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Wednesday: Jacob Blesses His Sons — 14 Comments

  1. My father wrote me a letter not long before he died. I still have it somewhere. This was back in the days before cheap electronic communication, so it came in an envelope with a stamp on it. (Do you remember those?) Mum was the communicator in our family and kept us up with the news. Dad only wrote when he had something on his mind. Mum said he laboured long and hard over this letter and rewrote it several times before finally sending it to me. Essentially he wanted me to keep the faith, and pass it on to our children.

    I think that is just about what every parent wants. We hope that we have given something of value to our children and that they in turn will value it and pass it on to our children

    Jacob had known his children for a very long time. He had seen them fight one another, deceive one another and him. He had experienced their youthful headstrong sense of local justice. And he had seen them grow and develop. He summed up their characters pretty well. Some of what he said wasn't flattering, but they had earned it.

    It is worth taking the time to read the whole blessing. The lesson authors concentrate on Judah because of its Messianic implications. However, spare a thought for what was said to the other brothers:

    Reuben: strong but unstable
    Simeon and Levi: hot-tempered and angry
    Judah: rulership
    Zebulun: associated with ships and ports
    Issachar: a strong hard worker
    Dan: A judge, but also one who ambushes like a snake
    Gad: apparently weak but overcoming at last
    Asher: sounds like he is a baker
    Napthali: as erratic as loosed deer but kindly with his speech.
    Joseph: a fruitful bough - Joseph gets rather a long blessing compared to his brothers.
    Benjamin: A fighter

    There is a lot of symbolism in this description/blessing. Reading it may help us to understand ourselves a little better.

  2. Today's lesson proposes that God, knowing the future, arranges the future "over and above free will". This could be misunderstood as proposing a Sovereign God who arranges the future independently of freewill in an authoritarian manner. Such a view would be understandable in light of our examples of human expressions of sovereignty. However, I believe the lesson is trying to convey (hopefully) that God is able to arrange the future whist at the same time preserving human free will and therefore working all things together for good (Romans 8:28*) - even human free will choices that are not good.

    This is why I see God as the Master Orchestrator able to 'weave' all things together in a way that does not over-ride free will. Or as the lesson has also mentioned recently, God is able to orchestrate that which was meant for evil - by those who have exercised their free will freedom to develop hearts reflective of Genesis 6:5 - for ultimate good. This requires a God who, as an authoritative Sovereign, has abilities and capacities way beyond that of a lesser authoritarian Sovereign - a God who is able to do abundantly above and beyond what we could consider or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

    I acknowledge that what I am attempting to convey could easily be misunderstood. So if you have any concerns after you have carefully considered what I have written, please ask for further clarification...

    * The Greek word used in Romans 8:28 for 'working' all things together is synergei from which we get the word synergy - meaning to work in conjunction with something. Hence the notion of God being the master (authoritative) orchestrator that is able to both work with something (including that which is meant for evil) and yet bring about abundantly more than what would otherwise be the outcome (and process) without His masterful orchestration - ie bring about abundantly good from that which was meant for evil.

    • Phil, Thank you for sharing your inspired insights with us! The words ‘Master Orchestrator’ and ‘orchestrate’ are wonderful words to help envision the living experience of this amazing orchestration of heaven’s rendition of Life! It is an amazing experience to find oneself to be a participant as well as a benefactor in this life-giving arrangement of the Will of God to redeem mankind and His Creation.

  3. Ephesians 4:10-16 (CSB)
    10 The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things.
    11 And he himself gave some to be #apostles#, some #prophets#, some #evangelists#, some #pastors# and #teachers#
    12 equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to #build up the body of Christ#
    13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.
    14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.
    15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head -- Christ.
    16 From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.

    As Jacob knew his children well, so Jesus as the second Adam and new New Israel/Creation knows his children intimately, and gifted them spiritually for unity in the body of immortal Sons and Daughters.
    Hebrews 2:13 (CSB) ....And again, Here I am with the children God gave me.

    Shalom Family in God.

  4. The choice of Judah as the one from whom the Messiah would come seems a strange one to me. He was not the eldest. Reuben was. Judah was son number four. Some have argued that Reuben was disqualified for sleeping with his father’s concubine, and Simeon and Levi (next in line) for their slaughter of the Shechemites. To that I wonder how Levi was too bloody for the kingly line, yet not for the line of priests. Judah wasn’t perfect; the story of Perez’s conception is a strange one. And while we see Judah grow and change in character, surely, Joseph was the most righteous of Jacob’s sons. Yet while Joseph receives a double portion of his father’s inheritance through his two sons, it is Judah who is most exalted.

    I do not understand why God makes the choices he makes, but it gives me hope. If God can choose the unqualified, surely, he can choose me. I don’t have to be the first born, the brightest, the most beautiful, the richest. I just have to be willing to be used.

    I do not understand what God sees in people that makes them his special elect – but it makes me pause. I must guard my thoughts and my tongue before I cast judgment on the choice God has made even as he continues to choose people around me to do his special work. I may not always understand the choices he makes, but I trust that God is working his purpose out. I pray that I will be humble enough to do my part and let God use others to do theirs.

    • God's kingdom is the complete opposite to Satan's kingdom in priorities and attitudes. Jesus said the first will be last and the last first, he/she who serves is greatest in the KOG.
      Those with titles, and letters after their name have a heavy burden with being humble as a child of God.
      I see the godly work and inspiration that comes from people as qualities and gifts from God, not inherent in them to be envied.

      Shalom sister, you are in good company and disposition.
      Shalom 🙏

    • Jocelyn, we have the benefit today of having all scripture, and may understand now what God understood then when through Jacob's dying blessing, the Messiah(King of kings) was shown to come through Judah. It was the virgin Mary, "handmaid of the Lord", not Judah, that He was choosing, and thus foretold the outcome being through the lineage of Judah. And God knew all of this before saying: "Let there be light"(Gen 1:3), and in all of it, not one soul was/is deprived of exercising their free-will. The descendants of Joseph (and Reuben) did not do well and were scattered among the nations nearly 700 years before the Messiah would come. Most of David's(the man after God's own heart) offspring would fail of faithfulness, but Mary was seen as fit to bear and raise the world's Redeemer. God lives in past/present/future, and works out His divine purpose accordingly. We may trust Him completely with our future, which is promised to all who "repent and believe".

      God was not rewarding Judah, but selecting Mary at Jacob's deathbed. And this through a lineage that would include gentiles, harlots, fornicators, murderers...etc. But then, who among us(including Jesus) can say their lineage is free from sinners?! We can only Praise God for the gifts of repentance, pardon, and "everlasting righteousness"(Dan 9:24), purchased by the Lamb of God, who was "slain from the foundation of the world"(Rev 13:8)!

      The priesthood was not granted to Levi, son of Jacob, but to his faithful descendants who did not worship the golden calf at Sinai. Yet the one who made the image was made the first high priest, because God's pardon is full and complete to the repentant soul.

      • Thanks, Robert. A few more details about Levi come to mind:
        Simeon and Levi were cursed for their treachery in avenging the violation of Dinah. (See Gen. 34:1-30) But in the golden calf incident the Levites proved themselves loyal to Jehovah (See Ex. 35:26-28)
        Then Moses told the Levites “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the LORD, for you obeyed him even though it meant killing your own sons and brothers. Today you have earned a blessing.” (Exodus 32:29 NLT)

        This is not a popular passage nowadays when people like to believe that God's character if self-sacrificing love means that he never actively destroys sinners. Yet in this account the Lord explicitly commanded the killing of rebels, and he blessed those who performed the executions and gave them the honor of serving in His temple.
        Now that I'm writing this, it reminds me of the prophecy in Revelation 7;15 given to those who "overcome" in the great tribulation. It makes me think that the same kind of "tough love" exhibited by the Levites will be needed by God's last-day people.

        These stories also demonstrate that specific character traits -such as decisiveness in action - may be used for evil or righteousness.

        (I confess these stories are hardly among my favorites in the Bible, but I dare not pick and choose from God-inspired messages.)

  5. Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. Genesis 49:22

    Vines need support, especially vines heavy with fruit. In the East they were frequently planted by a well or spring, and walls or trellises were provided for climbing. In Persia, vine dressers painstakingly trained the vine to the top, and hung stones on the tips to make them curl over the wall and down the other side. This could be the mental picture Jacob had when placing such a beautiful and prophetic blessing upon his son who was also a spiritual soulmate.

    Joseph had learned to be humble and dependent upon God in difficult circumstances and in exalted ones. Because of his leaning on God, Joseph became very fruitful. Joseph’s vine had already grown over the wall, bearing fruit on the inside and on the outside, within his family and within the larger known world. Joseph’s vine produced the fruit of God’s work on earth for both believers and nonbelievers to be blessed by.

    EGW in Christ Object Lessons page 215 says: God's purpose toward His people, and the glorious possibilities before them, had been set forth in the beautiful words, "That they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified," Isa. 61:3. The dying Jacob, under the Spirit of inspiration, had said of his best-loved son, "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall." And he said, "The God of thy Father" "shall help thee," the Almighty "shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under." Gen. 49:22, 25. So God had planted Israel as a goodly vine by the wells of life. He had made His vineyard "in a very fruitful hill." He had "fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine." Isa. 5:1, 2. [p. 215]

    "And He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes." Isa. 5:2. The people of Christ's day made a greater show of piety than did the Jews of earlier ages, but they were even more destitute of the sweet graces of the Spirit of God. The precious fruits of character that made the life of Joseph so fragrant and beautiful, were not manifest in the Jewish nation.

    God in His Son had been seeking fruit, and had found none. Israel was a cumberer of the ground. Its very existence was a curse; for it filled the place in the vineyard that a fruitful tree might fill. It robbed the world of the blessings that God designed to give. The Israelites had misrepresented God among the nations. They were not merely useless, but a decided hindrance. To a great degree their religion was misleading, and wrought ruin instead of salvation.

    • Esther - thank you for sharing this insightful passage from EGW's Object lessons. It is a blessing to read Truth presented using pictures easily understood.

    • Love the way you put this together, Esther,

      Vines need support, especially vines heavy with fruit.
      ... Joseph had learned to be humble and dependent upon God in difficult circumstances and in exalted ones. Because of his leaning on God, Joseph became very fruitful. Joseph’s vine had already grown over the wall, bearing fruit on the inside and on the outside, within his family and within the larger known world.

      Thank you for that beautiful insight!

  6. I compared the accounts of Jacob’s pronouncements (blessings) to his sons with that of Moses when he, “the man of God, blessed the children of Israel before his death’ – Deut.33. The focus of the lesson seems to be Gen.49:10, a prophecy foretelling the coming of Christ. In all, the full account sounds more like the God-given, spiritual awareness of the Father regarding his sons’ futures because of who they are by temperament.

    If Jacob knew the end from the beginning, I think it could have been made clearer in this passage, but the clearer picture does not appear until Moses is given his vision of the tribes of Israel at the time of entering the Promised Land, long after the sons had died.
    There is something peculiar about identifying the son’s temperament with the outcome of the success or failure of their tribes. I do not know how these two aspects can be correlated and do not want to speculate. God’s ways are higher than ours, that is all I know.

    The passage mentioning Shiloh - Gen.49:10 ”The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall be the gathering of the people be” – intrigued me. At first, I though it to mean ‘peace’ – peace finally coming to the people of Israel. I found a great article titled “What Christians should know about Shiloh in the Bible”, by Heather Riggleman.
    “The word ‘Shiloh is used 32 times in the Old Testament to refer to a location – a city, and one other time to refer to the Messiah – Gen.49:10. Paul writes in Eph.2:14 that “Christ, Himself is our peace.”

    Why should we be rendering homage to Jesus now, even before all nations will do it? Because He is our PEACE! The word ‘peace’ to be understood in its most deepest sense of harmony and rightness with our Creator – Oneness - being at peace!


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