A Surprising Reversal – Genesis 48-49

Our church family is reading through the first five books of the Bible together in ninety days. We invite you to join us as we believe this will be a time that will change our lives. 

Read Genesis 48-49

While the story of Jacob blessing his sons (Genesis 48) receives little attention from most of us today, we should pause to consider that it catches the attention of the New Testament believers. Of all the items to place in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, we read this: “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21). What is so significant of a father blessing his boys?

Jacob is old, near death, and ill. He sits up in bed to meet his son, Joseph and his two half-Egyptian sons. We must remember more is happening here than meets the eye. For this is the family of God’s promise, the one family from all the families on the earth from whom the Messiah will eventually emerge. At this critical moment near the end of his life, Jacob remembers God’s promise to him (Genesis 48:3-4). Hebrews 11:21 says that by simply remembering this promise, Jacob worshipped. The promise given to Jacob recalls the promise originally given to Abraham, the father of the faithful.

At this moment, Jacob does something unusual – he claims the boys as his own (Genesis 48:5). They will no longer be his grandsons, but his sons. In place of Reuben and Simeon, who had discredited themselves (Genesis 49:7), Joseph’s boys, Ephraim and Manasseh, will now be Jacob’s sons. More importantly, these two boys will serve as two of the twelve tribes of Israel for generations to come.

While the Messiah and the kings of Israel will come from Judah’s line, Joseph’s blessing is to have two of his sons included. Joseph had continually believed God was building a great people even when the future looked bleak (Hebrews 11:22). Joseph, like Abraham before him, built his life on faith in God.

Déjà Vu All Over Again – Genesis 41-44

Our church family is reading through the first five books of the Bible together in ninety days. We invite you to join us as we believe this will be a time that will change our lives. 

Read Genesis 41-44

The story of Joseph is one of the most compelling and beautiful stories told in all of literature. Let me offer you a quick summary. Jacob, Joseph’s father, initiates two trips in order to secure food during a severe nation-wide famine. During the first trip, ten brothers encounter their long-lost brother Joseph, the one they despised from childhood. Joseph accuses the brothers of spying, though it is simply a ruse. Joseph places them in jail for three nights before allowing his brothers to go home, with the exception of Simeon, who is bound in front of them. The only way Joseph will allow Simeon to go free is for the brothers to return with the youngest brother, Benjamin. Once back in Canaan, the boys tell their father, Jacob, how Simeon was made to stay. But, Jacob refuses to send his new favorite, Benjamin, for fear of losing a second son.

A long time passes before the severity of the famine causes the father, Jacob, to send the brothers back for more food. Jacob stubbornly refuses to send his new favorite son, Benjamin, into harm’s way. So, Judah (and this is a big turning point in the story as we’ll see in the moments to come) steps forward and personally guarantees Benjamin’s safety.

Arriving back in Egypt a second time, the brothers are invited to join the still- unrecognized Joseph for a lavish banquet. All is good and everyone is happy when Simeon is released. As they head home again, Joseph pulls the trigger on his second ploy. Joseph plants a valuable silver cup in Benjamin’s bag (remember how he’s now the new favorite son of his father). Then, he sends his men off to catch the “thieves” in the act. Caught and dragged back before Joseph in fear of their very lives, the brothers break down as they imagine the heart-rending sadness of their father if Benjamin fails to return home.

Throughout the narrative, Joseph designs a series of tests to see if his brothers have changed. He turns back the wheel of time to the original crime, reproducing the circumstances of twenty years earlier when they sold Joseph as a slave. Only now, Benjamin, the youngest of the twelve, and Simeon, the second oldest of the twelve, takes Joseph’s place.

“There’s an elephant in the room,” is an expression meaning there’s an obvious problem that everyone is choosing to ignore. The brothers do not dare to speak out loud of what they did to Joseph. Yet, it is like talking to a man with a bad toupee – everyone in the family talks about it, but no one dares mention it. No one wants to mention their culpability in Joseph’s demise, but it bubbles up everywhere throughout the narrative. And the truth is always there, just beneath the surface (Genesis 42:21-22; 44:16).

Joseph’s test of his brothers eventually moves Judah into a lead role. Instead of selling his brother out, as he did Joseph so many years ago, Judah tells Joseph, “Take my life instead of Benjamin’s.” Joseph’s test is successful and Judah’s life is changed.

Family Favoritism – Genesis 37-40

Our church family is reading through the first five books of the Bible together in ninety days. We invite you to join us as we believe this will be a time that will change our lives. 

Read Genesis 37-40

If you remember Jacob married Rachel and they had two boys, Joseph and his younger brother, Benjamin. But there were 12 brothers in all, giving Jacob a total of 70 descendants. So, here is a family of shepherds – what could be more boring than a family of shepherds? At the beginning of the chapter, we witness everyone together. Yet as the story advances, this family continues to disintegrate. By the end of chapter 37, even the father, Jacob, refuses the comfort of his children. Here is a family that is fractured, backbiting, and backstabbing.

Jacob favored Joseph over his other eleven sons. He should have known better than to favor one child over the others – it was exactly what his father did to him. Favoritism was a generational sin in Jacob’s family. Jacob knew better than to show favoritism. Why? Because Jacob’s father, Isaac, loved his brother, Esau, more than Jacob. Jacob knew firsthand the sting of being passed over for the “favored one.” Jacob desperately wanted his father’s love. This neediness caused Jacob to be a deceptive manipulator. He manipulated people all of his life – he carefully crafted the outcome. The lifelong hurt inflicted by his father should have taught him otherwise.