Your brothers shall praise you

The line of blessings of the Patriarchs was never neat. Abraham was chosen out of nowhere. Isaac, the son according to promise, was blessed, and not Ishmael, the son according to flesh. Jacob, in a red bean soup saga, stole the blessing from Esau. For Joseph’s sons, Jacob blessed Ephraim, the younger one, and not Manasseh (he must have a reminiscence of himself and Esau when he did that). How about the sons of Jacob, then? Who is the blessed one? From the Scriptures, we learnt that Judah is. The question then is, why Judah? We might get a hint of the answer from Jacob’s blessings to his sons (where was Dinah?).

Jacob’s blessings to his sons was ordered according to this way: Leah’s sons, Bilhah’s sons, Zilpah’s sons, and finally Rachel’s sons. First, Reuben. Reuben was perhaps out of the picture because he slept with Bilhah, his father’s concubine. So, although he is ‘my firstborn’ (49.3), he shall not have pre-eminence, because he went up to his father’s bed; then he defiled it (49.4).

Simeon and Levi were also out, because of the Dinah and Shechem tragedy: “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.  Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.” (49.5-7) The Levites, as we know later on, would not have any specific land for their own, and Simeon, was completely encircled by Judah.

So the next in line would be Judah: “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before  you.” (49.8) Hence it indicates that perhaps Judah was the blessed one. The question then is, did not Judah also have a sexual affair (with Tamar, his in-law), like Reuben (both cases were explicitly forbidden in the Holiness Code of Leviticus)?

Also interesting is the phrase of how ‘your father’s sons shall bow down before you.’ It was previously applied to Joseph (who dreamt about it twice and it was fulfilled when he was the governor of Egypt), but now it was transferred to Judah.


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