Lion of Judah: When All Is Said and Done [Genesis 49 Study]

In Genesis 49, Jacob prophesies the Lion of Judah. Jacob's final words to his twelve sons reminds us to consider the legacy we leave behind.

Lion of Judah: When All Is Said and Done [Genesis 49 Study]
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  • I invite you to open your Bibles and turn with me to Genesis 49.
  • The title of today's Bible study is When All Is Said and Done.


When I was in college, I heard a song written and sung by Geoff Moore called "When All Is Said and Done." The lyrics of the first verse are as follows:

When the music fades into the past.
When the days of life are through,
What will be remembered of where I've come
When all is said and done?
Will they say I loved my family?
That I was a faithful friend?
That I lived to tell of God's own son?
When all is said and done.

In today's Bible study, we get to examine the end of the life of Jacob. We get to surmise his life "when all is said and done."

1. Reuben, Simeon, and Levi (49:1-7)

  • Jacob issues three commands to his sons
    1. "Gather yourselves together" (v.1) - “Come near me” or “Gather around me.”[1]
    2. "Assemble and listen" (v.2a) - "Assemble people" for a purpose of listening (DCH)
    3. "Listen" (v.2b)
  • Purpose: "I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come."
    • Joseph will disclose to his sons God's special revelation.
    • The purpose is to convey a prophecy, not just a blessing.
  • Jacob's prophecy in Genesis 49:3-27 is written in Hebrew poetry.
    • There is symbolism and parallelism here that we don't typically encounter in Hebrew prose and narrative.
    • We won't labor at interpreting every symbol in precise detail, for that task is not possible for us in our short time together.
    • However, we will attempt to gain a high-level understanding.

A) Reuben (v.3-4)

  • Jacob acknowledges Reuben's position as firstborn in verse 3.
  • Pronouncement: "you shall not have preeminence" (v.4b)
  • Reason: "you went up to your father's bed; then you defiled it." (v.4c)
  • "While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it." (Gen 35:22)
    • Reuben likely committed this heinous sin because he wanted to seize the position as the family leader.

B) Simeon and Levi (v.5-7)

  • Jacob is condemning their excessive acts of violence in response to Shechem's sexual assault of Dinah recorded in Genesis 34.
  • Reason: "For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen." (v.6)

On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. hey took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered. (Gen 34:25-29)

  • Pronouncement: "I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel." (v.7)
  • Fulfillment: the Levites did not receive land tracts but 48 cities (Num 18:23-24; 35:1-8; Josh 21:1-45). Simeon's land holdings were within the boundaries of Judah’s territory where their identity eventually was absorbed by the larger tribe of Judah (Josh 19:1-9; Judg 1:3; 2 Chr 15:9).[2]
  • "The second lot came out for Simeon, for the tribe of the people of Simeon, according to their clans, and their inheritance was in the midst of the inheritance of the people of Judah." (Josh 19:1)
  • All the towns allotted to Simeon had been given first to Judah.[3] Simeon was not given an independent allotment, but rather, it inherited scattered cities (and their surrounding villages) within Judah’s allotment.[4]


  • Our sins may be forgiven, but they can still have long-lasting consequences, even to future generations.

2. Messiah Promised through Judah (49:8-12)

  • At this point, Judah must have been petrified. Jacob used his final words to reprimand the first three sons.
  • Judah persuaded his brothers to sell Joseph to slavery. Judah was the prodigal son. He abandoned his father and brothers to live an independent life in Genesis 38. God had struck dead his first-born and second-born son.
  • Judah had committed sexual sin with Tamar.
  • Yet in grace and mercy, God blesses Judah.

A) Praise Is Promised (v.8)

  1. "your brothers shall praise you." (v.8a)
  2. "your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies." (v.8b)
  3. "your father's sons shall bow down before you." (v.8c)
  • Joseph received the double portion reserved for the firstborn (1 Chr 5:1-2), but the position of authority was bestowed not to Joseph but to Judah.
  • But in verses 9-12, Judah receives the greatest honor: promised Messiah

B) Power Is Promised (v.9) [Imagery of a Lion]

  • "Judah is a lion's cub;...he crouched as a lion and as a lioness." (v.9)
  • The lion was considered the most powerful of all carnivores of ancient Palestine. Lions figure in the stories of Daniel (Dan 6:7), Samson (Judg 14:5), and David (1 Sam 17:34). The lion is mentioned over 130 times in the Old Testament..., usually in a figurative sense. The lion can symbolize victory or wickedness. Satan is compared to a lion (1 Pet 5:8)1, but the lion here has reference to dominating power.
  • Three of seven Hebrew words for “lion” appear in this single verse.2
    • "cub" is used 7x in OT, referring to the young of a wild animal (HALOT). 6x refers to a lion; 1x refers to a jackal.
    • "lion" אַרְיֵה (aryeh) - used 46x in OT; most common Hebrew word for lion; believed to be the term for an African lion.
    • "lioness" לָבִיא (lavi) - used 11x in OT; a term for an Asiatic lion, not a term for a female lion (specifying gender).

Balaam's 2nd and 3rd Oracles

  • Balak, king of the Amorites, asks Balaam to pronounce a curse on Israel
  • God brought them out of Egypt...Indeed, the people will rise up like a lioness, and like a lion raises himself up; they will not lie down until they eat their prey, and drink the blood of the slain.” (Numbers 23:23-24, 2nd oracle)
  • God brought them out of Egypt...They crouch and lie down like a lion, and as a lioness, who can stir him? Blessed is the one who blesses you, and cursed is the one who curses you!’” (Numbers 24:8-9, 3rd oracle)

C) Kingship Is Promised (v.10) [Imagery of a Scepter]

  • The Heb שֵׁבֶט (shevet) is the ordinary word for rod or club and is used of an ordinary rod (cf 2 Sam 7:14), of the shepherd’s crook (Ps 23:4), scribe’s baton or marshal’s staff (Judg 5:14), as well as of the symbol of royalty. Here, it is used with reference to the royal line descended from Judah (Gen 49:10).[5]

Nathan prophesizes concerning David, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you." (2 Samuel 7:14–15)

He rejected the tent of Joseph; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loves...He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. (Psalm 78:67-71 by Asaph)

D) Prosperity Is Promised (v.11-12) [Imagery of donkey and vineyard]

  • The land of Judah was to be so prosperous that every man would have his own donkey and his own vine, and the fruit of the vine would be so plentiful that he could wash his clothes in it, figuratively speaking.[6]

But this prophecy is more than just a blessing of praise, power, kingship, and prosperity to Judah's descendants. This is a Messianic promise, the third in the book of Genesis.

  • The first Messianic promise in Genesis was 3:15.
    • "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
  • The second Messianic promise was 22:18.
    Speaking to Abraham, God says, "and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,"
  • The third Messianic promise is here in 49:10.
    • The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
      • ESV Translation "until tribute comes to him" (NRSV) provides good parallelism with the following line, until "the obedience of the peoples” comes to him.
      • 1st Alternative: "until Shiloh comes." (NASB, KJV, NKJV) Shiloh is interpreted as a unique name for the Messiah.
      • 2nd Alternative: "until he to whom it belongs comes." (NIV) It refers to the scepter and the ruler's staff.
      • 3rd Alternative: "until he comes to Shiloh." and understands Shiloh as the place where the ark rested for a while in the time of the Judges.
    • There is a unified understanding that the “scepter” and “ruler’s staff” are symbolic of a royal kingship that would remain with Judah until the Messiah comes—“and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples”[7]
  • David to Messiah
    • Isaiah 11:1
      • The Davidic Messiah is introduced in Isaiah 11:1, "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse."
    • Micah 5:2
      • But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
    • Jeremiah 22:30
      • God writes the epitaph of Jehoiachin, "Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days, for none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah."
    • Ezekiel 19
      • Ezekiel 19 builds a lament around the language of the blessing of Judah—“cub”, “lion”, “prey”, “rise”, “crouch”, "lioness", scepter", "vine" and “blood".
      • Read Ezekiel 19:1-4, 10-14
    • Zechariah 9:9
      • Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
      • Kings from the time of David until Christ would ride on horse chariots. The promised king in Zechariah 9:9 was to appear mounted on a donkey.
    • Promised Messiah
      • He will come from the stump of Jesse, the royal line of David, from the tribe of Judah in Bethlehem.
      • He will not come from the offspring of Jehoiachin.
      • He will be mounted on a donkey when he enters Jerusalem.
    • God had fulfilled his promise literally giving Judah praise, dominance, kingship, and prosperity as recorded in the OT. But Jacob's prophecy here in Genesis 49:8-12 is supremely fulfilled in the promised Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.
    • And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals" (Rev 5:5).

3. Eight Other Brothers (49:13-27)

A. Issachar and Zebulun (v.13-15)

  • Based on Jacob's order, it appears Jacob's sons had grouped themselves based on their mother. Leah was the mother of Reuben (1), Simeon (2), Levi (3), Judah (4), Issachar (9), and Zebulun (10).
  • Zebulun is the only son to have his territory described.
    • We believe the territory of Zebulun was not along the sea, but it was close enough to the Mediterranean for easy access to ports and trade.
    • Sidon was a wicked city; Jezebel was from Sidon (1 Kings 16:31).
  • Issachar: "donkey" during the ancient near east was a valuable animal. People of rank frequently rode upon them (Judg. 10:4; 12:14)[8]
  • These two tribes formed the western side of Galilee along with Naphtali, so it's very likely that at least several of Jesus' 12 disciples were from the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun.[9]

B. Dan, Gad, Asher, and Naphtali (v.16-21)

  • Remember that Ishmael, Abraham's son by Sarah's handmaiden Hagar, was dismissed.
  • Abraham's future sons through Keturah in Genesis 26 had no significant inheritance. All was given to Isaac.
  • All four sons will father tribes that will inherit land in Canaan.
  • Dan's most famous descendant is Samson. Dan is also the first tribe to turn to false idols (Judges 18:30)[10] and unlisted in genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1-7 and Revelation 7:5-8.
  • "I wait for your salvation, O LORD." (v.18)

C) Joseph and Benjamin (v.22-27)

  • Notice the imagery typical of Hebrew poetry
  • Jacob compares Joseph first (1) as a fruitful vine and then (2) as a steady archer.
  • Jacob gives Joseph the greatest commendation and blessing, but his commendation is worship and acknowledgment of God.
    • "by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob"
      • Jacob was not mighty, but he had a Mighty God.
    • "the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel"
    • "by the God of your father"
    • "by the Almighty who will bless you"
  • The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers. (v.26)
    • Just two chapters ago, Jacob told Pharoah, "Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning." (Gen 47:9)
    • But now Jacob tells Joseph that he is more blessed than his parents: Abraham and Isaac.
    • The reason: the Mighty God, the good shepherd, the rock of Israel.
      • "May this same God be with you."

4. Jacob's Death and Burial (49:28-33)

  • "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel"
    • This is the first time in Scripture where Israel is described as 12 tribes.
  • "This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him."
    • Although we had examined Jacob's displeasure with the sins of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, this summary statement indicates that all 12 sons were blessed.
  • "I am to be gathered to my people" (v.29)
    • Notice Jacob was confident his spirit will reunite with other believers in heaven.
    • At the same time, he is asking his sons to bury him with his fathers so that his body may reside with them in the caves of Machpelah.
    • Genesis 25:17, chronicling Ishmael's death, reads, "He breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people." But Ishmael was not buried at Machpelah.
    • Jesus reaffirms this reality in Luke 16:22 when Jesus tells the story that a "poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom." The poor man had no proper burial, but his spirit goes to heaven.
  • Notice the detailed description of the caves of Machpelah
    • It was the burial site for Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah. Jacob also buried Leah there.
  • "When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people." (v.33)
    • Jacob had lived with Abraham for 15 years before Abraham died.
    • Jacob was about 120 years old when Isaac died.
    • Now he will continue to live with them for eternity.


  1. Sin, even for believers, has long-term consequences.
    • Use the portrait of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi as motivation to instill fear and motivate us to continue to mortify sin.
  2. Our blessing is because of God's greatness.
    • The promise of the Messiah through Judah was God's sovereign mercy.
    • Jacob's blessed life was a sovereign choice of God.
    • Every good and perfect gift comes from our heavenly Father. (Jam 1:17)
  3. Live with eternity in mind.
    • Most Christians don't think about our eternal destiny enough. May we live in the blessed hope that our final destination and reward awaits us in Abraham's bosom.

There is a second verse to the song "When All Is Said and Done" by Geoff Moore. It is as follows:

Of how I long to see the hour,
When I would hear that trumpet sound.
So I could rise and see my Savior's face,
And see him smile, and say, "Well done."
You can forget my name and the songs I've sung,
Every rhyme and every tune.
But remember the truth of Jesus' love,
When all is said and done
When all is said and done.

  1. Reyburn, William David, and Euan McG. Fry. 1998. A Handbook on Genesis. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies. 1077. ↩︎

  2. Mathews, K. A. 2005. Genesis 11:27–50:26. Vol. 1B. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers. 889. ↩︎

  3. Madvig, Donald H. 1992. “Joshua.” In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, 3:342. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. ↩︎

  4. Howard, David M., Jr. 1998. Joshua. Vol. 5. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers. 366. ↩︎

  5. Isaacs, Nathan. “Sceptre, Scepter.” In The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, edited by James Orr, John L. Nuelsen, Edgar Y. Mullins, and Morris O. Evans, (Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915) 2702. ↩︎

  6. Boice, James Montgomery. 1998. Genesis: An Expositional Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 1194. ↩︎

  7. R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, Preaching the Word. Accordance electronic ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 552. ↩︎

  8. Boice, Genesis. 1205. ↩︎

  9. Boice, Genesis. 1207. ↩︎

  10. Boice, Genesis. 1212. ↩︎

Bible Studies on the Story of Joseph

  1. Introduction to the Joseph Narrative in Genesis
  2. Joseph the Dreamer (Genesis 37:2–11)
  3. Joseph Sold to Slavery (Genesis 37:12–36)
  4. Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38)
  5. Joseph Tempted by Potiphar's Wife (Genesis 39)
  6. God Remembers Joseph in Prison (Genesis 40)
  7. Pharoah's Dreams Interpreted (Genesis 41:1–36)
  8. Joseph Made Prime Minister (Genesis 41:37–57)
  9. Jacob's Sons' First Trip to Egypt (Genesis 42)
  10. Jacob Accepts Judah's Guarantee (Genesis 43:1–14)
  11. Joseph Reunites with Benjamin (Genesis 43:15–34)
  12. Joseph Plants His Silver Cup (Genesis 44:1–17)
  13. Judah's Plea for Benjamin (Genesis 44:18–34)
  14. Judah Becomes Surety for Benjamin (Genesis 44)
  15. A Portrait of Forgiveness (Genesis 45:1–8)
  16. It Is Enough (Genesis 45:9–28)
  17. Prepared to Die (Genesis 46)
  18. God Rescues Egypt (Genesis 47:1–26)
  19. "God Will Be With You" (Genesis 47:27–48:22)
  20. Lion of Judah: When All Is Said and Done (Genesis 49)
  21. God Meant It For Good (Genesis 50)