Genesis 48-50

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Here we are. The end of the first book of the Bible. It is interesting how it wraps up themes presented throughout.

This section opens with a marvelous personal look at Joseph and Israel. There is such a powerful bond between father and son, once separated and now joined back together after long giving up hope. Very touching and real.

In 48 we also have the blessing of Joseph’s sons. Joseph is Jacob’s chosen, and he gives to him a double portion of the inheritance. Joseph is represented by both his sons, each of whom will be a tribe of Israel. Notice here a very interesting thing. The younger is blessed with the right hand, the elder with the left. The right hand denotes priority (sorry, left handers out there). Again the younger is given more importance, and here it is especially interesting because there is no reason given for it other than Israel’s own inner motivation. Assuming, as we should, he is really in touch with God at this point in life I’m certain the repetition of this theme isn’t an accident. The younger, throughout, is chosen over the older. There isn’t a clearly defined reason for this, though a few do come to mind.

In 49 we have the blessing of all the heirs of Jacob. Earlier we saw the blessing of Ishmael, and it seemed his “blessing” was a little mixed. Same thing here. Some of the sons are given really odd “blessings”, a sign that a blessing isn’t just a religious term for encouragement. It is also a seeing, an insight into the personality and motives. Very interesting.

What stands out to me is the blessing of Simeon and Levi. “I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.” Now, I’m getting ahead of myself but it really is interesting to read this knowing the later history of Israel. Levites were the hereditary priests and servants of God. They were set apart from the set apart nation. The reasons for this were that later on in the story during a time of almost civil war and rejection of God from other tribes the Levis strapped on their swords and fought for God, purifying the nation anew. Here their warlike tendencies are condemned but later on they turned their passion towards God, and so fought for God. The blessing here remained true, except that instead of being negatively worked out it was transformed into becoming a major positive and symbol of righteousness.

Then we come to the end. The story of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob becomes the story of the 12 tribes of Israel. A man has a son, who has a son, who has a nation.

And yet, the sons of Israel don’t really trust. Joseph is doubted. Sure he saved them once, but was he sincere? They know all too well how they would act in his position.

But, Joseph is a man of God who responds to his brothers with hope and with peace. He asks them, “Am I in the place of God?”

He recognizes God’s work in his life. He recognizes their evil was transformed into a blessing. He realizes that even with all his power he is still a servant. He is a servant of God, and does only what God has given him to do.

This is a wonderful lesson for us who also encounter evils in this life. People do bad things, say bad things, offend us as Christians or offend us as non-Christians. We are tempted to argue for our rights and make our claims for justice.

Yet, we are not God. God is the judge who makes all things right. Our call is to be who we are supposed to be and at each step offering a hand of peace. Because in that, in keeping our eyes on God, we participate in the redemption of the world. What is “our rights” compared with that?

Joseph knew and so he became a symbol to all of us of a man who truly reflected God to his world, even to our own generation.

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