Though the poem is depicted as a deathbed blessing by the text following it (
49.28; cf. 27.4 and n.), this poem seems to have been originally designed as a prediction of the destiny, good and bad, of the tribes of Israel.
Many have argued that the poem is ancient on the basis of its language and resemblance to tribal poems in Deut 33 and Judg 5
. Nevertheless, the present form of the poem appears to have been modified to fit the narrative context in which it has been
put. Its first part follows the birth order of
and legitimates rule for Judah and—by extension— the Davidic dynasty. The author of these changes may be responsible for
inserting the whole poem into its present context, as well as for the addition to the Jacob‐Joseph story of the narratives
referred to in
30.21; 34.1–31; 35.21–22a; cf. 37.36–38.30
This section justifies Reuben's ejection from favor as firstborn by recalling the story of his sleeping with his father's
concubine (see 35.22n.
Judah's older brothers, Simeon and Levi, fail to take Reuben's place because of their role in the despoiling of Shechem (
With his three older brothers out of favor (vv. 3–7
), Judah receives the greatest part of his father's blessing. The story of the succession to David features a similar displacement
of older sons: Amnon (2 Sam 13
), Absalom (2 Sam 15–18
), and Adonijah (1 Kings 1–2
). See 38.27–30n.
The scepter and staff are representations of sovereignty. The latter part of the verse, however, is obscure (see note c). It appears to predict rule for Judean royalty until Judah's Davidic descendants achieve universal dominion (Num 24.17; Ps 2; 110
) and must be preexilic.
This latter part of the blessing (vv. 13–27
) diverges from the birth order of
. This section appears to predate placement into its present context in the story of Jacob and Joseph.
The tribal name Dan is derived from the Heb verb for “judge” (“dan”).
The lengthy blessing on Joseph and its triumphant conclusion (v. 26
) suggest that he may have been the original focus of the early blessing (see 49.1–28n.
The Almighty, see 17.1n.
Blessings of heaven, i.e., rain, dew, sun. The deep that lies beneath, an allusion to the subterranean ocean (see 1.6; 2.6
). Compare Deut 33.13
includes an order to bury Jacob at Machpelah (see ch 23
) that parallels the earlier non‐Priestly burial order (
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