Jacob’s Blessings

Posted: August 30, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 48:1-49:28, “Jacob’s Blessings”

Some things are too important to leave unsaid. Few people know how many days we are given in this life, so it’s important to say the things that need to be said while we have the opportunity to say them. This is especially true the older we get. Not long ago, I took the opportunity to write letters to my aging parents, thanking them for their sacrifices through the years, and my love and respect for them. I didn’t want the end to come without them knowing how I felt, so I put it down on paper.

It’s unlikely that Jacob thought his own words would be put in writing – much less read by millions of people over the course of thousands of years – but Jacob did something similar with his own sons and grandsons. Knowing that the end of his life was approaching, he gathered his children to himself and said the things that needed saying.

It wasn’t always cheery, but it would prove to be always true. In Chapters 48-49, Jacob functions not only as a patriarch, but as a prophet. He speaks not only of the things on his heart, but the things of the mind of God for the future of the nation of Israel. In the process of blessing his sons, Jacob spoke of the ultimate blessing: the Messiah. The 12 tribes of Israel set the stage for the future king of Israel, the future King and blessing to all the world!

By now, we’re familiar with the background. After years of slavery and prison – after elevation from the dungeon to the highest positions of the Egyptian palace – Joseph was finally reconciled with his brothers and reunited with his father. The whole family of Israel came to the land of Egypt in the midst of a terrible famine, and was delivered from the remaining five years of suffering. Pharaoh granted his permission for the Hebrews to dwell in the land of Goshen, which allowed them to continue working as shepherds, in addition to being incubated as a nation. Although they were in Egypt, they were effectively quarantined from the Egyptian culture, able to multiply exceedingly with their own cultural and national identity. Seventeen years soon passed, and as Jacob/Israel prepared to die, he had Joseph swear to return his body to Canaan. Although Jacob was glad to be delivered in Egypt, he was trusting in the promise of God, and knew that Egypt was not his (or his children’s) permanent home.

It’s at this point he calls his children for their final blessings. These are not Jacob’s final words (so to speak), but they are his final “official” words to his children. This was when he delivered the double-portion birthright, and passed on the covenant of God that had been passed to him from Abraham and Isaac. But unlike with previous generations, the covenant was not passed to one son; it was passed to all, in specific yet different ways. They would all be blessed to various extents, but there were different roles for them in the future. The most important of which, would be given to a son not even Jacob expected: Judah, as his lineage led to the future Messiah.

All in all, it didn’t matter what Jacob planned for his children; what mattered was God’s plan. God does have a plan for His people, and His plan is salvation through Jesus Christ!

Genesis 48: Jacob blesses Joseph’s sons

  • Initial greeting (1-7)

1 Now it came to pass after these things that Joseph was told, “Indeed your father is sick”; and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. 2 And Jacob was told, “Look, your son Joseph is coming to you”; and Israel strengthened himself and sat up on the bed.

  1. Time passed from Jacob and Joseph’s last encounter – how much, we do not know, although we know that Jacob lived 17 years in Egypt beyond his initial arrival at 130 years of age. At some point, Jacob became weak to the point he realized that death was approaching, and he wanted to put his final affairs in order. That’s when he sent for Joseph, who lived among Pharaoh’s household rather than Israel’s household in the land of Goshen. This was the two of them preparing to say “goodbye” to each other – a bittersweet moment, indeed.

3 Then Jacob said to Joseph: “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, 4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession.’

  1. Remember that Luz = Bethel. These were the events of Genesis 28, 35, when God twice appeared to Jacob and Jacob was committed to following the Lord in faith. Although Isaac had promised the covenant to Jacob, it was God Himself who personally affirmed it, and it was something Jacob never forgot. God promised to make him a fruitful nation, and that this nation would dwell in a fruitful land.
  2. There is one addition here not listed earlier in the earlier accounts: the land was to be “an everlasting possession.” It was forever! This may not have been recorded when Jacob encountered the Lord in Bethel in Genesis 28 & 35, but it was recorded much earlier when God spoke to Abraham (Gen 17:8). Jacob was well aware of the fact that the covenant he received from God was the same covenant passed down from his grandfather. It was this same covenant he was passing forward to future generations.
    1. As New Testament Christians, we cannot pass forward our faith. Each generation must individually put his/her faith in Jesus in order to be saved. We can, however, pass on an example of faith. We can model godliness for our children, teach them the Scriptures, and raise them up in the way they should go. They too, can experience the same walk with Jesus that we have, being brought into the same covenant that we have with Him. But it must be presented to them. We can’t expect them to learn it on their own – we’ve got to put forth the effort to teach it to them.

5 And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. 6 Your offspring whom you beget after them shall be yours; they will be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.

  1. Joseph’s sons were made to be full heirs of Israel. This was Joseph’s double-portion inheritance. There is no tract of land within Israel named “Joseph,” but Joseph is still represented in the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Every time we see that in our Bibles, we can be reminded of the double-portion received by Joseph from his father.
  2. Normally, this would have been given to the firstborn, and although Joseph was the firstborn of Rachel, he wasn’t the firstborn of Israel; Reuben was. Yet Reuben forfeited that position, and Jacob would have longed to give it to Joseph even if Reuben hadn’t done anything wrong. Culturally, it belonged to Reuben, but by an act of Jacob’s right & will, he gave it to Joseph.
    1. That’s the way grace works. By way of justice, we shouldn’t receive anything at all from the Lord, except punishment and wrath. Instead, by an act of God’s will through the work of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven, made a part of God’s family, and graced to share in the inheritance of Jesus Himself. That’s a double-portion indeed!

7 But as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died beside me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”

  1. Why mention Rachel? (1) Rachel was Joseph’s mother, and the true beloved of Jacob’s life. (2) Jacob was looking forward to being reunited with her in death. She may have been buried in a different location than where Jacob would be buried, but he would soon see her again.
  • Ephraim and Manasseh blessed (8-22)

8 Then Israel saw Joseph’s sons, and said, “Who are these?” 9 Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place.” And he said, “Please bring them to me, and I will bless them.” 10 Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them. 11 And Israel said to Joseph, “I had not thought to see your face; but in fact, God has also shown me your offspring!”

  1. Had Jacob never met his grandsons? This seems impossible to believe, especially considering that he had lived in Egypt for 17 years by this point. Far more likely, Jacob asked the question due to his age and failing eyesight. (Problems with eyesight and cataracts seem to have been a genetic issue with the family of the patriarchs. Isaac’s eyesight failed as well, which was how Jacob was originally able to trick him to receive the greater blessing.)
  2. Even though Jacob had likely met his grandchildren years earlier, he was still overjoyed at the opportunity to know them. When Joseph had disappeared, Jacob was ready to die. Now he not only knew his son, but his grandsons…all due to the mercy and grace of God. 17 years was not enough time to fully rejoice! (Nothing would be!)
    1. Do we rejoice over God’s blessings? Do we thank Him once, and never think of it again? Be constantly amazed over His grace & His mercy! May we look at Jesus every day, and be overwhelmed at His gift of grace!

12 So Joseph brought them from beside his knees, and he bowed down with his face to the earth.

  1. FYI: Some have read this, and assumed that Ephraim and Manasseh were young children at the time of the blessing, hiding behind their father’s legs before receiving their blessing. This seems unlikely. Genesis 41:50 states that the sons were born to Joseph during the years of Egyptian abundance, “before the years of famine came.” If Jacob had been in Egypt for 17 years, and there were two years of famine before he came, that meant the sons were a minimum of 19 years old, and likely in their early-twenties. Thus, the picture here isn’t of young boys hiding behind their father, but of young men kneeling on the ground and positioned behind him in submission, until Joseph brings them forward to receive the blessing.

13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him. 14 Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn.

  1. Joseph arranged his sons for the culturally appropriate blessing. Jacob purposefully gave the reverse. The younger would be blessed more than the older. This is a common theme in Genesis: Abel’s sacrifice was better than his older brother Cain’s; Isaac received the covenant instead of his much older brother Ishmael; and although Esau and Jacob were twins, Esau was born first while Jacob received the birthright.
  2. In fact this whole event was nearly mirrored in the earlier generation of Jacob and Esau. Not only was Jacob destined by God to receive the greater blessing, over his older twin-brother, but it was their nearly-blind father who gave it to him. This time, however, the blessing of the younger was intentional; not done as a result of deceit.

15 And he blessed Joseph, and said: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day, 16 The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

  1. Jacob gives a three-fold naming of God. (Perhaps indicative of Trinity?)
    1. The God of his worship: This is the God of his fathers, the One whom his whole family worshiped. This is the God who made a covenant with his ancestors, and in Whom Jacob was totally invested.
    2. The God of his provision: This is the God who “fed” Jacob every day of his life. When he first left Canaan to go to Padan Aram in search of a wife, he had his walking stick & the clothes on his back. When he returned, he brought a massive family and great wealth. God provided for Jacob every step of the way – exactly as God had promised to do.
    3. The God who was the redeeming Angel of the Lord. This is the God who appeared to Jacob, and wrestled with him until the breaking of day. This is the God who gave Jacob a new name, calling him Israel. Question: How can we be sure this is a reference to God & not just an angel? Because of Hebrew grammar and poetic style. “Angel” in verse 16 is parallel to “Elohim” (God) in verse 15. This Angel is God Himself, made visible to Jacob. Who is this Angel? The Redeemer (Goel, גֹּאֵ֨ל)…Jesus!
      1. We have a Redeemer: the Lord Jesus Christ! Like Jacob, we were once known by our sin, enslaved to it. But Jesus has paid our redemption price & we are free!
    4. Jacob has called upon God as his God in praise – now he prays the blessing over the lads: may they be blessed in that they are brought into the covenant. They will be named by the name of Israel, inheriting the covenant blessing of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.
      1. What happens when we are brought into the family of God? We are blessed! (John 1:12)

17 Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” 20 So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’ ” And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh.

  1. No small irony here: a blessed younger son (Joseph) was displeased by the decision of his father, and tried to stop his younger son from receiving the greater blessing. The name order indicates priority. Of course, both sons were blessed; it’s just that God’s will for the greater blessing was for the younger.
    1. God’s ways are not our ways. (Isa 55:8-9) Praise God that they are not! If God were like us & thought like we think, none of us would be saved, (That being the case, we ought to trust God’s ways more often!)

21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers. 22 Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.”

  1. Jacob was dying, but the covenant was not. God’s promises would remain true, and Jacob’s descendants (including Joseph’s descendants) would inherit the promised land.
  2. Question: When did Jacob ever fight for any piece of the promised land? There’s no record in Genesis of him raising his own sword and bow against the Amorites. Scholars acknowledge this is unclear, but we perhaps get a hint in the Hebrew word for “portion” (or “shoulder”): “Shechem” (שְׁכֶם). Recall that Shechem was the town against which Simeon and Levi fought, destroying all the males due to the mistreatment of their sister (who was potentially raped – Gen 34). Although Jacob condemned it at the time (and still does, as seen in Chapter 49), the actions of his sons were as if he himself did the act. Earlier, Jacob had purchased a piece of property that was there (Gen 33:19), and the right of conquest assured the rest was his as well. This land was not given to Simeon or Levi, but to Joseph, and Joseph was later buried there after his bones were brought back from Egypt (Josh 24:32).

Genesis 49:1–28 : Jacob blesses Jacob’s sons

1 And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days: 2 “Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob, And listen to Israel your father.

  1. Jacob called his sons to receive a prophetic word and blessing. Presumably this happened shortly after Jacob blessed Ephraim & Manasseh, while Joseph was still in Goshen. The text does not say.
  2. Last days” could be translated “after-days” or “future days.” Although there’s some here that applies to what we might consider to be the end-times, that’s not necessarily the focus of Jacob. Much of what he prophesies takes place during the days of the judges, and the years of the kingdom. Some does apply far beyond, particularly regarding Judah, but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Even so, it is future, at least from Jacob’s point of view when he spoke these things.
    1. Need we be reminded? God knows the future! Trust Him and His plans! Who better to determine what’s to be done: ourselves, who do nothing but guess – or God, who truly knows all?
  • Sons of Leah (3-15)

3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn, My might and the beginning of my strength, The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power. 4 Unstable as water, you shall not excel, Because you went up to your father’s bed; Then you defiled it— He went up to my couch.

  1. What Reuben should have been: the might and glory of his father. He should have been the first example of what a son of Israel was.
  2. What Reuben became: a disgrace, and ultimate failure. Reuben had bedded Bilhah, Jacob’s wife (Gen 35:22), and it left a lasting stain on his character and his relationship with his father.
  3. Objection: Reuben’s sin had been decades earlier! Shouldn’t his father have forgiven him? To an extent, it seems apparent that Jacob did forgive him. After all, Reuben wasn’t cast out of the camp, nor executed (which Jacob surely had the right to do in that culture). Even so, Reuben permanently disqualified himself from the place of honor as the firstborn.
    1. Sin has consequences! We have forgiveness in Christ, but there may be earthly consequences that last the rest of our lives.

5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers; Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place. 6 Let not my soul enter their council; Let not my honor be united to their assembly; For in their anger they slew a man, And in their self-will they hamstrung an ox. 7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob And scatter them in Israel.

  1. Referencing the conquest of Shechem (Gen 34). The brothers were linked together in their sin. They had acted in rage, and unrestrained anger is dangerous! One man had sinned against their sister, and the men of an entire city were slain. Anger can be righteous; theirs was not. They did Jacob far more harm than good, which Jacob references as how “they hamstrung an ox.” 
  2. How were Simeon & Levi “divided” and “scattered”? The tribe of Simeon was surrounded by Judah, locked in by them, and eventually absorbed by them. Levi was literally “scattered” throughout the land as the tribe did not receive a specific piece of land, but individual cities throughout the whole of the land in their service to God.
    1. The use of Levi by the Lord is a wonderful picture of redemption! The wrath of their forefather was unrestrained, but generations later it was focused to be used as the holy instrument of God (Exo 32:25-29). As a result, they were given the blessing of being priests and servants to the Lord. This is grace! 

8 “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s children shall bow down before you. 9 Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him?

  1. Jacob uses a lot of word-play throughout the series of blessings, and the first example is found here. Judah = “praise,” and Jacob declares that Judah would one day be the recipient of his brothers’ praise. In fact, Judah would be victorious over his enemies and have authority over his brothers.
  2. Sound familiar? Just like Joseph did, so Judah would do. The 11 brothers of Joseph bowed to him in Egypt; the future tribes of Israel would bow to the royal descendants of Judah. Judah would be invested with massive power – so much so that he could be described as a lion, treated with utmost respect and fear.
    1. This is Jesus! He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah! (Rev 5:5) We know Him as being meek & mild, but He is far more! Jesus is the ultimate Warrior, having total victory over the devil, death, and sin. He has power unimaginable and unlimited, being none other than God in the flesh. He is to be loved, yes, but He is also to be feared & worshiped!

10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.

  1. The future reign of Judah is described in several ways. The “scepter” = symbol of rule. The “lawgiver” = the judge and king. Among the tribes of Israel, there will be no question who it is that reigns. This wasn’t always the case during the kingdom years, but it will be the case during the Millennial Kingdom!
  2. Notice: “Shiloh.” Although this is capitalized in the NKJV, this isn’t necessarily a proper noun as a name (though it might be considered a title). This is a simple transliteration of the Hebrew word. There is a proper noun of this word in the Bible, but be careful not to confuse this “Shiloh” with the town of “Shiloh” where the tabernacle eventually came to rest (1 Sam 1:3). The spellings are different in Hebrew, and this particular spelling of the word (שִׁילֹה) is used only one time in the Bible, right here in Genesis 49:10. Although it’s debated, the most likely meaning of the word is “he whose it is,” or “that which belongs to him” (BDB). Contextually, what is it that might belong to someone? The scepter/right to rule. To whom, then, might this refer? Messiah, Jesus!

11 Binding his donkey to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes are darker than wine, And his teeth whiter than milk.

  1. The idea of kingly rule and might continues. The Shiloh Messiah comes in on a donkey’s colt, being bound to his people (the vine of Israel). If this isn’t a direct prophecy of what was later fulfilled in Jesus’ triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, it at least has foreshadowing of the event.
  2. Beyond the 1st Coming are shadows of Jesus’ 2nd From the humble donkey-rider to the victorious warrior, Shiloh-Messiah washes His clothes in wine – often a symbol of blood. He is glorious in His appearance, and mighty in His arrival. Perhaps the apostle John had this imagery in mind when he wrote of the angels reaping the grapes of wrath in God’s judgment of the earth (Rev 14), and King Jesus coming in glorious raiment and power at the Battle of Armageddon (Rev 19).
  3. When it comes to the town of Shiloh, the name might indicate a “place of rest,” but when it come to the Person of Shiloh, the name indicates incredible power and rule. We find our rest in Jesus, but the reason we can rest in Him is because He is victorious over every enemy – including death itself!

13 “Zebulun shall dwell by the haven of the sea; He shall become a haven for ships, And his border shall adjoin Sidon.

  1. The blessing upon Zebulun is a bit more difficult to decipher. In their appointment of land, Zebulun was neither on the coast, nor immediately touching the area of Sidon. Was Jacob inaccurate? Not likely. The trade routes that led to the Mediterranean went straight through the region of Zebulun, which could explain a bit of poetic rendering. Some have theorized that at one point Zebulun held some different areas of land, but they weren’t able to hold on to them. 
  2. Keep in mind that we may not have all the information required to properly see the interpretation of this prophecy. To this point (and beyond) Jacob’s words are proven absolutely true. Based on the things we do understand and see, we ought to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt on things we don’t understand nor see.

14 “Issachar is a strong donkey, Lying down between two burdens; 15 He saw that rest was good, And that the land was pleasant; He bowed his shoulder to bear a burden, And became a band of slaves.

  1. As with Zebulun, the words to Issachar are somewhat mysterious, although they seem plausible based on what we know from history. Jacob basically affirms that this tribe would be consisted of hard workers, but those workers would eventually work for someone else. Once in the promised land, they would not maintain their own identity for long. Sure enough, the same could be spoken of many of the northern tribes. Eventually the northern kingdom of Israel is known as Ephraim or Samaria, with the individual tribal designations gone. It’s not that the tribes are lost (God knows exactly where they are!), but they merged into one another.
  • Sons of Bilhah & Zilpah (16-21)

16 “Dan shall judge his people As one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, A viper by the path, That bites the horse’s heels So that its rider shall fall backward.

  1. Jacob returns to word-play. Dan = judge. The other tribes were to be careful of Dan, as they would strike unexpectedly. This might predict the events of Judges 18 when they were one of the first tribes to give themselves largely over to idolatry. 

18 I have waited for your salvation, O LORD!

  1. Jacob takes a break, and interjects a quick prayer. Some of the things he has foreseen for his children are not good, and it’s no wonder he cries out to the Lord!
  2. Jacob is waiting for YHWH’s salvation…He’s waiting for Jesus! The Hebrew prayer is rather short: לִֽישׁוּעָתְךָ֖ קִוִּ֥יתִי יְהוָֽה׃ ; Yeshua (יְשׁוּעָה). Long before Jacob knew the name of the promised Messiah, he called out to Him, for “salvation” is His name!
  3. Jacob’s words to the next three sons are rather short…

19 “Gad, a troop shall tramp upon him, But he shall triumph at last.

  1. Word-play is all over this. “Gad” is derived from the word for “troop,” and the word (or words that sound like it are used 4 times. It’s as if Jacob says, “Regarding Troop, a troop will troop down on him, but he shall troop over them in the end.” No real specifics are given regarding the battle in question, but Jacob knows that although his son will be attacked, he won’t be destroyed. The people shall endure in victory.

20 “Bread from Asher shall be rich, And he shall yield royal dainties.

  1. There’s no word-play here; just a straightforward prophecy that Asher will be well-off economically. Being that they were so close to the rich city of Tyre, it makes sense that they would enjoy some of the wealth of the area.

21 “Naphtali is a deer let loose; He uses beautiful words.

  1. Likewise with Naphtali, there’s nothing specifically prophetic – simply a commendation of the tribe’s future freedom and beauty.
  • Sons of Rachel (22-27)

22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a well; His branches run over the wall.

  1. As might be expected, Jacob reserves the bulk of his blessing for his favored son Joseph. In a sense, he’s already pronounced a blessing for Joseph when he blessed Joseph’s sons (being that they were the double-portion of what Joseph was to receive, having the appointed right of the firstborn). That thought continues somewhat here. Jacob specifically named Joseph in the blessing, but the wording of “fruitful” points to Ephraim (the younger, but greater-blessed son). “Ephraim” is similar is spelling to the root word for “fruitful,” indicating that perhaps Jacob had Ephraim in mind for the future blessing, but reserved a special blessing for Joseph in the present time.
  2. That Jacob looked to the present is seen in the following…

23 The archers have bitterly grieved him, Shot at him and hated him. 24 But his bow remained in strength, And the arms of his hands were made strong By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),

  1. This did not describe future events, but past ones. By this point Jacob was well-informed of what his other sons did to Joseph when they betrayed him. But he also knew how Joseph was protected by God, and was strengthened by the ultimate Strong (Mighty) One.
  2. Once again, God is described in three ways: (1) The Mighty…of Jacob. (2) The Shepherd (3) The Stone of Israel. Here, there is no question that Jacob worships the one true God, as this is not the God of his father Isaac, but the Might of Jacob himself. And this God is revealed how? In the person of Jesus Christ: the Good Shepherd and our Solid Rock!

25 By the God of your father who will help you, And by the Almighty who will bless you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb. 26 The blessings of your father Have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.

  1. God is named one other way in verse 25 – the same way God revealed Himself to Jacob on the two times He personally appeared to him in the past: El Shaddai. It’s beautifully portrayed in the Hebrew, as the title is actually divided, but the terms “God” and “Almighty” (25a, 25b) are put in parallel with one another. The Mighty God of Jacob, the Shepherd, and the Stone are all the same: He is El Shaddai, God Almighty – the all-powerful unlimited One!
  2. By this God, what is Jacob’s prayer for Joseph? That Joseph would be blessed. Six times in two verses, the word “blessing” is used somehow, with the idea that Joseph is to be blessed by God with everything from everywhere. God would glorify Joseph in every way imaginable (which He had already done in raising him to the 2nd throne in Egypt).
    1. More than Joseph, this would seem to paint a picture of Jesus, Who will one day be blessed and praised by everything that is in existence! (Phil 2)

27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he shall devour the prey, And at night he shall divide the spoil.”

  1. If Judah was like a lion, Benjamin would be like a wolf. The tribe of Benjamin would also rule for a time (via Saul), although leadership would not remain with him. Even so, the rest of the tribes ought to be careful of him. Benjamin would prove to be dangerous.
    1. Perhaps looks forward to the terrible events of Judges 19-20 when a horrendous crime in Benjamin brought the nation to civil war.
  • Conclusion (28)

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them. And he blessed them; he blessed each one according to his own blessing.

  1. All of them received a blessing, but some received more, “each one according to his blessing.” There is no question that Joseph receives the double-portion of the firstborn, but note that he does not receive the Messianic promise. For the first time, these aspects of the Abrahamic covenant are divided. All of the sons are promised the land, with Joseph receiving one-sixth of it as well as the overwhelming love of his father. However, the Messianic promise is given only to one son: Judah. In the long-term, there would be conflict between Joseph (Ephraim) and Judah, as seen in the battles between the northern and southern kingdoms. In the end, the southern kingdom (Judah) prevails – something acknowledged by Jacob even while he reserved his best words for his favorite sons. From within Judah alone would emerge the Shiloh-Messiah, and no personal favoritism from an earthly father would undo it.


Some of the blessings pronounced by Jacob may not sound like “blessings,” but there’s no question that they were words given by the Lord. (And any word received from God is a blessing in itself!) God knew what the future held for each one of the sons of Jacob (grandsons, too), and despite what the plans of men might have been, it would be the plans of God that prevail.

Praise God that they did! If Joseph had his way, Manasseh would have been the larger of his two tribes, and who knows what would have been the result in the Promised Land? Half of the tribe of Manasseh didn’t even want to cross over the Jordan River to possess the land…it doesn’t exactly invoke confidence in their ability to lead! If Jacob had his way, no doubt Joseph would have received not only the double-portion of the land, but also the Messianic promise, and we would have no David, no Solomon, and the life and ministry of Jesus would have been vastly different (if known at all). It was only the plan of God that brings about Jesus as we know Him, the Shiloh to whom all power belongs, and the Redeemer of our souls.

If God had such a specific plan in mind for the tribes of Israel, think of what plans He has in mind for you, for your family, for your grandchildren & beyond (should the Lord tarry). Think of what He has in mind for His church. Too often, we try imposing our will upon God and asking Him to bless it; what we ought to do is look to the Lord for His will and walk in the blessing He already promised.

As we do, we’ll walk with Jesus. How could we not? When we walk in the will of God, we’ll be walking hand-in-hand with our Savior, because we will be right where He wants us to be. And that’s the very best place of all to be!


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