Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 49:1-2

1 And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.

2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.

“Gather, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.” This is quite an opportunity! A chance to hear a prophet foretell the destiny of one’s posterity through the ages, to learn what their ultimate legacy will be.

As with Ephraim and Manasseh, these blessings will not be “wishful prayers.” They will be the truth, and some of it will be more positive than others. Not all the sons are going to necessarily receive from God what they want. Some of their people will face affliction from the natural turmoil of the world, and some from the natural consequence of choosing a baser form of life, and some as a scourge to bring them back to the light. Some of them will enjoy prosperity and joy…for a time. All of them will pass through trials of being conquered and enslaved and scattered, but through it all, they will remain preserved and eventually restored by their God.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 48:20-22

20 And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. 

21 And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.

22 Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.

Ephraim and Manasseh will not only be full-fledged tribes in Israel, but also the envy of all the others. Of course, these prophecies will take time to be fulfilled, at this point the sons of Jacob have their own households, but they are hardly full-blown tribes. We won’t hear of them in that capacity until the book Exodus, at which point they are slaves to the Egyptians, longing for the return to their promised land.

Which, Israel assures Joseph in verse 21, will certainly occur. He entrusts his son to the care of the same God that has kept and preserved him, and passes on the promise that he received of God: that the Israelites would be returned to their homeland once again.

This moment is a beautiful callback to when Jacob was a much younger man, leaving his father’s home to escape the wrath of his brother Esau. Then, in a strange land, he had committed to pay a tithe in return for the promise that he would one day be returned back to his father’s abode. Now he is in a strange land once again, but trusts that though he will die here, his people will return back home just as he did all those years before. No doubt he is able to have faith in that unknown, by having experienced the fulfillment already in the past.

In fact, Jacob’s earlier journeys in a strange land foreshadow the Israelites detour in Egypt in many ways. Just as he was under unfair servitude to his uncle Laban, they will be under unfair servitude to the Egyptians. And just as he was eventually delivered by the blessing of the Lord, so too, will they. Jacob’s entire life was being used as a template to let his own people, the Israelites, what to expect. Rightly, then, did the Lord name him Israel.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 48:17-19

17 And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head.

18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.

19 And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.

Joseph notices a little late that Jacob has his hands crossed upon Ephraim and Manasseh’s heads. He seeks to correct the placement, presumably assuming that Jacob had made some oversight.

Jacob assures that he knows exactly what it is he’s doing, though. As mentioned before, the record makes it sound as though Jacob and Joseph have had very little interaction over the past years, that this might even be his very first time meeting these grandsons, and so it cannot be petty favoritism that Jacob holds towards Ephraim over Manasseh. The only reason Jacob has to differ from the norm in this blessing is because he is being guided by truth and prophecy.

For every blessing that is a true blessing must also be so guided. It is not supposed to be a concoction of the speaker. It is not meant to represent what the giver of the blessing hopes for, for then it is merely a declaration of wishes, with no binding power behind it. A true blessing must be the words and actions inspired of God, a declaration of truth, totally independent of expectation or personal desire. And the truth in this matter is that Ephraim will exceed Manasseh. Not because Jacob wants it, but simply because that was what would be.

How many of us when we seek a blessing do so with the intent of receiving pure truth, unfiltered? How many of us are willing to set aside what we hope to hear, to accept what we do hear?

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 48:13-16

13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him.

14 And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.

15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day,

16 The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

Joseph presented his sons on either side of Jacob, Manasseh aligned with the right hand and Ephraim with the left. Thus, to put his right hand on Ephraim’s head instead, Jacob must have crossed his arms in front of his body, an action that is clearly intentional.

Then he begins his blessing, invoking upon Joseph’s sons the protection and nourishment of the same God that has preserved his grandfather, father, and himself. Previously, God had promised these men that they would be fed and cared for, and that they would become fathers to a great multitude. Now the same blessings are being given to them, passing along the covenant of Abraham as their very own.

I find particularly interesting that Jacob also calls on “the Angel which redeemed me from all evil” to “bless the lads.” Most assume that “the Angel” is another term for Jesus Christ, given how it is mentioned as “redeeming from all evil.” It should be noted that the word used in the original Hebrew is “malak,” which means “a messenger,”” and is almost exclusively used throughout the bible when common emissaries of God, angels, are being described. Obviously in its English translation it is being rendered with a capital “A,” suggesting it is not just “an angel,” but “THE Angel,” as in THE messenger of God’s gospel, the one sent to bring knowledge of and fulfillment of God’s will. The word “malak” does not suggest such a special designation, though, it would seem the capitalization is being used simply to fit the assumption that this is a reference to Christ.

Honestly, it seems a confusing interpretation either way to me, but exactly what Jacob meant by saying “malak” frankly isn’t very important. Perhaps he meant Christ, or perhaps he felt he had a guardian angel. If the latter, perhaps he meant the one who had wrestled with him or had assured him of a safe reunion with Esau, and he wanted the same guardianship to be over these grandsons as well. Regardless of whom exactly Jacob meant, it is clear he intended for these grandsons to be cared for as he had been.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 47:7-10

7 And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.

8 And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou?

9 And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.

10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.

Pharaoh had met the brethren of Joseph, but now he gets to meet the father. Evidently Pharaoh was struck by the aged appearance of Jacob, and so immediately inquired as to how old he was! Jacob’s response “few and evil have the…years of my life been,” shows how much trial and tribulation the man sees in his past.

First there was fleeing his father’s house for his very life, then being cheated by his father-in-law numerous times, losing the love of his life prematurely, and believing he had also lost his son for twenty years. Perhaps things are coming more right at the end, but it has been a hard road for Jacob thus far.

Then this patriarch gives Pharaoh a blessing. As a powerful king, Pharaoh had probably been given all manner of blessings by his holy men, mystics who tried to divine the Egyptian gods’ will by signs and symbols. Here, though, he had the opportunity to receive a consecration from a man who had not only spoken directly with the Lord, but even wrestled with Him! I wonder if the king was able to perceive that this old man’s relationship with divinity was on another level.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 45:16-20

16 And the fame thereof was heard in Pharaoh’s house, saying, Joseph’s brethren are come: and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants.

17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan;

18 And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.

19 Now thou art commanded, this do ye; take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come.

20 Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.

Joseph had promised great things for his family, including a new home in the land of Egypt. As it turns out, Pharaoh totally supported him in this promise. In fact, Pharaoh improved on the promise, telling the Israelites to use his own wagons to carry their household to the new land. He also declares that they might leave behind whatever things they wish, and they will all be replaced freely in the land of Egypt!

The Israelites had a heritage of patriarchs who worked hard to obtain the things that they had. Abraham was a digger of wells and Jacob was a great shepherd, but now an equal increase and more was being offered freely by a stranger. They had grown to current stature by a combination of hard work and the blessing of God, but now the blessing was being repeated, and God alone was responsible for it.

The Lord can give and take entirely according to His own will. Here was the greatest want the land had ever known, and the Israelites were receiving a ridiculous abundance! Of course, on the other hand, they will still be living off the fat of the land when another Pharaoh will suddenly turn them all into slaves! Thus, the risings and fallings of the world are impossible to predict, and the only assurance is to rest in the flock of the Lord. For through high times and low, He ultimately led the Israelites to the promised land.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 28:13-14

13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Last week I examined the vision of Jacob’s Ladder and noted a number of significant details. However, there was one more point that I thought best to visit separately today. Namely, the difference between the blessing Jacob receives from God in this moment and the blessing he obtained from his father Isaac.

I had always believed that the blessing Jacob obtained by trickery from his father was the same covenant blessing from God to Abraham. But really it isn’t. Here, once more, is the language of the blessing Isaac gave in Genesis 27:28-29:

28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:

29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.

An impressive blessing, but not the same as the one from God. Isaac’s blessing is focused more on other people being subservient to Jacob, God’s is about Jacob becoming a great soul that blesses the lives of countless others. Isaac’s blessing reads more like a wish, “God give thee…,” “let people serve thee…,” while God’s is confident and sure, “thou shalt!” Of the two, God’s blessing is the more sublime in purpose and more definite in fulfillment.

And Isaac seems to have known that the blessing he gave was not the same that God could. Here again are his words to Jacob when he left home in Genesis 28:3-4:

3 And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;

4 And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham. 

“Give thee the blessing of Abraham,” meaning that Isaac knows he has not already given that blessing to his son, because he knows it is not his place to do it.

I do wonder whether Jacob and Esau understood that distinction, though. All of their squabble about receiving their father’s birthright and blessing might have been because in their eyes that was the ultimate pinnacle of achievement. Many boys view their father as being essentially God Himself, and only have their eyes opened when they get out on their own as Jacob did.

The things that were incredibly important to Jacob only a few days prior have now become very small. Everything he had hoped to gain from his father has now been eclipsed by the promises of God.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 27:37-40

37 And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?

38 And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept.

39 And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above;

40 And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.

Esau continued to plead for some sort of blessing from his father, even after hearing that Jacob had already been promised to rule over his brother’s posterity. And this prophecy would come true after the Israelite Exodus. Jacob’s descendants would enter wars with all the other nations in the promised land, including the Edomites, who were the descendants of Esau. This struggle between the brothers’ posterity would be resolved when Saul and David finally conquered the Edomites, subjugating the nation for many years to come.

However, God did have a small reprieve for Esau, and through Isaac he pronounced that the Edomites would eventually regain their freedom. This would occur in the days of Elisha and Joram, when the Edomites successfully revolted and crowned their own king. They would never go so far as to gain power over the Israelites, but at least they would be their own masters.

But it would be wrong to assume that the Israelites would prevail over the Edomites because of this one time where Jacob was more faithful than Esau. The Israelites prevailed in the time of David because they were more worthy at that time. And the Edomites eventually threw off the Israelites because the Israelites were no longer more worthy at that time. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that when God foretells good or bad for a nation, it is a recompense for a decision made by a single ancestor. This was a misconception that Jesus had to correct his own disciples on many years later. When God foretold that Jacob’s descendants would rule over Esau’s he was merely foretelling that their descendants would earn that outcome for themselves.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 27:30-36

30 And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting.

31 And he also had made savoury meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s venison, that thy soul may bless me.

32 And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau.

33 And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed.

34 And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father.

35 And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing.

36 And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?

As I mentioned previously, Isaac immediately pieced together what transpired once he was greeted by the real Esau, so he must have still had his suspicions all the way through giving Jacob the first blessing.

And as for Esau, even amidst his anguish his chief concern was that he still receive some sort of blessing. His words “hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?” further shows his misunderstanding of how blessings work. He seems to believe that it us up to his father to produce and give out blessing as if they could be pulled out a bag.

Esau does not appreciate that true blessings are the immutable word of God, given and withheld entirely at His choosing. Thus the blessing that Esau ends up receiving is not some backup gift his father conjured up, it is the original blessing that was always intended for him by God.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 27:27-29

27 And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed:

28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:

29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.

Yesterday I mentioned that Jacob, and Esau’s charade was of little importance, for God was sure to do what He already intended to do regardless of their antics.

And this is further reinforced in today’s verses. Notice that the blessing that Isaac pronounces upon Jacob was never meant for Esau to begin with. In the blessing Isaac said for Jacob to “be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee,” and this was exactly what God had already prophesied for Jacob when he was still in his mother’s womb.

There was no way that this was the blessing that was ever meant for Esau. Not so long as Isaac was giving a proper blessing, one where he only was a mouthpiece for what God intended to say. If Isaac had blessed Esau first, he would have still had to give him the same blessing that Esau ended up receiving anyway, if he had blessed Jacob second, he would still have had to give Jacob the same blessing that he gave him now.