Did the geographic positioning of the tribes fulfill Jacob’s blessing?Question: "Did the geographic positioning of the tribes fulfill Jacob’s blessing?"
Answer: Beginning in Joshua 13, Joshua is commanded to divide the Promised Land among the nine and a half tribes west of the Jordan River. When we look at Jacob’s blessings given in Genesis 49, we see that the division of the land under Joshua was a fulfilled prophecy.
Reuben: This firstborn son of Jacob gave up his birthright through his evil actions. Joseph, the firstborn of Jacob’s wife Rachel, received a double portion instead. Reuben’s inheritance was east of the Jordan, outside of the Promised Land (Joshua 13:8).
Simeon and Levi: These two brothers were mentioned together in Genesis 49:3–4 as violent individuals whose land would be divided. Simeon’s inheritance was a small area of cities in Israel. Levi became the priestly tribe that had no land inheritance. Instead, they lived in cities scattered throughout the other tribes of Israel.
Judah: Genesis 49:8–12 predicted Judah as a lion who would lead the other tribes. Judah was the tribe that remained loyal to God the longest in the divided kingdom, and Jesus Christ was a descendant of Judah.
Zebulun: According to Genesis 49:13 this son would receive land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee. In Joshua 19:10–16 Zebulun received the third lot of the inheritance. It was located in the northern part of the Promised Land that included Nazareth, the future hometown of Jesus. Ezekiel 48 also speaks of an area promised to Zebulun—a land that has not yet been received.
Issachar: Issachar’s allotment included the important farming region of the Valley of Jezreel in Galilee. This closely matches the prediction of Genesis 49:14–15 of Issachar’s receiving agricultural land.
Dan: Dan’s blessing in Genesis 49:16–18 dealt with his becoming a judge in Israel rather than referring to his land. Judges records that Samson came from this tribe, yet so did leaders who worshiped idols (Judges 18), prompting God’s judgment upon the people of Israel.
Gad: Gad’s blessing in Genesis 49:19 only referred to his skill in military conflict. Some have made a connection with the large number of troops from Gad who served in King David’s army, though Jacob’s blessing is too vague to make a very direct connection.
Asher: In Genesis 49:20 Jacob said Asher would have good soil. In Joshua, Asher’s tribe inherited ideal land in Carmel in the coastal region.
Naphtali: The only reference to Naphtali in Genesis 49:21 is that other tribes would admire him. In Joshua 19:32–39 Naphtali received land from the Sea of Galilee up to Phoenicia in the north and included 19 fortified cities.
Joseph: He received a double portion as both his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, received a separate inheritance. Ephraim’s land was west of the Jordan River. Manasseh’s territory was split, with half of it to the east of the Jordan and half of it to the west.
Benjamin: Jacob predicted that his youngest son would become a warrior. From his tribe came the judge Ehud, King Saul, and Saul’s son Jonathan. This tribe was often noted for its warlike personality (Judges 5:14; 20:16).
As can be seen, the sons of Jacob who were given a land blessing in Genesis 49 received it in ways that matched in Joshua’s allotment of land or, in Zebulun’s case, match another prophet’s prediction. The fact that numerous details predicted by Jacob came true generations later serves as a powerful testimony to God’s power.
Recommended Resource: Joshua: Holman Old Testament Commentary by Kenneth Gangel
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Questions about Joshua
Did the geographic positioning of the tribes fulfill Jacob’s blessing?