The Promise to Abraham and…
The conclusion to the Genesis story brings together many strands. First and foremost is the reiteration and passing on the covenant promises to Abraham. In Gen. 12:1-3, 7 we find the fourfold promises to Abram/Abraham
Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you,
and I will make your name great (12:2 NET)
The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” (12:7 NET)
But that promise is also for Abraham’s seed. Many times “seed” is used to refer to many, i.e. “seeds” (or “descendants”). But Paul notes the singular use:
Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. (Gal. 3:16 NAS)
That fourfold promise is repeated throughout Genesis, but not always all four points. A good review of Genesis would be to identify every passage in which those promises are given/repeated. In our present reading, Gen. 48:4 once again has the promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Jacob now blesses Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh (older) and Ephraim (younger). Interestingly, Jacob as the younger twin of Esau received both the birthright and the blessing from Isaac. Now, Jacob blesses the two sons, with his right hand on Ephraim, the younger (Gen. 48:14, 17). Joseph objects, trying to “correct” his father by moving the hands to the “correct sons.” But Jacob is adamant.
But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a nation and he too will become great. In spite of this, his younger brother will be even greater and his descendants will become a multitude of nations.” (Gen. 48:19 NET)
Interestingly, there now begins a shift of the naming of the tribes of Israel (Jacob). That might be another post down the line.
Jacob Blesses His Sons
In Gen. 49, Jacob now blesses His twelve sons (Gen. 49:1-27). I won’t go into detail, except to note a couple major points. Jacob’s blessings emphasizes two people: Judah and Joseph.
The son who carries on the promises of Abraham and Isaac, is not the first son (Reuben), nor the second (Simeon), nor the third son (Levi). (See Gen. 49:3-7 for reasons) Rather, the fourth son, Judah, will carry on the promises. Again, not dependent on the plotting of people, the “natural” order, etc., but dependent on God’s choices.
So Judah receives the longest blessing, with several significant phrases that point ahead to Judah’s descendant and the Messianic/Christological connections.
The lion of Judah (49:9)
Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered; thus he can open the scroll and its seven seals. (Rev. 5:5 NET)
Scepter shall not depart (49:10)
Your throne, O God, is permanent. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of justice. You love justice and hate evil. For this reason God, your God has anointed you with the oil of joy, elevating you above your companions. (Ps. 45:6-7 NET)
Washes garments in wine (49:11)
“It is I, the one who announces vindication, and who is able to deliver!”
Why are your clothes red? Why do you look like someone who has stomped on grapes in a vat? (Isaiah 63:1-2 NET)
The other son who receives more attention is Joseph.
But his bow will remain steady, and his hands will be skillful; because of the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of the God of your father, who will help you (49:24-25 NET)
Thus, Joseph is the defender of the line of promise. As a side note, that is the same role that Joseph plays in Matthew 1-2. This leads into Gen. 50.
As soon as Jacob dies, the brothers give in to fears, doubts, and concerns, namely that Joseph had not taken revenge on them, but only as long as Jacob was alive.
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge and wants to repay us in full for all the harm we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave these instructions before he died: ‘Tell Joseph this: Please forgive the sin of your brothers and the wrong they did when they treated you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sin of the servants of the God of your father.” (50:15-17 NET)
Isn’t that how we think? There is always the shadow of sin and retribution waiting to catch up with us. Notice what Joseph’s response is: “When this message was reported to him, Joseph wept” (50:17).
The Release: “But God…”
Then we read the wonderful response of Joseph:
But Joseph answered them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day. So now, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your little children.” (50:19-21 NET)
There is that phrase from yesterdat’s post: “But God…” The brothers had to hear again the promise in that phrase, “But God…”
Earlier in the story, the brothers couldn’t speak to Joseph “in peace.” But now, we read: “Then he consoled them and spoke kindly to them” (50:21 NET).
The Gospel forgiveness from God brings with it the ability to speak Gospel to others, forgiveness, reconciliation. And that is what comforts others who have sinned. We can speak kindly to one another because of that phrase, “But God…”