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Genesis 48:36; 49:810; 50:1521comment (0)

May 22, 2008

By Jay T. Robertson

Related Scripture: Genesis 48:36; 49:810; 50:1521

Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Genesis 48:3–6; 49:8–10; 50:15–21

Reflect on God’s Promises (48:3–6)

Joseph, upon hearing that his father, Jacob, was weaker, took his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to him in order to be blessed. And though there was no act other than the blessing recorded here, the Hebrews 11 reference describes it as worship. This is true because to believe God’s word and to base everything in the future upon His word is worship.

Joseph came to his father with his sons in expectation of receiving the patriarch’s blessing. As they stood there, Jacob reflected on the promise that undergirded what he was about to do. God had appeared to Jacob twice in Luz. God first appeared when Jacob was fleeing from Esau. He had given him a vision of angels ascending and descending on his behalf, accompanied with a promise of the land on which he lay and offspring like the dust of the earth (Gen. 28:12–14). God appeared to Jacob again when he returned to Canaan. This second encounter with God at Bethel is the source for the terminology that Jacob used here (Gen. 35:11–15).

The promises God declared to Jacob echoed the promise made to Abraham and Isaac and reflected the creation commandment to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28). The point of Jacob’s recollections here is that as heir to those promises, he had the right to decide to whom they would go with his blessing. Jacob’s reflections were shaped with faith that God would fulfill the promises through him.

Having established his authority to grant the blessing, Jacob informed Joseph of his intentions: Ephraim and Manasseh would not be his grandsons but rather his sons, displacing Reuben and Simeon. First Chronicles 5:1–2 sheds some light on this turn of events: “He (Reuben) was the firstborn, but his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel, because Reuben defiled his father’s bed. ... Although Judah became strong among his brothers and a ruler came from him, the birthright was given to Joseph.” Jacob named Ephraim and Manasseh as replacements.

Serve with Confidence (49:8–10)
After announcing his first three sons’ disqualification, Jacob turned to Judah and delivered an oracle that established the kingly role of Judah until the Messiah would come. Judah would exercise a lionlike dominance. His brothers’ descendants would bow down to his descendants just as they had bowed down to Joseph. The tribe of Judah would take its enemies by the neck. The lion’s appearance is heightened by its swift movements, fearlessness and its mane. Thus it has become a proverbial symbol of majesty and strength.

With the metaphor still ringing in his ears, Judah heard his father’s blessing move out to the distant future and the dawn of the Messianic age. Biblical commentators, Jewish and Christian, have interpreted verse 10 as messianic. The imagery of “the scepter” and “the staff” is symbolic of a kingship that would remain with Judah until the Messiah comes. Verse 10 declares that the Messiah has the right to rule and that “the obedience of the peoples belongs to Him.” As we reflect on God’s promises, our faith is strengthened and we can serve God with confidence. Indeed we serve God for His glory in the strength that He supplies. It is the Lion of the tribe of Judah that enables us to serve in a way that glorifies our Father (John 15:5).

Act with Compassion (50:15–21)
Joseph’s brothers feared now that their father was buried, Joseph might destroy them. They approached him to ask forgiveness. Their plea for forgiveness was cloaked with a lie because not a word of it came from Jacob.
Although the brothers attributed the request that they be forgiven to their father, the plea contained a confession of their sin and described their desire for forgiveness. Joseph responded by weeping and assuring them that he would care for them. He comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Joseph’s high view of God, the Romans 8:28 kind of God, enabled him to survive the hard years and then be kind to his evil brothers during the good years. Indeed God does work all things together for good for His people.

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