Reader: “Bring [your sons] closer to me,”
Response: “so I can bless them.”
Scripture: Genesis 48:8-19
Then Jacob looked over at the two boys. “Are these your sons?” he asked.
“Yes,” Joseph told him, “these are the sons God has given me here in Egypt.”
And Jacob said, “Bring them closer to me, so I can bless them.” Jacob was half blind because of his age and could hardly see. So Joseph brought the boys close to him, and Jacob kissed and embraced them. Then Jacob said to Joseph, “I never thought I would see your face again, but now God has let me see your children, too!”
Joseph moved the boys, who were at their grandfather’s knees, and he bowed with his face to the ground. Then he positioned the boys in front of Jacob. With his right hand he directed Ephraim toward Jacob’s left hand, and with his left hand he put Manasseh at Jacob’s right hand. But Jacob crossed his arms as he reached out to lay his hands on the boys’ heads. He put his right hand on the head of Ephraim, though he was the younger boy, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, though he was the firstborn. Then he blessed Joseph and said,
“May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham
and my father, Isaac, walked—
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life, to this very day,
the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm—
may he bless these boys.
May they preserve my name
and the names of Abraham and Isaac.
And may their descendants multiply greatly
throughout the earth.”
But Joseph was upset when he saw that his father placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head. So Joseph lifted it to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. “No, my father,” he said. “This one is the firstborn. Put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused. “I know, my son; I know,” he replied. “Manasseh will also become a great people, but his younger brother will become even greater. And his descendants will become a multitude of nations.”
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
You have often heard a “God bless you!” after a sneeze. Admittedly, such a response is a rather innocuous comment, but there is much more to it in Scripture as you have gathered in reading the above passage. There are some interesting dynamics transpiring here. You recall from yesterday that Rachel was Jacob’s favorite wife and that Joseph was his favorite son. (Can we say dysfunctional family?) In Jacob’s act of “adopting” Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own, he assures them shares along with the other sons. As it turned out later, each of the sons became one of the tribes of Israel. As a priestly tribe, the Levites had no territory of their own and so with Joseph’s two sons being given land in Canaan, there were the twelve tribes plus the Levites settling in Canaan some 450 years later.
In the blessing, normally the right hand, the hand of power, was placed on the head of the first son born. That oldest son received their birthright as the position of privilege and prominence. So when Jacob placed his right hand on Ephraim, who was the younger son, Joseph sought to correct his father’s error. But in a prophetic word Jacob foretold that Ephraim would be greater than Manasseh which centuries later proved to be true.
What is most interesting, this is the fourth consecutive time that pattern had been observed where the younger son was given the blessing rather than the older boy.
We have Isaac not Ishmael, Jacob not Esau, Joseph not Reuben, and now, Ephraim not Manasseh. In passing, it’s also interesting that both Isaac and Jacob had failing eyesight in these moments of blessing.
Barak is the Hebrew verb for blessing, a word occurring 330 times in the Bible. In verb form, it is used most often with God as the one doing the “blessing” as is apparent in this passage. The initiative of the blessing rests with God. The noun form, brakah, or blessing. “When expressed by men, a “ blessing” was a wish or prayer for a blessing that is to come in the future.”* Jacob’s blessing was also like this in that he blessed the boys near the end of his life and he also asked that God might bless them as well.
We next look briefly at the text of Jacob’s blessing of his grandsons. In the first part he refers to the covenant making God of his grandfather, Abraham, and his father, Isaac. He is reminding the boys of God’s faithfulness in their heritage. Second, he attests to his own faith in the same God who has been his personal Shepherd all the days of his life. Again a very powerful statement from a man who was himself a shepherd of sheep. What a beautiful image and picture from one who knew first hand the care of a shepherd meant to the sheep. Third, he refers to the Angel who redeemed him from harm. You’ll recall many years earlier Jacob had at different times several encounters with angels including an all-night encounter wrestling with an angel and also in his vision of seeing the stairway to heaven with angels ascending and descending. In each case, Jacob was given deeper insight and greater faith in God. He then concludes his blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh with the words, “may [God] bless these boys.” May they preserve and continue the family name and may they have many descendants. In biblical times large families were a sign of God’s blessing. Ephraim and Manasseh were among the largest of the twelve tribes of Israel. And Ephraim was the leader of the ten northern tribes.
A blessing is essential to a covenant relationship as it motivates, enhances, and enriches life. At the bottom line, a blessing acknowledges that all power and blessing stem from the Creator.
So how does all of this play out for you today? Seek God’s blessing daily. How does that happen? These are Jesus’ words, “Even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” (Lk.11:28) Obedience is the road to the blessing of God. You see, sneezing is really good for you!!
*W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN, p.18
Music: “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord O My Soul)” Matt Redman
Bonus: “Bless the Lord O My Soul” from Rachmaninoff “Vespers” Studio Piżmax
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfDreatXYeU FANTASTIC! From the Russian Orthodox Liturgy. Do not miss this! A reminder, Orthodox music is always a cappella.
‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’