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 come to 49:8-15, the most difficult section of this chapter. In order to understand these verses, we need a strong spirit and a clear mind.
As I pointed out in the last message, the twelve sons of Jacob are divided into four groups of three. This is not according to my opinion; it is absolutely according to the arrangement of the Bible. The books of Moses reveal that the twelve sons of Jacob are arranged in three different orders: the order according to birth, the order according to blessing, and the order according to encampment. Let us first consider the order according to birth. Jacob's twelve sons were born of four mothers. The first was Leah, Jacob's proper wife. The first four sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, were born of Leah. The second mother was a maid named Bilhah. Jacob's fifth son, Dan, and his sixth, Naphtali, were born of her. Jacob's seventh and eighth sons, Gad and Asher, were born of another maid, Zilpah. The ninth and the tenth, Issachar and Zebulun, were also born of Leah. Finally, Joseph, the eleventh, and Benjamin, the twelfth, were born of Rachel. This is the order according to birth.
In the order according to blessing, the first three sons are Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, the same as in the order according to birth. They are followed by Judah, Zebulun, and Issachar. Thus, the first two groups in the order according to blessing include the six sons born of Leah. However, in the order according to birth Issachar precedes Zebulun, but in the order according to blessing Zebulun comes before Issachar. The third group includes Dan, Gad, Asher, and Naphtali. According to birth, the order was Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, but according to blessing, it is Dan, Gad, Asher, and Naphtali. Later we shall see that Gad was moved from this group and replaced Levi in the group with Reuben for encamping. The fourth group is composed of the sons of Rachel, Joseph and Benjamin, the same according to blessing as according to birth. (In the encampment, Joseph became two tribes through Ephraim and Manasseh.)
In the book of Numbers we see the order according to encampment. This book reveals that the twelve tribes of Israel were encamped around the tabernacle. At that time, they were armies, and they camped as armies. The arrangement of the tribes around the tabernacle went from the east, to the south, to the west, and then to the north. According to the encamping order, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun were on the east, toward the sun; Reuben, Simeon, and Gad on the south; Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin on the west; and Dan, Asher, and Naphtali on the north. Gad was placed with Reuben and Simeon because Levi had been uplifted and taken into the tabernacle, the center of the camp. Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin were the equivalent of Joseph and Benjamin. Through Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph became two tribes to inherit the double portion of the land.
In the foregoing message we considered the first group in the order according to blessing in Genesis 49: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. In that message we saw mainly the changing of the birthright and the transformation of the natural disposition. The outstanding feature of the first group is that it reveals that our natural status and disposition can be changed. In this message we come to the second group, composed of Judah, Zebulun, and Issachar. Verses 8 through 15 are very difficult to understand. In order to understand chapter forty-nine, we must know the Bible in black and white. Furthermore, we must know the history of the children of Israel, we must have the experience of Christ and the church life, and we must know how to allegorize the Bible. If you do not know how to allegorize the Scriptures and interpret the poetry of the Bible, how could you be able to understand such a portion as Genesis chapter forty-nine? In verse 9 Judah is likened first to a young lion and then to a lioness, and verse 11 speaks of the choice vine and of binding the foal to the vine. When those who oppose the allegorizing of the Bible read this portion of the Word, they will have no way to understand it. Verse 13 says that Zebulun will be a haven of ships and dwell at the haven of the sea; verse 14, that Issachar is a strong ass couching between the sheepfolds; and verse 15, that Issachar saw that "rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant." What does all this mean? Because this is so difficult, very few Christians have any understanding of it at all. The only way to understand it is to allegorize it.
However, it is not an easy matter to allegorize the Bible. In order to understand such a portion as 49:8-15, we need several things: the knowledge of the Bible in black and white; the knowledge of the history of the children of Israel; the experiences of Christ and the church life; the wisdom to allegorize the Bible; and the knowledge of how to apply the types to today's situation. When we have all this, then we shall be able to see the true significance of this portion of the Word.
The Bible is very economical. Not one word is wasted. Jacob's prophecy with blessing in chapter forty-nine is poetry. Poetry is the most thoughtful and meaningful form of writing. Jacob's utterance of prophecy with blessing is stately and filled with grandeur.
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