The Blessing of Jacob, 1-32
49:1 Jacob called for his sons and said, “Gather together so I can tell you what will happen to you in the future.
49:2 “Assemble and listen, you sons of Jacob;
listen to Israel, your father.
49:3 Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might and the beginning of my strength,
outstanding in dignity, outstanding in power.
49:4 You are destructive like water and will not excel,
for you got on your father’s bed,
then you defiled it—he got on my couch!
49:5 Simeon and Levi are brothers,
weapons of violence are their knives!
49:6 O my soul, do not come into their council,
do not be united to their assembly, my heart,
for in their anger they have killed men,
and for pleasure they have hamstrung oxen.
49:7 Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce,
and their fury, for it was cruel.
I will divide them in Jacob,
and scatter them in Israel!
49:8 Judah, your brothers will praise you.
Your hand will be on the neck of your enemies,
your father’s sons will bow down before you.
49:9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah,
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He crouches and lies down like a lion;
like a lioness—who will rouse him?
49:10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs;
the nations will obey him.
49:11 Binding his foal to the vine,
and his colt to the choicest vine,
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.
49:12 His eyes will be dark from wine,
and his teeth white from milk.
11.12 ‘Every line of these verses speaks of exuberant, intoxicating abundance: it is the golden age of the Coming One, whose universal rule was glimpsed in 10c. It is deliberately the language of excess: the reveler of 12a (whose ‘redness of eyes’ in real life is more coolly received in Prov. 23:29) is startling enough, but verse 11 has already thrown care and thrift to the winds, with its talk of vines used as hitching-posts and wine as washing-water. In its own material terms it bids adieu to the pinched régime of thorns and sweat for ‘the shout of them that triumph, the song of them that feast’. Jesus announced the age to come in just this imagery in his first ‘sign’ at Cana of Galilee.’