Salvation: a collective process

More than one tribe has a leadership role to play.

June 9, 2011 22:00
3 minute read.
JACOB BLESSES his sons - 1728 ‘Figures de la Bible

JACOB BLESSES his sons - 1728 ‘Figures de la Bible’ 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Toward the end of Jacob’s life, he gathers his children together, to reveal the “end of days” (Genesis 49:1). In what seems to be a spur-ofthe- moment outburst, Jacob – in the middle of prophesying the destinies of Dan and Gad – declares: “I wait for your salvation, O Lord” (verse 18).

Not only does Jacob refuse to broadcast the future, but his prayer for redemption is out of place.

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The Hebrew term for “end of days,”aharit hayamim, is used in the prophetic writings – such as Isaiah (2:2) and Micah (4:1) – to refer to the ultimate messianic age.

Citing Genesis 49:10 (“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, as long as men come to Shiloh”) as a reference to future events, some Jewish commentators say that Jacob was going to reveal the date of when the Messiah would come; however, the Divine Presence withdrew from him, and he was unable to reveal what he wanted.

Unable to foretell the messianic age, Jacob does provide – by repeating in verse 2 the word shim’u (listen) next to the word “Israel” – the secret by which the Jewish people could survive the longevity of exile. Their proclamation of absolute faith in their historic mission in the words Shema Yisrael (Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one – Deuteronomy 6) should give them courage and perseverance until the end of time.

Returning to Jacob’s salvation prayer, it is unclear whether the declaration stands alone. Perhaps it concludes the blessing of Dan. Perhaps it is a preamble to Gad’s destiny. Perhaps it relates to both brothers, who have a shared connection in ushering in redemption.

Besides Bezalel, from the tribe of Judah, as the chief architect of the Tabernacle, a co-builder with him was none other than Oholiav, the son of Ahisamach, from the tribe of Dan, as stated in Exodus 31. The creation of God’s Sanctuary is a partnership between Judah and Dan. These two tribes were also responsible for erecting the First Temple.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord” (Malachi 3:23). The herald of Israel’s Messiah is from the tribe of Gad.

Moses, in his own blessings to the tribes, says: “And of Gad he said, Blessed be he who enlarges Gad; he lives as a lion, and tears the arm with the crown of the head... And of Dan he said, Dan is a lion’s cub; he shall leap from Bashan” (Deuteronomy 33:20- 22). Moses compares both to a lion, king of the beasts. The only other tribe referred to as a lion is Judah, when blessed by Jacob. How could Moses refer to Gad and Dan as lions, indicating royalty, if the role of messiah belongs to the tribe of Judah? The “scepter” is forever in the domain of Judah, but Gad and Dan will have supporting roles in the redemptive process – one will declare the Messiah while the other will help build the Sanctuary. While supremacy of leadership is Judah’s, some is spread among the other tribes.

At the conclusion of Jacob’s blessings, Scripture states: “everyone according to his blessing he blessed them” (Genesis 49:28). Now, this statement seems redundant, since it says earlier in the very same verse that “he blessed them.”

The repetition teaches us that the blessings are not only for the individual tribe but for the collective as well.

The eventual Messiah will come from Judah. He will be preceded by Elijah from the tribe of Gad and supported by honest businesspeople from the tribe of Zebulun as well as sages of Torah from the Issachar tribe. The spiritual descendants of Dan will aid in the building of the Third Temple, and we all echo Jacob’s prayer: “I wait for your salvation, O Lord.”

David Nekrutman is the executive director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation in Efrat. Comments should be directed to

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