March 30, 2015.
Daily Reading: Genesis 48-50.
Background: Genesis 44-47.
Concepts and Connections.
The blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh: As Jacob nears the end of his life and becomes ill, Joseph takes his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to his father so that he can bless his grandsons. Typically, the greater blessing would be given to the oldest son, which in this case would be Manasseh, and a lesser blessing would be given to the other sons. Jacob crosses his hands (on purpose), however, so that his right had would be on Ephraim and his left on Manasseh, giving the younger son the greater blessing. When Joseph tries to correct his father, he refuses, saying that they both shall indeed be blessed, but the younger more so. One might speculate that Jacob did this because he was the younger brother (his older brother being Esau) and yet he received the firstborn’s blessing (see Genesis 27). Nevertheless, the drama seems to be much less in this story as Jacob blesses Joseph’s two sons each with a great blessing. The Hebrew writer makes mention of Jacob’s blessing here in Hebrews 11:21, citing the instance as an example of great faith.
The blessing of the twelve tribes: After Jacob gives his blessing to Ephraim and Manasseh, he calls all twelve of his sons in to see him and gives each a blessing, summarized below:
Ruben: Though he was firstborn, he would not have preeminence, because he had defiled his father’s bed (see Genesis 35:22). He is said to be as unstable as water.
Simeon and Levi: These two men are paired together because they are brothers and they had both taken it upon themselves to get revenge for their sister who was raped (see Genesis 34:25-26). Since they did this in their anger, their tribes would be divided and scattered throughout Israel.
Judah: Judah is given a blessing of honor, as his brothers would bow down to him. This blessing seems to be very Messianic in nature, as the Christ would come from the tribe of Judah (see Matthew 1:2). The scepter and the ruler’s staff would never depart from Judah (Christ is still reigning today).
Zebulun: Zebulun is given a plot by the sea (see Joshua 19:10-11).
Issachar: This tribe would be strong, yet crouch between the sheepfolds (see Joshua 5:15-16). They would be made to do forced labor.
Dan: Dan would cause trouble for the rest of the tribes of Israel (see Judges 18:27).
Gad: They would be successful in battle in the promised land (see 1 Chronicles 5:18-22).
Asher: It seems Asher would harbor delicious foods.
Naphtali: Naphtali would bear beautiful children just as a doe let loose.
Joseph: Joseph is steadfast in times of trouble, and many blessings would fall on him. Note that he technically received a double portion of the promised land since his two sons were considered half tribes, each receiving their own inheritance.
Benjamin: Benjamin is depicted as a ravenous wold, dividing the spoil (see Judges 19-21).
1. God’s purpose: After Jacob dies, the bothers of Joseph get worried that the only reason that Joseph had not put them to death was because their father had still been alive. Now that he was dead, they feared that Joseph would do them harm. This was never the intention of Joseph, however, for he recognized that though they meant to do him harm, God had purposed what they did to set him in a position to save many people from the famine. God’s province had led him to become the second in command in Egypt, just under Pharaoh. It seems that Joseph harbored little, if any, negative feelings toward his brethren. This is a great example to emulate, showing us that even when people mean to do us harm, one way to help us forgive them is to recognize that God can use what they mean for harm as good, and lead us to things that we would not think possible. It is always important to remember that God is in control, no matter how false that statement seems in the moment.
2. Death: Two deaths are recorded in this chapter, the death of Jacob and later on the death of Joseph. We get a very interesting insight to Egyptian culture with the account of Jacob’s death, as Joseph had the Egyptians embalm Jacob, an Egyptian process of preserving the bodies of the dead. We can see the great impact that Joseph had had on the Egyptians as they mourn at the death of his father. Later on, when Joseph neared his own death, he gave a prophecy of the Exodus and commanded that his bones be brought from the land when the Lord visited them. The Hebrew writer cites this as an example of great faith in Hebrews 11:22. Then they embalmed Joseph and laid him in a coffin in Egypt. Thus the book of Genesis ends on a high note, with the Egyptians and Israelites in favor with one another. Unfortunately, this would only last for so long, as the book of Exodus begins some time after the death of Joseph with a new Pharaoh who did not know who Joseph was and would begin to oppress the children of Israel (see Exodus 1).
Tomorrow’s Reading: I Samuel 11-15.
May the blessings of the Lord fall upon you.