What does Genesis 49:2 mean?
ESV: “Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob, listen to Israel your father.
NIV: Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel.
NASB: Gather together and listen, sons of Jacob; Yes, listen to Israel your father.
CSB: Come together and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel:
NLT: 'Come and listen, you sons of Jacob; listen to Israel, your father.
KJV: Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.
NKJV: “Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob, And listen to Israel your father.
Verse Commentary:
Genesis 49 is described as Jacob's deathbed oracle. Often, it is labelled as his "blessing" on his sons. However, it mostly contains prophetic details: defining characteristics of the peoples that will descend from each of his twelve sons. Not everything Jacob predicts is positive, and the main family blessing has already been bestowed (Genesis 48:5–6).

The oracle formally begins with verse 2 and uses poetic language. The sons of Jacob are called to assemble and hear the words of their father. In this lyrical form, Jacob's prophecies could be preserved and read to the succeeding generations. This would be especially valuable to Israel in the coming centuries, as they will endure harsh slavery under Egypt (Exodus 1:8–14). Jacob's prophecy would imply a future beyond Israel's captivity in Egypt. For generations far in the future, it would serve as evidence that God's plan for His people was set from the very beginning. These words would also warn about the long-lasting consequences of momentary choices.
Verse Context:
Genesis 49:1–7 begins Jacob's prophetic remarks about his sons, beginning with Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. These are in the context of a family "blessing," though not all the predictions are positive. The main blessing has already been bestowed on the two oldest sons of Joseph (Genesis 48:5–6). Here, the three oldest sons of Jacob are punished for their prior sins. Reuben loses his firstborn rights. Jacob predicts that Levi and Simeon will be largely absorbed into the other tribes.
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 49 contains Jacob's dying prophetic remarks. In the form of poetry, Jacob pronounces positive and negative "blessings" about each of his 12 sons and the people who will come from them. Reuben, Simeon, and Levi are each held to account for their past sins. Judah is described as a lion; the kingly line will come from his people. Joseph and his descendants are lavished with blessings. Once the oracle is completed, Jacob commands his sons to bury him with his fathers in Canaan. Then, the man God named "Israel" (Genesis 35:10–11) dies.
Chapter Context:
After a life of struggle and controversy, Jacob's family has securely settled in Egypt. Genesis 48 told of Jacob's blessing on Joseph's two oldest sons: Ephraim and Manasseh. In Genesis 49, Jacob gives both positive and negative predictions to each of his sons, in turn. Jacob then commands his sons to bury him in Canaan, then dies. The final chapter of Genesis describes the family's mourning and Joseph's death. The opening verses of Exodus race forward some 400 years, as the nation of Israel falls into harsh slavery under new Egyptian rulers (Exodus 1:8–14).
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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