09/02/16 Osmer Harris
Prelude: Genesis 47 finds Joseph settling his extended family in Egypt, in Goshen, the best of the land, and, as Genesis 47:11 says, it is the land of Rameses. How do I interpret what that means?
The IVPBBC gives us this information:
“district of Rameses. An equation is made here between the “district of Rameses” and the land of Goshen (see Gen_45:10). This northeastern section of the Delta region was known to be inhabited by Semites, and it is the center of Hyksos activity during the eighteenth to sixteenth centuries B.C. It will also be equated with the Tanis district, where the storehouse cities of Pithom and Rameses were said to be constructed by the Hebrew slaves (Exo_1:11). Pharaoh Rameses II, who did build and expand cities in this region during the mid-thirteenth century B.C., may be anachronistically referred to in this phrase.”
I have a problem this. Jacob came at the request of Pharaoh and is a guest. While all of Egypt sold their land and lives to Pharaoh/Joseph, this was not the case with the Hebrews. They excelled and became livestock tenders for Pharaoh. Considering that the Egyptians sold Pharaoh their livestock as well, the task must have looked daunting, and sons of Jacob immediately stepped into these roles. And yet, in time, it would be the Hebrew slaves construct the storehouse cities. What happened?
Until we find out how Israel, guests of Egypt, became the slaves, we will focus on this question: Who established this pattern or tradition of blessing and what was the first occurrence?
Genesis 48:1 NASB “Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, "Behold, your father is sick." So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him.”
Since they arrived in Egypt, all we have heard Jacob say is, now I can go home in peace. However, he lived for another 17 years.
- Finally, Jacob is about to die. I do not say that with glee, but after 17 years, he is dying.
- So Joseph took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him.I do not believe this is the first time Jacob has seen the sons, but it is now an appropriate time to bless them.
Genesis 48:2 NASB “When it was told to Jacob, "Behold, your son Joseph has come to you," Israel collected his strength and sat up in the bed.”
- Whether it is legitimate or not, he is apparently not responding much for anybody. But when he knows that Joseph is coming, he gets excited and gets up, a challenging task.I have seen elderly parents show favoritism over children. My girlfriend has been dealing with this for years.
Genesis 48:3-7 NASB “Then Jacob said to Joseph, "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, 4) and He said to me, 'Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession.' 5) "Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. 6) "But your offspring that have been born after them shall be yours; they shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance. "Now as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)."
- We get a brief history lesson, but that is important, as all history, for the longest time, was merely held onto by oral tradition. Since most all of us have played the whisper game and know how contorted the shared phrase becomes by the time it reaches the last player, can then imagine how important it is to rehearse the history.
- 17 years after their arrival, how large have their numbers grown? Significantly, and I believe that Jacob is well into the great grandfather phase of his life.
- “Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are.”Merely mentioning Reuben's name might indicate that he is back in the good graces of his father. But what does this mean: "Ephraim and Manasseh are mine?"The IVPBBC tells us: “Ephraim and Manasseh as firstborn. While Jacob does not disinherit Reuben and Simeon, he adopts Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and gives them prioritized standing in inheritance. The adoption practice and formula here are very similar to those attested in the Code of Hammurabi. Additionally, one Ugaritic text features a grandfather adopting his grandson. In one sense this adoption could be seen as the means by which Joseph is given the double portion of the inheritance due to the firstborn, since two of his sons receive shares from Jacob's inheritance.”Why would we entertain, for even a moment, that Jacob would lean on the Hammurabi code as the guiding principle for his life? It is clear that no one God has spoken to has held firmly to the direction God has given them, and yet, God has still prospered them and placed many of them in Hall of Fame we find the book of Hebrews.If I insert myself into the scene, it makes no sense without background information, which Joseph may have had. But watch what happens.
Genesis 48:8-9 NASB When Israel saw Joseph's sons, he said, "Who are these?" 9) Joseph said to his father, "They are my sons, whom God has given me here." So he said, "Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them."
It doesn't make sense that Jacob would not have seen Joseph's boys for seventeen years. Mind you; he may not have seen them that often, and, considering how Jacob was always ready to die it may be possible that he was losing not only his memory but his eyesight as well. Add seventeen years to Joseph's sons and they may well be almost six foot tall, practically grown men.
To bless: eulogeō
1) to praise, celebrate with praises
2) to invoke blessings
3) to consecrate a thing with solemn prayers
3a) to ask God’s blessing on a thing
3b) pray God to bless it to one’s use
3c) pronounce a consecratory blessing on
4) of God
4a) to cause to prosper, to make happy, to bestow blessings on
4b) favored of God, blessed.
While Jacob had favorable words for Ephraim and Manasseh, his words were not so kind to several of his sons.
Genesis 49:5-7 NASB "Simeon and Levi are brothers; Their swords are implements of violence. 6) "Let my soul not enter into their council; Let not my glory be united with their assembly; Because in their anger they slew men, And in their self-will they lamed oxen. 7) "Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel.
Genesis 49:16-17 NASB "Dan shall judge his people, As one of the tribes of Israel. 17) "Dan shall be a serpent in the way, A horned snake in the path, That bites the horse's heels, So that his rider falls backward.
Genesis 48:11-22 NASB Israel said to Joseph, "I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well." 12) Then Joseph took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground. 13) Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel's left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel's right, and brought them close to him. 14) But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn. 15) He blessed Joseph, and said, "The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, 16) The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; And may my name live on in them, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." 17) When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim's head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father's hand to remove it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. 18) Joseph said to his father, "Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head." 19) But his father refused and said, "I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people, and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations." 20) He blessed them that day, saying, "By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying, 'May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!'" Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. 21) Then Israel said to Joseph, "Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. 22) "I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow."
- “Israel said to Joseph, "I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.”The word see can also mean - to look at, see, regard.Because it does not make sense that Joseph would have waited seventeen years before, bringing his boys to see Joseph. The words look at, see, and regard, make more sense. Jacob surely would have included them, especially after declaring that they were (symbolically) his own.
- “Then Joseph took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground. 13) Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel's left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel's right, and brought them close to him. 14) But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn.”
- So, in trying to understand why Jacob would have blessed the sons of Joseph, speaking blessings over them, and curses over some of his sons. I thought I would look into where we first find this “tradition.”
- One of the first occurrences of blessing is found in Genesis 1:20-22 where God blessed the earliest of His creation, saying, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens. God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind;”
Blessed is the Hebrew word bârak, and means to:
1) to bless, kneel
1a1) to kneel
1a2) to bless
1b) (Niphal) to be blessed, bless oneself
1c) (Piel) to bless
1d) (Pual) to be blessed, be adored
1e) (Hiphil) to cause to kneel
1f) (Hithpael) to bless oneself
- (TWOT) to praise, salute, curse.
Because God made it, it was good, and He praised it and saluted it, sort of, but that does not explain why Jacob spoke into the lives and futures of Ephraim and Manasseh.
In Genesis 5:2 there is a general blessing to humanity; however, we are forced to assume that this was specifically Adam and Eve. The problem with that comes in the language used to describe humankind on earth.
Genesis 5:1-2 NASB This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. 2) He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.
The implications are that this was said of the man, before these spirit beings obtaining a body. It is difficult for us to perceive of spirit beings producing future generations, and yet, God saw everything that was to come, the good and the bad. If I can look at His blessing in that way, then it all makes sense I suppose.
I, the reader, am left to assume that God spelled out the specifics of blessings and life to Adam as they walked in the garden. This concept causes much grief as they will say that there is no way God physically walked with the man, for scripture spells out explicitly that man cannot look on God, or the man would die. Jesus also told us that no man had seen God. And yet, Jesus said, if you have seen me, you have seen the Father. So which is it? I have no problem picturing Jesus walking in the garden with Adam. Why? John 1:1-4.
When it comes to a particular person being blessed, outside of Adam, after the curse, Noah was the first. Genesis 9:1.
We are still dealing with the Hebrew word bârak. I cannot see God kneeling before Noah; that is what we do to Him. However, I can picture God praising, saluting, or even cursing – as Jacob did several of his sons.
Since history was oral for the longest time, then we must assume that this pattern demonstrated by God – think pre-incarnations of Christ. Would have been passed along as well. So many things took place in the garden, and the only thing that makes sense about them, is that God explained everything to Adam; the problem is that you don't explicitly see that, just as you don't specifically see that process with Noah. Haven't you ever wondered how it is that Enoch learned how to walk with God? The answer lies in scripture, but requires that you do a little genealogical homework; that is when you discover that Adam was about 600 years old when Enoch was born and well capable of telling him what every minute was like. We just assume that never happened because it is not explicitly spelled out for us. A logical assumption is okay and sometimes appreciated.
So, we apparently have a tremendous heritage of historical storytelling, and it is wildly accurate.