Joseph: to influence a generation

Cover to Cover

Reading: Genesis 47:13-50:26

Focus: Genesis 48:1-49:28

What influence does the lives of one generation have upon the next? It’s not something we often think about, nor is it something that is easily accounted for unless one was extremely familiar with family history and legacy. However, even just looking at one’s parents, one would be quick to recognise the lives of one’s parents heavily influence the life one currently lives, positively or negatively.

One of the most interesting developments in the 12 tribes of Israel is that one of the tribes doesn’t get any land, one eventually disappears and Joseph is not one of the tribes. This development is made all the more interesting is the that they are seen in the final words of Jacob before his death recorded here in Genesis 48-49. It begins with the blessing of Joseph’s son in chapter 48, then the blessings (and curses) of Jacob’s own sons. These words are extremely interesting eye-opening to ancient Israel’s history.

Firstly, in the blessing of Joseph’s sons, Jacob, essentially, claims them as his own: “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.” This practice is not unusual within ancient cultures and a similar account is found within the story of Ruth. Interestingly, as Jacob blesses them, he places the younger before the older (sound familiar? Go back and read the story of Esau and Jacob). So, the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, become part of the tribes of Israel replacing Joseph.

Next, moving into the blessing of Jacob’s own sons, there are particular sons who get special mention, let me summarise:

  • Reuben: naturally, the firstborn has rights to the father’s inheritance and would claim the foremost position among his brothers, however, because of his past Jacob denied him his rights (see Genesis 35:22).
  • Simeon and Levi: the second and third-born of Jacob, one would think that the rights of the firstborn would pass onto them, however, their own past denied them this right also (see Genesis 34). What is interesting are Jacob’s words, “Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly…” What occurred in the time of the tribes, Levi became the tribe of priests and were scattered throughout the tribes to serve them as priests; Simeon, upon the later distribution of the land of Canaan, was enclosed within the borders of Judah, which later served to their demise and they essentially assimilated with the tribe of Judah.
  • Judah: the fourth-born of Jacob, finally, received the rights of the firstborn. As is the case, Judah would be the line from which the Davidic kingdom would be born (and if you take that further…Matthew 1:1-17). The blessing of Judah is nothing short of what I’ve just described (v. 10): “The sceptre will not depart from Judah…

The remainder of the brothers’ blessings are also interesting but we’ll save that for another day. So, in short, even though there are two added sons/tribes to Jacob/Israel, two sons/tribes are removed from the roll call (as it were).

Personally, it is interesting just to see how all this plays out throughout the history of the Israelites. It is eye-opening when one begins to see how seeds planted by one’s fathers grows and blossoms in the generations to come. If there is any lessons to be learnt here, it is the legacy and influence one’s actions today have on the generations to come. One only needs to look back at their own lives to see how their own family heritage has influenced who and what they are today.

Next Reading: Exodus 1:1-4:31