Prophesies present promises and warnings

Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come, “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel’ (Gen. 49:1-2 NIV).

Jacob‘s last words concerning the character and continuing development of God’s promises to Israel through his twelve sons are full of prophetic significance. When Jacob blesses his 12 sons in Gen 49 he also outlined their descendants. Each prophecy was based on clear understanding of the character and traits of each son, e.g. Rueben’s instability, Joseph’s faithfulness, etc.

Rueben (Gen. 49:3-4)

Rightfully should have been the leading tribe of Israel. However it was Rueben’s sin for which he showed no repentance that cost him his birthright. Prophecy: You will not excel.  Fulfilled: The tribe of Rueben did not excel by position; it was given to Judah who was strongest of the brothers

Simeon & Levi (Gen. 49:5-7)

These two brothers are linked together because they are leaders who organised the massacre of Shechemites. They were revengeful and uncontrollable. Prophecy: They will be scattered in Israel. Fulfilled: The tribe of Simeon did not receive a special territory in Canaan, instead inherited their portion within the allotment of Judah. The Levites were scattered throughout all the tribes.

Judah (Gen. 49:8-12)

Judah’s name signifies praise. Prophecy: You are a lion’s cub. The sceptre will not depart from you. Fulfilled: David was from the line of Judah. The tribe of Judah became formidable and gained many victories. It was after Judah’s rule that the Messiah came.

Zebulun (Gen. 49:13)

Zebulun means ‘Dwelling’. Prophecy: Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships. Fulfilled: The land of the Zebulun tribe lay between the Mediterranean Sea and Sea of Galilee. Because of its closeness to the sea it was a place to which caravans brought the riches of trade.

Issachar (Gen. 49:14-15)

Issachar means ‘hired workmen’. Prophecy: He will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labour. Fulfilled: Ease of living was so desirable that the tribe of Issachar could not withstand the many invaders who were attracted to their land resulting in forced labour.

Dan (Gen. 49:16-18)

Dan means ‘judged’. Prophecy: Dan will provide full justice to his people. He will be a serpent by the roadside. Fulfilled: Samson was a judge from the tribe of Dan. Dan’s tribes treacherously led the way in the corruption of the worship of Yahweh (1 Kings 12:26-30).

Gad (Gen. 49:19)

The name Gad signifies ‘troops’. Prophecy: Gad will be attacked by band of raiders but he will attack them at their heels. Fulfilled: On many occasions Gad’s tribe was defeated by the enemy but was not discouraged and eventually they were victorious in the end. 

Asher (Gen. 49:20)

Asher means ‘happy’. Prophecy: Asher will be rich. Fulfilled: Asher became a rich tribe. However this blessing made them to be easy going and they did not see the danger of allowing outsiders from remaining in their cities.

Naphtali (Gen. 49:21)

Naphtali carries struggles in its name, it signifies wrestling. Prophecy: Is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns. Fulfilled: The tribe of Naphtali have been described as loving, friendly and obliging to one another and to other tribes. Moses calls Naphtali abounding with the favour of the Lord and full of his blessings.

Joseph (Gen. 49:22-26)

Prophecy: With bitterness archers attacked him but his bow remained steady but blessing was upon him. Fulfilled: He had many enemies, they hated him, they grieved him. His own brothers were spiteful towards him, stripped him and sold him. He had enemies in the court of Pharaoh.

Benjamin (Gen. 49:27)

Prophecy: He shall be a ravenous wolf. Fulfilled: Benjamin was a warring tribe, strong and daring.


Jacob announced to his sons the destiny that would befall each son based on his character. This shows that our future is shaped based on our character and choices. Judah’s early life did not call for praise, however in word and action Judah acknowledged his sin and turned from it (Gen. 38:26). God provides a way of repentance and blessing through faith in Jesus Christ. Joseph maintained his integrity through all his trials; he bore all his burdens and did not sink under them. God’s power can change your circumstances and make you a blessing.

Copyright © Feb 2007. Satish Buniyan

Author: Mr. Satish Buniyan is an administrator in a Christian organization. He is also on the leadership of  BSF International