I have been writing about the boys and referencing Genesis 49 but it is interesting to look at the inspiration for Jacob’s words.
- 1. Reuben – turbulent water The water that Jacob would have know was a swollen Jordan River or the flooded, rushing gullies in the wilderness after a thunderstorm. He understood the violence and power of moving water; so he recognizes Reuben’s strength, power and abilities.
- 4. Judah – lion Lions were common in Palestine usually living near the Jordan River. In Africa the male lion’s roars can be heard up to five miles away. Their stately appearance and raw strength has apparently inspired respect for thousands of years. A modern moniker for Jesus is the “Lion of Judah” directing our thoughts to the strength and power of a risen, glorified Jesus.
- 5. Dan – snake/viper Eerdman’s sites that there are harmless snakes in that region but that all biblical references refer to venomous snakes. They site the Carpet or Saw-scaled viper (Palestine viper) as a possible candidate and the Arkive Organization attest to its quick strike and the amount of human attacks. The tribe of Dan in Judges 18 where they stole “gods” and then killed off a quiet people and took a northern most position in Israel show their violent nature and is a good picture of what Jacob must have seen in his son.
- 6. Naphtali – a doe According to Eerdman’s the possible animals may have been the Fallow Deer, Gazelle or the Nubian Ibex. I am not sure that the specific animal is important but the symbolism; a doe and its fawns are such a tranquil picture. So I would assume that Naphtali did not have the temper of Simeon or Levi.
- 9. Issachar – a strong donkey A strong donkey shows his usefulness and his tendency to be like Jacob, a “home-body.” Interestingly he was not called a wild-donkey because they are the exact opposite; they are free roaming and very hard to get along with.
- 12. Joseph – a fruitful vine The only choice of plants here is the grape and the picture would be like the cluster of grapes the spies brought back in the Exodus story. Besides the words for Judah this is the only one that I could call a blessing; Jacob here gives it all to Joseph and calls for the supplying of all his needs and ask special favor of God to take notice of Joseph.
- 13. Benjamin – a wolf They are a social yet fierce predator that takes care of family. So I still think that Jacob was recognizing a loyal yet mean side to his youngest son. There were other predators that could have been chosen like foxes, bears or jackals so him picking the wolf is interesting.
- 2. Simeon and 3. Levi – still after all the years that lapsed Jacob had nothing good to say about these two.
- 10. Zebulun – he will live by a seashore
- 7. Gad – he would be attacked and then fights back
- 8. Asher – that he would have and make awesome food
The last three are hard to track down in the Bible so I wonder if they may not have been words about their life in Egypt.
references: Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible, about the viper http://www.arkive.org/palestine-saw-scaled-viper/echis-coloratus/ picture of viper http://www.flickriver.com/photos/aviadbar/2616597272/ picture of wolf http://www.cosmosmith.com/arabian_wolves.html picture of the flood http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ein_Avdat_Flood_1.JPG