Summary: We as humans see things we don’t like in ourselves - then just decide to change. But we are who we are and cannot change - unless God does the transformation. We also hear how God uses this to turn what the enemy means for harm into good.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could plan the day of our departure? Just think about it - you could accomplish the things that are really important, pass on vital information to those you will leave behind, then set your sights on heaven and away you go.
I remember when I was growing up the father of my best friend, Bob Tucker, knew he was going to die. I remember sitting in his living room and listening to him - knowing that this would be the last time I ever saw him. He passed on wisdom to me - the idea of not holding back, and of caring for my loved ones - that shaped my future.
In the last three chapters of Genesis we have the accounts of the deaths of Jacob and Joseph. Jacob has felt he was close to death several times - especially while his sons were dealing with Joseph in chapters 42-45. But that was mostly rhetoric "you will bring my grey head down to the grave" and that sort of thing. Now he realizes it is time - so he does a couple of things - he sets the order of his sons - who gets the rights of the firstborn - and he gives prophecies to the family.
Jacob really told it like it was for his boys - nailed their character and the future of those they would give birth to. Yet for at least one of the sons - what was a pretty bad character had been transformed - and it shows in the blessing given to him - Judah - who would be the progenitor of the Messiah.
In this we learn that God can so modify us that what looks like a bad end turns out good, when He gets a hold of us.
Verses 1 - 4
Jacob was 147 years old.
Luz was Bethel - some 70 years before. That’s the thing that Jacob remembers - not the adventures or the triumphs or the tragedies - but when he gave his life to God.
Verse 5 - 6
Manasseh and Ephraim were ½ Egyptian - they looked different.
These two were adopted by Jacob - no paperwork needed. They were elevated to the level of patriarch.
What we miss in the NIV here is that Manasseh and Ephraim are actually replacing Reuben and Simeon. A literal translation reads: "like Reuben and Simeon they will be to me." They have now become the first born and get the shares allotted to Reuben and Simeon.
Why is this here? Well - it may be that it is legal justification for the adoption. Since Rachel’s line was cut short prematurely, the production of her offspring could be shown to be Jacob’s - thus Ephraim and Manasseh fulfill that law.
Verses 8 - 14
Jacob knew what he was doing - crossing his hands over to make the younger get the blessing.
Verses 15 - 16 The blessing to Ephraim and Manasseh
These guys are 20 years old. What Jacob is saying is: "God who watched over me and delivered me through His angel will bless your sons."
Verses 17 - 20
It became proverbial - if you are really blessed of God you are like Ephraim and Manasseh.
This is like what happened with Jacob stealing the blessing from Esau. This was no trick - God says "just like with you and your brother I’m not doing things the way they seem to be done. But you don’t have to manipulate this time to get it done."
Jacob says "I’m going to do it the way God wants me to."
God blesses by covenant not by human custom. We’re famous for saying we think we know what God should do - and we’re famous for being wrong.
That’s why there is no tribe of Joseph. He got two tribes instead of one.
Jacob gives Joseph the property of Shechem, which Simeon and Levi took by slaughtering everyone in it. It is Jacob’s because it was done in his name, so he gives it to Joseph.
Reuben (verses 1 - 4)
Leah’s 1st born. Uncontrolled as water: frothing, unable to be controlled.
Rueben slept with Bilha. It’s like he still can’t believe it!
Simeon & Levi (verses 5 - 7)
2nd and 3rd of Leah. They killed the inhabitants of Shechem because he raped Dinah. God is not cruel or meaninglessly vengeful. Jacob is separating himself from them. People who are perpetually angry should be avoided. "Swords" here can also mean "to cut", an allusion to the circumcision of the men of Shechem. "Hamstrung an ox" can also be rendered "they mutilated the genitals of a prince" meaning Shechem.
Scattered: Simeon was absorbed by Judah.