Blessing the First Seven SonsBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Next, Yaakov blessed his sons. He gathered them together, saying that he would tell them what would happen in the “end of days.” While he was not permitted to reveal the time of the final redemption and the Messianic era, his blessings do contain allusions to many future events.
First, Yaakov addressed Reuven, his first-born. He called Reuven a source of strength, but he expressed displeasure with the way his son had interfered with his marital relations. (Refer to the incident with the mandrakes in chapter 30, as well as the more significant incident in which Reuven moved Yaakov’s bed in chapter 35.)
Shimon and Levi were a pair, Yaakov said. He did not want to be associated with the incident they had wrought in Shechem (in chapter 34). In order to prevent such a thing from happening again, Yaakov decreed that they be scattered throughout the nation. This was fulfilled when the Tribes inherited the land. Levi did not have their own territory (the Temple service was their portion, instead) and the cities of Shimon were scattered throughout the territory of Yehuda.
Yaakov told Yehuda that he was destined to rule. He would subdue his enemies and reign over the other Tribes. Yaakov compared Yehuda to a fierce lion, whom none would dare antagonize. Once the king from the Tribe of Yehuda takes the throne, it will belong to him straight through to the Messianic era. (Yaakov had a few more nice things to say about Yehuda.)
Zevulun was destined for a sea-faring vocation, while Yisachar is compared to a powerful and reliable donkey. Dan was likened to a snake on the road that bites a horse, causing the rider to fall; Yaakov specifically prayed for his success. (This is seen as a prophetic allusion to Samson, who was from the Tribe of Dan.)