Jacob’s Last Will and Testament (Genesis 48-49)

Scripture reading – Genesis 48-49

His father’s strength had been waning, and when Joseph received news his father was sick, he hastened with his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to Jacob’s bedside (48:1). Learning Joseph was approaching, Jacob (Israel) “strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed” (48:2). Joseph is about 56 years old when he comes with his sons to his father’s bedside.

Raising himself up from his bed, Jacob began to remind Joseph of the covenant promises God had imparted to him in Canaan, and said: “Behold, I [God Almighty] will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession” (48:4). [The third of the covenant promises, that of being a blessing to all people, will be related to Judah of whom Jesus Christ would be born, 49:8-12; 12:3.]

Jacob’s thoughts then turned to pronouncing God’s providential inclusion of Joseph’s sons among his own (48:5-6). Ephraim, the younger, and Manasseh the older, were foretold to be equal to Jacob’s sons, and would therefore inherit a portion of the birthright blessings in the place of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi who forfeited their portion through sinful choices (48:5b; 1 Chronicles 5:1; Numbers 26:28-37; 1 Chronicles 7:14-29; Hebrews 11:21). Reuben had morally sinned against his father (35:22), and Simeon and Levi had brought shame upon the family by their anger and violence (34:25-31). Though these sons were loved by their father, their sins had been so egregious that they were rejected from their full blessing.

Joseph put forward Manasseh, his oldest son; however, Jacob took Ephraim in his right hand, and insisted that the blessing of the firstborn would fall on him (48:8-19). Though he would die in Egypt, Jacob foretold that Joseph and his sons’ inheritance would not be in Egypt, but in Canaan (48:21). Thus, Joseph’s faithfulness to the LORD, and his care of his father and family were rewarded, and he would receive through his sons a double portion of the inheritance (48:22).

 

Genesis 49 – A Parting Blessing

Jacob’s final words to his sons, and his prophetic insight into the future of their lineages, are recorded in Genesis 49. The words of that dying man were both a blessing and sobering (49:3-15).

The Six Sons of Leah (49:3-15)

Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, was a strong leader; however, the shame of his lying with his father’s concubine shadowed his life (49:3-4). Simeon and Levi, the second and third born sons, were reminded of their angry, vindictive spirits, and their lineages would be scattered among the tribes in the Promised Land. The tribe of Levi would be priests to the LORD (49:5-7). Judah, the fourth born son, would become a royal lineage, of whom David and Jesus Christ would be born (49:8-12). Zebulun’s lineage, the tenth born son of Jacob, would settle along the Mediterranean coast (49:13). Issachar, the ninth son, would become an agricultural people (49:14-15).

The Sons of Bilhah (49:16-18; 21)

Bilhah, one of Jacob’s concubines, gave birth to two sons of Jacob. Dan, the fifth born son, his name means “Judge,” and his lineage would be a judge of the tribes (49:16-18). Naphtali, Jacob’s sixth son, would father a lineage said to be like a “hind let loose,” a swift female deer, and gifted in words (49:21).

The Sons of Zilpah (49:19-20)

Gad, son of Bilhah, was Jacob’s seventh son, and his lineage would be known as great warriors (Joshua 22:1-6; 1 Chronicles 12:8). Asher, the eighth born, would become a rich tribe, and supply the other tribes with “bread…[and] royal dainties” (49:20).

The Sons of Rachel (49:22-27)

Rachel, Jacob’s first love, was the mother of Joseph, the eleventh son (49:22-26), and Benjamin, his twelfth son (49:27).

Jacob described Joseph as an overcomer who, though suffering the arrows of accusations from his brothers, had become a “fruitful bough” (49:22-23).  God had elevated him, and he had become the shepherd of his family, and the “stone (or rock) of Israel” (49:24). Though separated from his father and brothers, Jacob promised God would bless Joseph “with blessings of heaven above” (49:25-26).

Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son, was described as ravenous as a wolf (49:27). His tribe would be fearless warriors (Judges 20:15-25), and numbered among his lineage would be Saul, the first king of Israel, and the apostle Paul (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5). Benjamin’s tribe, along with the tribe of Judah, would be faithful to the LORD.

Jacob’s Death (49:28-33)

Jacob’s dying breaths repeated his request to be buried in Canaan, and in the ancestral tomb where Isaac and Abraham were entombed. “When Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Jacob’s death marked the end of an era, but not the end of our study. He would be given the burial honors of a ruler in death, and Joseph’s brothers feared he would exact revenge for the evils they had committed against him.

Our next devotional will reveal how the drama between Joseph and his brothers will end.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith