Joseph is called to his father’s bedside because he is nearing the end of his life. Joseph brings his two sons with him for a special purpose.
Before we get into our story there are a few questions I want to look at. I’m trusting the Holy Spirit will provide the answers as we go along, or at least guide us in that direction. 1) Why did Jacob take Joseph’s sons for his own? 2) Why did Jacob cross his hands when giving the blessings? 3) Where was this mountainside that Jacob bequeathed to Joseph? 4) Did Joseph have any other sons besides Manasseh and Ephraim?
Let’s go backwards in answering these questions, only because I believe I know the answer to the last one. After googling Joseph’s descendants, I believe the answer to that question is “no.” These are the only two sons listed for Joseph. So when his father took these sons as his own, Joseph was left with no descendants for his own name.
Question three is answered in John 4:5. I googled it, of course, to find this answer too. John names the Samaritan village of Sychar as the place Jesus met the woman at the well. This is very near the parcel of land Jacob gave to his son Joseph. I’m glad that answer was so quickly found, because it was troubling me.
Let’s pop up to question one before answering question two. We are not told exactly why Jacob claimed Joseph’s children as his own, but here is my take on it. I believe Jacob felt guilty for not looking deeper into Joseph’s “death.” When the brothers brought Joseph’s robe to him, he simply assumed Joseph was dead. He didn’t even send out a team to try and recover what was left of him. He surrendered all hope. He should have remembered the character of his sons and their treatment of Joseph. I can’t believe he was blind to the hatred that festered there. IF he would have pursued the subject, he might have been able to retrieve Joseph before he was sold into slavery in Egypt. This would have changed all of history though. But the guilt Jacob felt incited him to do something to make it right. By assuming Joseph’s two sons as his own, Jacob could pass down a double portion of inheritance to Joseph through them.
I was just given a glimpse into another probability for this question. Jacob taking Joseph’s two sons as his own was Joseph’s wish. Joseph had spent the majority of his life in Egypt. He was brought there at the age of 17 as a slave. Even though he had risen to the highest heights Egypt had to offer, he was still an outsider. He had no inheritance to pass down to his sons in Egypt. He was a foreigner. The Egyptians wouldn’t even eat with him! What kind of future was this for his sons?
Joseph also knew the promises of God. He knew God promised the land of Canaan to Jacob and his descendants. He wanted his sons to be a part of that promise. He wanted them to be full partners, not simply foreigners hanging on the edges like he was in Egypt. He needed them to be partakers of God’s covenant.
This raises another question that probably won’t be answered this side of Heaven. Were Joseph’s sons circumcised according to the covenant laid down with Abraham; on the eighth day after birth? If not, were they circumcised after being grafted into Jacob’s son’s line?
Question two is another puzzle. Jacob tells Joseph that he did this on purpose. It was to bless the younger above the older; but why? I have to believe that God gave him this instruction personally. God told Jacob of their futures. God told Jacob of all his son’s futures, which we will visit tomorrow. Jacob was not one to stand on tradition. He did what he felt in his heart. Nothing Joseph said would change Jacob’s mind or heart.
With those out of my way, let’s get on with our story. Who knows, more questions might arise after that.
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Joseph sent the physicians as he had promised. They were able to stabilize Jacob but not cure him. “As badly as everyone wants one, there is no ‘cure’ for old age” Joseph was told by the lead physician. He nods and accepts this as truth.
“How much longer do you think he has?”
“I can’t say with any accuracy. Barring any sudden illnesses through, I would expect no more than six months. He is becoming very weak. He is also losing his eyesight very rapidly.”
“Thank you. Keep him as comfortable as possible and keep me informed of his condition.”
Joseph makes sure to visit at least once every week. His responsibilities don’t allow him much time off so he makes the best of whatever time he can with his father. Jacob seems to enjoy hearing tales of Joseph’s life and God’s hand on him best of all.
Jacob’s family gathers about him to celebrate his 147th birthday. Attendees are supportive and generous with their praise of Jacob for such an accomplishment but they are also aware of the fact that this will probably be his last one to celebrate with them. They try to make it especially sweet while also being mindful of Jacob’s need for rest. His gifts are each designed with love to commemorate him and his ever growing family. His sons worked together on a new mattress for his bed. Their wives wove a beautiful ne blanket. The grandchildren worked together to make him a new chair to rest in when outside. The great grandchildren wove reeds together to make his a mat to go under his chair and a shade canopy to sit under. As a crowning touch, the names of each member of this amazing family were woven into a new wrap for him to use while watching over them from his chair. Jacob’s face shone with love for all the blessings that were poured out on him, from his family and his God.
Three days later, Joseph is brought to attention by a knock on the door. It is early morning when the summons comes. “Your father is near death. You need to come now.”
Jacob and Joseph had revisited God’s promises to their family many times since being reunited. Jacob had also spoken to Joseph of the fact that he wanted Joseph’s sons to receive part of that inheritance. This would be the traditional time to address those issues. Joseph summons his sons as he readies his chariot for the trip.
Manasseh and Ephraim appear before him, dressed and ready for the trip. He smiles at their foresight and promptness to his call. They get underway immediately and arrive in the family’s camp within an hour of the knock on their door.
As soon as Joseph and his sons arrive, the news is relayed to Jacob. All the brothers accept the fact that Joseph is still the favored son. They willingly allow Jacob and Joseph time apart from their presence. They won’t go far though because they too know of the blessings their father will be conveying at this time in his life.
Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim enter Jacob’s tent. He is sitting, propped up on the side of his bed. It is obvious that it is taking all his strength to maintain this position. Joseph speaks as they approach him. “Hello father. We have come to see you. I heard you were not feeling well.”
“I’m dying Joseph. Don’t sugar coat it. This will be our last time together. I need to address some things before I leave this world.”
“I understand father.” Joseph eyes hold tears but his voice is strong.
“Who is that with you?” asks Jacob.
“It is my sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. I brought them that you might bless them.”
“Oh my! How you have grown over the years. No longer children but young men!” Jacob smiles at them for a moment before continuing. “I have shared with you before how God Almighty appeared to me in the land of Canaan at Luz. He blessed me there and told me that He would make me fruitful and multiply my seed. He promised to make a company of people and to give that company of people the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession.”
“Yes father, I remember and I believe He will do just as He has said.”
“Good. I know you are a good father to your sons, but you have nothing lasting to bestow on them. You are not from this land, Egypt. You have no inheritance in it. But as my son, your inheritance is in God’s promise. I am taking your sons, that were born to you before I came to Egypt, as my own, to provide for them an everlasting inheritance along with your brothers. They shall be my sons, just as surely as Reuben and Simeon are. There will be no distinction between their portions. Any further sons that you have, they will remain as your own and their inheritance will fall under the umbrella of these two sons of mine, Manasseh and Ephraim.”
“Thank you father! This is most gracious of you.” Silent tears slowly make their way down Joseph’s cheeks.
Jacob reaches out to Manasseh and Ephraim with both hands. “Bring them to me that I may bless them.”
Joseph takes them by the hand and places them before Jacob in the expected order for a blessing. Manasseh, the eldest is on Jacob’s right hand, while Ephraim is on Jacob’s right. Joseph also bows himself to the ground. Jacob does something totally unexpected at this point. Instead of reaching out to his ‘newest sons’ as they stand, he reaches his right hand to Ephraim on his left and his left hand crosses to Manasseh on his right. Jacob begins to speak is blessing over ‘his’ sons. “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked. The God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” (verses 15b-16).
“This is a powerful blessing” thinks Joseph and he raises his head to smile at his father. As he does so, he is struck by the placement of Jacob’s hands. “This is wrong! Manasseh is the oldest” thinks Joseph. He should be receiving the greater blessing from Jacob’s right hand. Joseph quickly tries to fix his father’s mistake by taking his right hand from Ephraim’s head and moving it Manasseh’s.
“This one is the oldest father. He gets the blessing from your right hand.”
Jacob returns his right hand back to Ephraim’s head. “I know Joseph, but this is how it is to be. The younger one will be greater than his brother. His children shall become a MULTITUDE of nations. He then finished his blessing of the two with his hands where HE knew they belonged. “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh’” (verse 20b).
Jacob’s blessing was permanent. This was to be the new order for his sons. Jacob then turned his attention to Joseph. “I want to give you a special inheritance apart from everything else. There is a mountain slope that I fought the Amorites for with my own sword and bow. It is mine, and now I pass it to you alone. God WILL bring you again to the land of your fathers and you will take possession of this land I have given you. Do not forget your promise to me concerning my burial for I am about to die and need for you to return me to my fathers. Our place of burial will always be lacking Rachel, as she passed while we were too far away to carry her there.” Jacob shakes his head a little at this and his eyes get a faraway look in them. “Maybe it is as it should be though because Leah was my first wife after all.”
Jacob straightens himself and tells Joseph to call the rest of his brothers. He has something to say to each of them before he dies. (to be continued)
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Thank You Holy Spirit for opening my mind to other possibilities for the stories shared here. Thank You for Joseph’s unwavering faith. The fact that he wanted his sons to be a part of what God had in store. Thank You also for answering my other questions. Most of them were easy because someone else already asked and answered them. But I love it when You inspire the hard questions too. The ones that really have no answer this side of Heaven. Those are the ones where I have to be like Joseph, and simply trust You with the future.
I find it interesting that Jacob broke with tradition when giving his blessing to Joseph’s sons. He himself was a break with tradition. He was the younger child. He received his father’s blessing meant for the older son. He didn’t get it the same way as Ephraim did, but the result was the same. Just interesting to me. I’m sure You will let me know when I’m ready if there is also some kind of spiritual significance to that. Until then, PLEASE help me walk through Jacob’s blessings for the rest of his sons tomorrow. They are a bit deep for me as a non-expert.