The book of Genesis emphasizes the blessing of a father to his sons. The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all gave formal blessings to their children—and, in Jacob’s case, to some grandchildren. Receiving a blessing from one’s father was a high honor, and losing a blessing was tantamount to a curse.
An Old Testament blessing of a father to his sons included words of encouragement, details regarding each son’s inheritance, and prophetic words concerning the future. For example, Isaac’s blessing on Jacob (which was meant for Esau) gave him the earth’s bounty and authority over his brother (Genesis 27:28-29). It also promised that those who blessed Jacob would be blessed, and those who cursed him would receive a curse—words that echo God’s promise to Abraham. “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
When Esau discovered that Jacob had deceived his father and had received the blessing meant for Esau, he was distraught, “And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?” Genesis 27:36. Isaac’s words to Esau reinforced Jacob’s superiority but also prophesied that Esau would one day rebel against Jacob’s rule (Genesis 27:39-40).
When Jacob blessed his twelve sons, he also made predictions regarding their future (Genesis 49). The Bible records the direct fulfillment of many of these predictions, revealing the supernatural ability given to Jacob as the father of the twelve tribes.
In one of his blessings, Jacob said, “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.” Genesis 49:8. The blessing also included a prediction that kings would come from Judah. “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Genesis 49:10. Judah’s descendants later became the tribe from which King David came and in whose land Jerusalem was located. Jesus the Christ would also come from the tribe of Judah (Matthew 1:3).
Another example of a supernatural prediction in Jacob’s blessing is found in his words to Issachar: “And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.” Genesis 49:15. Issachar’s family would later inherit lower Galilee, including the Valley of Jezreel, which included rich, productive farmland.
Jacob’s youngest son also received a prophecy that was later fulfilled: “Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.” Genesis 49:27. The tribe of Benjamin would produce many military leaders in Israel, including Ehud, King Saul, and Saul’s son Jonathan, revealing a strong, warlike personality (Judges 5:14; 20:16; 1 Chronicles 8:40; 2 Chronicles 14:8; 17:17).
The blessing of the patriarch was connected to the blessing of the Lord, as the Lord alone is what made the prophetic word of the patriarch come to pass, as such the patriarch could only give the blessing once. There is a difference between an inheritance and the blessing. The inheritance involves present physical wealth and position in the family. The blessing involves the prophetic future which is sacrosanct to the once receiving the blessing, the one giving it and God. (Genesis 27:1 - 28:7). A patriarch’s final blessing was important in biblical times as a practical matter and often but not alwasys connected to inheritance rights.