Genesis 48 ~ 20080727 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
7/27 Genesis 48:1-22 God Almighty, Gracious Omnipresence, Shepherd, Redeemer
Last time we saw the family of Israel move to Egypt, to the land of Goshen. The brothers were instructed to declare to Pharaoh unashamedly that they were shepherds, even though shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians. Jacob was brought to Pharaoh, and he blessed him and prayed for him. His testimony before Pharaoh was 'few and evil have been the days of my sojourning'. He pointed the Pharaoh to the fact that the blessing with which he blessed the Pharaoh did not originate in him. he confessed that he was wicked and because he had gone his own way, his life had been hard. Joseph had lived the first seventeen years under the care of his father in Canaan. Now Jacob spends the final seventeen years under the care of his son Joseph in Egypt.
Jacob is now approaching the end of his life. He is 147, he is bed-bound, and mostly blind. This is the first time the word 'ill' or 'sick' is used in scripture. Jacob is old and he is sick, and yet the author of Hebrews [11:21] points us to this very passage as evidence that Jacob was full of faith.
Joseph received word that his father was sick, so he took his two sons to receive a blessing at the hand of the patriarch. This is Jacob, who moved a large rock that was usually moved by a group of shepherds to impress Rachel and water her flocks. This is Jacob, who bought the birthright and stole the blessing from his older brother Esau. This is Jacob, who wrestled with the Angel at the river Jabbok all night, and has walked with a limp ever since. Now Jacob musters all his strength just to sit up in bed. Joseph has brought Manasseh and Ephraim to Goshen Valley Regional Medical Center for Shepherds and Outcasts to see their dying grandpa. He's got the light green gown on that doesn't quite close all the way in the back, and it takes all his effort to reach the button that makes the bed sit up. But in spite of his condition, Jacob takes charge of this situation, and in faith he points his son and his grandsons to God.
Israel reminds his Egyptian son and grandsons that God had made promises to him, and those promises extended to them as his children. God Almighty - El Shaddai ydv la - the all-sovereign all-powerful God appeared to me and blessed me. The blessing I have to pass on to you I first received unexpectedly while I was on the run from my brother Esau. God promised to make me fruitful; he promised land and offspring. Jacob is instructing Manasseh and Ephraim, who have been born and raised in Egypt that they have a home outside of Egypt, that they have a gift of property from the sovereign God as an everlasting possession. Jacob is turning their eyes away from the good land of Egypt and awakening hope in the gracious gift-giving God. Jacob is passing on his sojourner mentality to his 20 year old Egyptian grandsons. 'This is not our home. We were made for something else. God is preparing a place for us.' Jacob is looking to the future and doing what he can to see that his kids and his grandkids know God and love God. Jacob is on his death bed and he is looking to the future. He wants to see his kids and his grandkids and his great great great grandkids loving Jesus and following Jesus and treasuring Jesus above every other thing. Jacob is more interested in leaving a godly legacy than he is concerned about his own health. And now he does something surprising:
Normally, the firstborn son would receive a double portion of the inheritance, so in Jacob's situation everything would be split thirteen ways, and Reuben, the oldest, would receive two shares while everyone else received one share. But
Reuben forfeited his rights as the firstborn by sleeping with his father's concubine. By Jacob adopting Manasseh and Ephraim as his own sons, he is passing on the birthright or double share of the inheritance to Joseph, his favorite son. Ephraim and Manasseh would have just as much legal standing as heirs as Reuben and Simeon, the two oldest boys of Jacob's first wife. It is in that context that he looks back to his favorite wife Rachel, who died and was buried on the way to Bethlehem. In memory of his favorite wife, he adopts two of her grandkids as his own sons to double her offspring and increase their share in the inheritance. This adoption of Joseph's two sons increased the total count of tribes to thirteen, so in the listings of the tribes, one tribe can be left out for a specific reason and the total can still be twelve. If all are to be included, the double tribe of Joseph is listed.
Having adopted Joseph's sons as his own, he now calls for them so he can pronounce a special blessing on them. He asks 'who are these' not so much because he doesn't know who they are, but as part of the legal proceedings of the adoption and blessing. Joseph had referred to them earlier as Manasseh and Ephraim, according to their birth order, but Jacob had already referred to them as Ephraim and Manasseh, reversing the natural birth order. Here Joseph doesn't give their names again, instead he points to the fact that children are a gift from God. Look at the God saturated conversation of these men! They give thanks to God in everything.
Joseph thanks God for the blessing of children, and Jacob thanks God for the opportunity to see not only his son but also his grandsons. He had become a bitter old man who had lost a son, just waiting for death, and God had surprised him and the son he thought was dead is now restored to him, and he even gets to see his grandsons. What unexpected joy God has brought into the lives of these men!
Joseph knows his father cannot see well, so he takes care to present his oldest son Manasseh toward Jacob's right hand to receive priority as the firstborn. The right hand in the scripture is a position of privileged and strength. Jacob reached out his right hand and placed it on the younger son Ephraim.
Jacob blesses Joseph by blessing his two sons. He makes a triune reference to God. The God of my fathers, God my shepherd, my redeeming Mediator. He refers first to 'the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked. Jacob is recognizing his continuity with history. This is not a new and different God, but the same God that called Abraham the idol worshipper out of Ur to follow him. Jacob is pointing us here to God's gracious omnipresence. God is everywhere present, but his presence is not to judge and condemn. Abraham was a sinner. Isaac was a sinner. But God in his grace passed over their sins and instead of condemnation he chose to look on them with favor. This is a God who is intimate with his people. He is no distant aloof God, instead, Abraham and Isaac were continually in his presence. They walked before his face.
Second, he refers to him as 'one who shepherded me'. For the first time in scripture God is compared to a shepherd. Jacob was a good shepherd. He knew how to take care of his sheep and make them prosper. Shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians, but God is not offended to be identified with the menial role of shepherd. God is the God who has cared for Jacob's every need. God has tended Jacob all his life long. He has fed him and clothed him and corrected him. God had promised Jacob that he would be with him and would not leave him, and God has kept his promise. God has been faithful even through the hard times to be present with Jacob and to bless Jacob, and now, as a sick old man dying in bed, Jacob says God is still shepherding me.
Third, he refers to God as 'the Angel who has redeemed me from all evil'. God is his redeemer. God has appeared to Jacob in the past as an angel, as one who mediates between God and man. Jacob wrestled with Jesus by the river Jabbok. And Jacob refers to God as the Angel who rescues him when he is in trouble. This is the first mention of a kinsman redeemer in scripture. The redeemer [gawal lag] is the one who would come to the aid of one in distress. If you got yourself in deep financial trouble to the point where you had to sell yourself as a slave, your redeemer could come and pay your debts and purchase your freedom. God became the Redeemer of Israel when he delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Abraham and Isaac were given a striking picture of the substitutionary atonement on Mount Moriah. Abraham had the knife raised over his only son on the altar of sacrifice, but God stayed his hand and provided for himself a lamb as a sacrifice in place of Isaac. Isaac was given life and the ram died in his place. Jacob describes God as 'the Angel who has redeemed me from all evil'. Jacob had described to the Pharaoh the days of the years of his sojourning as 'few and evil', and now he describes God as the one who has redeemed him from all evil. Jacob's God is a God who can even take evil and turn it into good.
So Jacob says 'may this God, the God whose gracious presence walked with Abraham and Isaac, the God who has shepherded me all my life, the God who has redeemed me from all evil, may this triune God bless the boys. May my name and the names of Abraham and Isaac be carried on in them. Let them grow in to a multitude in the earth.
Jacob had crossed his hands to put his right hand on the younger Ephraim's head. Joseph was angered by this. He tried to uncross his father's hands. He thought that the blind old man didn't know what he was doing. He tried to inform his father which was the firstborn. Joseph had been the object of his father's favoritism, and he had suffered at the hands of his brothers because of it. I wonder if he is angered because he doesn't want to see that repeated in his own home. But Jacob is not as blind as he seems. He knows exactly what he is doing. He is intentionally reversing the natural order. Just as Isaac was put before Ishmael, Jacob before Esau, Perez before Zerah, Joseph before Reuben, and now Ephraim before Manasseh. God is free to do as he pleases, even if this violates the normal social conventions. One is put first 'not because of works, but because of his call; not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace.
Hebrews commends Jacob in this episode for acting in faith.
Jacob put 'fruitful' before 'forgetful'. Ephraim did indeed become more fruitful than Manasseh [Numb.1:33,35; 26:34,37; Deut.33:17].
The names Ephraim and Manasseh were to become synonymous with fruitfulness and blessing. In fact, all the northern tribes of Israel were sometimes referred to simply as 'Ephraim'
We are not entirely sure what battle with the Amorites Jacob is referring to. This may have been a conflict that is not recorded for us in scripture. It appears to be the area of Shechem where Simeon and Levi killed all the inhabitants after Dinah's rape. We see this fulfilled in:
This is also spoken of in:
Israel, knowing he is about to die, passes on the blessing that he had received from God. God had said to Isaac his father:
Now Jacob is passing that blessing on to his son Joseph. As God has been with me, so God will also be with you. God was faithful to bring me back to the land. God will bring you back to the land of your fathers, You are to set your hope on the promises of God.
God is not far off. His face is toward us. He shepherds his people. He is our Redeemer. And he is with us. He has promised that he will not leave us. Hope in him! Take pleasure in his presence! Let go of empty things and enjoy him for he is near!