Genesis 49:1-33

49 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.

“Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;
listen to your father Israel.

“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.

“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.

“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.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
his teeth whiter than milk.

13 “Zebulun will live by the seashore
and become a haven for ships;
his border will extend toward Sidon.

14 “Issachar is a rawboned donkey
lying down among the sheep pens.
15 When he sees how good is his resting place
and how pleasant is his land,
he will bend his shoulder to the burden
and submit to forced labor.

16 “Dan will provide justice for his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan will be a snake by the roadside,
a viper along the path,
that bites the horse’s heels
so that its rider tumbles backward.

18 “I look for your deliverance, Lord.

19 “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders,
but he will attack them at their heels.

20 “Asher’s food will be rich;
he will provide delicacies fit for a king.

21 “Naphtali is a doe set free
that bears beautiful fawns.

22 “Joseph is a fruitful vine,
a fruitful vine near a spring,
whose branches climb over a wall.
23 With bitterness archers attacked him;
they shot at him with hostility.
24 But his bow remained steady,
his strong arms stayed limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25 because of your father’s God, who helps you,
because of the Almighty, who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
blessings of the deep springs below,
blessings of the breast and womb.
26 Your father’s blessings are greater
than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
than the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of the prince among his brothers.

27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
in the morning he devours the prey,
in the evening he divides the plunder.”

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

29 Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 31 There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.”

33 When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
(Genesis 49:1-33 NIV)

As we finished up Chapter 48 in our last time together, we saw Israel bless Joseph’s sons and give Joseph a double blessing by making Joseph’s sons equal inheritants with their uncles (Joseph’s brothers) when they eventually returned to the Promised Land.

In today’s text, we see Jacob speak to each of his sons before he died.  While some scholars call this Jacob’s final blessing, it’s actually more of  Joseph’s final prophecy about each son’s future generations.

I have debated for some time on how to handle this chapter.  There is so much here – it would be easy to dissect this text and spend a blog post on each son, looking at Joseph’s comments and why Joseph said what he said.  It would be equally easy to summarize everything and move on.

After much study and mental debate, I came upon a viewpoint that I had not considered – how the good that Jacob predicted for each son ultimately found its realization in Jesus.  Bible scholar Arthur W. Pink has this to say about each of Jacob’s sons:

  1. Reuben reminds us of the excellency and dignity of Christ’s person.
  2. Simeon and Levi may well speak to us of Christ on the cross:  that ‘instruments of cruelty’ were used against Him.
  3. Simeon and Levi (through Levi) anticipated our Lord’s priesthood, for Levi became the priestly tribe.
  4. Judah pictures our Lord’s kingship.
  5. Zebulun looks at Christ as the great Refuge and Haven of Rest.
  6. Isaachar prefigures His (Christ’s) lowly service.
  7. Dan views Him (Jesus) as the Judge.
  8. Gad announces His (Christ’s) triumphant resurrection.
  9. Asher looks at Him (Jesus) as the Bread of Life, the One who satisfies the hearts of His own.
  10. Napthali regards His (Jesus’) as God’s perfect prophet, giving good words
  11. Joseph forecasts His (Jesus’) Millennial reign.
  12. Benjamin depicts Him (Jesus) as the terrible Warrior.

(summarized from “Gleanings in Genesis”, by Arthur W. Pink. Chicago:Moody Press, 1974, pp. 339-340.)

May we see the rich heritage God began centuries before He sent His Son to earth.

May we see Jesus in all His glory – past, present, and future.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 48:8-22

When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?”

“They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father.

Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”

10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.

11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

12 Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. 13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.

15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,

“May the God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life to this day,
16 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
on the earth.”

17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”

19 But his father refused and said, “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.” 20 He blessed them that day and said,

“In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing:
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”

So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.

21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers. 22 And to you I give one more ridge of land than to your brothers, the ridge I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.”
(Genesis 48:8-22 NIV)

In our last look at Genesis Chapter 48, we saw Joseph take his two sons and visit his ailing father Jacob.  Jacob then blessed Joseph by giving him a double blessing, making his two sons equal with their uncles for inheritance.

In today’s passage, we see Jacob meeting and blessing Joseph’s sons.  While Joseph’s physical eyesight may have been failing (v. 10), his spiritual insight and discernment was as sharp as ever.

Notice the shift of names between verses 1-7 and 8-22.  In verses 1-7, Jacob is referred to by his old name – Jacob.  In verses 8-22, Jacob is referred to by his new God-given name, Israel.

The old-named man in verse 1-7 spent most of the dialogue by looking back at his life – God’s original blessing, his life with his beloved wife Rachel (Joseph’s mother), and Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh who were born in Egypt before Jacob arrived.

In verses 8-22, Jacob is known by his new name – Israel.  Here, he looks forward to God’s blessing that he will not see – the move of his family back to the Promised Land (verse 21).  Israel had already made Joseph promise to take his bones back to the Promised Land – to not leave him behind in Egypt whenever the Lord called his descendants back to the geographic home God had promised here on earth.

Israel also blessed Joseph’s sons, though not as Joseph had hoped.  Israel switched hands and  gave the first-born blessing to Ephraim (the younger brother) rather than to Manasseh (the first-born).  We see this intentionality when Joseph tried to correct his father and switch his hands.  This was not a failure due to lack of physical eyesight on Israel’s part, but rather a fulfillment of spiritual insight and discernment from the Lord.

Israel knew that Joseph would never return to the Promised Land alive due to his position in Egypt, but Joseph’s sons would return to the Promised Land.  Israel then repeated his double-blessing on Joseph by giving both Manasseh and Ephraim equal shares of land in the Promised Land.  The boys were on equal ground with their uncles, Joseph’s brothers.

As we progress through our years of life, may we be intentional about living our lives for others and not just for ourselves.  Jacob’s early years were all about Jacob, but after his encounter with Almighty God and a name change, Israel’s life was about others and seeing God’s fulfillment of His promises in future generations.

May our faith increase!

Blessings,
~kevin