Life-Study of Genesisby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall continue with the subject of Jacob's prophesying with blessing (49:1-28). In the previous message we pointed out that although this word of prophecy was spoken by a man, it was nonetheless the word of God. Because, in his maturity, Jacob was one with God, whatever he said was God's word. Most Christians have a difficult time understanding Genesis 49. When I first began to study this chapter about fifty years ago, I found that it was not easy to learn the meaning of the prophecies recorded here. This is a very significant chapter, for it is virtually the conclusion of the book of Genesis.
According to the record of Genesis, the human race began with Adam and continued with Abel, Enosh, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Eventually, Jacob was no longer an individual, because he became the father of a house that was chosen by God. This house, the house of Jacob (46:27), was composed mainly of Jacob's twelve sons. Later, these twelve sons became the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. This indicates that God's intention is to have a house, not individuals. The house of Israel was a type of the church, which is God's house today. In the Old Testament we have a house, the house of Israel, and in the New Testament we also have a house, the church of the living God (1 Tim. 3:15).
Whatever is spoken regarding the house of Israel is a type, a picture, and a shadow of the church. When I was with the Brethren teachers, they told us to differentiate those parts of the Bible that were for the children of Israel from those that were for the church. In a sense, this is correct, for we should not mix God's word concerning the house of Israel with His word concerning the church. However, because the church is a spiritual entity, it is difficult for us to understand it. Thus, we need the picture of the house of Israel in the Old Testament. The principle is that the Bible uses types and figures to portray spiritual things. Anything that is spiritual is mysterious. For example, because New Jerusalem is spiritual and mysterious, the Bible uses a city to illustrate it. Likewise, without the picture of the house of Israel, we would find it difficult to adequately comprehend the church. However, when we examine the picture in the Old Testament, we are able to understand many aspects of the church revealed in the New Testament. Therefore, what is spoken concerning the children of Israel is not only for them; it is also for us.
Based upon the principle of using types and pictures to portray spiritual realities, we must apply to ourselves all that is said about the twelve tribes of Israel. Physically speaking, of course, we are not the twelve tribes of Israel; however, spiritually speaking, we are the twelve tribes because they are pictures of us. If we want to know ourselves, we should look at the photograph of ourselves in these twelve tribes. Do not think that the prophecies in Genesis 49 are only concerned with the sons of Jacob. These prophecies probably concern us more than they do Jacob's twelve sons.
The number twelve is composed of three times four. Firstly, Jacob prophesied concerning his first three sons, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi (vv. 3-7). These three brothers are subdivided. Reuben stands alone, and Simeon and Levi are grouped together. According to their activities, Simeon and Levi were one.
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