Blessings And Curses

Opening Prayer

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name” (Psa. 86:11, ESV).

Read Genesis 49:1–28

Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.

2 “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;
listen to your father Israel.
3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, the first sign of my strength,
excelling in honor, excelling in power.
4 Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel,
for you went up onto your father’s bed,
onto my couch and defiled it.
5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers—
their swords are weapons of violence.
6 Let me not enter their council,
let me not join their assembly,
for they have killed men in their anger
and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.
7 Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
and their fury, so cruel!
I will scatter them in Jacob
and disperse them in Israel.
8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
his teeth whiter than milk.
13 “Zebulun will live by the seashore
and become a haven for ships;
his border will extend toward Sidon.
14 “Issachar is a rawboned donkey
lying down among the sheep pens.
15 When he sees how good is his resting place
and how pleasant is his land,
he will bend his shoulder to the burden
and submit to forced labor.
16 “Dan will provide justice for his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan will be a snake by the roadside,
a viper along the path,
that bites the horse’s heels
so that its rider tumbles backward.
18 “I look for your deliverance, Lord.
19 “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders,
but he will attack them at their heels.
20 “Asher’s food will be rich;
he will provide delicacies fit for a king.
21 “Naphtali is a doe set free
that bears beautiful fawns.
22 “Joseph is a fruitful vine,
a fruitful vine near a spring,
whose branches climb over a wall.
23 With bitterness archers attacked him;
they shot at him with hostility.
24 But his bow remained steady,
his strong arms stayed limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25 because of your father’s God, who helps you,
because of the Almighty, who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
blessings of the deep springs below,
blessings of the breast and womb.
26 Your father’s blessings are greater
than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
than the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of the prince among his brothers.
27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
in the morning he devours the prey,
in the evening he divides the plunder.”
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.


Think of a time when you’ve been surprised by some special recognition or appreciation of who you are. Give thanks for it.

A skinny donkey, a lion’s cub or a serpent by the roadside: do any of those sound like you? Perhaps you would be better described as a ravenous wolf, a haven for ships or a fruitful vine? It’s fascinating to see how Jacob describes his sons, as he produces a blessing appropriate for each one (28). We all love to hear what others think of us, but to get an invitation to a family meeting like this could be a bit intimidating.

Jacob’s prayers are clearly inspired by years—maybe over a hundred!—of observing his sons’ strengths and weaknesses, but he doesn’t sweet-talk them into a state of self-delusion. He might be their father, but he has confidence as a prophet, pronouncing curses as well as blessings. It sounds harsh, but even Jesus, on one occasion, cursed a fig tree—a criticism of the dead wood he found in the Jewish Temple system (Matt. 21:19).

In among the hard truths, this is a rich passage and Jacob gives his sons some wonderful words to ruminate upon. The image of a vine, that describes Joseph (22), weaves its way throughout Scripture to become part of Jesus’ prayer for us (John 15:5).


Try a bit of prayerful doodling. Draw the images that come to mind as you pray for your family and friends.

Closing prayer

Thank you, God, for my family. Bless each member today—and show me how to be a blessing to each one of them.

Syndicated via Scripture Union. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Terry Schneider