Wednesday, January 15. Genesis 47 – 49

In Genesis 48, Jacob’s preferential treatment of Joseph is resumed. Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh and this adoption has far-reaching consequences. First, it means Jacob is giving Joseph more than he is giving the other boys. But second, and perhaps most importantly, Jacob is ensuring that Joseph’s children will not be considered Egyptians, but Israelites. Whatever Joseph has, or will be able to accumulate in Egypt, will, theoretically, be lost. The only thing that counts is inheriting the promised blessing of God.

It’s not that Ephraim and Manasseh receive Joseph’s portion of the inheritance. They have their portion from Jacob. But Joseph doesn’t lose out entirely. He receives an additional inheritance of land in Shechem (compare Genesis 48:22 with Joshua 24:32). Genesis scholar Victor Hamilton observes: “For a second time, Jacob gives to Joseph an extra gift: one mountain slope. We know how the brothers reacted to the coat. We do not know how they reacted to the gift of real estate.”

The elevation of Ephraim will be seen later in the Old Testament story as the northern kingdom of Israel becomes known as “Ephraim.” Their fate comes to an ignominious end. Despite the faith and faithfulness of their forefather Joseph, they will be characterized by idolatry and disobedience.

The picture Jacob presents in verses 15 & 16 is a beautiful one. Abraham and Isaac walked before God, under His watchful care. Jacob, however, has walked behind the Lord, following him all the way and being tended to by His angel, who has appeared in the Genesis story at critical moments of danger and turmoil (cf. 16:7-11; 21:17; 22:11-18; 24:7,40; 31:11; 32:24-30). The image of Jacob following the leading of the Lord is not really one we have seen in his story, but it is how Jacob sees himself and is a reminder that no matter how we see (or don’t see) the faithfulness of others, they may well be following the leading of the Lord. We just can’t see His leading them. Even if they are not following His leading, God knows where they are and, in regards to His people, has His angel watching over them.

Saturday, January 28. Genesis 48 – Exodus 1

Note the similarities and differences between the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh, and the blessing of Jacob and Esau.  Isaac is nearly blind when he confers the blessing.  So is Jacob.  The blessing of the older belongs to the younger of the sons in each case.  There is some maneuvering with the blessing of both, in the case of Joseph, he positions Ephraim, the eldest, that he might be nearest Jacob’s right hand.  In each case, the expected order is switched.

The difference here is that the decision to bless the younger first is deliberate, once again emphasizing that blessing comes not from birth, birth order, or ability, but solely by grace.  The lesson is pointedly made in the next chapter as Reuben loses the birthright of the eldest son because of his behavior and that birthright does not pass down the line as we might expect, falling on Judah, but goes to the very end of the line, falling on Joseph (you will see this plainly in 1 Chronicles 5:1).

Jacob is now in Egypt, but he believes his descendants will not stay.  They have land in Canaan, and he knows God’s hand will take the family back there as surely as it brought them to Egypt.  And so, Jacob, in essence, adopts Manasseh and Ephraim and in this scene, assures Joseph that the boys will receive their rightful place as his sons.  When the writer of Hebrews in the New Testament talks about Jacob’s great faith, this is the illustration he uses.

All God’s gifts are by grace, given as he sees fit.  People of faith realize that and accept them humbly and gratefully, seeing in them also an assurance of a blessed future.