Jacob: The Brother’s Blessings, Curses and Omens.


Center for Tanakh Based Studies:

By: William Jackson

In Genesis 49 Jacob gives a deathbed omen to each of his twelve sons. These were not only blessings and curses, they were predictions as to the directions these men, who would later become tribes, would travel.  Some of Jacob’s predictions are calculations based off past actions and some are insights into the future.  Later, the Torah does hold some of these prophecies and some are still to take place.  Jacob gives us a wonderful road map that shows us, the Torah student, where the brothers came from and where the tribes will be going. Interestingly, over four centuries later, Moses gives confirmation of these prophecies in Deuteronomy 33, spurring more premonitions.  In order of birth, we have listed the brother’s prophecies and fulfillment.

  1. Re’uven (Tribe of Ruben)

Usually the mantle of leadership goes to the eldest son. As the book “Fatherless” tells us “Within Ancient Near East culture, the term “firstborn” anoints the oldest son with the assignment of special privileges and responsibilities. He was second to his father and had authority over his younger siblings.”1 Yes, Jacob confirms that Ruben is his first born (Genesis 49:3). Yet, as we see again and again in Torah, one can loss the benefits of their birthrights.  Ruben is no different.  Almost 50 years before this blessing Ruben sleeps with his father’s concubine (Genesis 35:22).  His ability to be distracted by self-indulgence and lack of loyalty would be shortcomings that would get in the way of his ability to lead.   Therefore, Dad says he is as “unstable as water” (Genesis 49:4) and takes away his authority to command. Validating this instability are two notable characters from Ruben’s linage.  They are Dathan and Abiram, which were cited for their rebellion against Moses in Numbers 16.  There is no wonder later when Moses acknowledges this tribe in his blessing, that the only thing he really says about them is that their numbers are small (Deuteronomy 33:6).  Consistent with Ruben’s character his tribe would later, in the 12th century BCE, decline to take part in the war against Sisera (Judges 5).

2. Shim‘on (Tribe of Simeon)

Did you ever know two people that when they got them together they were up to no good?  That is Simeon and Levi.  About 50 years before Jacob’s deathbed blessings, in Shechem, these two men massacred a whole village over a Prince raping their sister, Dinah. Granted, older brothers standing up for their sister is a good thing, but their methods of vengeance were both devious and extreme (Genesis 34).  Jacob acknowledges this as he confirms that Simeon and his brother are violent men (Genesis 49:5). So as a good parent, in Genesis 49:7, he encourages their separation. Thus, their tribes will be scattered. Simeon was drastically marginalized by this curse. Four centuries later during the second census of Moses, the tribe of Simeon was considered the smallest and weakest of all the tribes (Numbers 26:14).  Likewise, it was omitted from Moses blessing before entering the promised land (Deuteronomy 33:8). As well, the Book of Judges locates its territory inside the boundaries of the Tribe of Judah.  Thus, it was scattered.

  1. Levi (Tribe of Levi)

Did you ever hear someone say, “”If only he used his talents for good, instead of evil.”? Well, Levi was this guy and would get his chance to use his talents for good.  Yes, Levi and Simeon were toxic together, as Jacob knew (Genesis 34:25, 49:5). Therefore, as a good Dad, he separated his boys in his blessing.  Simeon would suffer for this by being minimized. Conversely, Levi would excel. As we know, Moses is probably the most noteworthy member of this tribe.  Of course, we have his brother Aaron and his family, the first priest of the Israel designated by God (Exodus 28:1–4).  This would mark the Levites as being Israel’s priests.  The Levites took this responsibility seriously.  Within the year of Aaron being made the head priest, they would be required to summons their well-known passion.  In the wilderness they would kill 3,000 Israelites who were falsely worshipping other gods (Exodus 32:26–29).  From this “golden café” incident Moses said of his tribe, the Levites, “You have consecrated yourselves today to Adonai, because every one of you has been against his own son and against his own kinsman, in order to bring a blessing on yourselves today.” (Exodus 32:29). As Israel’s priestly tribe they resided in the cities of refuge (Deuteronomy 4:43 and Joshua 20:7-8), which as Jacob predicted, kept them scattered. Other great men belonging to this tribe are the prophets Ezekiel, Habakkuk and Zechariah.  Samuel was latter adopted by this tribe.

  1. Y’hudah (Tribe of Judah)

Even though he was only the fourth oldest, he took the foreground with his brother and distinguished himself in dealing with Joseph during the famine. Likewise, as evidence that Judah is a stand-up guy, we have the story of Tamar in Genesis 38.   Because of these testimonies of his leadership, Jacob likens him symbolically to a lion. In addition, Jacob says that the scepter will not pass from this tribe until he comes to whom [obedience] belongs (Genesis 49:10). In Deuteronomy 33:13-16 Moses gives extensive praise and blessings to this tribe before entering the promised land.  It is no wonder the linage of this tribe has born people like King David, King Solomon, Naomi, Isaiah, Daniel and Ezra.

 5. Dan (Tribe of Dan)

Jacob said this tribe would judge its people (Genesis 49:15) and be called a viper on the road (Genesis 49:17).  True, this tribe would provide many of the key judges in the book of Judges, with Samson being the most famous of that era. Likewise, Samson, and his unconventional ways of handling a situation, could be considered that “viper on the road”.

  1. Naftali (Tribe of Naftali)

Jacob says that this son is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns (Genesis 29:21).  This certainly is not a very masculine image. Later, in Moses’ blessing of the “Naphtali is abounding with the favor of the Lord and is full of his blessing; he will inherit southward to the lake” (Deuteronomy 33:23). Over 30 years after Moses’ blessing we find in Joshua 19:32–39, that Naphtali’s land was in northern Israel, bordering Asher’s territory, and the Sea of Kinnereth.  Later, the controversial warrior Barak belong to this tribe.  Barak was commanded by God to lead an Army of Israelites against their Canaanite enemy (Judges 4:6–9).  Barak insisted that Deborah the prophetess accompany him, which ended up giving her all the credit for the victory (Judges 4:17–22). Maybe this fulfills Jacob’s tender image of Naftali.

 7. Gad (Tribe of Gad)

As Jacob so apply puts it. Gad means troop, i.e. soldier (Genesis 49:19). These were very committed warriors making sure their families were protected and denying themselves property until victory was won (Numbers 32:16-19). Moses praises their tenacity in battle and willingness to fight for God (Deuteronomy 33:20-21). It is fitting that the prophet Elijah was from this tribe.  Elijah, a determined prophet of God.  He came straight at the Canaanite deity Baal, defending the worship of God. Additionally, God performed other significant miracles through Elijah, including resurrection, bringing fire down from the sky, and entering Heaven alive “by a whirlwind”.  Elijah, like Gad, was very intense.

  1. Asher (Tribe of Asher)

Jacob says that Asher will provide food for the King (Genesis 49:20), in addition Moses says that he will wash his feet in oil (Deuteronomy 33:24).  On the surface this is a confusing picture, but both imply richness and wealth.  As we will find out some of Canaan’s most fertile ground will be given to this tribe (Joshua 19:24-31).

  1. Yissakhar (Tribe of Issachar)

Jacob compares Issachar to a strong donkey because they submit to forced labor (Genesis 49:14-15). Some feel that this image of Issachar depicts an agrarian people (farmers). To validate this point, we see the land of Issachar described in Joshua 19:17-23. It included the plain of Esdraelon, which was and still is the richest portion.  Not much is known about this tribe, but in their linage, are great prophets like Elisha.  Who consequently was found by Elijah “plowing with twelve yokes of oxen in front of him” (1 Kings 19:19).  This would testify to agricultural demeanor of these people.  Additionally, we have the prophet Hosea, who was made to be stubborn (like a donkey) in a relationship with a questionable woman.  This was an enology put on by God to depict how God feels about being in a relationship with those who constantly turn away from him to sin. Although Issachar, as a people, are common and unappealing, there is something in their personality we can all relate to.

  1. Z’vulun (Tribe of Zebulun)

Jacob says this tribe will settle by the seashore and will be a harbor for ships (Genesis 49:13). Moses’ blessing on the tribe was that Zebulun would prosper in their overseas dealings with nations (Deuteronomy 33:18-19). To validate this Zebulun land’s eastern border was the Sea of Galilee and the western border being the Mediterranean Sea (Joshua 19:10-16).

  1. Yosef (House of Joseph)

Understandably, Jacob would call this son a “fruitful plant” (Genesis 49:22). Joseph not only provided protection and good land for Israel in Egypt but, both his sons would be blessed as tribes. Thus, Joseph is not usually listed as a tribe.  The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, his sons, are listed in his place giving Joseph a double portion.

  1. Binyamin (Tribe of Benjamin)

Jacob says about Benjamin “…(he) is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey, in the evening still dividing the spoil” (Genesis 49:27). We have several testimonies of Benjamin’s warlike nature recorded in the Tanakh (Judges 20:15–16; 1 Chronicles 8:40, 12:2; 2 Chronicles 14:8, 17:17).  However, the image of Benjamin is not only that of a warrior, it has a darker tone talking about “devouring prey” and dividing spoils”.  This is captured in the Book of Judges which recounts Benjamin’s rape of a concubine belonging to the tribe of Levite. This resulted in a battle at Gibeah (Judges 19–20). With a complex personality, it is only fitting that Benjamin should have a complex family line with people like King Saul, Jeremiah and Esther in his linage.

 13. Manasseh (Tribe of Manasseh)

Made up the house of Joseph.

Manasseh and his brother Ephraim were not Jacob’s sons, but were his grandsons. Thus, they are missing from the deathbed blessing in Genesis 49.  However, Jacob did speak to these two boys at his deathbed before his sons arrival in Genesis 48.  Interestingly, at this meeting, although Manasseh was the eldest, Jacob denies him the blessing as the eldest son, giving it to Ephraim (Genesis 48). This seems to be a recollection of when Jacob had taken the eldest birthright from Esau 70 years earlier. Also at his deathbed, he claimed that these two boys were now his (Genesis 48:5).  This seems a bit awkward for Joseph but, it would allow these boys to grow into tribes and possess the land in Canaan.  Interestingly, about 400 years later we have one of Manasseh’s greatest granddaughter, Zelophehad, beseeching Moses for ownership of property because she had no male heirs. Moses, after consulting with God, developed rules designed to keep property within a family (Numbers 27:1–11). It is interestingly how Manasseh, at the beginning, would be denied his blessing, but he would spawn a people that would protect the rights for those not blessed.

Additionally, after entering the promised land, we sometimes hear the tribe of Manasseh referred to as the “half-tribe” of Manasseh. This is due to some of the tribe deciding to reside east of the River Jordan (Numbers 32:33; Joshua 13: 29–31) outside the allotted boundary. Also, the tribe of Manasseh has mixed reviews.  During the time of Joshua, they refused to clear the land of “the Perizzites and Rephaites” (Joshua 17:12-18). Yet, 200 year later a warrior from this tribe by the name of Gideon would give them a lasting reputation. As we know, God would have Gideon reduce his force from 32,000 to 300 worthy fighters (Judges 6-8).  With this elite force God would have Gideon defeat a superior enemy. With these reduced numbers, no one could doubt God’s intervention.


  1. Ephraim (Tribe of Ephraim)

As we discussed when talking about Manasseh, when Jacob gives his blessing to his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh, he chose to bless the younger Ephraim first, despite Joseph’s protests. Thus, Jacob observed that Ephraim would be greater than Manasseh (Genesis 48:5–21). Ephraim, along with Manasseh, made up the house of Joseph. These brothers had a lot of similarities.  Both sibling tribes neglected to clear foreign enemies from their land (Exodus 23:23–25; Judges 1:29; Joshua 16:10). In addition, both tribes have mixed reviews when referring to their reputations.   First, we see Ephraim turning away from God by doing wicked (Isaiah 28:1–3), and then we also find the tribe recognizing the need to repent and obey the prophet Oded’s instructions (2 Chronicles 28:12). This tribe has given us so many excellent people like Joshua, Deborah the Prophetess and Huldah (Female Prophetess mentioned in 2 King 22)



As we can determine from Jacob’s sons and later tribes, none are perfect, and all have flaws. In short, they are just like us.  We see many who have lost their blessings due to their sinful natures and others, despite their shortcomings, redeeming themselves. In many cases, the brother’s weaknesses have become strengths and in some cases strength have become weaknesses.   Yet, at Jacob’s deathbed, regardless of their diversities, these men came together.  Regrettably, over a millennium after these blessings the tribes will be lost to each other through the Assyrian captivity2 of 740 BCE. Yet, to context this, it was the travesty of a famine that brought Jacob’s family together.  So, we need to remember that we have troubles that are prophesized in our own future3.  These troubles will start our “end-times” and will mark the time for God to bring the tribes together once again (Jeremiah 23:3, 31:7-8; 32:37, Isaiah 11:11-12, 16).


Please join us on Sabbath.  We will be giving you a 20-question quiz testing your knowledge on Jacob’s sons and the tribes.



  1. Birdsong-Saunders, Mary Ann, Fatherless: Broken to Whole Hope Through Prayer, West Bow Press, 2016, Chapter 3
  2. Umberto Cassuto and Elia Samuele Artom, The Books of Kings and Chronicles modern view, (1981)
  3. Jackson, William J. “End Times Prophecy.” Center for Tanakh Based Studies. January 17, 2017. Accessed December 28, 2017. https://center-for-tanakh-based-studies.com/2017/01/17/end-times-prophecy/.

The Hanukkah Shuffle


Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By Danielle Jackson

This Hanukkah game gives us both an educational and creative way to exchange gifts for this Holiday.

Firstly, the game requires that everyone brings one gift.  The gift should not be gender specific.  We established a gift price of $10.00 max.  Also, don’t put your name on the gift.

Rules for Playing:

To begin, everyone takes a “random” gift from the table (take any gift except your own). The reader just keeps his/her random gift (until the end).  The reader will read the attached Hanukkah Story.

1 – Every time the word “Hanukkah” is read, you must lift your hands and say, “Hanukkah!!”

2 – Every time the word “Maccabees” is read, you must shout out, “Yeah” and then pass your gift, three times to the right.

3 – Every time the word, “Antiochus” is read, you have to say, “Boooo” and do the thumbs down, and then pass your gift, two times to the left.

4 – At the end of the story, everyone needs to be sure that they don’t have their own gift that they brought, if they do, they get to exchange their gift with the person that is seated 4 seats from their right.

4 – Now… everyone will draw a word (the words will be in a container for you to draw from). You will either draw the word, “Hanukkah” or you will draw the word “Antiochus” and ONE person will draw the word “Maccabee’s.”

A – If you drew the word “Hanukkah” you can exchange your gift with anyone else’s gift in the room ~ or ~ you can simply keep the gift that you have!!

B – If you drew the word “Antiochus” (Boooo), we still love you though! But; you just keep the gift that you have.

C – If you drew the word “Maccabee’s” you exchange your gift with the reader.

D – Now open your gifts – “Happy Hanukkah !!”



A Kid-Friendly Version of the Hanukkah Story


Long ago, before even our grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents were alive, the land of Israel was ruled by a wicked king named Antiochus (Boooo) Epiphanes.

King Antiochus (Boooo) counted many Jews among his subjects, and, just like so many of us today, our Jewish ancestors lived their lives according to Jewish custom and tradition. Like us, they celebrated Shabbat and marked the festivals of Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot. Unlike us, though, our Jewish ancestors worshiped at the ancient Temple in the city of Jerusalem. This Temple was the holiest of holy places, the center of Jewish life.

But King Antiochus (Boooo) did not want to rule over a nation of many religions and many cultures; he wanted to rule one nation with one religion and one culture. He wanted all the people of his land to live the way he lived and to pray the way he prayed, according to Greek customs – and this meant that he did not want the Jewish people to dress differently or worship differently or eat differently.

 Under King Antiochus (Boooo), the practice of Judaism was completely abolished. He forbid the Jews from celebrating Shabbat, and he forbid the Jews from observing the festivals. He also forbid the Jews from reading or studying Torah. But perhaps worst of all, King Antiochus (Boooo) forbid Jewish worship in the Temple, and he turned the holy Temple into a place that became very unholy, making a real mess by setting up idols and altars to Greek gods inside.

Many Jews were afraid for their lives, so they felt forced to follow the king’s orders. But one group of brave souls decided that they would not submit to the king; they would not worship foreign gods or give up their Jewish way of life. This group was called the Maccabees (Yeah), and they were determined to take back their Temple and defend their religious freedom.

  The Maccabees (Yeah) were led at first by a man named Mattathias, and then, later, by his son Judah. Compared with the King’s army, they were small in number, but they were mighty in spirit. With faith and relentless determination as their guides, the Maccabees (Yeah) won a stunning victory over the King’s army. They fought hard and, against all odds, they won.

 The Maccabees (Yeah) successfully took back the Temple from King Antiochus (Boooo), but they were heartbroken to discover that the King had not taken care of their holy space. They got to work cleaning and purifying it, and they removed all the foreign idols and altars the king had set up inside. They lovingly cleansed every inch of the Temple, and then, on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the Maccabees (Yeah) held a glorious rededication ceremony. The word “Hanukkah(Hanukkah!!) means “dedication,” and it comes from the moment when the Temple was triumphantly returned to the Jewish people.

 The most famous story about that rededication comes from our Talmud, where we read that, when the Maccabees (Yeah) walked into the Temple, they found only enough oil to light the menorah (lamp) for one day – but miraculously, that small amount of oil lasted for eight days, which is exactly how long it took to get new oil.

 Today, our celebration of Hanukkah (Hanukkah!!) lasts eight days, in honor of the miracles that occurred so many years ago. We light eight candles on the hanukkiah (one candle the first night, two the second night, and so on) and we eat latkes (potato pancakes) and other foods fried in oil. We spin the dreidel, whose letters remind us “Nes Gadol Haya Sham,” “A great miracle happened there.” We give and receive chocolate gelt (coins) and often exchange gifts, too.

 With every Hanukkah (Hanukkah!!) candle we light, we illumine the most important messages of all: that we must always work to find light in the darkness, and we must always work to keep the light of religious freedom burning for all people, for all time.

Print and cut these tickets out.  Fold them in half hiding so that the name isn’t showing and place them in a container you can’t see through. 































Eight important steps to lighting your Hanukkiyah


Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By William Jackson


Introduction: Since Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is not a requirement in scripture all of it’s customs are rabbinical traditions to include lighting the Hanukkiyah. These eight steps were assembled using only Jewish sources (see references).


  1. What are the requirements for a Hanukkiyah?
  • A Hanukkiyah is like a *Menorah but instead of seven branches it has 9 light holders.
  • First there are eight light holders in a row for each day of Hanukkah. These should not be in a zigzag, circle or semicircle. Being in a straight row allows people to see what day of Hanukkah we are in.  Historically, Hanukkiyah candles being in a straight row prevented them from being confused with earlier pagan symbols.
  • There is a ninth light holder that is set apart from the other eight, usually above the others. This ninth light holder is for the “shamash” which means servant.

Note: Electric menorahs are good for decoration, but you need the old-fashioned one to fulfill the mitzvah.

  1. When do we light the Hanukkiyah?
  • Light the candles after night fall.
  • The one exception is Sabbath. On Friday night light the candles before the Shabbat candles.
  • Gather everyone around when lighting the Hanukkiyah.


  1. How should you add the candles to the Hanukkiyah? Add the candles from right to left as you are facing it. The amount of candles that you add will equal what day of Hanukkah your on.


  1. Give the Blessing before lighting the candles:


“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.”

On the first night of Hanukkah add this verse: ”Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.”

  1. How to light the Hanukkiyah?


  • Light the shamash and use the shamash to light the other candles.
  • Only use the shamash, do not use other candles to light each other.
  • The candles are lit from left to right.
  • The shamash stays lit and is returned to its place. This is done for these two reasons.

In case a candle blows out you will use the shamash to re-light it.

Back in the day, if a candle was required as a source of light, the shamash could be used.  Hanukkah candles should not be used as a practical source of light.

  1. Where do we display the lit Hanukkiyah?
  • Display it in an open place for others to see, i.e. a front window.
  • Don’t use it for any other purpose when lit such as:

A light for reading

A candelabra for the dinner table

  1. How long should the Hanukkiyah stay lit? It should stay lit for 30 minutes. While it is lit, people usually talk about Hanukkah and participate in Hanukkah events (enjoying games such as dreidel and eating holiday foods).



Note: On Sabbath (Friday night) it stays lit for an hour and a half, at least 30 minutes beyond nightfall.  Be aware some Hanukkah candles will only burn for 30 minutes.


  1. So why eight days: In 1 Maccabees 4:56 it states after the Maccabees secured the temple “…they celebrated the re-dedication of the altar for eight days and joyfully made entirely burned offerings. They offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise”.   This may have been done for eight days to reflect the original dedication ceremony done by Solomon which was eight days (2 Chronicles 7:9).



This quote by Judaism 101 is the traditional story we often hear “According to tradition as recorded in the Talmud, at the time of the re-dedication, there was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks. Oil was needed for the menorah (candelabrum) in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night every night. There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle. Note that the holiday commemorates the miracle of the oil, not the military victory: Jews do not glorify war.” (Chanukkah, The Story, Judaism 101)


*What’s the difference between a Hanukkiyah and a Menorah?  A real Menorah (Exodus 37:17-24) has 7 branches for lights whereas a Hanukkiyah has 9 light holders.




Rabbi Mordechai Becher, The Laws of Chanukah, Ohr Somayach International


Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Chanukah (Hanukkah) How to light, Chabad.org


Dr. Ron Wolfson, Hanukkah Candle Lighting Ceremony, MyJewishLearning.com,


Rabbi Shraga Simmons, ABC’s of Chanukah (Hanukkah), aish.com