7. Jacob Offers Blessings (Genesis 46:28-49:33)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (36:47)

Benjamin West (1738-1820), "Jacob Blessing Ephraim and Manasseh" (1766-68), Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio

The final phase of Jacob's life is one in which he is physically weak. But the depression that had haunted him for twenty years has now lifted. His spirit is soft again and we see the man of faith whom God had matured years before. Now, instead of focusing on his own pain, he is able to give to those around him once again. He becomes a conduit of the Lord's blessings.

A wagon carries old Jacob down to Egypt to his new home.

"28b When they arrived in the region of Goshen, 29 Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time. 30 Israel said to Joseph, 'Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.'" (46:28-30)

It is enlightening, though, that God's timetable for Jacob's death isn't the same as Jacob's. God still has work for him to do  -- blessing.


We've seen the concept of blessing a number of times before:

  • Isaac's blessing of Jacob and Esau (chapter 27)
  • Isaac's blessing of Jacob when he leaves (28:1-5)
  • The blessing of Abraham (28:4)
  • The nations blessed through Jacob's offspring (28:14)
  • Laban blessed through the presence of Jacob (30:27-28); Potiphar is blessed through the presence of Joseph (39:5)

One could argue that the whole story of the patriarchs  -- and Jacob in particular  -- centers around blessing: seeking a blessing, receiving a blessing, blessing others, and leaving a blessing as a legacy to one's descendents.

Blessing in the Bible

In Genesis and elsewhere in the Bible, spoken words have great import. We see in the Pentateuch, and Genesis especially, an understanding that blessing imparts something material as well as spiritual, in the same way as a curse prevents blessing.1


A father conveys to his heir a blessing that is permanent and cannot be withdrawn, as in the case of Isaac being tricked into blessing Jacob. This idea is echoed elsewhere:

Balaam: "See, I received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it." (Numbers 23:20, NRSV)

"As far as election is concerned, [the people of Israel] are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable." (Romans 11:28-29)

From God

But a blessing is not just from the human father. It is from God. The blessing is a kind of spoken prayer or prophecy, since the one who possesses and dispenses all blessings is the Lord. In blessing Joseph, for example, Jacob says:

"Because of your father's God, who helps you,
because of the Almighty,
who blesses you
with blessings of the heavens above,
blessings of the deep that lies below,
blessings of the breast and womb." (49:25)

In a similar way, after the exodus, hundreds of years later, the Aaronic blessing was spoken by the priest, but conveyed by God.

"The LORD said to Moses, 'Tell Aaron and his sons, "This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

   'The LORD bless you and keep you;
   the LORD make his face shine upon you
   and be gracious to you;
   the LORD turn his face toward you
   and give you peace.'

So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."'" (Numbers 6:22-27)

The priest or father or prophet may speak the words that "puts my name" on the individual or people, but it is God who executes the blessing.

Often Conveyed by Laying on of Hands

In Genesis, the blessing is often conveyed by the laying on of hands (48:13-14, 17-19). Jesus blessed the little children by putting his hands on them (Matthew 10:16). When he imparted the blessing of healing to the sick, he usually laid his hands on them (Luke 4:40). One person might be blessed by the laying on of hands, but a multitude could be blessed by lifting up one's hands over them (Luke 24:50). The hands were used in blessing God as well. The gesture of lifting hands to God in prayer is found in the Old Testament, the New Testament  -- even in the Christian catacombs of Rome.2

A Kind of Inspired Prophecy

At Timothy's "ordination," the blessing was a prophecy conveyed by the laying on of hands by the elders:

"Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you." (1 Timothy 4:14)

In the Old Testament especially, curses are the opposite of blessings, kind of anti-blessings  -- spoken words that withhold blessing. The blessings and curses are often paired in the Pentateuch (Genesis 12:3; 27:12; 27:29; Numbers 22-24; Deuteronomy 11:26; chapter 30).

Though we don't have time to explore them at present, the concept of blessing in Genesis is closely related to promises, oaths, and covenants.

Joseph's Brothers Meet Pharaoh (46:31-47:12)

Along with Jacob, Joseph's brothers and their families arrive in Egypt and settle in Goshen.

Joseph now coaches his brothers on what to say to Pharaoh when they are introduced. Five of them are selected to represent the family before Pharaoh; Joseph wisely left the "loose cannons" at home (47:2). Or perhaps, when asking for hospitality for sojourners, he doesn't want to overwhelm Pharaoh with the whole clan of twelve brothers. Pharaoh might think twice about being so generous. Now Joseph coaches his brothers on how to present themselves:

"33 When Pharaoh calls you, and says, 'What is your occupation?' 34 you shall say, 'Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our ancestors'— in order that you may settle in the land of Goshen, because all shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians." (46:33-34)

We're not exactly sure what Joseph means by this. Some scholars connect it with Egyptian history as a slur on the Hyksos rulers, Semitic invaders with Canaanite names, later termed "shepherd kings." But Joseph's reign probably fell within the Hyksos period (1720 to 1580 BC, if we adopt the earlier dating of the Exodus, which seems likely to me). Most likely the shepherd/livestock issue was related to class, that herding sheep was below the dignity of upper class Egyptians. Being an owner of livestock is different from being a shepherd, just like a rancher is considered a cut above a cowboy.

Though Joseph tells his brothers to describe themselves as "tenders of livestock" (46:34), they give their occupation as shepherds anyway. But Pharaoh doesn't seem to be alarmed (47:3). The family that had been characterized by deceit is now open about who they are, and God makes a way for them in spite of it. Pharaoh grants them freedom to live in Goshen (probably in the eastern part of the Nile delta near Tanis).

Jacob Blesses Pharaoh (47:7)

After Joseph's brothers leave the throne room, it is Jacob's turn.

"Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob, and presented him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh." (47:7, NRSV)

Old Jacob is ushered slowly into Pharaoh's throne room. Suddenly the overpowering presence of the monarch seems to diminish as Jacob the patriarch is presented to him.

Jacob proceeds to bless Pharaoh. Usually, the greater would bless the lesser. But here, the man of God has much more to offer. He imparts a blessing to this king who has been so gracious to his family and has allowed them to sojourn in his lands. He fulfills the promise the Lord made to him years before: "Those who bless you be blessed" (27:29).

The Years of My Pilgrimage (47:8-9)

"8 Pharaoh asked him, 'How old are you?'
9 And Jacob said to Pharaoh, 'The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.'" (47:8-9)

The word "pilgrimage" (NIV, KJV) or "earthly sojourn" (NRSV) is māgôr, "dwelling, pilgrimage, place of sojourning, wherein one is a stranger," from the root gûr, "to live among people who are not blood relatives." Rather than enjoying native civil rights, the ger was dependent upon the hospitality of his hosts.3

Jacob views life as a temporary abode, a place of sojourning, not permanent residence. Many centuries later the writer of Hebrews echoes this thought. He says about the patriarchs:

"They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country  -- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." (Hebrews 11:13-16)

The Mindset of a Sojourner

The mindset of a sojourner is a vitally important perspective for Christians. During Jesus' ministry, this was his lifestyle and that of his disciples. He told one would-be follower:

"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." (Luke 9:58)

We get so attached to our homes, to our communities, to our culture, to our comfortable way of life, that we have rejected the lifestyle of a sojourner for that of a permanent resident. But having a sojourner attitude is vital to discipleship; it steels us against strong temptations to conformity.

"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." (1 Peter 2:11)

An old gospel song carries the same theme. It's a bit other-worldly in focus  -- but then again, that's what "longing for a better country  -- a heavenly one" means:

"This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore."4

Q1. (Genesis 47:9) In what sense is life on earth like a "pilgrimage" or a journey with no permanent home? What happens to us when we settle down and get too comfortable with our lives? How do we retain a "journeying spirit" in our faith?



Old Age in the Era of the Patriarchs

We think that 130 is pretty old, but Jacob is not exaggerating when he says his years do not equal the years of his ancestors.

Nahor 119 years (11:24)
Terah 205 years (11:32)
Abraham 175 years (25:7)
Isaac 180 years (35:28)
Jacob 147 years (47:28)
Joseph 110 years (50:22)

 I am sometimes asked, "Did they have another calendar?" Yes, they had a lunar calendar, but they still kept track of years by the changing seasons. It's pretty hard to mistake the passage of one year. So why did they live so long back then? We don't know. It may have had to do with the quality of the environment or the peacefulness of their nomadic lifestyle. Many Egyptian texts cite 110 years as the ideal life span, so long life among the Hebrews wasn't the exception. Later, though the ideal life span in Israel is somewhat less:

"The days of our years are threescore years and ten;
and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
yet is their strength labor and sorrow;
for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." (Psalm 90:10, KJV)

The contrast in Pharaoh's court couldn't have been greater. Jacob is a wizened old man, hunched over, shriveled, but still entirely in command of his senses. He shares his life with Pharaoh, leader of one of the most powerful countries in the entire world.

And then the interview is over.

"Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh." (47:10)

The man of God conveys God's double blessing to the man of the world  -- on the way in and on the way out! It is the model of Jesus, who blessed wherever he went. What a model for us: to convey a blessing to those we meet!

Extracting an Oath from Joseph (47:29-31)

James J. Tissot, "Jacob's Body Is Taken to Canaan" (c. 1896-1902), gouache on board, 17.4 x 26.9, Jewish Museum, New York.

 "27 Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; and they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly. 28 Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were one hundred forty-seven years." (47:27-28)

In spite of the blessings of this new home, Jacob's heart is in the Promised Land. God has promised Jacob that "I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again" (46:4). That return is on his mind.

 "29 When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, 'If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.'

'I will do as you say,' he said.

31 'Swear to me,' he said.

Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff." (47:29-31)

Jacob is failing. He calls for Joseph and makes him promise to carry his body for burial in the family burial place in Canaan.

Joseph promises, but Jacob insists, "Swear to me."

Placing one's hand under another's thigh (Hebrew yārēk) was a way of taking a solemn oath, which we saw when Abraham required an oath from his servant who was sent to Haran to get a wife for Isaac (24:9). "Thigh" seems to be a euphemism for the genitals. For example, Jacob's "direct descendants" in 46:26 are literally those who "came out of his loins," using the same word.5

After Jacob's death, Joseph goes to Pharaoh and says, "My father made me swear an oath" (50:5) and Pharaoh allows him to leave the country to fulfill his vow and bury his father in Canaan.

The scene closes with worship. The verb is ḥāwâ, "bow down deeply, do obeisance" in worship. It has the basic idea of to prostrate oneself on the ground, perhaps with the forehead to the ground as the Muslims pray.6

"Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed." 7 (NASB)

Centuries later we see a similar posture from the dying David:

"And the king bowed in worship on his bed." (1 Kings 1:47, NIV)

Jacob worships as he realizes that God will fulfill his promise through Joseph. God's promise of the land is important to him, even though it is only for now his final resting-place. For Jacob, to be buried in Canaan is to enjoy the firstfruits of the everlasting covenant.

Blessing Ephraim and Manasseh (48:1-20)

"1 Some time later Joseph was told, 'Your father is ill.' So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. 2 When Jacob was told, 'Your son Joseph has come to you,' Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed." (48:1-2)

Jacob begins reciting his testimony and the Blessings of Abraham:

"God Almighty (El Shaddai) appeared to me at Luz in the Land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, 'I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.'" (48:3-4)

Joseph's sons have heard these things, no doubt, from their father. But there's nothing like the impression of hearing in person a 147-year-old man tell you what God has done for him. These boys, who have been raised by the daughter of an Egyptian priest (41:50), need to hear the story of their faith again. Jacob tells again in their hearing the old, old story of the promises made to Abraham that are now being fulfilled.

These boys, who had never seen the Land, who had not known they were part of a larger family, were some of those promised descendants. They heard their grandfather's testimony and never forgot, but passed it on to their grandchildren after them. The ministry of a grandfather or a grandmother to their children's children should never be underestimated.

We read no plea from Joseph, but rather a special blessing from Jacob:

"Your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine." (48:5)

In the Near East, the firstborn was to receive a double portion of the father's inheritance, with each of the other sons receiving a single portion. This helped insure that the firstborn would have the wealth and prominence to be the leader of the family. In this scene of blessing, Jacob is declaring that instead of Joseph getting a single share of Jacob's inheritance, that he will receive a double inheritance; Ephraim and Manasseh are to be considered Jacob's sons. Centuries later, when the people of Israel finally came into the Promised Land, the descendents of Ephraim and Manasseh receive their own separate lands in which to settle (Joshua 16-17).

Later we read about Jacob's firstborn son Reuben:

"He was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father's marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel; so he could not be listed in the genealogical record in accordance with his birthright, and though Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler came from him, the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph." (1 Chronicles 5:1-2)

When he had been young, Jacob had deceived in order to gain his father's blessing. Now he is the patriarch giving the blessing. He is nearly blind (48:10) as was his father Isaac. But instead of being dulled spiritually by the smell of venison, he is spiritually acute.

Now old Jacob tells the story of the death of his beloved Rachel (48:7) and seems to drift off for a moment. Then he looks up, sees the boys, and asks, "Who are these?"

If you've ever been around an elderly parent, you know what's going on. The slippery memory that can recall events of long ago, sometimes has trouble with the present.

"These are the sons God has given me here in Egypt," says Joseph patiently.

"Bring them to me so I may bless them," says Jacob, still sitting on his bed. He embraces them and kisses them, though he can barely see them.

"I never expected to see you again," he says to their father, "and now God has allowed me to see your children, too." I can see tears on the cheeks of both father and son.

Joseph now bows himself on the floor before his father, as his sons look on. Is it worship? No, but honor and obedience. The boys watch as the Second in Command of all Egypt prostrates himself before an elderly shepherd who listens to God's voice. Now Joseph rises and brings the boys to Jacob for a blessing.

Mosan Workshop, Workshop of Godefroid de Huy (Netherlandish), "Jacob Blessing Ephraim and Manasseh" (mid-12th century), champlevé enamel on copper with gilding, 7.1 x 9.7 x 0.3 cm, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Prophetic Blessings

Joseph arranges his sons so that Joseph's firstborn, Manasseh, is next to Jacob's right hand, the preferred hand ("at his right hand"), while the younger Ephraim is on Jacob's left (48:13).

"But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim's head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh's head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn." (48:14)

Joseph is "displeased." This isn't going the way he wants it to happen. Surely his aged father is confused. He takes his father's right hand to move it from younger Ephraim's head to firstborn Manasseh's head (48:17-18) and to correct his father. One must do these things properly! Old Jacob tenses his arms and refuses to let Joseph move them, and when he speaks, he speaks in a conciliatory way to his favorite son:

"'I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations' ... so he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh." (48:19-20)

What's going on here? How does Jacob know? He has heard from God and is doing what God is showing him to do. Though we aren't told anywhere that the Spirit of God is upon him, that is surely what is happening. He is prophesying God's words, just as his father Isaac had "mistakenly" prophesied the correct blessing over Jacob instead of Esau. Chapter 49 is a chapter of prophetic blessings over each of Jacob's twelve sons. If we understand these patriarchal blessings in any lesser way, we miss what is happening here.

Here he blesses the boys (48:16) with

  1. Being called by his own name and the names of his father and grandfather,
  2. Great increase in numbers, and
  3. With legendary prosperity: "May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh" (48:20).

Verse 22 is significant for two reasons. Jacob says to Joseph:

"And to you, as one who is over your brothers, I give the ridge of land I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow." (48:22)

First, it confirms that Joseph is over his brothers. Reuben had forfeited the birthright, and Joseph, the firstborn of Rachel, now holds it: he is over his brothers.

Second, he gives to Joseph "the ridge of land" he owns in Canaan. Where is this? When did this happen? We're really not sure, but this may be a reference to Jacob's sons' taking of Shechem in Genesis 34.8

Q2. (Genesis 48) Why does Jacob cross his hands when blessing Ephraim and Manasseh? Why does Joseph try to stop him? In what sense are Jacob's blessings an actual prophecy from God?



Blessing of Jacob's Twelve Sons (49:1-28)

Now Jacob calls for his sons, sensing he is near death, and the twelve of them form around his bed.

"Gather around," says Jacob in a weak but audible voice, "so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come" (49:1). He is clearly prophesying.

1. Reuben (49:3-4). Reuben, the firstborn, began well, but lost his birthright and place of honor as a result of incest with Jacob's concubine. Though we read of no immediate punishment at the time when the sin occurred (35:22), yet the sin had broad consequences, not only for Reuben but also for his descendents.

2 and 3. Simeon and Levi. Their anger and cruelty in the slaughter at Shechem becomes their legacy and they are "scattered."9 The tribe of Simeon is eventually integrated into the tribe of Judah. The tribe of Levi is never given land of their own, but are given cities to live in, scattered throughout the land of Israel. Their inheritance is the tithe rather than land (Numbers 18:22-23).

4. Judah. The most extensive prophecies involve Judah and Joseph, the two leaders among the brothers, and the sons whose tribes, Judah and Ephraim, are destined to be the dominant tribes in the Promised Land. Ephraim in the north, eventually breaks off to become the Northern Kingdom and falls into idolatry and final exile to Assyria. The Southern Kingdom, Judah, sees periods of apostasy and revival, exile to Babylon and final return to rebuild the temple.

Judah is characterized as a lion's cub, a lioness who crouches, "who dares to rouse him?" He is powerful and a tribe to be reckoned with. In the first book of the Bible, Judah's tribe is symbolized by a lion. In the last book of the Bible we read of Judah's offspring:

"See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed." (Revelation 5:5)

Most significantly, we read in vs. 10:

"The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs,
and the obedience of the nations is his." (49:10)

The KJV and NASB translate the third line, "until Shiloh come," following the Hebrew Masoretic text. However, there is good reason to render it "until he comes to whom it belongs" (NIV, RSV, following the Syriac and Septuagint translations with some Targums). Victor P. Hamilton notes: "This line has provoked more difference of opinion among Hebraists than perhaps any other in the entire book of Genesis."10 He translates it, "until he possesses that which belongs to him." The sense seems to be that the kingship will remain in Judah's clan until the King comes who can rightfully claim it. We Christians believe this to be Jesus the Messiah.

5. Zebulun,
6. Issachar,
7. Dan,
8. Gad,
9. Asher, and
10. Naphtali

are each described very tersely.

11. Joseph, however, has the longest prophecy. We see images of fruitful vines, steady bows:

"Because of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
because of your father's God, who helps you,
because of the Almighty (Shaddai) who blesses you...." (49:24-25)

 Blessings are from heaven and the deep, from the breast and the womb, greater than the ancient mountains.

"Your father's blessings...
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of the prince among his brothers." (49:26)

The final verse acknowledges Joseph as the leader and the firstborn among his brothers.

12. Benjamin receives the final blessing.

Jacob Dies (49:33)

Then Jacob gives final instructions concerning his burial place in the tomb Abraham had purchased centuries before (49:29-32):

"When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people." (49:33)

He, who has been blessed by God, has now finished blessing Pharaoh, his grandsons, and his twelve sons who are with him at the end.

Difficult Years Have Brought Jacob to God

Two verses in these closing chapters touch me especially. The first is this: Jacob tells Pharaoh,

"My years have been few and difficult." (47:9)

While we might disagree that they are few, we can agree that they have been difficult. Jacob has lived through the seasons of life. He has felt plenty of fear, mostly from family members  -- Esau and Laban. He has experienced the highs of love with Rachel and the depths of despair without her. Within a short time he lost his mother's nurse, his own dear wife, his father Isaac, and his son Joseph (to a violent death, he believed). He has learned to trust God to bless him, and his fortune has grown from a single staff in his hand (32:10) to great wealth, with hundreds of descendants who call him father, grandfather, and great-grandfather at his passing.

He has been overwhelmed by success and stunned into helplessness by life's blows. More than anything, however, his life is about God.

God met him at Bethel and promised to be with him, and there he vowed to serve God and tithe all that God gave him. He wrestled with God at Peniel and came away stronger in spirit for the contest, and ever after walked with a limp. He heard God's reassuring voice again at Beersheba after years of depression and despair,

"Do not be afraid. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again." (46:3-4)

Q3. Why do we equate blessing with a lack of crisis in our lives? What are the effects of crises on our faith? How do they help us grow in our faith? Why do they sometimes destroy our faith?



God Who Has Been My Shepherd

In his blessing of Joseph and his sons (48:15-16) we can see Jacob's heart. He loves God; that is clear. He has known God now for the past 100 years  -- ever since Bethel  -- and God has never let him down. As second phrase keeps echoing in my mind. When he blesses Ephraim and Manasseh he refers to

"The God who has been my Shepherd all my life to this day." (48:15b)

Jacob has spent his whole life as a shepherd. He knows how to breed them, to find them food, to protect them, and to guide them.

When I was in Israel in 1997, driving up the Jordan Valley towards Galilee, I saw a Palestinian shepherd with his sheep walking along the side of a hill. The shepherd was leading his sheep rather than herding them. He walked before them and they followed him, secure in his presence, protected from injury and harm. They didn't know where he was going, but that didn't matter. They trusted that he knew where he was going, and that was enough. They simply followed.

Your life has seen some ups and downs as well. You've seen the good and the bad, and it may be that today, as you read these words, you don't know the next step. The way is dark ahead, and you are afraid.

Do You Know the Shepherd?

I want to ask you a question: Do you know the Shepherd? I'm not asking if you know about him, but if you know him. The Shepherd that spoke to Jacob and guided him four millennia ago is still here and cares about each of his sheep. Specifically, he cares about you.

Some sheep are in his fold, safe, protected from danger, and well-fed. Others are straying on the hills, vulnerable, stumbling blindly, hoping to find their way in the dark, afraid.

Jesus told a parable about the man who has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away. You leave the ninety-nine, he says, and go looking for the lost sheep until you find it. And when you find it, you joyfully put it on your shoulders and head for home. You call your friends and neighbors together to rejoice over finding the lost sheep. Jesus said,

Discipleship Lessons from the Life of Jacob, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson (JesusWalk, 2010)
These lessons are also available as in e-book and paperback formats, 133 pages.

"I tell you that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:7)

The Shepherd is still searching the hills looking for lost sheep. He's searching, calling. That Shepherd is calling for you, listening for you, so you won't be lost any longer, but be found and rescued and safe.

You can help him in the search by uttering a simple phrase. "I'm over here, Lord. Help me." That's all you need to do  -- bleat  -- and he'll do the rest. Do it now. He's looking for you.

As he is dying, Jacob the old shepherd prays for two of his grandsons. "God who has been my Shepherd all my life to this day," he says, "may he bless these boys."

Q4. (Genesis 48:15) How did God act as a Shepherd to Jacob? How does God act as a Shepherd to you? Do you trust him or rebel against his shepherding?




Father, thank you for your presence, your love, your faithfulness to me. You have been with me in my greatest moments and in my deepest despair. Thank you for being with me. I pray for the person who has just completed studying these lessons. I pray that you will help him or her to reach out to you, and to invite you to be a personal Shepherd. Thank you, Lord, for being my Shepherd all my life. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


1. Beyer (eulogeō, TDNT 2:754-755) discusses the concept of blessing in the Old Testament. See also, J. McKeown, "Blessings and Curses," DOTP, pp. 83-87.

2. See my article, "Lifting Hands in Worship," Paraclete, Winter 1986, pp. 4-8 (www.joyfulheart.com/scholar/hands.htm).

3. Harold G. Stigers, gûr, TWOT #330c.

4. "This World is Not My Home" first appeared in a songbook in Joyful Meeting in Glory No. 1, edited by Bertha Davis (published 1919, C. Miller of Mt. Sterling, KY). It has since appeared in books by both Albert E. Brumley (1939) and J.R. Baxter (1946), but they are not the authors.

5. John E. Hartley, yārēk, TWOT #916a. The same word is used of Jacob's hip which was dislocated by the angel (32:25).

6. "Worship" is the Histafal stem (Holladay, 97a) or perhaps the Eshtaphal stem (Edwin Yamauchi, ḥāwâ, TWOT #619) of ḥāwâ, "to prostrate oneself, to worship." It is cognate with the Ugaritic ḥwy "to bow down."

7. In our passage there is a question about the appropriate translation. "Bed" is miṭṭâ. However, the Greek Septuagint, Syriac, and Vetus Itala translations (followed by the NIV) render this as "staff" (maṭṭeh). Hebrew was originally written with consonants only, with the vowels assumed by the context. Modern Hebrew, too, excludes vowels. But a group of Rabbinic scholars, the Masoretes of Tiberias, who sought to preserve the original pronunciation of the scriptures, added vowel pointing to the Hebrew text in perhaps the seventh century AD, producing the Masoretic Hebrew text of the Old Testament still used today. This fixed the meaning of any pronunciations  -- and word meanings  -- in question for those using this standard text. "Staff" (maṭṭeh) was the interpretation by the translators of the Greek Septuagint in the second century BC. "Bed" (miṭṭâ) was the interpretation of the Masorete scholars in the seventh century AD. Which is correct? God only knows for sure. To me a dying man bowing in worship at the head of his bed makes more sense that bowing at the head of a staff.

8. Even though Jacob strongly disapproved of his sons' actions (49:5-7), nevertheless, in a sense their violent taking of the city certainly was seen as Jacob's act by the people of the land (34:30). He had purchased land outside Shechem from the owners, and then taken the entire area by the sword through the violence of Simeon and Levi. This is one attempt at an explanation, but no one really knows for sure what this verse means.

9. Pāṣaṣ, "be dispersed, scattered" (Victor P. Hamilton, TWOT #1745).

10. Hamilton, Genesis 18-50, p. 654f, fn. 12.

Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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