13 “Zebulun shall dwell by the haven of the sea; he shall become a haven for ships, and his border shall adjoin Sidon.
14 “Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between two burdens;
15 He saw that rest was good, and that the land was pleasant; he bowed his shoulder to bear a burden, and became a band of slaves.
16 “Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider shall fall backward.
18 I have waited for your salvation, O Lord!
19 “Gad, a troop shall tramp upon him, but he shall triumph at last.
20 “Bread from Asher shall be rich, and he shall yield royal dainties.
21 “Naphtali is a deer let loose; he uses beautiful words.
22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall.
23 The archers have bitterly grieved him, shot at him and hated him.
24 But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
25 By the God of your father who will help you, and by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
26 The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.
27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.”
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them. And he blessed them; he blessed each one according to his own blessing.
29 Then he charged them and said to them: “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite as a possession for a burial place.
31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah.
32 The field and the cave that is there were purchased from the sons of Heth.”
33 And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.
[Jacob] said that Zebulun would be for a haven of ships, with his northern border facing toward the ancient and great seaport of Zidon. The tract actually assigned to Zebulun by Joshua was “up toward the sea” (Joshua 19:11) and “reached to the river that is before Jokneam.” It is usually assumed that Zebulun was located between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean, but whether its borders actually reached either or both theses seas is not known. Matthew 4:13 suggests that its borders extended to Capernaum, on the shore of Galilee.
Jacob compared Issachar to a strong ass “bowing down beneath a double burden” (or, as some translations [have it], “settled down between the sheepfolds”) … The meaning seems to be that Issachar was strong , but docile and lazy. … Historically, Issachar had rich lands and rich crops, which attracted marauders and captors. Again, however, there is little specific information. — Morris, page 657.
Dan shall judge (v.16) — Samson, a Danite (cf. Judges 13:2ff.), judged Israel for 20 years. But the tribe of Dan also officially introduced idolatry into Israel (Judges 18:30-31). This may be the reason Dan is omitted from the tribes in Revelation 7:4-8.
[Perhaps because] there might have been some question as to whether these sons of the concubines would actually share in the inheritance, Jacob assured the first one of them, Dan, that he would indeed “judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.” But then he compared Dan to a venomous snake that would defeat a mounted soldier by striking at the heel of his horse. … The reference to the serpent may refer symbolically to the fact that it was the Danites who introduced idolatry into the land of Israel on a regular official basis (Judges 18:30-31). It was also in Dan that Jeroboam, who led the rebellion that culminated in the divided kingdom, set up one of his two golden calves (1 Kings 12:28-30). It may be that this is why Dan is not listed among the tribes in Revelation 7:4-8.
This latter interpretation is strengthened by the fact that Jacob, immediately after his reference to the serpent, must have thought of the one whom the serpent throughout Scripture typifies—that old serpent, the Devil. … Jacob [perhaps thought] of God’s primeval promise of the coming Seed whose heel would be bitten by the Serpent, but who would in turn finally crush his head and bring the long-awaited salvation (Genesis 3:15). It was in reference to this Messianic promise that he had just spoken to Judah. It is natural, therefore, that right at this point, he would cry out: “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord!” It would not be too imaginative to suggest that, in Jacob’s mind, this Salvation for which he was waiting was actually a person. The word itself is the Hebrew yeshuah, which is none other than the name “Jesus!” [This is] the first mention of the word “salvation” in the Bible.
Of Gad, Jacob prophesied that, although invading troops might assault his home, he (whose name itself meant “troop”) would in turn repel them and press on the heel of the enemy. Gad’s realm was east of the Jordan, on the edge of the kingdom of the Ammonites and other desert peoples, and thus was especially open to attack. However, the Gadites were well able to fight (1 Chronicles 5:18; 12:8, etc.).
Asher was to have and enjoy rich food and royal delicacies. As it turned out, Asher’s lot fell on the rich northern seacoast north of Mount Carmel, all the way to Tyre and Zidon (Joshua 19:24-31). However, they failed even to take possession of the Tyre-Sidon region, and the tribe soon became insignificant.
Naphtali, the brother of Dan, is described as “a hind let loose.” That is, his descendants would be known for swiftness, as warriors fleet of foot. They would also be known as composers of eloquent speech and beautiful literature. … The best known of his descendants was Barak, who, with Deborah, won a mighty victory over Jabin and Sisera of the Canaanites (Judges 4:10; 5:18). — Morris, pages 658-659
[Jacob] compared his favorite son [Joseph] to a bough from a fruitful vine, with an abundant supply of water and with branches climbing over the wall, in this way predicting that his tribe (actually the twofold tribe, Ephraim and Manasseh) would be strong and numerous. He also compared him to a man beset by enemy archers who had tried to destroy him as a hated foe, but nevertheless as one whose own bow was strong and steady, and whose hands were made strong by the strong God who had strengthened his father Jacob. This description applied directly to Joseph himself and to his triumph over the enmity of his brothers, but it also was prophetic of the experience of Joseph’s descendants.
The one who had strengthened Joseph’s hand, and who would be likewise the strength of his tribe, is said to be both the Shepherd and the Stone of Israel. Although there had been a reference to the shepherding work of the Lord in Jacob’s words to Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:15), this is the first time when God is actually called the Shepherd. Likewise, this is the first time when God is called either the Stone or the Rock. … Jacob also stressed again that this God was the same God as his God, the God of his fathers.
All of the blessings which Jacob had experienced would likewise be showered on Joseph and his descendants. He was the one “separate from” his brothers, and thus marked out for special distinction and service. These prophecies were fulfilled in the later histories of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, especially the former. Many of Israel’s leaders were from these tribes. Joshua, Deborah, and Samuel were from Ephraim; and Gideon and Jephthah were from Manasseh. Both tribes were strong in war, and their lands were fertile and productive. Jeroboam, and Ephraimite led the rebellion which produced the divided kingdom; and the northern kingdom came to be called alternatively by the names Israel and Ephraim, as the southern kingdom was called by the name Judah. — Morris, pages 659-660.