January 31.—Morning. [Or March 1.]
“The Lord bless thee and keep thee.”
AND Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.
2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father. (Jacob was about to speak by inspiration. The blessing of a parent whose tongue is taught of God is priceless beyond conception.)
3 ¶ Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:
4 Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.
Though he was the firstborn Reuben missed the birth-right, because he was light and loose. Whatever good points may be in a man, if he be not sober, steady, and substantial, he will come to nothing. To be unstable as the waves of the sea is one of the worst of faults and mars the whole character.
5 ¶ Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.
6 O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall.
7 Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.
A great wrong was here disavowed by Jacob. He could not prevent it, for his sons acted hastily in selfwill, and he knew nothing of their murderous deed till it was over, but he takes care to bear his witness against it in the most solemn manner. The follies of youth will come home to men in their riper years. It is a great mercy when from our childhood, we walk uprightly.
8 ¶ Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. (When the dying patriarch reached that name which is a type of Christ, he rose to a higher key, he had no more faults to mention, but fell to blessing.)
9 Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? (Who dare defy the Lion of the tribe of Judah? Jesus the Lord is terrible to his enemies.)
10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (When our Lord came his enemies said, “Behold, the world is gone after him.” To this day he is the greatest of loadstones to attract mens’ hearts. He came just when the kingdom had gone from Judah, and now he reigns as our Shiloh, the Prince of Peace.)
11, 12 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. (Truly in our Immanuel’s land the wine and milk flow in rivers. Come ye and buy without money and without price.)
13 ¶ Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon. (May our sea-faring people be favoured of the Lord, and never sit in darkness as Zebulun came to do.)
14, 15 Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute. (Though quiet and industrious, it may be Issachar was somewhat deficient in courage and energy. There are no perfect characters; but it were greatly to be wished that our contented brethren were also more energetic. Yet as Issachar was a true son of Jacob, we trust our slow-moving brethren are the same. It were well, however, for each of us to be more in earnest than ever, for we serve an earnest God.)
We leave the rest of the blessing for our next reading.
God of mercy, hear our prayer
For the children Thou hast given;
Let them all Thy blessings share,
Grace on earth, and bliss in heaven!
Cleanse their souls from every stain,
Through the Saviour’s precious blood;
Let them all be born again,
And be reconciled to God.
January 31.—Evening. [Or March 2.]
“I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord.”
WE will now read the rest of the benedictions pronounced by Jacob upon his sons.
16 ¶ Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. (Dan signifies judge; the patriarch declared that he would verify his name.)
17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.
18 I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.
Here Jacob made a pause. His utterance of weakness has neither petulance nor complaining in it, but is expressive of hope growing out of long confidence. Soon he hoped to enjoy the fulness of salvation in the presence of the Lord.
19 ¶ Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last. (This is often exemplified in the believers life. Many trials press him down, but he rises up again.)
20 ¶ Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.
21 ¶ Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words. (Vivacity of spirit was linked with readiness of speech, a good combination for a minister of the gospel.)
22 ¶ Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
24 But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
25 Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb;
26 The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren. (The heart of the venerable patriarch was enlarged concerning Joseph; he evidently felt that he could not pour out a benediction copious enough. And truly, if we turn our thoughts to Jesus, the greater Joseph, no language can ever express our desires for his exaltation. Watts has well put it—
“Blessings more than we can give,
Be, Lord, for ever thine.”
27 ¶ Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night, he shall divide the spoil.
This was to be a contentious tribe. Though Benjamin stood high in his father’s natural affection, he did not dare for that reason to invent a blessing for him, but speaks the word of the Lord neither less nor more. To fight from morning to night is a sorry business, unless it be against sin.
28 ¶ All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.
29, 30 And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace.
31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.
32 The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth.
33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.
He was not left even after death among the Egyptians, but slept in the family tomb of the pilgrim band, to awake with them at the resurrection. In all things he maintained his character as a sojourner with God, looking for a city yet to be revealed.
Shrinking from the cold hand of death,
I soon must gather up my feet;
Must swift resign this fleeting breath,
And die, my father’s God to meet.
Number’d among thy people, I
Expect with joy thy face to see;
Because thou didst for sinners, die,
Jesus, in death, remember me!
 Spurgeon, C. H. (1964). The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (pp. 61–62). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.