When we first met Jacob, at his birth, he was grasping the heel of his brother, then cheating Esau out of the birthright. Jacob, the striver, the one who wrestles with God and man. Jacob, who could alternate between strong and weak, between faith-filled and bewilderingly obtuse. He is one of the most complicated characters in the Bible.
Jacob is now living in Egypt, and close to death. In today’s reading he calls in Joseph and grants a blessing to both of Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Whether this double inheritance is Jacob’s response to Joseph rescuing the family, or merely a persistent favoritism of Rachel’s child, the author is silent.
In chapter 49, the twelve brothers are assembled so Jacob can “tell you what will happen to you in days to come.” He then offers an odd mix of blessing, prophecy, and rebuke, some of which looks backward, and some of which looks to the future. It is a most intriguing passage, and one that will echo through the story to come.
In the closing scenes, listen for details that call us all the way back to Abraham, as Jacob’s heart longs for an eternal connection with his father and grandfather. Listen also for the wife that is buried there, in the cave of Machpelah. Again, the complications abound for this very human being.
Not even in passing could Jacob avoid causing tension, as Joseph’s brothers fear that he was simply being kind to them while dad was alive. Joseph’s response is one we can carry with us. Marvel again at how he perceives the hand of God in all that has happened.
And then, as Joseph himself is about to die and be buried with honor in Egypt, he makes a final request, with a voice of future promise: “When you go home, take me with you.”
Our verse for this week is Hebrews 11:8: By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Genesis 48 through 50. Now let’s read it!
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.