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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Genesis 47:29-49:27

Here are my notes from a message on Genesis 47:29-49:27


Through extraordinary events God enables Joseph who is sold into slavery by his own brothers, who ends up as an imprisoned slave in Egypt, to rise to second in command over Egypt, the mightiest nation on the Earth at that time.

Joseph's meteoric rise in power in Egypt was not however God’s reward to Joseph for his integrity and faithfulness. His rise in power was important for several reasons:

1. Joseph’s ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams ensured the salvation of Egypt through 7 years of great famine.

2. It placed Joseph in a position where he could ensure that his family would be delivered through the famine.

3. It led to the reconciliation of his family.

4. It led to the family of Jacob migrating to the best lands in Egypt where the family would begin to multiply, thus fulfilling God’s promise that from Abraham would become a nation.

5. It further leads to the fulfillment of God’s promise that Abraham’s descendants would live in servitude in a foreign land for 400 years.

6. It leads to God’s mighty display of power over the gods of Egypt as he brings mighty Egypt to its knees.

7. Ultimately it is a small part of the overall plan to use one family to bless all the nations though Jesus Christ.

The family has been reunited, as Pharaoh invited the family of Jacob to dwell in Egypt during the famine.

We left off last week with Joseph accumulating for Pharaoh almost the entire wealth of all of Egypt, money, herds, lands, and a 1/5 of every harvest.

As we pick back up the narrative this evening, the focal point will be back on Jacob as he is about die. The important custom of a father blessing his offspring will be the focus.

Read Genesis 47:29-48:22

Joseph’s Oath & the Blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh

Before Jacob begins to bless his children, he first enlists Joseph to take an oath to return his body to Canaan to be buried with his father and grandfather.

This must have been a soft reminder to Joseph that as significant as he had become within Egypt, Egypt was only a small episode in the plan of God for the descendants of Abraham. They ultimately belonged in Canaan. Victor Hamilton remarks, “Egypt is to Jacob and his family what the ark was to Noah—a temporary shelter from disaster on the outside.”

At a later time, when it was apparent that Jacob’s final days were upon him, Joseph came to him bringing his two sons with him. Jacob begins his blessing by speaking about the blessing God has been to him:

1. Fruitful —Genesis 47:27

2. Multiplication

3. Company of Peoples

4. Possession of Canaan

This was another reminder that their destiny although the first three were taking place was not in Egypt.

Next, Jacob does something completely unexpected. He makes Joseph’s two sons Manasseh and Ephraim his own. Although the reasons for Jacob’s actions here are not explained, perhaps his mention of Rachel gives us a clue. Rachel was by all accounts the one wife Jacob loved but she only was able to give Jacob two sons because she died at childbirth with Benjamin. Perhaps this is Jacob’s way of bringing in more descendants of Rachel into the family.

Additionally, V. Hamilton says, “by making Joseph’s sons Jacob’s, Jacob is elevating Joseph to the level of himself. That is, both men are now ancestral fathers of the tribes of Israel that will come from them.”

But the surprises do not end here. After Jacob is made aware of the two visitors at Joseph’s side, he sets out to bless them, but not in the traditional way. Joseph brings his children to Jacob and places them according to age. He places Manasseh the firstborn under his left hand facing Jacob’s right hand. He places Ephraim the younger under his own right hand opposite from Jacob’s left hand.

However in a surprise move, Jacob crosses his hands and puts the favored right hand upon Ephraim the younger. By his God and the angel that has watched over him, Jacob blesses the boys in two ways:

1. Their names were carried on in the same way as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s.

2. Their descendants would be numerous in the earth.

Joseph objects to Jacob’s reversal, but it stands just as his own stood even though he had deceived his father, Isaac.

Manasseh will become a people, but Ephraim will become a multitude of nations.

The Bible does not theologize why the second born so often took preeminence over the firstborn. From Cain, Ishmael, Esau, Reuben, and Zerah, now to Manasseh we have multiple examples of God passing over the firstborn and instead using younger sons.

Perhaps, this is a reminder to us that God’s ways are remarkably different than our own (Isa 55:8-9). God will not be confined to human standards and traditions. It foreshadows the foolishness of the gospel (1 Cor 1:23-25). Perhaps from Jacob’s perspective it could have been as simple that since he was the second born, he placed favor on the younger as he once was.

Read Genesis 49:1-27

The Blessing of the Twelve

Reuben (3-4)

Being the firstborn of Jacob, Reuben was destined for preeminence, however his sexual affair with Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant and his father’s concubine derailed Reuben destiny. So his blessing is not one at all.

Simeon & Levi (5-7)

Simeon and Levi are addressed together because their fates are linked when both men slaughtered the people of Shechem because one Shechemite raped their sister, Dinah. Because of their uncontrollable anger, Jacob distances himself from these sons and he does not give them a blessing.

Judah (8-12)

Along with Joseph, and not surprisingly, Judah receives a prominent blessing:

v11—binds his foal/donkey to a vine (who does that?) This shows how prosperous is. He washes his clothes in wine—wine is plentiful

v9—Judah is compared to a lion, a fierce animal—Judah will be strong

v8—Judah will rule over other peoples and even over his brothers

Zebulun (13)

Issachar (14-15)

Dan (16-17)

Plea for deliverance (18)

Because of its location, this tribe would be at the forefront of war.

Asher (20)
Because of Asher’s location, it prospered in the area of food.

Naphtali (21)

Joseph (22-26)
He has survived many attacks—v23-24
Upheld by God—v24
Abundantly blessed by God—vv25-26

Benjamin (27)
The tribe of Benjamin was known for its great military prowess.

Prophetic Blessings

These blessing have a prophetic element to them. That is, what Jacob predicts in the blessings or lack of blessings proves true for the future descendants of these brothers.

For example in 7b Jacob says of Simeon and Levi, “I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.” Simeon future is subsumed in Judah and Levi gains no land as they become the tribe of priests.

Furthermore, Reuben who should have received the lion’s share of the blessing, ends up in obscurity, and Judah, who takes the lead to provide for the family takes the lion’s share and rules over the tribes in later years through King David who is from Judah.

Far in advance of knowing where each tribe would be located, Jacob makes predictions about Gad and Zebulun that prove true in the future

Any foreshadowing of Jesus in the Text?

Although many major commentaries do not note, the blessing of Judah surely contains imagery of Messianic truths.

Judah is referred to as a lion—In the book of Revelation, in chapter 5 a great angel asks who is worthy to open the scroll so that in essence God’s will can be accomplished. John thinks there is no one in all heaven or earth able to open it and begins to weep. However, he is encouraged and that the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the root of David is worthy to open the book.

Jacob prophetically asks of the Judean Lion, “Who dares rouse him?” As powerful as Judah was in her heyday of David and Solomon’s reigns, this question ultimately fits Jesus Christ, the Lord of lords and King of kings. This fits with Philippians 2:10-11, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Genesis 49:10 says of Judah, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet.” This reference points first to David’s rise as King over Israel and later to his descendants who reigned on the thrown over God’s people. God’s promise to David and his descendants was given in 2 Samuel 7:11-13 where God says:

2Sam 7:11 (NASU) even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you.

12 "When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.

13 "He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

However, the ultimate fulfillment of Jacob’s words in Genesis 49 to Judah point to the Messiah. The reason why the scepter will never depart from Judah is because the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ is Lord forevermore.

Lastly, Jacob says of Judah, “and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Generically speaking, Judah was powerful and peoples listened to her as a tribe like Judah’s brothers listened to him. The tribes even submitted to David, but not perfectly. In Jesus, this proclamation reaches its climax as his rule will include “the peoples.”


Genesis, a book in many respects about blessing, comes near to its close with the “family of God’s unique blessing” and its Patriarch announcing his blessings to his 12 (14 if you count Manasseh & Ephraim) children. Not only do these blessings contain prophetic details about the future tribes of Israel, but they also point to climactic figure in Scripture, Jesus Christ. They point us to the primary purpose of the patriarchal blessings, namely to bring redemption for his creation.

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