Foundational Themes in Genesis – Study 108

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Foundational themes in Genesis – Study 108

(Key verse: Genesis 49:13)

God’s Word has a primary spiritual meaning which is the inward application for those who can see that they live by every word that proceeded out of God’s mouth, even the words of scripture (Mat 4:4; Joh 6:63; Rev 1:3). Jacob’s final words to his sons are therefore important to take note of as they help us to understand our own lives:

Gen 49:1 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.
Gen 49:2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel your father.

All these words to the sons of Jacob apply to “the last days” and were written for our learning and not for those sons primarily, “but unto us” (1Pe 1:12):

Rom 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

The concept of “the last days” points to what the scriptures also call “the end of the world” which indicate the end of this physical creation, as it has indeed come spiritually upon the elect of God in this age:

1Co 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world [Greek: aiōn = age] are come.

The theme of “the last days” is a fitting conclusion for the book of Genesis as we come to see how God will bring everything together in Christ, even through His church, the true “Israel of God”, which is the antitype of these twelve tribes of physical Israel (Eph 1:10; Rev 7:4-8):

Gal 6:16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

We already touched on the lives of Jacob’s first four sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah in previous discussions. In this discussion we will take a look at what we can learn about ourselves from the words of Jacob to Zebulun.

Zebulun: meaning and position

Zebulun was Jacob’s sixth and last son from Leah. The Hebrew word “Zebulun” (Greek: Zabulon) means “habitation”, as Leah, the less beloved wife of Jacob, believed with this son, Jacob would “dwell with” her (Gen 35:23):

Gen 30:20 And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun.

We know that numbers have spiritual meaning, and several numbers are associated with Zebulun and his tribe in the scriptures. Although Zebulun was the sixth son of Jacob from Leah, he was actually the tenth son of Jacob. Here in Jacob’s final words to his sons, Zebulun is mentioned fifth. The number three also played a very significant role within God’s purposes for this tribe. Zebulun had three sons, namely Sered and Elon and Jahleel (Gen 46:14). The tribe of Zebulun was the third tribe to give offerings at the dedication of the tabernacle (Num 7:24). They were also placed third behind Judah and Issachar by Moses when Israel was called into battle with the enemy. These three tribes were positioned together on the east side of the tabernacle (Num 2:3-8). The tribe of Zebulun was also the third tribe to receive their lot or territory in Canaan:

Jos 19:10 And the third lot came up for the children of Zebulun according to their families…

In this discussion we will see how all these numbers are of significance in the life of Zebulun and his tribe. Here are the final words of Jacob to this son:

Gen 49:13 Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon.

Jacob connected Zebulun with the sea, and in the words of Moses we find how this theme of the sea is repeated concerning the blessing of this tribe in conjunction with the tribe of Issachar:

Deu 33:18 And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and, Issachar, in thy tents.
Deu 33:19 They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness: for they shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand.

We shall first touch on the symbols of the “haven of the sea” and the “haven of ships” and how they connect with Moses’ words to help us understand our own spiritual journey.

The “haven of the sea” and a “haven of ships”

We know God created physical things to make His invisible spiritual things understandable for those who can receive it:

Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

The heaven around the physical earth and within this physical universe is a reflection of the true heaven which is an internal spiritual dimension in each person where spiritual activities take place (Gen 1:1; Psa 102:25; Jer 23:24; Act 17:24). The scriptures also refer to heaven as the heart in us where God is working to fulfill His spiritual purposes in each person’s life – this is what the function of the mind entails (1Sa 12:24; Jer 29:13; Mat 6:9-10; Mat 22:37; Mar 1:10-11; Act 7:56). It is from our heaven that we can act to either do good or evil, as determined by God (Job 38:33; Psa 47:8; Psa 115:16; Isa 45:7; Mat 18:18):

Deu 4:39 Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.

Psa 103:19 The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.

The number three played an important part in the life of Zebulun and its tribe, as mentioned earlier. This number three spiritually points to the process of judgment, as it is through judgment that we are taken to higher levels of spiritual understanding and growth (Isa 26:9; 1Pe 4:17). This process relates to our heavens through which we progressively understand more of God’s spiritual things. Within our last days we are given to enter the third heaven (“heaven of heavens”), which is the final stage of God’s work in us as also explained by the apostle Paul:

2Co 12:1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2Co 12:2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

Like Zebulun we all start off being connected to the sea, which is a spiritual symbol of our first heaven or our primary or natural understanding of things (Rom 8:5; 1Co 2:14). Within this “sea” we do our “trading” with our ships, being in vessels of clay with its carnal mind and all its evil philosophies and false doctrines, under the rule of our father, the Devil – as per God’s design (Gen 1:2; Isa 27:1; Jer 18:4; Rom 8:20; Rom 8:5-6; 1Jn 2:16):

Psa 104:25 So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.
Psa 104:26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan [connects with the crooked serpent/the dragon (Isa 27:1; Gen 1:21; Gen 3:1-2)] that is in the sea, whom thou hast made to play therein.

Psa 107:23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
Psa 107:24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep [linking to the “bottomless pit” – the abyss].

God’s wonderful works are indeed in the deep as He controls the seas and commands all the winds and the foaming waves:

Psa 107:25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
Psa 107:26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
Psa 107:27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end.

He makes us to err from His ways, even causing us to follow the false philosophies and teachings to which we naturally attach ourselves (Eph 4:14; Jud 1:13):

Isa 63:17 O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.

This is the marred condition of flesh in the hands of the Potter, and it is only when we can see our true condition that we are given to cry to God for mercy (Jer 18:4):

Psa 107:28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
Psa 107:29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
Psa 107:30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

The “desired haven” is the third heaven having the mind of Christ or the understanding of God wonderful works in us (1Co 2:15-16; 2Co 12:1-4; Eph 2:6-10). Before that peaceful mind is given to us, our natural beast is first brought out of the sea to be more established on the sand thinking it is mature in spiritual things. It is within this mind-set (the second heaven or “the midst of the heavens”) that we are still engulfed in clouds and thick darkness, thinking we have the light (Deu 4:11; Mat 6:23; Rev 8:12-13). We received a deadly wound through God’s sword (His Word) which only applies to one of the seven heads of this beast. This is the time of our outward conversion with all its wonderful works of flesh (Mat 7:21-23). However, this wound is healed making us even a bigger self-righteous and pride-filled maturing beast – even like unto our father, the devil, who was appointed by God to rule over our time in darkness. This is typified by the number six in Zebulun’s life and its three-fold progression in our lives – “six hundred threescore and six”. This is the negative application of the three heavens in our lives (Gen 1:16; Gen 1:24-31; Dan 7:3-7; Joh 8:44; Rev 12:3; Rev 12:9; Rev 13:18):

Rev 13:1 And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
Rev 13:2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.
Rev 13:3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

Rev 13:11 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
Rev 13:12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
Rev 13:13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
Rev 13:14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
Rev 13:15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

“The way of the sea”

Jesus came the same route as all of us, as He “emptied Himself” from His heavenly glory: born in flesh in Bethlehem, lived in Nazareth and came to dwell in Capernaum, “which is upon the sea coast, in the borders [or region] of [the tribes of] Zabulon and Nephthalim…by the way of the sea” before He was crucified and glorified “through death” (Joh 1:14; 2Co 5:21; Php 2:7; Mat 16:21; Joh 17:1-5; Heb 2:14):

Mat 4:12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
Mat 4:13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders [region] of Zabulon [Zebulun] and Nephthalim [Naphtali]:
Mat 4:14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias [Isaiah] the prophet, saying,
Mat 4:15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
Mat 4:16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
Mat 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

“The way of the sea” is showing our road to spiritual maturity. This is also typified by the physical nation which was established in Egypt in the time of Joseph and Jacob. After the death of Joseph, Israel was subjected to four hundred years of slavery before they had to leave Egypt and were baptised in the Red Sea to enter the forty-year period in the wilderness. After this only the new generation could enter the promised land through the baptism in the Jordan. We all start off as slaves under the rule of sin, darkness and death, even taken through the wilderness of spiritual Babylon, to finally enter into heavenly Jerusalem. The “way of the sea” ends in its positive application in the “last days” when we are baptised with fire to enter the kingdom of God (Mar 9:49; 1Pe 4:12; Rev 15:8):

Act 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

This is the “way of the sea” when we can finally accept the ways God works with all flesh as we will be given victory over the flesh:

Rev 15:1 And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.
Rev 15:2 And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.

The copper laver with water was placed between the copper altar (where sacrifices were burned with fire) and the tabernacle in the courtyard when Israel was sojourning in the wilderness. We must go through the water and the fire, even the “molten sea” in front of Solomon’s temple which all combines to bring us to our “desired haven” – the elect or temple of God (Exo 30:17-21; 1Ki 7:23; 2Ch 4:2; Act 14:22; Rev 15:8). The “last days” is our time that we can stand on the sea which has the appearance of a “glass mingled with fire”. With this peace of God in our hearts which passes our understanding we are “being turned” to understand why things happened in our lives the way they did (Rev 1:10-12; Rev 4:6). This is our time of liberty through the spirit of God, even when our affliction increases the glory of the Sun of God shines brighter and brighter through His Word (Joh 6:63):

2Co 3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
2Co 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

“The abundance of the seas”

In the words of Moses concerning Zebulun’s “haven of the sea” we find how the sea also should be seen in its ultimate positive application:

Deu 33:18 And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and, Issachar, in thy tents.
Deu 33:19 They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness: for they shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand.

As we have seen, Zebulun’s connection to the sea relates firstly to our association with flesh and the spirit of this world when we cannot please God and obey His commandments (Gen 3:1-6; Rom 8:5-8; 1Co 1:29):

1Jn 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

With the tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zebulun we also see the positive application of “the abundance of the seas.” We know that these three tribes were placed at the east of the tabernacle and were used by God to lead in the battles against the enemy. We see in Moses’ blessings on Zebulun that this tribe is also “going out” to “call the people unto the mountain” where “they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness.” Zebulun typifies this evangelical spirit in us which is sent out by God to lead in spiritual battles and to proclaim the gospel of Christ without fear. This spirit causes us to believe that God has no problem to bring all “things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth” together in the Christ as He “will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1Co 15:22-28):

Eph 1:9 (YLT) having made known to us the secret of His will, according to His good pleasure, that He purposed in Himself,
Eph 1:10 (YLT) in regard to the dispensation of the fulness of the times, to bring into one the whole in the Christ, both the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth–in him.

1Ti 2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
1Ti 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

The abundance of the sea is the Lord’s, and to Him shall they come when His mountain of fire is cast into the sea, starting a process to bring an end to all flesh and its trading with false philosophies and doctrines of demons (Rev 21:1):

Rev 8:8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
Rev 8:9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.

“The third” again points to this process of judgment in us, but also in everyone in this sea of flesh as they will eventually see their part in this sea, even giving an account of their part in the killing of God’s elected Christ which makes this sea become blood. This very blood and life of Christ brings an end to flesh as there will be no more sea in the end (Mat 10:38-39; Gal 2:20; Php 4:13):

Rev 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

“Treasures hid in the sand”

We are naturally made from the dust of the ground which is but our primitive or initial stage, which starts our development to eventually become spiritually mature to be in the spiritual image of God (Gen 2:7). In this initial stage we are like Adam and Eve when we can hear God’s commandments but cannot do them (Mat 7:26-27). This is how the apostle Paul explains this inability of the flesh to obey the spiritual law of God:

Rom 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
Rom 7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
Rom 7:16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
Rom 7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

This can be seen in the tribe of Zebulun which was part of the six tribes on the northern mountain speaking the curses out against those who do not obey God’s commandments:

Deu 27:13 And these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse; Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.

Even this tribe of Zebulun had to live by those words as they, like all the tribes of Israel, did not drive out all their enemies as commanded by God when they were given their plot or territory in Canaan (Jdg 1:1-36; Jdg 2:1-5):

Jdg 1:30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.

By our own mouths are we judged, as we live by every word from God’s mouth as our self-righteous old man thinks he is above those words and they actually apply to those evil people ‘out there’ (Mat 4:4):

Luk 19:20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:
Luk 19:21 For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.
Luk 19:22 And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow.

When we can see we are the wicked and deluded servant who says these words, then we will also learn, like Job who eventually found out, that God is the One who sows every seed and created the evil and the good for His “very good” purposes (Gen 1:11-13; Gen 1:31; Pro 16:4; Isa 45:7):

Job 40:4 Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.

Zebulun was Jacob’s tenth son, and his tribe was also one of the ten tribes who sided with the northern tribes under the rule of Jeroboam (1Ki 11:29-33). Not one of these kings or their followers in the northern kingdom ever obeyed God’s commandments emphasizing how the number ten spiritually points out that the flesh can never please God (1Co 15:50):

Rom 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

The tribe of Zebulun also showed a spirit of commitment and bravery. We read, for example, of Deborah’s praise for the tribe of Zebulun in Israel’s war against the Canaan king, Jabin, and his general Sisera (Jdg 5:18). Through their faithfulness in battle God appointed a judge from this tribe of Zebulun to rule Israel for ten years:

Jdg 12:11 And after him Elon, a Zebulonite, judged Israel; and he judged Israel ten years.

This tribe also joined David in battle and “could keep rank: they were not of double heart”. These “mighty men, helpers of the war” made themselves available even in supplying in the needs of those who fought with David against Saul to bring David to his kingly throne in Jerusalem (1Ch 12:1-40):

1Ch 12:33 Of Zebulun, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank: they were not of double heart.

Likemindedness in the spiritual things of God is such an important attribute for each son of God to bring fulfillment to the plan of God within our own lives (Rom 15:5; Php 2:2):

Mat 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Zebulun, the fifth son mentioned by Jacob at his death bed, represents those who are given grace through faith, which is what the number five spiritually represents (Gen 49:1-13; Eph 2:8-9). Faith and grace release these “treasures hid in the sand” when we “live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” by “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Tit 2:11-12). This is how spiritual Zebulun in us indeed becomes part of the foundation of the new habitation of God, His heavenly Jerusalem:

Rev 7:8 Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand.


Detailed studies and emails relating to these foundational themes in Scripture are available on the website, including these topics and links:

Numbers in Scripture
What and Where Is Heaven?
Revelation 13:1-2
Revelation 21:4-8
Revelation 15:1-4

Other related posts