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B'resheet/Genesis 49:1 "... And I will proclaim to you what will befall you in the last days."
At first glance the verb , although a normal Qal prefix 3ms form, is confusing. The root has two related but distinct families of meanings: the first - and more common - group is "call, cry, shout" and extends to "proclaim, publish, summon, invite" and even "read" and "name"; the second - less frequent - use is "befall, happen". It is this second meaning that is being employed here: Ya'akov has gathered his sons for the last time, as he is about to die, to share with them some of the insights that has about the times to come. The Jewish commentators are almost universal in claiming that Ya'akov is about to prophesy of the Messianic Age but that the Shechinah, not wanting this revealed yet, left him so that the following "blessings" or comments about his sons contain almost no reference to the End Times except the prophecy that the tribe of Judah would supply the kings of Israel until Messiah - who would Himself be from the tribe of Judah - came.
TheSforno makes quite a long comment to the phrase , "in the last days", pointing out that this refers to the Messianic Era when those nations who are enemies of G-d will decline and fall (Jeremiah 46:28). After showing that Balaam also spoke of this time (B'Midbar 24:14), Sforno quotes from the prophet Micah: "In the end of days it shall come to pass that the mountain of G-d's house shall be established as the top of the mountains" (Micah 4:1). He concludes - as we would expect - that this is the same time that Ya'akov refers to when he says, "Until Shiloh comes and to Him the obedience of the people" (B'resheet 49:10). Sforno deduces that when Messiah comes the authority of Judah will be extended from the tribes of Israel to encompass all the peoples and nations of the earth.
The commentators speculate on what else Ya'akov could or would have said had not the Ruach left him at that moment. We know that there are many more things yet to know about the Last Days; this has generated an enormous literature in the Christian world with many great figures attempting to pull a consistent picture of the End Times from the pages of Scripture: J C Ryle, A W Pink, Tozer, Charles Spurgeon and Hendrickson to name but a few. In recent times, the 1970s saw the file "Left Behind" while the last few years have brought the best-selling series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins of the same title. If truth be told, the Scriptures only tell us so much and the rest, however educated, is only guesswork and opinion. Daniel is told, "But you, Dani'el, keep these words secret, and seal up the book until the time of the end. Many will rush here and there as knowledge increases" (Daniel 12:4, CJB); while John hears, "Seal up the things the seven thunders said, do not write them down!" (Revelation 10:4, CJB).
We are told to always have an answer ready for those who ask us about our faith (1 Peter 3:15) - a word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2) - but how do we know when to speak and how much to say? Like Ya'akov, we are dependent on the Holy Spirit, as Yeshua told us, "when the time comes the Ruach HaKodesh will teach you what to say" (Luke 12:12, CJB). We almost have the opposite problem, knowing when not to speak, or when to stop talking. Just as there is a time to speak, there is also a time to refrain from speaking in order to let G-d do His work without our fingers poking or trying to stir the pot.
Further Study: Isaiah 2:1-4; D'varim 29:29; Acts 4:8-13
Application: Have you found yourself talking on past the point when you know G-d told you to stop, but somehow you kept going although you slightly lost the plot and perhaps were not even sure of what you were saying? Ask G-d to make you better at hearing His voice and give Him permission to interrupt you, even in mid-flow.
© Jonathan Allen, 2006
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