Summary: A Review of the prophecy of Jacob and the 144 Thousand
The 144 Thousand’s Source-The Twelve Tribes of Israel
The twelve tribes of Israel as a group are listed in Genesis 49:1-28 when the dying patriarch Jacob prophesies to his twelve sons:
“And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.” (Genesis 49:1)
The significance of this list of the twelve sons of Jacob is that it provides the basic structure for the list of the twelve tribes found in Revelation 7:4-8. The tribes are listed in Revelation 7:3-8, the last time in Scripture, when later, the 144 Thousand are sealed for protection (Revelation 9:4) for their future Day of the Lord ministry.
Although there are changes in the order and the specific sons listed, the list in Revelation 7:4-8 has within it definite identifying features showing that this prophesy of Jacob found in the Genesis 49 list has the same underlying structure as the list in Revelation 7:4-8. The sons of Leah are first, then the sons of the two handmaids who are followed by the sons of Rachel, which is the general outline for both lists.
In verse one of Genesis 49 Jacob indicates that what he is going to say will have its effect “in the last days” which points to the time of the end as the period when these prophesies will take place. This prophetic section of the Word of God provides definite insight for those who will be sealed during Daniel’s 70th Week, the last remaining week of the seventy weeks which were determined upon Daniel’s people and their holy city Jerusalem:
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city.” (Daniel 9:24)
“And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob, and hearken unto Israel your father.” (Genesis 49:1, 2)
Then Jacob addresses his firstborn son Reuben:
“Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel, because thou went up to thy father’s bed; then defiled thou it: he went up to my couch.”
(Genesis 49:3, 4)
Jacob is referring to the sex sin Reuben committed with Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid, with whom Jacob fathered two sons, Dan and Naphtali. Reuben’s heinous sin cancelled his birthright, showing his instability, not having the ability to excel due to this defiling conduct which also removed the possibility of God’s blessing.
Simeon and Levi, who are the next two sons born of Leah to Jacob were involved in the cruel sin of mass murder when they slaughtered the defenseless people in the town of Shechem (Genesis 34). They also do not receive a blessing, instead Jacob pronounces a curse upon them:
”Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self will they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce, and their wrath, for it was cruel. I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” (Genesis 49:7-9)
The most significant section of Jacob’s prophecy comes in (v.8-12) when he speaks to his fourth son Judah:
“Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies, thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp, from the prey, my son, thou art gone up, he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion, who shall rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, not a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.” (Genesis 49:8-12)
The first two verses indicate the supremacy of Judah over his eleven brothers, his future military prowess and the position Judah would and will take in the order of the twelve tribes of Israel, for out of the loins of Judah kings would come forth (Genesis 49:10).
The focus here is upon the King of kings and Lord of lords the Savior of mankind, the Son of God and Jewish Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, for the Lord Jesus Christ descended from the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14). This is the reason Judah is first in the order of the last days tribal list in