Genesis 49: The Purpose of Prophecy

*These notes come from Bob Deffinbaugh’s study on Genesis 49 at
  • Destiny of descendants of Jacob but much to say to today’s Christians
  • prophecy is the final word of Jacob
  • we must be careful not to look for fulfillment, which is too specific
  • 12 tribes of Israel
  • future is not independent of the past, but an extension of it
    • some blessed from their sins
    • some blessed from their names
  • Reuben
    • 1st born of Jacob
    • rights of position taken from him because of his instability
    • he wanted more power but “the last shall be first”
  • Simeon and Levi (head of priestly tribe)
    • character not befitting to Godliness
    • dispersed after having joined together in disobedience
  • Judah (forefather of Mesiah)
    • folly but will prosper spiritually with a bright future for his descendants
  • Zebulun and Issachar
    • Zebulan’s prophecy has not yet come to pass
    • Issachar failed to subdue his enemies showing that that which we do not master often tends to become our master
  • Dan
    • almost seems prospects for this tribe are bright, but they are dashed in reality
    • realization that we are saved by God
  • Gad and Asher
    • will be continually plagued, but not overcome
  • Naphtali
    • unhindered freedom and increase
  • Joseph
    • most worthy of blessing
    • does not get privilege of being forefather of Messiah, while he is greatly blessed by God
    • Fruitfulness and abundance
    • remained firm to God in his persecution and God sustained him
    • material blessings
  • Benjamin
    • fierce and aggressive
  • Conclusion
    • did every detail of Jacob’s prophecy come to pass as he predicted?
      • No – Zebulan did not dwell and seashore and Levi head of priests, no dispersed)
      • God’s purposes for Israel are not yet complete. Still fulfilling the prophecy
      • God never intended to fulfill every prophecy
      • Some prophecies are God’s warning of what would come to pass if men did not change their action and repent
    • What purpose does this prophesy serve the sons of Israel, since they will all die before God causes the nation to return to Canaan?
      • their character not only reflects their own destiny but also the conduct of future generations and the consequences
    • Why did Moses record the words of Jacob?
      • lesson for the Israelites was that present action tends to shape the future
      • trust and obey God for future blessing
    • Why did Reuben, Simeon, and Levi receive rebuke from their father for their past sins while Judah is greatly blessed?
      • Judah repented
  • The Purpose of Prophecy
    • prophecy focuses our attention upon future things
      • hope in the future. Not what is seen, but what is unseen. Faith focuses us on the future, not the present. Look ahead. Fix your eyes on what God has in store for you
    • Prophecy focuses not only on the future, but on living in the present in the light of the future
      • prompt purity, not passivity or complacency. Future blessings in store for us in peace and purity. Forego passing pleasures for external glory. Do not be fixated on the how of God’s plan
    • While we may be certain that specific prophecy 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 possibility of future things which can be avoided
    • You cannot inherit grace you must accept it personally
    • prophecy is written so that you may turn from sin and to Jesus
    • motivation for the Christian to live life in  purity and hope, assured that God has even greater blessings in store for those who will trust and obey

*Link to study on the rest of the chapters in Genesis


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