Tag Archives: Genesis 48

Genesis 49: The Blessing of Jacob’s Sons…

In Genesis 49, Jacob calls together his 12 sons and blesses them before his death. He calls each son by name and speaks of their pasts as well as their futures. I thought it would be an interesting study to take each of these sons of Jacob and analyze their blessings, attempting to apply what is said of them by their father to our own lives.

Reuben

Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn son, born to his wife Leah. Leah had been forced on Jacob, and in Genesis 29:31, it specifically states that she was not loved by him.  Because of this, God showed mercy to her by giving her a son, whom she named Reuben and said “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” (Genesis 29:32). My online Bible comments that “Reuben sounds like the Hebrew for he has seen my misery ; the name means see, a son.” Later in the text, it mentions that Reuben slept with Jacob’s concubine, Bilhah, and Israel (Jacob) heard about it (Genesis 35). This extremely short verse appears as almost an afterthought in Genesis 35, but it ends up playing a huge role in the story as a whole. In chapter 49, when Jacob blesses Reuben he says “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.”  This was Reuben’s blessing in its entirety – so basically, one act of indiscretion (however large it may be) lost Reuben all of his inheritance. Later, in 1 Chronicles 5:1-2, it states that even though Reuben was the firstborn, because of his sin the firstborn rights were given to Joseph. Reuben could no longer even be listed first in the genealogical order. The lesson I take from this is the seriousness with which God sees sin. It’s not just some simple act of indiscretion that can be overlooked whenever we sin – because of His righteousness and holiness, justice must be served when we sin. Unfortunately for Reuben, the concept of grace was still foreign, and he had to live with the consequence.

Simeon & Levi

Simeon and Levi are Reuben’s younger brothers, born to Leah. When Simeon was born, Leah said “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too,” and my commentary says that “Simeon probably means one who hears.” When Levi was born Leah said “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons,” and my commentary states that “Levi sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for attached.” Unfortunately for Leah, none of these 3 sons brought Jacob any closer to becoming attached to her, and Jacob didn’t particularly become attached to any of these sons either. Reuben, of course, was because he defiled his father’s marriage bed, but for Simeon and Levi, it was because of the revenge they enacted on the Shechemites when their ruler raped Dinah, Jacob’s daughter.  Simeon and Levi, with the help of the rest of their brothers, attacked the Shechemites and killed every last male (Genesis 34).  Because of this, Jacob said “You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.” (v. 30). Later, during the blessing, Jacob says of them “Simeon and Levi are brothers—their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.” This is an interesting statement, because Jacob does not curse the sons for their actions, but he curses their anger. Let’s face it – at least part of us thinks that it’s awesome that Simeon and Levi were passionate enough to serve justice to the Shechemites, regardless of how ruthless they were. I think Jacob may have felt this way too – so, as Matthew Henry puts it, “Jacob does not curse their persons, but their lusts.” An interesting side note – Jacob states in their blessing/curse that he will scatter/disperse them. In Henry’s commentary, he mentions that this sounds like a curse, but that it in fact becomes a blessing for Levi, who’s descendants were spread throughout the tribes of Israel to serve as priests.

Judah

When Judah was born to Leah she said “This time I will praise the LORD,” and the name Judah sounds like the Hebrew word for praise (Genesis 29:35). Judah’s blessing is one of the longest, but Judah’s descendants also play the largest role in the history of the nation of Israel. It is Judah’s descendants who become the rulers of all the tribes of Israel, foretold in the blessing  – “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you…the scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his” (Genesis 49:8,10). Jacob also foretells of the coming of one of Jacob’s descendants who will be greater than all others – “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” (v. 10, emphasis added). My commentary says that this part – “to whom it belongs” – means “Or until Shiloh comes ; or until he comes to whom tribute belongs” meaning when one comes who is greater than all others. Jacob also says that Judah will “tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch” – Christ calls himself “the true vine” in John 15:1, and later Jacob calls Joseph “a fruitful vine,” (Genesis 49:22) and Joseph is seen by many as a figure who foreshadows the being of Christ.

Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, & Naphtali

Each of these sons of Jacob receives a foretelling of what their descendants will be like or live through.

  • Zebulun is told he will leave by the sea and become a haven for ships. An interesting side note – one commentary I read said that when Joshua assigned the allotments of land to the tribes of Israel, Zebulun received the region of Galilee along the shore of Lake Tiberias, reaching to the Mediterranean Sea. Zebulun was also an important “haven” in another respect (other than just for ships) – after fleeing King Herod, upon returning from Egypt, Joseph and Mary, with their child Jesus, took refuge in Galilee, the land allotted to Zebulun.
  • Issachar is told that he will enjoy his new land, perhaps to the point that he would live their as a slave rather in order to stay there, rather than fight for it.
  • Dan is told that his tribe will provide justice for the people of Israel. The name Dan means “judge” or “he who vindicates,” but there is no history linking the person of Dan to this prophecy. Samson, the future judge of Israel, does come from this tribe, though (Judges 13).
  • Gad is told that he “will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels.” (Genesis 49:19). It’s interesting to note that “Gad was one of the tribes who chose to stay on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead (along with the Reubenites, see Numbers 32), rather than cross the Jordan and be with the other tribes within the promised land. Because of this, they were isolated from the other tribes, and thus, were subject to attacks by border raiders” (see Judges 10:8, Judges 11:4, 1 Chronicles 5:18, and Jeremiah 49:1).
  • Asher is told that his “food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king.” (Genesis 49:20). The tribe of Asher is later allotted an area that was prosperous and known for its wheat, olive oil, milk, and butter (all delicacies at that time).
  • Naphtali is called “a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.” Some believe that this is a prophecy of the fact that a later prophetess and judge – Deborah – came from the tribe of Naphtali (see Judges 4). The latter portion of Jacob’s blessing – “…that bears beautiful fawns” – is translated “he giveth goodly words,” which some  believe to be a prophecy of the song of Deborah in Judges 5.

Joseph

Jacob has already blessed Joseph and his 2 sons at an earlier time (see Genesis 48), so in this blessing Jacob refers mainly to Joseph’s past of perseverance and staying strong through adversity. Joseph was a blessing to all those around him – to the Egyptians and to all those around Egypt – “Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.” Joseph was imprisoned and persecuted, but he stayed strong – “with bitterness archers attacked him;
they shot at him with hostility.  But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber.”  It was because of God that Joseph was able to succeed – “…because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,  because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you…”

Benjamin

Benjamin is told that he “is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder.” It is thought that this prophetically refers to the tribe of Benjamin’s fierceness and courage. Historically, this is very accurate. For fierceness, note that Ehud, a judge of Israel mentioned in Judges 3, was a Benjamite. Under the guise of paying tribute, he got close to the king of Moab and plunged a sword into his fat belly. “Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.” (v. 22). Great story!!!  Also, the apostle Paul was a Benjamite, and he is remembered for how he fiercely persecuted the church before his conversion (see Acts 9).  For courage, note that Mordecai and Esther were Benjamites, and few stories in the Bible tell of more courage than that of these two characters (see the book of Esther)

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Genesis 48: Walking With God…

In continuing with my study on Genesis 48, I want to spend some time looking at a concept that my study had me look into fairly in depth.  That is the concept of walking with God.

In Genesis 48, Joseph is summoned to Jacob’s bed because he is ill and is presumably dying. Joseph brings his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim with him. When they arrive at Jacob’s bedside, Jacob gets up and proceeds to bless them. This blessing appears to be a common thing when a family patriarch is on his deathbed, as I looked at earlier in the blessing of Jacob and Esau by their father Isaac. During his blessing of Joseph and his sons, Jacob says “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm—may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth.” (v. 15-16, emphasis added). What did Jacob mean when he claimed that his forefathers, Abraham and Isaac, walked before God?  What does it mean to walk before God or to walk with God? After looking up many verses as outlined by my study, I believe the following points can be drawn about walking before the Lord.

  1. Walking before/with God is a way of life. The term walking as used here means “to conduct oneself in a particular manner” or  to “pursue a particular course of life” (Dictionary.com: walk). In other words, instead of physically walking with God by their side, those who are said to have walked with God lived in such a way as if God really was walking by their side – they lived openly and transparently to God, trying to please him with how lived. Many are said to have walked with God throughout the Bible. The first was Enoch – in Genesis 5:21-24, it briefly mentions Enoch and that he “walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” I’m not sure if this means Enoch didn’t die but was just taken off to heaven without tasting death, but the wording is definitely an anomaly compared to that around it.  Later, in Genesis 6:9, it mentions Noah and says that he walked with God, and in Genesis 17:1, God tells Abraham to “walk before him and be blameless…” In Deuteronomy 30:16, God commands that we walk in His ways, and in Micah 6:8 it says that the Lord requires us to walk humbly with Him. Looking at these examples and the commands laid out by God, I think we can conclude that to walk with Him, it requires that we make it a lifestyle, as opposed to perhaps a once-a-week visit to our local church.
  2. Walking with God requires certain things of us. To be considered to have “walked with God” in your life, you must display certain characteristics.  In the account of Noah mentioned above, before it says that he walked with God, it said that “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time…” When God commanded Abraham to walk before Him in Genesis 17, he didn’t just say walk before Him, but to “walk before [Him] and be blameless…” So the first trait we can assume is necessary is to be righteous and blameless – which for those in Christ means that we place our belief and trust in Him. Other traits that are mentioned in relation to walking with God include
    • obedience (Deuteronomy 30:16 – “For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess”).
    • Act justly, mercifully, humbly (Micah 6:8 – “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”).
    • Be humble, gentle, patient, and a peacemaker (Ephesians 4:2-3 – “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”).

    These are only a fraction of what is listed in the Bible as commands for living before our God. I was sure to list the verses with humility in them twice for emphasis – the man who probably walked the closest to God in all of scripture was Moses, and the Bible says that “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3).

  3. The best way to walk with God is to imitate Him. What better way to get closer to someone than to be like them or share similar interests? The same applies to our relationship with God. Ephesians 5:1-2 says “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” To me, this is saying that we should be like God, specifically in how Christ was willing to love us sacrificially. 1 John 2:5-6 says “This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” So here, we have the same metaphor of walking as a way of living, but in this case it should be a way of living that imitates Jesus.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am no expert when it comes to walking with God. For me, it is only by His grace that I am even allowed to be called His child. But as His child, I do want to please Him, and living in such a way that pleases Him is on my priority list. This study was a great reminder of what those priorities should be.

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Genesis 48: Mixed-Up Blessings…

My study today took me through Genesis 48. In this chapter Joseph is summoned to see his father Jacob, because he is ill and presumably on his deathbed. Joseph takes his sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him, and when they arrive Jacob sits up and speaks to them. Jacob tells Joseph of the promise God had made to him a long time ago – God had said “I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.” (v. 4). Jacob tells Joseph that his 2 sons will share in the inheritance and in this blessing from God just as Joseph’s other brothers will.  Then, Jacob proceeded to bless Joseph’s sons, but not as in the manner Joseph would have expected. Joseph placed his sons before Jacob so that his firstborn, Manasseh, was on Jacob’s right, and Ephraim was on his left. But Jacob crossed his arms while he blessed them, placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head, and his left on Manasseh’s. This displeased Joseph, but Jacob tells him “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” (v. 19). Then Jacob tells Joseph that he is about to die, but that God will take care of him and allow him to return to the land of Canaan.

My study (Precept Upon Precept) had me read this chapter, then took me on a Biblical field trip on walking with God (as Jacob mentions his forefathers did in verse 15). I will return to this topic of walking with God tomorrow, but for today I want to look at the blessing that Jacob bestows on Joseph’s sons.

My first observation from this chapter is that, when Joseph is summoned to Jacob’s bed when he is ill, Joseph must know that he is going to bless him and his sons. The reason I say this is because, from what I can tell, Jacob has not met Joseph’s sons before this point. Jacob acts like this is the first time he has seen them – “When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, ‘Who are these?’ ” (v. 8). This seems odd to me, because the text tells us that Jacob spent 17 years in Egypt before he died (see Genesis 47:28), and that seems like a long time for him to live there without meeting his grandsons, who were born before he moved to Egypt (see Genesis 41:50-52). Of course, Jacob’s vision was failing him, so it is possible that he just didn’t recognize them, but I really don’t think this is the case.  So why would Joseph take his sons to meet their grandfather now, but not before? First, Joseph obviously knows that there are some social divisions in Egypt that might cause problems if he were to have too close of a relationship with his family. In chapter 46, Joseph explains to them that shepherds are detestable to Egyptians, and in chapter 47, he tells Pharaoh that his family will be living in Goshen, which is a ways away from the center of Egyptian leadership and a majority of the population. Joseph, having a highly public and respected position, perhaps could not risk getting too close to his family, or having his sons get too close them. Another reason Joseph may have known that his sons would be blessed by Jacob in this meeting was that it was possibly a deathbed tradition. Jacob’s father, Isaac, had blessed his sons while on his deathbed (see Genesis 27), so perhaps this was just something that Joseph expected.

My next observation is that, when Jacob went to bless Manasseh and Ephraim, he crossed his arms and placed his right hand on the younger grandson.  Joseph had attempted to put his sons in their right place, placing the firstborn on the right side of Jacob where his right hand could touch him during the blessing, and placing the younger son on Jacob’s left. Jacob saw where they were, and crossed his arms so that his right hand would touch Ephraim during the blessing. This obviously disturbed Joseph – the right hand must have held more blessing power or something. But Jacob reassures Joseph that he knows what he is doing. This story reminds me that God makes choices based on his own holiness and righteousness, and his own knowledge that supersedes time and human understanding. As Matthew Henry put it in his commentary over this chapter

Jacob acted neither by mistake, nor from a partial affection to one more than the other; but from a spirit of prophecy, and by the Divine counsel. God, in bestowing blessings upon his people, gives more to some than to others, more gifts, graces, and comforts, and more of the good things of this life. He often gives most to those that are least likely. He chooses the weak things of the world; he raises the poor out of the dust. Grace observes not the order of nature, nor does God prefer those whom we think fittest to be preferred, but as it pleases him.

So Henry suggests that God, and not just Jacob, chose Ephraim to be the greater of the 2 brothers. To Joseph and Manasseh this may have seemed unfair, but I try to remember that we, as humans, usually aren’t wise enough or powerful enough to understand why He makes the choices He makes.  Romans 11:33 says “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” God is way bigger, wiser, and more powerful than we can understand – if He were small enough for us to understand, He wouldn’t be big enough to worship. I hope to remember this when I consider questioning God during the times that I don’t understand what is going on.

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