8/1/10 The Spirit of God gave Jacob insight into the characters of his sons that would be reflected in their descendants in their future.
Reuben: Even though Reuben was the first-born and should have the prominent position that would not be because of his sin in sleeping with his father’s concubine. This was one example of a mistake Reuben had made, but Jacob knew from a lifetime together that this was just a part of an overall pattern of moral instability, which unfit Reuben for spiritual leadership. The leadership was to go to Judah. In Israel’s history not a single prominent leader ever came out of Reuben.
Simeon and Levi: These two are grouped together because in many ways they were the same, and because their tribes would be linked together eventually as one, making room for the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. It was their crime of massacring the Shechemites that Jacob foresees in their future. Because of this they would receive no inheritance in the promised land.
Simeon’s tribe never really reproduced very much and was soon the weakest of all the tribes. It wasn’t counted at all the second time Moses numbered the people. They didn’t receive a portion of the land but just an inheritance of a few cities within Judah’s borders. The tribe was eventually absorbed into Judah.
Levi, on the other hand, had its curse transformed into a blessing because Levi was the only tribe to stand for God in the wilderness of the exodus when everyone else did not. And even though Levi didn’t receive an allotment of land, the Lord himself became their inheritance. They became the chosen tribe of the priesthood. So even someone who is punished for his sin God is able to transform the same curse into a blessing.
Judah: Judah received the rights of the first-born. Not that he was perfect, but Judah had a strength of character that the first three sons didn’t have. He was the one who saved Joseph’s life when the others wanted to kill him. And he was the one who offered himself in Benjamin’s place when it looked as though Benjamin would become a slave.
Jacob predicted that all of the tribes would bow to Judah, which happened when David became king. Judah is compared to a lion, a picture that remained, and Jesus himself is pictured by the same image in Rev. 5:5. Judah was to hold leadership all the way to the time when Shiloh would come, which most understand to be a reference to Jesus (DA52). Shiloh means “giver of rest.” The reference to tying the foal to the choice vine fits well with this statement.
Zebulon: The Bible doesn’t show how this prophecy came true, but that’s no reason to believe it never happened. What we know of Zebulon’s allotment is that it did not border the sea, but it could easily have at some point.
Issachar: He would be content with what he received as a tribal inheritance. He never would seek leadership or prominence. He would be strong and content to labor on the land.
Dan: Dan would play an important part in the life of the nation of Israel. The tribe was particularly prominent during the time of the judges. Samson was from Dan and ruled as judge for 20 years. Dan is pictured as a serpent describing his cunning ways. Dan was also the first to introduce idol worship. The name of Dan is not included in the list of tribes in Rev. 7.