Click here to read Genesis 47:28-49:28

Today’s passage isn’t filled with the same type of narrative action as in previous passages, but it is easy to see that it is just as important.  Today’s passage focuses on Jacob adopting Joseph’s sons (Manasseh and Ephraim) and giving his sons a final blessing before he dies.  The final blessing contains blessings, curses, judgments, and promises, as well as a prophetic look at the future that is similar to what Isaac did in chapter 27 and Noah did in chapter 9.

If you remember, Genesis tells the general story of the origin of mankind and also the story of how the nation of Israel came to be.  Today’s passage provides an important look at how the tribes of Israel will relate in the future as the nation itself takes shape.  In fact, this passage shows that two things will shape the future of Israel: 1) God’s promises and 2) the consequences of their actions.

We also have the benefit of being able to see the connections between Jacob’s words and what will between the tribes in the future.  This also allows us to see that Jacob’s words were more than just some hopes or aspirations that he had for his children—they were in line with what God’s will was.  Though there are consequences of future actions that will also influence the relationships between the tribes, today’s blessing provides an interesting look at what will happen in the future.  It will be interesting to see how these prophecies play out in the books of the Bible that are ahead—it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a look back at these blessings while reading through the rest of the Old Testament. Below is a quick summary of the blessings.

Reuben – the firstborn.  By sleeping with his father’s concubine (Bilhah) he forfeited the double portion of inheritance that was traditionally set-aside for the firstborn (instead it was split between Manasseh and Ephraim).  His life will be turbulent and he will no longer excel.

Simeon and Levi – they wiped out an entire town as they sought revenge for Dinah’s rape.  They also forfeit the blessing usually given to the firstborn.

Judah – he receives the usual blessing reserved for the firstborn and Jacob proclaims that his line will rule Israel until the scepter finally comes to the one it belongs to.

Zebulun – he will live by the sea.

Issachar – he will prefer an agricultural lifestyle.

Dan – he will be a judge for Israel, but his descendants will also lead Israel astray like the serpent.

Gad – he will be effective in battle.

Asher – he will produce great and delicious food.

Naphtali – he would be a free mountain people.

Joseph – receives the double blessing usually given to the firstborn (it is passed on to Ephraim and Manasseh) and the focus is on God blessing his line in the future.  Jacob states that the blessings that Joseph has already received will pale in comparison to what is in store.

Benjamin – he will produce mighty warriors.

In the weeks ahead we’ll see that these blessings unfold as Jacob prophesied – Judah’s line will rule over Israel (David and the Messiah will come through his line), they will live where it is proclaimed here, Dan’s descendants will judge Israel (Samson, for example), but they will also lead Israel into idolatry.  In the same way, Naphtali’s line will be sung about as a mountain people in Judges 4 and some mighty warriors (Ehud, Saul, Jonathan) will come through the line of Benjamin. Jacob’s blessings really are the will of God.

Names Places
Major

God – God

Jacob/Israel – Joseph’s father

Joseph – favorite son of Jacob

Manasseh – Joseph’s firstborn son

Ephraim – Joseph’s second son

Reuben – son of Jacob and Leah

Simeon – son of Jacob and Leah

Levi – son of Jacob and Leah

Judah – son of Jacob and Leah

Dan – son of Jacob and Bilhah

Naphtali – son of Jacob and Bilhah

Gad – son of Jacob and Zilpah

Asher – son of Jacob and Zilpah

Issacher – son of Jacob and Leah

Zebulun – son of Jacob and Leah

Dinah – daughter of Jacob and Leah

Joseph – son of Jacob and Rachel

Major

Egypt – where Joseph finally ended up

Canaan – where Joseph’s family lived

Minor

Rachel – Jacob’s wife

Abraham – Jacob’s grandfather

Isaac – Jacob’s father

Minor

Luz (of Canaan) – where God spoke to Jacob

Paddan Aram – northwest Mesopotamia

Ephrath – (Bethlehem) where Jacob was headed when Rachel died

Shechem – ridge that Jacob gave to Joseph

Interesting fact:

Blessing is an important part of today’s passage and it is especially pronounced in the verses where Jacob blesses Joseph.  Through out the book of Genesis the Hebrew word for blessing is used 88 times.  In the verses of the blessing of Joseph, this word is used 6 times. This shows the important future of Joseph and ties it very closely with how God will take care of him.  For Jacob is isn’t just a matter of Joseph’s potential in the future, but the focus is on God keeping His promises, never leaving Joseph, and how amazing that future blessing will be.  All of the sons of Israel (even the ones who forfeited the blessing reserved for the firstborn) are blessed because they sons of Israel and sons of the promises God made, but this shows that this is especially true for Joseph.

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