Foretelling Him to Whom All People’s Obedience Belongs
“Gather yourselves together that I may tell you what will happen to you in the final part of the days.”—Gen. 49:1.
1. In what period of time are we living, and what ancient prediction do we see having fulfillment?
WE ARE living in the “final part of the days,” believe it or not. We see undergoing fulfillment an ancient prediction that has not escaped the notice of even that world organization, the United Nations. Tourists visiting the United Nations headquarters on the west bank of the East River in New York state read the said prediction engraved on one of the marble walls:
They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
As this quotation is left without a reference to its source, few tourists realize that it is quoted from the prophecy of Isaiah in the Holy Bible. But the main point to note is that the prophet Isaiah said that this was to occur at the end of a period of time.
2, 3. (a) When does Isaiah’s prophecy say that it was due to be fulfilled? (b) If Isaiah’s prophecy is being fulfilled today, where, then, must we be?
2 Quoting from a modern Bible translation, we here give the full prophecy, to show when it falls due to be fulfilled:
It must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it all the nations must stream. And many peoples will certainly go and say: “Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For out of Zion law will go forth, and the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem. And he will certainly render judgment among the nations and set matters straight respecting many peoples. And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more.—Isa. 2:2-4, New World Translation.
3 If, now, this prophecy is being fulfilled today by people of many nationalities not fighting one another anymore and by not planning to do so because of learning war no more, then we must be in the “final part of the days”—that is, the days of this war-plagued world. Hence a warless world must be at hand, as illustrated in a people who are today widely watched.
4. Which people are thus widely watched today and what prophetic command in Isaiah do they obey?
4 Which people? According to Isaiah’s prophecy they would have to be those people who worship the God whose name is mentioned three times in this prophecy. As his name is Jehovah, the people must be Jehovah’s witnesses. They certainly exalt the worship of Jehovah “above the top of the mountains” and lift it “up above the hills.” From the four quarters of the earth, from “all the nations” and from “many peoples,” multitudes are uniting in the worship of Jehovah as the One living and true God and are becoming his witnesses. They obey his prophetic command written down in Isaiah, chapter forty-three, verse twelve: “‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I am God.’”
5. What does the 1962 Yearbook of these people show that they did last service year to invite people to worship Jehovah?
5 Let us turn, then, to the 1962 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses and consult the Index of Countries where they are witnessing and have organized congregations. There we count 188 lands, from Aden to Zanzibar. By consulting the chart spread out over pages 34-41 that sets forth in detail the organizational features and activities in each of those countries, we learn that during the past service year Jehovah’s witnesses put an average of 884,587 workers into the field monthly, going to the homes of all people regardless of race, color, nationality, religion or social status and declaring to them the good news about Jehovah’s kingdom by his installed King Jesus Christ. During that service year they spent 132,695,540 hours thus preaching God’s kingdom, in more than 150 languages. That was really a great deal of time used to invite people to worship Jehovah.
6. Copies of what Resolution did millions of people read during 1958-1959, and what was an outstanding resolve contained in it?
6 During December of 1958 and on into 1959 millions of persons in all the earth read a four-page pamphlet that these Witnesses circulated in 53 languages to the number of 72,348,403 copies. It told of a Resolution adopted at their international assembly in Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds in New York city. On Friday, August 1, 1958, this Resolution was submitted to a counted audience of 194,418 from 123 lands, and they adopted it by a voice vote, with great applause. Outstanding among the things resolved upon was their determination to continue to live up to the prophecy of Isaiah 2:4, which they recognized as being fulfilled in them.
7. How have they lived up to this prophecy to this day, and of what fact is this a proof?
7 To this day, regardless of the political and religious squabbles of the worldly nations, these witnesses of Jehovah have not joined in war preparations nor lifted up sword against their Christian brothers in other nations. They learn war no more. This despite the fact that their worldwide organization is growing by the tens of thousands every year. This thing is from Jehovah. It is eloquent proof that we are living in the “final part of the days.”
8. To make more sure of this, to what prophet do we turn, as mentioned in Isaiah 2:3, and what questions arise about him?
8 To make still more sure of this fact, let us examine another prophecy that was given concerning the “final part of the days.” It was given by a prophet who is named above in Isaiah’s prophecy. It is fitting that we mention his name here, because Isaiah 2:3 says that those people who today seek to worship the true God would say: “Let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob.” Who is this Jacob, whose God was Jehovah? What did he prophesy concerning the “final part of the days”?
9. Where did this prophet spend his life?
9 Jacob came from that part of southwestern Asia known today as the Middle East. For twenty years he lived in Syria, where he became father of twelve children. But at the time of giving this prophecy about our days, he was living down in Egypt, the United Arab Republic of today. Jacob was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. For most of his life he lived with his father and his grandfather in territory now held by the countries of Jordan and Israel. The last sixteen years of his life he spent down in Egypt with all his family, as an alien resident.
10, 11. (a) Why should all the families of the ground be interested in this Jacob? (b) With what group of prophets was Jacob associated?
10 Everybody on earth ought to be interested in this Jacob. Why? Because of what God told Jacob in a marvelous vision. Jacob had just left his father Isaac down south in Beer-sheba and was going to Syria to get married. On his way north he slept out in the field near Bethel (now Beitin, in Jordan). That night he had his dream vision of the ladder reaching from earth to heaven, and at the top of the ladder God spoke and said to Jacob:
“I am Jehovah the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land upon which you are lying, to you I am going to give it and to your seed. And your seed will certainly become like the dust particles of the earth, and you will certainly spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and by means of you and by means of your seed all the families of the ground will certainly bless themselves.”—Gen. 28:13, 14.
11 Because of this divine promise everyone who wants to bless himself on earth, no matter of what family he is, will have to do so through a “seed” or descendant of this Jacob. Later Jehovah God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, so that in the Bible he is called by both names, now Jacob, now Israel. Like Abraham and Isaac, Jacob became a prophet of Jehovah. Psalm 105:14, 15 plainly calls Jacob a prophet. After telling about the wanderings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Promised Land, it tells how Jehovah God protected them and says: “He did not allow any human to defraud them, but on their account he reproved kings, saying: ‘Do not you men touch my anointed ones, and to my prophets do nothing bad.’”
12. Where did Jacob show up to best effect as a prophet?
12 Of course, every time that Jacob told his family circle about God’s promise to him at Bethel, he was acting as a prophet. But in no case does his office as prophet show up to better effect than when he gave words of farewell to his sons and grandsons. When, now, in 1712 B.C.E. he was on his deathbed, he called together his twelve sons to his sickroom for his last words to them, as he sat with his feet hanging down over the side of the bed. This was shortly after he had blessed his grandsons, Manasseh and Ephraim, who were the sons of Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son. Joseph was then serving as prime minister of Egypt, the chief servant of Pharaoh the king of Egypt.—Gen. 48:1-22.
13. In giving his final prophecy, what style of expression did Jacob use?
13 As Jacob gave his final messages to his twelve sons, he used the poetic style of the Hebrew prophets, for Jacob was a Hebrew, even as Abraham and Isaac were. His poetry did not show itself in making the ends of lines or verses rhyme or sound alike. It consisted in making rhythmic lines give parallel thoughts or ideas, as, for instance, in speaking of himself in one clause as Jacob and then in the next clause as Israel, both names referring to the same person. So this prophetic poetry is something more than what is called blank verse, which is unrhymed verse in which the ends of the lines do not sound alike. Hebrew poetry expresses itself in lines that run alongside each other in the same direction of thought and that thus express like ideas but that really enlarge on the thought or idea or theme. As we go through Jacob’s poetic deathbed prophecy we shall be able to note this.
14. Under what force did Jacob then speak, and what does Genesis 49:1, 2 say to indicate this?
14 The deathbed scene in Jacob’s home in Egypt in 1712 B.C.E. is described in Genesis, chapter forty-nine. God’s spirit of inspiration came upon Jacob on this occasion, and he spoke as a prophetic witness of Jehovah. Indicative of this, Genesis 49:1, 2 tells us: “Later on Jacob called his sons and said:
‘Gather yourselves together that I may tell you what will happen to you in the final part of the days. Assemble yourselves and listen, you sons of Jacob, yes, listen to Israel your father.’”
15. What features of Hebrew poetry do we note in Jacob’s opening words?
15 Notice how (1) the expression “Assemble yourselves” parallels poetically the expression “Gather yourselves together”; (2) the expression “and listen” parallels the expression “that I may tell you”; (3) the expression “yes, listen to,” the expression “and listen”; and (4) the expression “Israel your father,” the expression “you sons of Jacob.” All through Jacob’s prophecy we shall notice this poetic parallelism of thoughts or of related expressions. All this serves to give extension to the thought and to enlarge the meaning as well as to make more sure of the thought meant.
16. Down to what time was Jacob then prophetically looking?
16 The dying patriarch Jacob looked far beyond the days of the twelve sons intently listening to him. He looked far beyond the time when the families of his twelve sons would form twelve tribes, which, together, would make up one united nation in the Promised Land of Palestine, a nation called by its father’s name Jacob or Israel. Jacob was looking to the time of a new nation, a spiritual nation of God’s chosen people, a spiritual Jacob or Israel.
17, 18. (a) On what foundations did the whole nation of Israel rest? (b) How is something corresponding to this true of spiritual Israel?
17 Jacob, as the common father, served as the broad foundation for the entire nation of natural Israel, or Israel in a fleshly way. Jacob’s twelve sons served as twelve secondary foundations or twelve pillars that rested on Jacob. Upon these twelve supports or pillars the whole nation of Israel rested, in a brotherhood.
18 Something like that is true of the spiritual Israel, “the Israel of God,” as one inspired member of it called it later on. (Gal. 6:16) Just as the nation of ancient Israel was one big congregation or church for the worship of Jacob’s God, Jehovah, so the spiritual Israel is one big congregation or church for the worship of this same God. The one who corresponds with the patriarch Jacob is the Lord Jesus Christ, because he is the foundation of this congregation or church of spiritual Israel. Jesus indicated this when he said to one of his twelve apostles: “You are Peter [Stone], and on this rock I will build my church.” (Matt. 16:18, RS) In building this church or congregation upon himself, Jesus makes use of twelve apostles, corresponding to the twelve sons of Jacob. In the last book of the Bible these are called “the twelve apostles of the Lamb,” and the twelve foundation stones of the New Jerusalem bore the twelve names of those apostles of the Lamb Jesus Christ. But the twelve gates of the New Jerusalem were inscribed with the names of “the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.”—Rev. 21:12-14.
19. Of whom is the heavenly ruling class made up, and how are they described in Revelation 7:4-8?
19 The heavenly ruling class is symbolized by the glorious New Jerusalem. It will be made up of 144,000 tried and faithful followers of the Lamb Jesus Christ. They are sealed with the holy spirit from God, and they retain this seal to the end of their earthly test. Revelation 7:4-8 refers to them as spiritual Israel and pictures them as made up of twelve tribes. The names of these tribes it takes from the sons and grandsons of the patriarch Jacob. It puts them in a certain order, as follows:
And I [John the apostle] heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel:
Out of  the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed;
out of  the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand;
out of  the tribe of Gad twelve thousand;
out of  the tribe of Asher twelve thousand;
out of  the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand;
out of  the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand;
out of  the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand;
out of  the tribe of Levi twelve thousand;
out of  the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand;
out of  the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand;
out of  the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand;
out of  the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed.
20. (a) What is to be noted about that order of naming of the tribes, but what number of them is preserved? (b) What is to be noted about all those tribes, with what effect on the whole organization?
20 That is not the order in which the sons of the patriarch Jacob or Israel were born. Furthermore, the name of Jacob’s fifth son Dan is missing, and the name of Jacob’s grandson Manasseh takes the place of Dan. Whether something about the history of the tribe of Dan dictated that Manasseh should be used instead of Dan we shall discuss later on. At any rate Revelation 7:4-8 preserves the number twelve as being the number of the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel. Also, all the names are names of eleven of Jacob’s sons and of one of Jacob’s grandsons by Joseph. We note, too, that each tribe has an equal number of members. So no tribe is numerically greater than the others, but the whole organization of spiritual Israel is pictured as being in perfect balance, each tribe in itself emphasizing again the number twelve.
21. In prophesying, did Jacob follow the order of birth of his sons, and as what could he address them all?
21 However, when the patriarch Jacob gave his deathbed prophecy, he did not put all his sons in the order of their birth by their four mothers, namely, Jacob’s first wife Leah and her maidservant or slave girl Zilpah, and Jacob’s second wife Rachel and her maidservant Bilhah. As their common father Jacob could address them all as “you sons of Jacob” and call himself “Israel your father.”
22. For whose benefit really was Jacob back there prophesying, but who else today should also be interested?
22 Jacob gathered his twelve sons together to tell them what would happen to them or to those prefigured by them “in the final part of the days.” That means in our days, which are the “final part of the days” of spiritual Israel on earth, before the small remainder of its 144,000 members get into the heavenly New Jerusalem with God’s Son, the Lamb Jesus Christ. Hence what Jacob said to his twelve sons more than thirty-six hundred years ago he said really for the benefit of the small remainder of spiritual Israel on earth now at this most wonderful period of mankind’s history. And since these are members of that spiritual “seed of Abraham” by means of whom all the nations and families of the earth will yet bless themselves forever, then those persons of all families and nations who are interested in thus blessing themselves should be interested in now examining with us Jacob’s deathbed words.
23. How did Jacob’s firstborn son happen to get his name, and what questions now arose as to his position as the firstborn?
23 Speaking with poetic parallelisms, Jacob prophesied over Reuben, his firstborn son by his first but less-loved wife Leah, a Syrian girl. So at his birth Leah said: “See, a son!” and then made this exclamation his name, Reuben. As the firstborn son of Jacob, Reuben naturally had the rights of the firstborn son of the family. As such he was entitled to two portions in the estate that Jacob his father left behind. The question was, Would Reuben now come into these rights of the firstborn? Also, the patriarch Jacob, as head of the family, had acted as Jehovah’s priest for the whole family and had offered up sacrifices at the family altar and had led in prayer and in giving religious instruction. As father he had also acted as the governor of the whole family and of all its servants and livestock and properties. What about those privileges?
24. How were the twelve families to conduct themselves after Jacob’s death, and what questions must his words over Reuben now settle?
24 With the death of their common father the twelve sons were not to break up into twelve families, each one going its own way; they were to stick together as one people, one nation. But who was now to act as priest for this people or congregation? Who was to act in the governing position? Were such privileges that ordinarily belonged to the firstborn to be assigned to Reuben by the inspiration of God’s spirit? So we listen to Jacob’s words with at least as much interest as Jacob’s twelve sons had when they listened:
“Reuben, you are my first-born, my vigor and the beginning of my generative power, the excellence of dignity and the excellence of strength. With reckless license like waters, do not you excel, because you have gone up to your father’s bed. At that time you profaned my lounge. He went up to it!”—Gen. 49:3, 4.
25, 26. (a) By what expression did Jacob emphasize that Reuben was his firstborn, and of what should he have proved worthy? (b) What is meant by the expression “the excellence of dignity”? By the expression “the excellence of strength”?
25 Before his marriage night with his first wife Leah, Jacob had had no sexual intercourse. His power to generate children had not been sapped by then, although at this time (1774 B.C.E.) he was in his eighty-fourth year of age. His last child and son was not born till more than thirteen years afterward. So he could address his firstborn Reuben as “my vigor and the beginning of my generative power.” Reuben should have been the best son of the family, worthy to have twice as much inheritance as any of his brothers. (Deut. 21:17) He should have excelled his brothers in all ways.
26 To Reuben naturally should have gone “the excellence of dignity and the excellence of strength.” By the expression “excellence of dignity” appears to be meant the priesthood of the nation. The priesthood should have been supplied by the male members of the tribe of Reuben. By the expression “the excellence of strength” may be meant the governorship or kingship, when at any time this people should become a kingdom. The dignity of the priesthood of Jehovah God should have fallen upon Reuben, and the strength of governorship or of kingdom should have been laid upon his shoulder. What did Jacob prophesy about this? Did Jacob’s prophecy come true?
27. What disqualification did Jacob recall against Reuben?
27 Jacob recalled a disqualification for Reuben that affected him as to all three privileges, that of firstborn, that of priesthood and that of rulership. Reuben had disgraced his father. He had committed incestuous immorality with his father’s concubine, Bilhah, the maidservant of Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel. This was shortly after dear Rachel died, after giving birth to Benjamin. Whether firstborn Reuben violated the maidservant Bilhah to prevent her from taking Rachel’s place in Jacob’s affection and thus becoming more favored than Reuben’s mother Leah; or whether Reuben acted out of sheer lust for Bilhah, the Bible record does not explain. It simply says: “And it came about while Israel was tabernacling in that land that once Reuben went and lay down with Bilhah his father’s concubine, and Israel got to hear of it.” And the Greek Septuagint Version of the Holy Scriptures adds: “And it appeared evil in his sight.”—Gen. 35:22, NW; LXX (Thomson).
28. (a) When did Reuben’s sin catch up with him, and with what consequences? (b) How had Reuben acted, but how should he have acted?
28 At the time of this serious offense against his father Jacob and against the mother of his half-brothers Dan and Naphtali, firstborn Reuben was not disowned and cast out. But now finally, about fifty years later, Reuben’s sin finds him out, catches up with him. (Num. 32:6, 23) Under divine inspiration his dying father tells him the consequences of his vile act. Jacob says to him: “Do not you excel.” Thus Reuben is stripped of the “excellence of dignity and the excellence of strength” and also of the right of a firstborn son to two parts of his father’s inheritance. Why? Because he acted with “reckless license like waters.” He proved himself either unstable like waters or turbulent and headlong like waters bursting a dam or raging down a torrent valley. Reckless license that is careless of the consequences does not go together with excellence. Reuben should have exercised self-control. He should have shown a son’s respect for his father’s dignity and for the honor of the two sons of Bilhah, his father’s concubine.
29, 30. (a) Later on, what case in the congregation of Corinth, Greece, was like that of Reuben? (b) Who suffered for Reuben’s immorality, and how?
29 Reuben profaned his own father’s marriage bed. This was something like the case in the Christian congregation at Corinth, Greece, much later on, in which the apostle Paul disfellowshiped a professed Christian who took his father’s wife and had sexual relations with her. (1 Cor. 5:1-13) Finding it distasteful to speak directly to Reuben about this shameless conduct any further, Jacob closes his prophetic judgment over firstborn Reuben by saying: “He went up to it!” For Reuben’s immorality his sons, yes, his whole tribe suffered. How this was is stated in 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2:
30 “And the sons of Reuben the first-born of Israel—for he was the first-born; but for his profaning the lounge of his father his right as first-born was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, so that he was not to be enrolled genealogically for the right of the first-born. For Judah himself proved to be superior among his brothers, and the one for leader was from him; but the right as first-born was Joseph’s.”
31, 32. (a) How did Reuben’s descendants not excel or distinguish themselves in Israel? (b) What showing did they make in the days of Judge Barak and in the day that Assyria took Northern Israel captive?
31 Reuben’s privileges of overseership in the nation of Israel were forfeited because he dishonored his natural position as firstborn. None of Reuben’s descendants became one of the judges, prophets or leaders of Israel. When the twelve tribes of Israel settled in the Promised Land in the fifteenth century B.C.E., Reuben was given his allotment of territory east of the Dead Sea and Jordan River. Later on, when the battle was fought at the “waters of Megiddo” to free the land of the Canaanite oppressor King Jabin and his general Sisera, the Reubenites did not go to the support of Judge Barak and the prophetess Deborah. Hence in their victory song Barak and Deborah took note of the failure of the Reubenites, singing: “Among the divisions of Reuben great were the searchings of the heart. Gilead [alongside of Reuben] kept to his residence on the other side of the Jordan.”—Judg. 5:15, 17.
32 Centuries afterward, when the northern Kingdom of Israel was taken captive into Assyria, the Reubenites were among the first ones to be carried off. (1 Chron. 5:26) Truly the tribe of Reuben did not excel above its fellow tribes in Israel.
33. What position is given to the tribe of Reuben in Ezekiel’s vision of the land distribution under God’s kingdom?
33 In Ezekiel’s vision of the division of the land, to picture the land distribution under God’s kingdom of the new world, Reuben is not given a position right next to the “holy contribution” of land in which lie Jehovah’s temple, the city Jehovah-Shammah and the chieftain’s territory. Judah is put right north of the holy contribution, and Reuben is next north of Judah.—Ezek. 48:6-22.
34. What is not strange, then, about the vision of the sealing of the 144,000, but of what are the members thereof reminded by this?
34 It is not strange, then, that in the apostle John’s vision of the sealing of the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel, the tribe of Reuben is not given the leading mention but is named second, or after the tribe of Judah. (Rev. 7:5; see page 364.) Thus the members of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites are reminded of how Reuben forfeited precious privileges for not setting the right example as a faithful overseer among the chosen people of Jehovah God.
35. For reckless license like that of Reuben what consequences will follow to spiritual Israelites, and how was this illustrated in the case of the immoral Christian in Corinth?
35 Any dedicated, baptized persons in spiritual Israel who take reckless license and show instability and rush headlong into adultery or fornication are bound to lose out for it. They may show sincere repentance for their immorality, but they have inerasibly tarnished their record. They have set a poor example for God’s flock. Like that man in the Corinthian congregation who profaned his father’s marriage bed, they may be excommunicated and be later reinstated because of their sadness in a godly way leading to repentance. But after being thus excommunicated, that Corinthian man could not show himself to be qualified for the exemplary position of overseer in the Christian congregation. (2 Cor. 7:9, 10; 2:6-11) He was not irreprehensible and not a healthy example to God’s flock, as an overseer should be. (1 Tim. 3:1-4; Titus 1:5-9) Like the tribe of Reuben, he was not suitable to take the leading position in spiritual Israel.
36. (a) All the 144,000 are in the congregation of what rank? (b) Though there is a tribe of Reuben in spiritual Israel, on what may the 144,000 not presume, and why not?
36 So in the light of the humiliating judgment that Reuben’s dying father pronounced over him, his case has a solemn lesson for the small remainder of the 144,000 members of spiritual Israel still on earth. All the 144,000 make up the “congregation of the first-born who have been enrolled in the heavens,” and they ought to conduct themselves as such all the time. (Heb. 12:23) But because of acting recklessly, without thinking of the consequences, as Reuben did, some may suffer the loss of special privileges in the Christian congregation here on earth, irrevocably. Only by God’s mercy and because of submitting to spiritual healing they are not permanently disowned and kept out of spiritual Israel. By God’s loving-kindness there is a tribe of Reuben in spiritual Israel. For this we can be grateful; but let us not presume on God’s mercy and thereby take risks. Reuben suffered consequences. So will we!
SIMEON AND LEVI
37, 38. (a) To what extent were Simeon and Levi brothers, and what do their names mean? (b) According to Jacob’s final words, in what had been their brotherly cooperation?
37 Passing from his firstborn son, the patriarch Jacob turned his attention to his second son, Simeon, and his third son, Levi, both of these being the sons of his first wife Leah. Prophesying in the style of Hebrew poetry, the dying Jacob said:
“Simeon and Levi are brothers. Instruments of violence are their slaughter weapons. Into their intimate group do not come, O my soul. With their congregation do not become united, O my disposition, because in their anger they killed men, and in their arbitrariness they hamstrung bulls. Cursed be their anger, because it is cruel, and their fury, because it acts harshly. Let me give them a portion in Jacob, but let me scatter them in Israel.”—Gen. 49:5-7.
38 These two full brothers cooperated together, but this they did in bad works. The name Simeon means “Hearing,” that is, with acceptance; and the name Levi means “Joined; Adherence.”
39, 40. (a) What was the special occasion when Simeon and Levi used instruments of violence as their slaughter weapons? (b) How did they then answer their father on this matter?
39 The special occasion when instruments of violence were their slaughter weapons was when they took it arbitrarily upon themselves to avenge the honor of their full-sister Dinah. This was before their oldest brother, Reuben, violated their father’s concubine Bilhah. When the patriarch Jacob’s encampment was near the city of Shechem in the Promised Land, Dinah’s virginity was violated. This was done by the son of the Hivite chieftain of that city. Dinah’s brothers schemed to take their revenge. Insisting that the violator had to get circumcised like an Israelite before he could marry Dinah, they got all the males of Shechem to be circumcised. On the third day of their circumcision, when the circumcised men ached so badly that they could hardly move, Simeon and Levi took action.
40 “The two sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, brothers of Dinah, proceeded to take each one his sword and to go unsuspectedly to the city and to kill every male. And [Chieftain] Hamor and Shechem his son they killed with the edge of the sword. Then they took Dinah from Shechem’s house and went on out.” The plundering of the city and the carrying off of the women and children followed at the hands of other sons of Jacob, “because they had defiled their sister.” When Jacob showed no sympathy with what had been done and rebuked Simeon and Levi, they answered: “Ought anyone to treat our sister like a prostitute?”—Gen. 33:18 to 34:31.
41. What had been their intention toward Joseph when seventeen years old, and when did their father find out about that?
41 Years later, when their half-brother Joseph had become seventeen years old, Simeon and Levi wanted to kill him because they envied Joseph’s being their father’s favorite son. Reuben their older brother did not want to kill Joseph, neither did Judah the brother next oldest to Simeon and Levi. And the still younger brothers, the four sons of Jacob’s two concubines, were on friendly terms with Joseph or tolerated him. And the still younger Issachar and Zebulun had no controlling voice in the matter. So when Joseph paid them a visit of inspection near the city of Dothan, it was apparently Simeon and Levi who led in “plotting cunningly against him to put him to death.” Judah’s suggestion turned them aside from killing him, and Reuben came back among them too late to prevent their selling Joseph as a slave to be taken down into Egypt. (Gen. 37:2-36) In due time, after Joseph was found alive in Egypt as its prime minister, Jacob learned how the sudden disappearance of his son had come about. Likely Jacob had this in mind also when he spoke of the “instruments of violence” of Simeon and Levi.
42. Were it not for using instruments of violence, into what position might Simeon or after him Levi have come?
42 True, Joseph was the firstborn son of his father’s beloved wife Rachel, but he was born years after Simeon and Levi, as Jacob’s eleventh son. So had it not been for their vengeful violence against the inhabitants of Shechem without their father’s consent, they might have come into the position of leadership after Reuben forfeited it, Simeon having the first opportunity and Levi after him. But Jacob’s expression of judgment upon them on his deathbed showed plainly that they had both forfeited that opportunity.
43. How, on the last day of his life, did Jacob show that he had and that he wanted no community responsibility for their crime?
43 Thus on the last day of his life Jacob cleared himself of all connection with the violence committed against the city of Shechem. The violating of his daughter Dinah did not make it right. Jacob’s soul, which was about to die there in Egypt, wanted no intimacy with Simeon and Levi in such a crime. Jacob’s very disposition was against uniting itself with the congregation of persons of extreme violence like that. Before finishing his course in life he declared that he had no community responsibility for that shedding of blood. Simeon and Levi had let anger get the better of them; they had acted arbitrarily in taking such vengeful action without first consulting their father. They had made him a stench to all Canaan.
44. On what did Jacob pronounce his curse, and what was he determined to do regarding the future possibilities of Simeon and Levi?
44 Now, however, about fifty years afterward, Jacob did not, in his dying breath, curse Simeon and Levi themselves. He cursed their anger, “because it is cruel.” He cursed their fury, “because it acts harshly.” He could not approve of it even in his own sons, even when poured out for the sake of his own daughter. He forgave them, but he would not change the consequences toward them. He could not appoint either of them to the leading position or to the rulership. He did not make them and their tribes outcasts in Israel, but he would now break up their unity and cooperation in works of cruel anger and harsh fury. Under prophetic inspiration Jacob appointed to them a place in the land that God had promised to give him and his descendants. They came into it 239 years later, but Jacob foretold that they would not be neighbors in the land.
45. In harmony with Jacob’s determination, what kind of portion in Israel was given to Simeon and to Levi?
45 Prophetically, and as an heir of the Promised Land, Jacob gave Simeon and Levi a “portion in Jacob,” but for neither of them was it a solid portion, an unbroken portion. Jacob portioned the two brothers out in the land. Thus not only were Simeon and Levi disunited from each other in the land, but each one was divided within himself. When the prophet Moses blessed the tribes of Israel shortly before they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Moses did not even mention the name of Simeon. (Deut. 33:16-23) The tribe of Simeon was located in little islands of territory here and there throughout the big piece of territory allotted to the tribe of Judah. None of these enclaves as surrounded by Judah’s territory was alongside the city of Jerusalem, which became the national capital. When the tribes contributed cities from their territory to the Levite priests to serve as cities of refuge for unintentional manslayers to flee to, no city was contributed by the tribe of Simeon. When forty-eight cities were assigned to all the Levites including the priests, only thirteen of these were contributed by the tribes of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin. So the Levites must have taken up residence in few cities of the tribe of Simeon.—Josh. 20:7-9; 19:1-9; 21:3, 4.
46. By God’s instructions to Moses, with what privilege were the Levites honored, and how did this enable them to come all together again for work?
46 Not by Jacob’s prophecy, but by Jehovah’s later instruction to the Levite prophet Moses, the tribe of Levi was honored with the privilege of the priesthood and the ministry at Jehovah’s temple of worship. Hence the Levites got no inheritance in the Promised Land, inasmuch as Jehovah God was really their inheritance. What might have been their territory allotment in the Promised Land was given to the tribe of one of the sons of Joseph; so that the whole nation of Israel still had twelve tribal territories. These twelve tribes all contributed a total of forty-eight cities for the residence of the Levites when not serving at Jehovah’s temple. So it was that the members of the tribe of Levi were scattered worse than Simeon was, namely, all over the land of Israel. Only at Jehovah’s temple did the Levites all come together again, for a good work in Jehovah’s service at his regular appointed festivals and on the atonement day. How marvelously was established the truth of Jacob’s words to Simeon and Levi: “Let me scatter them in Israel”!
47, 48. (a) How did this hold true with regard to Simeon and Levi even in Ezekiel’s vision of the division of the land? (b) What does such continual separating of the two brothers emphasize?
47 This held true even in Ezekiel’s prophetic vision of the division of the land under the coming kingdom of God. The members of the tribe of Levi were located in the “holy contribution” around Jehovah’s sanctuary. The tribe of Simeon was separated to the south of the Holy Contribution, next below the tribe of Benjamin, which bordered on the south of the Holy Contribution. (Ezek. 48:8-14, 22, 24) Thus Simeon was not in direct touch with the government of the land. And in Ezekiel’s vision of the seat of government, the city named Jehovah-Shammah (meaning “Jehovah Himself Is There”), the gates of Simeon and of Levi are not alongside each other, but Simeon’s gate is seventh and on the south, although Levi’s gate is third and on the north.—Ezek. 48:31, 33; see page 367.
48 This continual separating of Simeon and Levi emphasizes how God disapproves of brothers or others acting together in a harsh, cruel work under the influence of anger.
49. How did Priest Phinehas show he appreciated that fact, and of what did he show himself worthy?
49 Priest Phinehas of the tribe of Levi showed he appreciated that fact by the way that he acted on the plains of Moab just across the Jordan River from the Promised Land. When the Israelites began to have immoral, idolatrous relations with the daughters of Moab, Prince Zimri of the tribe of Simeon brazenly brought an idolatrous pagan girl, the Midianite princess Cozbi, through the camp of Israel and into his tent to have sexual pleasure with her. Did Levite Phinehas approve of this because this was done by a man of Simeon? Did he cooperate with Zimri, as Levi had cooperated with Simeon in a cursed deed? No! But Phinehas burst into the Simeonite’s tent with a lance and killed both Zimri and his pagan girl friend. Because of this jealousy for God’s worship Phinehas got God’s blessing. He showed that, as a Levite, he was worthy of the priesthood.—Num. 25:1-15.
50, 51. (a) What does the presence of a tribe of Levi in spiritual Israel not mean for that tribe, and why not? (b) Of what does Jacob’s prophecy over Simeon and Levi remind us, and how have members of spiritual Israel been guilty in this respect?
50 In the lineup of the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel Simeon is ranked seventh and Levi eighth. (See page 364.) The fact that one tribe is named for Levi does not mean that the 12,000 of this tribe serve as a priesthood for all of spiritual Israel. No; but all the 144,000 are priests. Concerning all 144,000 it is written: “They will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.” (Rev. 20:6) So the name Levi should remind us of something else than priesthood. Likewise Simeon.
51 What Jacob’s deathbed prophecy reminds us of in connection with Simeon and Levi is that a curse rests on the use of instruments of violence as slaughter weapons to give vent to cruel anger and harsh fury. Those who make up the spiritual tribes of Simeon and Levi may have used such weapons angrily and furiously in slaughter of their fellowmen in military combats of this world or even in personally avenging themselves or defending the family name. But now that they have become members of spiritual Israel they forsake such cursed practices, knowing that “hatreds, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions” are the “works of the flesh” and are not the “fruitage of the spirit” of God.—Gal. 5:19-22.
52, 53. (a) What action has the remnant of spiritual Israel still on earth taken toward instruments of violence? (b) What tribesmen may therefore safely be ranked together, and why?
52 We have evidence that nineteen hundred years ago, when the twelve apostolic foundations of the New Jerusalem were still on earth, the Christians applied to themselves the prophetic words of Isaiah 2:4 that have been misappropriated today by the United Nations. Likewise today those on earth who may be of the spiritual tribes of Simeon and Levi, in fact, the small remainder on earth of all twelve tribes of spiritual Israel, renounce the use of instruments of violence and slaughter weapons and try to live up to Isaiah 2:4, which says: “And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more.” So those belonging to the spiritual tribes of Simeon and Levi have undergone a change of personality. Although in spiritual Israel they are ranked next to each other, they can be trusted to work together safely, for now they obey Romans 12:17-19:
53 “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’”
54. Why may Judah have been expecting a rebuke from Jacob, but how did his affair work out without reproach to Judah?
54 As the fourth son of Jacob by his first wife Leah, the next one naturally in line for attention by his dying father was Judah. He too may have been expecting a rebuke, for he had unknowingly had an affair with his former daughter-in-law Tamar. But instead of Judah’s committing adultery with a harlot or temple prostitute, he was skillfully tricked into performing what he had been negligent about, namely, levirate marriage toward widow Tamar. Hence in this case Judah took the place of his son Shelah, the brother of Er, the dead husband of Tamar. So Judah’s twin sons by Tamar were not children of adultery nor do the Scriptures mention them with dishonor; in fact, one of them became an ancestor of Jesus Christ. When Boaz, an ancestor of Christ, took Ruth as his wife, the people said to Boaz: “May your house become like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, from the offspring that Jehovah will give you out of this young woman [Ruth].”—Ruth 4:12; Gen. 38:6-30.
55. What did Jacob doubtless remember about Judah, and by what he said over Judah what question did he settle respecting Israel?
55 Hence the dying Jacob had no reason to bring this affair up as being against Judah. Doubtless Jacob remembered how Judah had been against killing Joseph and had also nobly tried to preserve the life and freedom of Joseph’s brother Benjamin, even to offering to take Benjamin’s place as a slave in Egypt. (Gen. 37:26; 43:8-10; 44:18-34) So, with the poetic style of Hebrew prophecy, Jacob spoke and now settled the question of future rulership in Israel by saying:
“As for you, Judah, your brothers will laud you. Your hand will be on the back of the neck of your enemies. The sons of your father will prostrate themselves to you. A lion cub Judah is. From the prey, my son, you will certainly go up. He bowed down, he stretched himself out like a lion and, like a lion, who dares rouse him? The scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him the obedience of the people will belong. Tying his full-grown ass to a vine and the descendant of his own she-ass to a choice vine, he will certainly wash his clothing in wine and his garment in the blood of grapes. Dark red are his eyes from wine, and the whiteness of his teeth is from milk.”—Gen. 49:8-12.
56. What did Judah’s name mean, and how did Jacob give it an application to Judah, at the same time showing a contrast between his brothers and his enemies?
56 As Leah praised or lauded Jehovah for the birth of this her fourth son, she called his name Judah, which means “Lauded; [Object of] Laudation.” (Gen. 29:35) Jacob let the name stand, and on his deathbed he gave it an application also to its bearer, Judah. His eleven brothers would laud him both for his qualities and for the service that he would render to the nation. Of course, his enemies would not laud him, at least not willingly, for his hand would be on the back of their necks. In war he would gain the victory and would put his enemies to flight or put them down in subjection.
57, 58. (a) In what way were Judah’s brothers to prostrate themselves to him, and why? (b) How, even down to conquering the land of Canaan, was leadership shown to be reserved for the tribe of Judah?
57 As to how his brothers would laud him, this would be not just by word of mouth but also by how they conducted themselves toward him. His eleven brothers were all the sons of his father, but only five besides himself were the sons of his mother Leah. Not to Reuben the firstborn, but to Judah, his brothers were to prostrate themselves. This meant that his brothers would recognize him as their superior, their ruler. At that particular time he and his brothers bowed down to Joseph as Pharaoh’s prime minister over Egypt, where they were then living. But as regards the internal affairs of the twelve tribes of Israel, the brothers, including Joseph, were to prostrate themselves to Judah. This, of course, was speaking for the tribe of Judah, and foretold that the ruler to whom the nation would prostrate itself would be from Judah.
58 Later on 1 Chronicles 5:2 stated the matter nicely, saying: “For Judah himself proved to be superior among his brothers, and the one for leader was from him; but the right as first-born was Joseph’s.” In harmony with this, when Jehovah God delivered the twelve tribes of Israel from Egypt, where they became enslaved after Joseph’s death, it was the tribe of Judah that led in the march through the wilderness to the Promised Land of Canaan. (Num. 2:3; 10:12-14) When twelve spies were sent ahead into the Promised Land to look it over and return with a report, it was Judah that produced Caleb, one of the two faithful spies who survived to reenter the Promised Land. This Caleb took an active hand in subduing that part of the land allotted to the tribe of Judah. (Num. 13:6, 30; 14:6-10, 38; Josh. 15:13-20; 14:6-14) When the picking of lots took place for apportioning out the conquered land, Judah was given the first allotment. (Josh. 15:1) In the conquering of the land to take possession of it Jehovah God designated the tribe of Judah to take the lead. (Judg. 1:1-8) At that time the chieftain of the tribe of Judah was Salma, who became great-great-grandfather to David. (1 Chron. 2:10, 11; Ruth 4:20-22; Matt. 1:5, 6) In the Promised Land Judah’s territory lay on the full length of the western shore of the Dead Sea and extended westward to the Mediterranean Sea.
59. How did the tribe of Judah prove to be like a lion cub?
59 So the tribe of Judah was like a lion among the beasts of the forest. (Mic. 5:8) With all fitness the patriarch Jacob could say: “A lion cub Judah is.” The tribe of Judah provided the permanent dynasty or family of kings for the nation of Israel. David became the head of this dynasty of kings, because Jehovah God made with him a covenant for an everlasting kingship in his family. At first the tribe of Judah may have been like a lion cub, when King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin ruled all Israel, and David, the giant killer, became an officer in King Saul’s army. But God decided against continuing the kingship over Israel in the family of Saul because of Saul’s willful disobedience; and so in 1070 B.C.E., after King Ish-bosheth the son of Saul died, all twelve tribes of Israel made David of the tribe of Judah their king.
60, 61. (a) How did David live up to the name of his tribe, and what relation did he have with Jesus Christ? (b) On what must we readers wait for a further examination of Jacob’s prophecy?
60 Thus on a grand scale Jacob’s prophecy was fulfilled, that Judah’s brothers would laud him and would prostrate themselves to him. (2 Sam. 4:5 to 5:5) For the most part, David, whom the tribe of Judah provided as the national leader, behaved himself in a laudable way. He became a prophetic type of the coming King to whom the united obedience of all the people would belong, as foretold by Jacob. In fact, David became the illustrious ancestor of that foretold One, Jesus Christ; and from King David Jesus Christ inherited the right to rulership over Israel.—Luke 1:26-33.
61 However, for a further examination of Jacob’s prophecy concerning this One to whom the obedience of all the people belongs we must wait for the publication of the article “Fellow Rulers with the ‘Lion of the Tribe of Judah.’”
(See the issue of The Watchtower as of July 1, 1962.)
[Chart on page 364]
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Chart of Jacob’s Twelve Sons
First wife, Leah Jacob Concubine, Zilpah
Reuben Simeon Levi Judah Issachar Zebulun (Dinah) Gad Asher
(1) (2) (3) (4) (9) (10) (girl) (7) (8)
Second wife, Rachel Jacob, Concubine, Bilhah
Joseph Benjamin Dan Naphtali
(11) (12) (5) (6)
[Map on page 367]
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EZEKIEL’S VISION of the Holy Contribution and the Twelve Tribes—(Ezekiel 48:1-28)
THE GREAT SEA
Sea of Salt
T. V. of Egypt