22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
24 But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
Things slow down again as Jacob moves on to Joseph. He is described as a fruitful bough, which is certainly justified by how he has become a life-giving source of food and nourishment to all the land. Jacob extends the imagery by saying Joseph is a “bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall.” This well brings a constant source of nourishment to the bough, such that it thrives with abundance.
And the well, of course, is a symbol for living water, the spiritual refreshing that comes by being rooted in God and His gospel. This is a symbolism that we will see many times, trees that grow alongside rivers in the desert, immune to their harsh environment because they exist in a different reality from it, constantly nourished by cool, life-giving water. Surely that was Joseph when he was sold as a slave. It was a hostile environment all about him, but he was preserved by the grace of God within.
19 Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.
20 Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.
21 Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.
We start getting through the blessings for Jacob’s sons at a rapid pace now. Gad is described as being in conflict, at first giving way but ultimately prevailing. Given that the tribe of Gad would settle itself on Israel’s eastern border, right next to the hostile nation of the Ammonites, they were likely the first target in many invasions. But in the end, the Ammonites would be overcome, just as the prophecy suggests.
Asher is foretold to be a nation of bakeries and exports. Its description suggests that it will not just produce what is necessary for life but will have abundance enough for delicacies and surplus.
Interestingly, Gad and Asher were the sons of Zilpah, but their fortunes are described in between that of the sons of Bilhah, Dan and Naphtali. Perhaps the sons of Zilpah were born between the ones of Bilhah?
Naphtali is said to give goodly words. One of his descendants would be Barak and possibly also Deborah, who would be a general and a prophetess that banded together to free Israel from the rule of the Canaanites. And after this victory the two of them composed a song of rejoicing together, being at least one fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy.
16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.
18 I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.
We now move from the sons of Leah to those of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid. Dan, it is stated, would also be a leader among the Israelites. He would not have a dynasty, such as Judah, but it would have moments of rule, nonetheless.
The most famous descendant of Dan would be Samson, the mighty warrior, who would indeed judge Israel for twenty years, fulfilling the promise made in verse 16. Samson would also fulfill verse 17’s promise in how he constantly stirred up trouble for the Philistines, who at the time ruled over Israel. We will never hear of Samson at the head of the army, rather his actions would be individual, striking out at the Philistines randomly, when moved by passion, thus making the comparison to a venomous adder very apt.
Unfortunately, Dan also proved to be a poison to Israel itself, integrating idolatry into their entire society after the death of Samson. Perhaps it was the specter of this grave evil which would afflict Israel for generations that led to Jacob’s exclamation in verse 18 that he waits for the salvation of the Lord!