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Genesis 49:1-12


Intro: The time has come for the old Patriarch Jacob to die. His 147 years have been eventful and difficult, yet they have been blessed. Before he leaves this world, he gathers his sons around his bedside to speak to them one last time.

In these verses Jacob addresses his sons in light of the future. He tells them what will come their way “in the last days. This is a reference to the kingdom years of Israel.

The details of Jacob’s prophecy to each of his sons, as they stood around his bedside, were amazingly accurate. In fact, this passage has been a favorite of Bible critics. They cannot believe that these words were uttered before the events they described took place.

These prophecies, and their accurate fulfillment, stands as one of the greatest proofs of the inspiration of the Word of God. How did Jacob know things that would take place hundreds of years after his death? The Holy Ghost told him!

As we examine these words of Jacob, we do not have the time in this message to preach about what Jacob had to say to each of his sons. By way of introduction, a quick overview of this chapter is in order.

As we consider the Jacob’s words to his sons, we see the sons of Jacob divided into three groups.

         Some Were Disqualified Because of their sin some of these boys were destined for judgment and not blessing. Those disqualified were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Dan.

         Some Were Distinguished Some of Jacobs sons destined for blessings down the road. God took some of these men, who were mostly insignificant in the family, and elevated them to places of prominence in the future kingdom. Those distinguished were Judah, Zebulon, Issachar, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, and Benjamin.

         One Was Different Joseph stood out among his brethren. He was singled out for a word of special blessing by his father. He was set apart to receive special blessings. In fact, Joseph was given the place of the first born. He received a double portion of his father’s inheritance. That double portion was given to his sons Manasseh and Ephraim.

As I said, we do not have time today to consider Jacob’s words to all of his sons. I do want to focus our attention of a few of the sons of Jacob today. The reason I focus on these few is because we share a common problem with them. We share the problem of sin.

If you will notice the words of Jacob in verse 2, he says, “hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father. If you will remember Jacob is the old mans birth name. It means heel-grabber; trickster; or supplanter. That name identifies Jacob as a man of the flesh. And for years he did live a fleshly life. He was always out to better Jacob, He was always trying to gain an advantage over others.

Then, one night, Jacob met the Master! When he did, his life was changed forever. His name was changed too. No longer was he called “Jacob. His new name was Israel. That name means Prince with God.” It pictures him as a man of faith, who walks with God. And, that is who Jacob became in his later years.

When he calls his sons to him, he calls them “the sons of Jacob. I think he is telling them, You boys are just like I was. You have a sinful, fleshly nature to overcome. You have a sin problem to deal with.

Doesn’t that describe us all today? If there is one common thread that runs among every person in this room, it is the common thread of sin. We all have problems with sin!

If we do not learn to handle sin the right way, we can be certain that it will handle us. I would like to take the words of Jacob to just a few of his sons and preach about Confronting The Sin Problem.

I want you to see a Man Who Covered His Sin; some Men Controlled By Their Sin; and a Man Who Confessed His Sin. These examples have some valuable lessons to teach those who will hear them.


I. v. 3-4 A MAN WHO


         Jacob deal first with his eldest son Reuben. I would suspect that Rueben expected to hear words of blessing from his dying father. He expected to receive his birthright. He expected to be recognized by Jacob as the head of the family.

When Jacob begins to speak, ho does acknowledge the Place of Reuben’s birth. He also referenced the Potential that Reuben had within the family. He was the firstborn and great things were expected of him.

         As Jacob continued his speech, the words Reuben heard next shattered his world and demolished all his hopes, plans and dreams. Jacob looked at his eldest and said that Reuben was “unstable as water.” The word “unstable means to boil. It refers to a pot of boiling water that is in constant motion.

Reuben was like water. Water is an unstable compound. When it is poured out, it always seeks the lowest level. When it is exposed to cold, it freezes. When it is exposed to heat, it boils. Eventually, water will evaporate and disappear. Rueben was just like that. Instead of being a leader among his brethren, he was unstable and ever changing. He was weak!

Jacob told Reuben that he would never “excel. That is, his descendants would never rise to prominence in the future kingdom. And, they didnt! A quick survey of Israels history demonstrates that very clearly.

  The tribe of Reuben receives very little mention in the nation’s history.

  Not a single judge, prophet, ruler, military leader, or other important person came out of this tribe.

  Reuben was often found on the wrong side of conflicts – Jud. 5:15-16.

  The sons of Korah, who stood against Moses and were swallowed up by the earth, were from this tribe, Num. 16:1-49.

  The tribe of Reuben never did “excel in the kingdom.

         Why was such a harsh prophecy given to Reuben? The answer is right in verse 4. Jacob drags out a sin that had been hidden away for forty years. He says, “because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed. Jacob is referring to the sin Reuben committed when he committed adultery with his fathers wife Bilhah, Gen. 35:22. When that sin occurred, we are told in that verse that “Jacob knew it.” Jacob knew what his father son had done, but there is no record of confession and reconciliation.

It seems that this tragic sin was never dealt with by Reuben. For forty years Jacob waited on a confession that never came. He waited on his son to come to him and ask for forgiveness, but he never did. Now, Jacob exposes the sin of Reuben for all to hear. I can see Jacob, with his eyes flashing with anger, as he looks around on the others and says, “he went up to my couch!

         Reuben never dealt with his sin, and it cost him greatly. It cost him his birthright. It cost his descendants. It cost him the respect and blessing of his father. It was a high price to pay for trying to keep his sin a secret.

         There is a lesson here for us. We do exactly what Reuben did. When we sin, we often try to keep it hidden away. We may pretend that it never happened. We may act like all is well. We live, look and act like we never did anything wrong. Yet, that secret is always festering in our hearts!

Like Reuben, our Father also knows when we have sinned against Him, Heb. 4:13; Pro. 15:3; Jer. 2:22-23. He knows and He waits for us to come to Him, confessing our sin and seeking Him in reconciliation. Until we do, we will never prosper spiritually.

         God has a plan for dealing with our sins. That plan is called “confession,” 1 John 1:9; Pro. 28:13. In Pro. 28:13, the word “confess means to throw down. It has the idea of ceasing to hide something and to bring it out in to the open. In 1 John 1:9, the word confess means to agree with or to say the same thing as another.

When we confess our sins, we stop seeking to hide them from God and others. We bring them out into the open, we expose them to the light, and we say the same thing about them that God says about them. When we handle our sins His way, we can expect His forgiveness and His blessings. When we refuse to do it God’s way, we can expect nothing but chastisement and judgment, Heb. 12:6-12; Rev. 3:19; Pro. 3:11-12. There will come a day when every child of God will stand before Jesus Christ at the Judgment Seat of Christ. On that day, many will see their entire life’s work perish in the flames of judgment, because of unconfessed sin, 1 Cor. 3:11-15.

         Are you one who is covering sin? Or, are you handling it God’s way?




         Next Jacob turns his attention to Simeon and Levi. He accuses them of being filled with cruelty and violence. He says they act impulsively and recklessly and cause great damage in so doing. These men operated in “anger and in self-will. They did as they pleased, without regard for the consequences they would face. Unlike Reuben, they never tried to hide their sins. They did what they did out in the open and everyone knew about it.

         Genesis 34 tells us the story of what Simeon and Levi did. Their sister Dinah was raped by a man named Shechem, v. 1-2. After the rape, Shechem wanted to marry Dinah, v. 3-4, so he had his father approach her family to arrange the marriage. Simeon and Levi agree to allow Shechem to marry their sister, if he and all the men in his village agree to be circumcised, v. 13-23. Shechem and his people agree to the terms and are circumcised, v. 24. Simeon and Levi waited three days, until the men were at the peak of their soreness, and they attacked the village, killing every man in sight and taking all the livestock for themselves, v. 25-29. Jacob rebuked his sons when they committed this sin, v. 30, but they never repented and made it right, v. 31.

         Their sin cost them and their descendants greatly. Consider what happened to their descendants in the kingdom years.

  Simeon became the smallest tribe in Israel, Num 26:14.

  When Moses pronounced his blessing on Israel, Simeon was omitted, Deut. 33:8.

  Simeon was forced to share territory with Judah during the kingdom years, Josh. 19:1-9.

  By the times of King Josiah, the tribe of Simeon was numbered with Manasseh, Ephraim and Naphtali, 2 Chron. 34:6. They were indeed scattered throughout the land.

  Levi was also scattered, but there was some measure of repentance on their part. At a place called Baal-Peor, Moses faced a rebellion among the people of Israel. When Moses asked, “Who is on the Lord’s side, Ex. 32:36, the people of Levi came to his side. As a reward, they were made the priestly tribe, and were the consecrated servants of the Lord.

  In the kingdom, Levi had no inheritance in Israel. Instead, they were given forty-eight cities scattered throughout the nation. Six of these cities were called the “Cities of Refuge, Josh. 21:1-3.

         Simeon and Levi allowed their passions, their lusts, and their fleshly desires to control their lives. As a result, they never achieved all they could have in the kingdom of Israel.

         The same is true in the lives of many people around us today. Whether it is the pursuit of the pleasures of sin; unbridled lusts; rampant desires; or simply self-centeredness, there are multitudes that are controlled by their sins.

When this is the case, those people are never able to reach their fullest potential in Christ. They are always struggling and never walking close to Him. God cannot use them in that condition. He cannot bless their lives. He cannot work in or through them to accomplish His perfect will.

God’s desire for His people is that we turn away from sin to follow a lifestyle of service and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, Matt. 16:24; Rom. 12:1-2. God wants us to separate ourselves from evil and consecrate ourselves to Him alone, 2 Cor. 6:17.

         The sins of Simeon and Levi cost them dearly, but they also cost their children. Because of the sins of these men, their families did not receive the inheritance they could have had.

The same is true in our lives. Our sins affect more than just us. Mom and Dad, your children see where God ranks on your list of priorities! They know when other things are more important than Him and His house. They pay attention to those little “slips of the tongue, when you let a little cuss words or a little white lie slip out. They see your commitment to Jesus and they will often base their commitment to Him on what they learn from you.

Sin carries a very high price. Often the highest price is paid by the children of the guilty parties! That is the clear, consistent teaching of the Bible, Ex. 34:7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 5:9. What you see in many families is just the results of sin and the damage it causes. Children act, think, talk and walk like their parents. The fruit does not fall far from the tree.

         The best gift we could ever give our families, those who will follow after us and those who live around us is a life controlled by the Spirit of God. When He is in control, We will lead people to Him and not away from Him, when He is in control we will set a standard of godliness in our families that will endure for generations.


(Note: one thing that blesses me about these boys is the fact that their place in the family is never questioned. They are the sons of Jacob and all the sin in the world cannot change that truth. They are his sons and they will not be denied.

God’s people can be guilty of some serious sin. We often break the heart of God by the things we do and say. But, nothing can ever undermine our relationship with Him. We will sin, but we will still be sons. He will deal with us through chastisement, but He will never cast us out, John 6:37-40; John 10:28; 1 Pet. 1:5.)


III. v. 8-12 A MAN WHO


         The next brother in line that day was Judah. If I had been him, I would have been shaking in my sandals. Those other brothers had been evil, but Judah was worse than them all. Consider the sins of Judah’s life.

  Gen. 37:26 Judah is the one who talked his brothers out of killing Joseph and into selling him as a slave instead.

  Gen. 37:31-35 Judah was part of the lie that broke Jacobs heart. They told him Joseph was dead and Jacob entered and extended time of mourning.

  Gen. 38:1 When Judah sought a wife, he married an unbeliever.

  Gen. 38:7-10 He raised two sons, Er and Onan, who were so evil that God killed them both.

  Gen. 38:12-16 Judah was a man controlled by fleshly lusts. His wife died and he sought female companionship in the bed of a woman he thought was a harlot.

  Gen. 38:12-23 Judah was guilty of committing incest with his daughter-in-law. She tricked him, but he was still responsible for his actions.

  Gen. 38:24-30 Judah was judgmental. Tamar, his daughter-in-law became pregnant through their incestuous relationship and Judah ordered her to be burned for her infidelity. As it turned out, she exposed him as the hypocrite he was. Their relationship produced twin boys, one of whom would become a distant ancestor of the Lord Jesus, Matt. 1:3.

         Judah is standing there hearing everything his father has said to the first three brothers and I can imagine him waiting for the hammer to fall. But, when Jacob speaks to Judah, there is not one word of judgment. There is no mention of his sins. There is no word about his failures and his mistakes. There are only blessings, hope, and promises. Look at the great things Jacob promises Judah.

  He will be the object of praise among his brethren. In fact, Judah would lead the nation of Israel as they marched through the wilderness, Num. 10:14.

  He will be a conqueror. He will be strong and courageous like a mighty lion. Judah eventually became the largest of all the tribes, Num, 1:27; 26:22.

  Kings will come from his family. David and Solomon will descend from Judah.

  Shiloh, or the Messiah, the greatest King of them all would one day come from Judah’s lineage. His name would be Jesus and He would be called the “Lion of the tribe of Judah, Rev. 5:5.

  Judah would be so prosperous that he would tie his donkeys to the grape vines and allow them to eat grapes instead of grass, because he would have so much to spare, v. 11.

  He would be healthy and his people would prosper in the kingdom, v. 12.

  The blessings and prosperity of Judah would boggle the mind!

         Why this seeming disparity? Why is Judah blessed after all the evil Judah did? The answer is right there in verse 11. We are told that “he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. This is a reference to what Judah did in Gen. 44:18-34 when he stood before Jacob and confessed everything. He brought his sins out in confession, and they are not mentioned against him again!

         That is how it works for us! What we bring out at the mercy seat is forgiven and will never be brought up again, wither here or at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

The truth is, we all fail and we all fail regularly. We all come short of the glory of God in thought, word and deed. We all come shot in both sins of omission and sins of commission.

The only way we can be restored to a place of fellowship with the Lord is for us to be honest about our sins. There is forgiveness for everyone who will repent and forsake his sins, 1 John 1:9! Thank God for such a kind, loving, forgiving Savior!


Conc: We all deal with the sin problem, don’t we? The question is: How do we deal with it?

         Do we try to hide our sins away?

         Do we just do as we please with no thought for God’s will or for the effect our sins will have on others?

         Or, do we handle them God’s way?

If the Lord has touched your heart about this matter of sin, come get before Him today and do what you need to do.

There will either be confession, or there will be chastisement. There will either be separation and holiness now or there will be a high price to pay in the future. The choice is yours!

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