This chapter is about Jacob/Israel blessing all 12 of his sons. This one tells A LOT about what happens to each tribe of Israel down the line. Like the term “Lion of Judah.” It’s a hard read but I’ll do my best to make easier to understand. I hope y’all enjoy!
Jacob/Israel called his 12 sons to him. He said to them: “Listen up. I’ll tell you what will happen to you in the days to come:
Reuben, the 1st born, Jacob’s might, the 1st sign of Jacob’s strength (I think it means “manly” strength. Like his virility.), excelling in honor & power. Turbulent as the waters, you’ll no longer succeed. For you went into your father’s bed & defiled it (This is his punishment for sleeping with his concubine.).
Simeon & Levi, these 2 get grouped together, for some reason. These two’s swords are weapons of violence. Due to Dinah (Genesis 34), let people not enter their council or join their assembly. Cursed be their anger, so fierce. I’ll scatter them in Jacob & disperse them in Israel. (If you read Genesis 34, you’ll see that Simeon & Levi jacked up a whole lot of people over their sister Dinah.)
Judah, your brothers will praise you. Your father’s sons will bow down to you. (Which happens because the tribe of Judah ends being the nation/country of Judah.) Judah, you’re a lion’s cub. You return from the prey, like a lion he crouches & lies down. Who dares to rouse him?! (This next part is the kicker for Judah!) The scepter will not depart from Judah. Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs & the obedience of the nations is his. (This means that kings will come from Judah. And they do. We’ll be getting into that when Israel & Judah become 2 separate countries. Some think that the last part is a prophesy about Jesus.)
Zebulun will live by the seashore. He’ll become a haven for ships. (I’ve always thought that this meant that Zebulun will be a fisherman (& so are his descendants) & become a harbor master.
Issachar, when he sees how good is his resting place & how pleasant is his land. He’ll bend his shoulder to the Biden & submit to forced labor. (This makes me think that Issachar & his descendants are slaves.)
Dan will provide justice for his people. (This make me think that Dan & his descendants are the judges in the book of Judges.)
Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders. But he’ll attack them at them at their heels.
Asher’s food will be rich. He’ll provide delicacies fit for a king. (I think this means that they are either farmers or chefs, or both.
Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns. (I think that this means Naphtali is a free spirit & will have beautiful kids.)
Joseph’s bow remains steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob. Because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel. With blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast & womb. ‘Your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains.’ (???) (Not quite sure what’s going on with this one. If anyone wants to enlighten me, please do so in the comments.)
Benjamin is a “ravenous wolf,” in the morning he devours the prey. In the evening he divides the plunder.” (Again, don’t know.)
All these are the 12 tribes of Israel (Jacob’s kids). This is what Jacob/Israel said to them when he blessed them. Giving each of them the blessings appropriate to him.