אַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים (acharit-hayamim) – Genesis 49:1
Jacob called for his sons and said, “Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you in the acharit-hayamim (Heb. אַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים)
Jacob the last of the patriarchs speaks to his sons before his passing.
Jacob’s reference to acharit-hayamim (אַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים) is prophetic and astounding.
The circumstances surrounding Genesis 49 was that Jacob and his entire household had relocated to Egypt as sojourners due to three key reasons –
1. The land of Canaan where Jacob had settled with his household (before moving to Egypt) had been subjected to widespread famine for years. Family survival and continuity was at risk. Jacob had been reluctant to move as he had previously moved back from Haran (modern day Turkey) to the land of Canaan which was promised to Abraham and Isaac. Jacob remembered how both Abraham and Isaac had moved places due to famine and eventually returns to the land of Canaan.
2. Joseph son of Jacob from Rebecca, whom Jacob assumed to be dead as told by Joseph’s brothers who sold him as slave, was then serving in Pharaoh’s court. Joseph used his position in Egypt as assurance to provide for Jacob’s entire household to survive through the famine but with condition they must relocate to Egypt. Joseph needed to continue staying in Egypt to administer crisis management for Pharaoh due to the famine which was warned of God that will be for a total of seven years.
3. Jacob was assured by God to move to Egypt as revealed in Genesis 46:1-4. By this time God had changed Jacob’s name to Israel.
Isra’el took everything he owned with him on his journey. He arrived at Be’er-Sheva and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Yitz’chak. 2 In a vision at night God called to Isra’el, “Ya‘akov! Ya‘akov!” He answered, “Here I am.” 3 He said, “I am God, the God of your father. Don’t be afraid to go down to Egypt. It is there that I will make you into a great nation. 4 Not only will I go down with you to Egypt; but I will also bring you back here again, after Yosef has closed your eyes.”
This promise and assurance from God is of great comfort and encouragement to Jacob.
Jacob’s initial reluctance to move could be due to what he had learned from Abraham and Isaac about their descendants being subjected to slavery before they actually receive possession of the Promised Land in the future –
7 Then He said to him, “I am the Lord (Heb. יְהֹוָ֔ה YHVH), who brought you out from Ur-Kasdim to give you this land as your possession.” 8 He replied, “O Lord God, how will I know that I will inherit it?” 9 He answered him, “Bring me a three-year-old cow, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a dove and a young pigeon.” 10 He brought Him all these, cut the animals in two and placed the pieces opposite each other; but he didn’t cut the birds in half. 11 Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Avram drove them away.
12 As the sun was about to set, a deep sleep fell on Avram; horror and great darkness came over him. 13 And He said to Avram, “Know this for certain: your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs. They will be slaves and held in oppression there four hundred years. 14 But I will also judge that nation, the one that makes them slaves. Afterwards, they will leave with many possessions. 15 As for you, you will join your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 Only in the fourth generation will your descendants come back here, because only then will the Emori be ripe for punishment.”
17 After the sun had set and there was thick darkness, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared, which passed between these animal parts. 18 On that day the Lord (יְהֹוָ֔ה YHVH), formed a covenant with Avram: “I have given this land to your descendants — from the Vadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River — 19 the territory of the Keni, the K’nizi, the Kadmoni, 20 the Hitti, the P’rizi, the Refa’im, 21 the Emori, the Kena‘ani, the Girgashi and the Y’vusi.”
Jacob had faith in God as did Abraham and Isaac that the Hebrew descendants of Abraham will eventually receive possession of the Promised Land but what God said about Abraham’s descendants being “slaves and held in oppression there four hundred years” should be of concern and worry for any parents.
If Jacob was to made the connection between what was said to Abraham and what God said to him on his way to Egypt –
Genesis 46:3-4 – He said, “I am God, the God of your father. Don’t be afraid to go down to Egypt. It is there that I will make you into a great nation. Not only will I go down with you to Egypt; but I will also bring you back here again, after Yosef has closed your eyes.”
Two key points can be observed between Genesis 15:13 and Genesis 46:3-4,
ONE – “your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs. They will be slaves and held in oppression there four hundred years.” – Means the Hebrew descendants of Abraham will be in Egypt for a long time if Egypt is that land mentioned in Genesis 15:13 but how they will become slaves and held in oppression was yet to be understood by Jacob because during his days the Hebrews had yet to encounter any known hostility from Egypt.
TWO – “Don’t be afraid to go down to Egypt. It is there that I will make you into a great nation” – Means the Hebrew descendants of Abraham will grow in multitude not only in numbers but will acquire a national identity on par with and even superseding existing known nations. That could had provide Jacob an idea of how the Hebrew descendants of Abraham could eventually receive possession of the Promised Land as the critical mass of population needed to form a nation and to be recognized as a nation was going to happen from Jacob’s next generation forward and they would be in Egypt for a long time.
Extended Stay in Egypt
Jacob after seventeen years in Egypt had yet to encounter any hostility targeted at the Hebrews by Egypt’s rulers and by that time the famine which brought them to Egypt was already over. After Jacob’s passing the Hebrews continued to live in Egypt instead of moving back to the land of Canaan. And what Jacob said of his sons in Genesis 49 if taken as literal and prophetic utterance revealed the followings
A. The longevity of the Hebrew people as descendants of Abraham and Israel as a nation. Nations rise and fall, ethnic groups can go extinct, but the Hebrew descendants of Abraham will remains till the acharit-hayamim (אַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים)
B. Circumstances surrounding the various tribes of Israel named after the sons of Jacob in their role and relation to their national identity and how Israel as a nation will forecast future world events leading to the Messianic Era. This is a far stretch with very limited information at that time of Jacob speaking to his sons in Genesis 49 but if we take note of key issues mentioned by Jacob and follow through with scripture postdating Moses to the time of Babylonian exile and further after Second Temple period we could see how prophetic and astounding Jacob used the word acharit-hayamim (אַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים) in his final address to his sons. It is important to note throughout scripture the reference to the tribes of Israel named after the sons of Jacob plus Ephraim and Manasseh who were adopted by Jacob as sons instead of as grandsons and they became part of the formal tribes of Israel that form the nation of Israel.
Judah and the future Messiah
What Jacob said of Judah in Genesis 49:10 is to be considered a direct reference and first mention of the future Messiah –
The scepter will not pass from Y’hudah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his legs, until Shiloh (Heb. שִׁיל֔וֹ šî-lōw) comes to whom obedience belongs; and it is he whom the peoples will obey.
Shiloh (שִׁיל֔וֹ šî-lōw) is a Messianic title
From here there is the clear indication that the longevity of the Hebrew descendants of Abraham has everything to do with the future Messiah and the Messianic Era. God’s chosen Mashiach (Heb. מָשִׁיחַ) will reign as the Messiah during the Messianic Era and will be of the seed of Abraham and as according to what Jacob said in Genesis 49:10 will be from the line of Judah.
Did Judah understand what his father Jacob said to him about his own future at that time?
Israel as a Holy Nation for the Messiah
The eventual emerging and formation of Israel as a nation and being recognized as a nation can be traced to that period of time during Exodus when the Hebrews left Egypt under the leadership of Moses on the way to receive possession of the Promised Land and the receiving of the Torah and God’s covenant with Israel as a nation at Mount Sinai.
When Israel finally crossed the River Jordan under the leadership of Joshua (Joshua 1 – 4) they begin to take possession of the Promised Land and from then as a nation with a land of their own.
The Hebrew descendants of Abraham leaving Egypt were to receive possession of The Promised Land with the condition they keep covenant with God as Abraham did and be a holy nation set-apart for God and they were to be prepared for the reign of God’s chosen Mashiach (Heb. מָשִׁיחַ).
In the third month after the people of Isra’el had left the land of Egypt, the same day they came to the Sinai Desert. 2 After setting out from Refidim and arriving at the Sinai Desert, they set up camp in the desert; there in front of the mountain, Isra’el set up camp.
3 Moshe went up to God, and the Lord (Heb. יְהֹוָ֔ה YHVH) called to him from the mountain: “Here is what you are to say to the household of Ya‘akov, to tell the people of Isra’el: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you will be a kingdom of cohanim for me, a nation set apart.’ These are the words you are to speak to the people of Isra’el.”
Take note of God’s emphasis
5 Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you will be a kingdom of cohanim for me, a nation set apart.’ These are the words you are to speak to the people of Isra’el.”
God’s commandments to Israel delivered through His covenant with Israel as a nation consisted of both civil laws code and priestly functions. Therefore Israel was called to be “a kingdom of cohanim” and for the purpose of awaiting the Mashiach (Heb. מָשִׁיחַ).
This keeping of God’s covenant and to observe what God said is the preparation process for the future Messiah and the Messianic Era.
This covenant keeping duty for the redeemed people of God is further expounded in Psalm 1 and 2
1 Blessed is the man did not follow the counsel of the wicked neither did he stand in the way of sinners nor sit in the company of scorners.
2 But his desire is in the law of the Lord (Heb. יְהֹוָ֔ה YHVH), and in His law (תּוֹרָה torah) he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be as a tree planted beside rivers (פֶלֶג peleg) of water, which brings forth its fruit in its season, and its leaves do not wilt; and whatever he does prospers.
4 Not so the wicked (רָשְׁע rasha), who like chaff driven by the wind.
5 For this reason the wicked shall not stand in the judgment (מִשְׁפָט mishpat) nor shall sinners in the congregation of the righteous (צַדִיק tsaddiq).
6 For the Lord (יְהֹוָ֔ה YHVH) knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish.
Why are the nations in an uproar, the peoples grumbling in vain?
2 The earth’s kings are taking positions, leaders conspiring together, against the Lord (Heb. יְהֹוָ֔ה YHVH) and his anointed (מְשִׁיחֽוֹ׃ Mashiach) 3 They cry, “Let’s break their fetters! Let’s throw off their chains!”
4 He who sits in heaven laughs; the Lord (יְהֹוָ֔ה YHVH) looks at them in derision.
5 Then in his anger he rebukes them, terrifies them in his fury. 6 “I myself have installed my king on Tziyon, my holy mountain.”
7 “I will proclaim the decree: the Lord (יְהֹוָ֔ה YHVH) said to me, ‘You are my son; today I became your father. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance; the whole wide world will be your possession. 9 You will break them with an iron rod, shatter them like a clay pot.’”
10 Therefore, kings, be wise; be warned, you judges of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord (יְהֹוָ֔ה YHVH) with fear; rejoice, but with trembling. 12 Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and you perish along the way, when suddenly his anger blazes. How blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Psalm 1 and 2 is one complete document and to prepare us for God’s appointed time (Heb. מוֹעֵד moed) for the final and ultimate redemption of Man when the Mashiach (Heb. מָשִׁיחַ) is enthroned in Zion and the start of the Messianic Era.
God’s decree is God’s teachings making distinction between those who keep covenant with God and those who do not. And the context of Psalm 2 is literal and prophetic that the antagonism between those who keep covenant with God and those who do not will be far reaching to involve nations and government leaders of this world.
Look again what Jacob said to Judah
The scepter will not pass from Y’hudah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his legs, until Shiloh (Heb. שִׁיל֔וֹ šî-lōw) comes to whom obedience ( יִקְּהַ֥ת yiqhah) belongs; and it is he whom the peoples will obey.
The longevity of Israel as a nation awaiting the Mashiach (Heb. מָשִׁיחַ) has everything to do with the land promised to the descendants of Abraham because the Messianic Era will have the seat of government based in Zion as the Messiah will be enthroned there and as a center of learning for God’s teachings.
The return of the Jewish people and the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel to the Promised Land from 1948 till today is part of the fulfillment of prophesies and promises of God to restore His redeemed in the acharit-hayamim (אַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים) as according to God’s appointed time (Heb. מוֹעֵד moed) for the final and ultimate redemption of Man when the Mashiach (Heb. מָשִׁיחַ) is enthroned in Zion and the start of the Messianic Era.