'spring' (Targum). Or 'like a fountain' (Lekach Tov); 'to the eye' (Rashi); 'away from the eye' (Berakhoth 20a)

branches
  (Ibn Ezra). Or 'daughters' (see note on Genesis 49:22, 'running' ).

running
  Literally, 'striding' or 'strutting.' Some translate the two words as 'running branches' (Ibn Ezra). On the basis of Semitic cognates, some translate these two words as 'a wild colt,' but there is no traditional basis for this.

wall
  (Rashi). Or, 'to see' (Rashi).

The verse can thus be rendered, 'Joseph is a handsome son, a son handsome to the eye; girls strode out to see him' (Bereshith Rabbah 98; Rashi); or 'young girls strode out on the wall [to see him]' (Targum Yonathan; Pirkey Rabbi Eliezer 39). Or, '[Your] daughters will walk the boundaries [of their own lands]' (Tanchuma, Pinchas 9; BaMidbar Rabbah 14:7, 21:12; alluding to the fact that among Joseph's descendants, women will be the first to inherit land; see Numbers 27:1, Joshua 17:6).

made his life bitter
  (Rashi). Or, 'made him their target' (Ibn Ezra); or 'were treacherous to him' (Bereshith Rabbah 98).

attacked
  Or 'quarreled' (Targum; Rashi). Or, 'shot at him' (Sekhel Tov; Ibn Ezra).

masters of strife
  (Targum; Rashi; cf. Rashbam). Cf. Jeremiah 9:7, Proverbs 26:18,19. Or, 'expert bowmen' or 'masters of arrows' (Ibn Ezra).

made him their target
  (Hirsch). Or 'attacked him' or 'were furious at him' (cf. Genesis 27:41). The verse can also be translated, 'Master bowmen hated him, they made him their target and shot at him' (Ibn Ezra); or 'Archers bitterly attacked him, they shot him and harassed him.'

resolution
  Or 'power' (Targum; Rashi). Or, 'his bow' (Sekhel Tov; Ibn Ezra; Radak).

remained firm
  (Targum; Rashi). Or, 'he drew his bow with strength' (Rashbam); 'his strength returned as before' (Targum Yonathan; Sotah 36b); or, 'He held back his desires' (referring to Potiphar's wife, Genesis 39:8; Rashi; see note on Genesis 49:24, 'his arms were bedecked...').

his arms were bedecked with gold
  (Targum; Rashi; cf. 41:42); Or, 'he bent his arm' (Rashbam), 'his arm was strong' (Ibn Ezra; Radak); 'his arm conquered' (Sh'muel ben Chofni). Others render this phrase, 'his sperm-ducts were let loose' (Yerushalmi, Horayoth 2:5; Pirkey Rabbi Eliezer 39; Rashi); and hence, the entire verse is translated, 'He held back his desires [with Potiphar's wife], but his seed was spilled' (Ibid.).

he became a shepherd
  (Targum Yonathan; Rashi); referring to Joseph. Others have, 'This was from Jacob's Champion, from the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel' (cf. Septuagint). Or, 'from there was shepherded....' (Hirsch).

builder
  (cf. Targum; Rashi; Rashbam). Literally, 'stone' or 'rock.' (Radak). Some translate it as 'essence' (Saadia Gaon; Sh'muel ben Chofni). Some say that this is an allusion to the Messiah coming from Joseph (Sh'muel ben Chofni; Ralbag; Tzeror HaMor; cf. Midrash Aggadah; Sukkah 52b; Torah Sh'lemah 330).

and from the Almighty
  (Ibn Ezra). Or, 'and [you were] with the Almighty (Targum Yonathan; Rashi).

lying beneath
  Literally, 'the abyss (subterranean water) crouching below' (cf. Radak).

breast
  Literally, 'breasts' (Rashbam). Or, 'blessings of father and mother' (Targum; Rashi); or, 'blessings of food and children' (Lekach Tov).

add to
  Or, 'be in addition to' (Targum; Rashi). Or, 'stronger than' (Sekhel Tov).

as long as...
  (Rashi). Or, 'until the heights of the eternal hills' (Ibn Ezra). More literally, 'desires' (Saadia; Bereshith Rabbah 98). Some interpret the phrase, 'as long as the eternal mountains exist' (Radak).

brow
  More accurately, the top of the head, the place where an infant's head is soft (Radak, Sherashim). See Deuteronomy 28:35, 2 Samuel 14:25, Job 2:7. Cf. Targum.

elect
  Cf. Deuteronomy 33:16. This can mean 'one set apart' (Targum; Rashi; Bereshith Rabbah 98); 'most consecrated' (Sforno); 'king' (Rashbam; Radak); or 'crown' (Ibn Ezra; Radak, Sherashim). The Hebrew word, nazir, here also denotes a Nazirite (Numbers 6:2), and some sources state that Joseph actually took a Nazirite vow (Bereshith Rabbah 98).

cave in the field...
  See Genesis 23:9.

Abraham and Sarah...
  See Genesis 23:19, 25:9.

Isaac and Rebecca
  Genesis 35:29. There, however, it does not mention that Isaac was buried in Makhpelah.

buried Leah
  The burial of Rebecca and Leah is not mentioned previously. An ancient source states that Leah was buried 'near Rebecca, to the left of Sarah' (Yov'loth 36:21). For a discussion of how the graves were arranged, see MeAm Lo'ez/The Torah Anthology 3:549.





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