Monday, March 19, 2012

Jacob’s Prediction About Joseph - Genesis 49:22-26

“Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall.  The archers bitterly attacked him, And shot at him and harassed him; But his bow remained firm, And his arms were agile, From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), From the God of your father who helps you, And by the Almighty who blesses you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.  The blessings of your father Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; May they be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.”

Jacob now comes to his first natural son of his beloved Rachel.  You will remember it was Joseph that had received the coat of many colors from his father and had become the envy of his brothers.  The first thing we note is that Jacob devotes more words in his prophecy of Joseph (136 words in the NASB) than he does to any other son, with Judah coming in a close second at 124 words in the NASB.  You may well ask, “Why would anyone bother to count the actual number of words involved?”  The answer is simple.  If God was indeed guiding Jacob’s prophecies about his sons, which I believe He was, then it is important for us to note where God placed His emphasis.  Clearly it is on Joseph and Judah.  We will find out why Joseph momentarily, but why Judah?  I believe it is because of two main reasons as given in the prophecy about him.  First, this was the son that did all he could to preserve the life of Joseph when the other brothers would have left him for dead.  Judah had a redeeming nature as we pointed out when earlier discussing the prophecy about him.  He was the original “lion” among the Israelites who ruled for a long time.  Secondly, this is the tribe through which Jesus Christ, the Savior, the ultimate “Lion of Judah” would enter the world.

Returning to Joseph, we find Jacob describing him as a “fruitful bough by a spring with branches running over a wall.”  His tribe was to be attacked (as Joseph was by his own brothers) but he was constantly to be protected by God Almighty.  He was to be blessed both from above and with the “blessings of the deep” (which we discuss below), and so on.  Jacob admitted that he had been more blessed than his ancestors (Isaac and Abraham) and now Joseph was to be blessed in a similar fashion.  But let’s look at this blessing a little closer.

Jacob, with God’s guidance, starts to describe Joseph as being one who brings forth good fruit, as God would want all of us to do.  Commentator Chuck Smith states it is fruit that is the test of a man’s life.  The Psalmist David follows up on this description in Psalm 1:3 where he says that a righteous man is one who “will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season.”  What a goal for each of us – to be firmly planted (in our doctrine), by streams of water (pointing to the life of Christ), and yielding fruit (helping reproduce new and mature believers) in its season (our here and now).

The fact that its branches run over a wall implies that others were indeed blessed by Joseph.  How true that was – just think of how many were saved because of his wisdom and the management skills he applied as God first put him in a place of responsibility in Egypt.  He fed the entire nearby world at the time rather than keep all the harvests for himself and his earthly master.

In verse 23, we read that archers shot at him.  This was likely a reference perhaps to his brothers, teaching us that oftentimes our enemies will be from within our own camp or family – places from which we would least expect it.  As I observe the Church of Jesus Christ, I notice there seems to be as many if not more ‘inside jobs’ at work destroying the Body than we find in the secular world of business and politics.  Judas Ischariots abound in the Family still and the real ‘GOD-Father’ must continue to be greatly grieved.

But people were not the only arrows shot at Joseph.  Smith points out there were also arrows of temptation, false accusations, and forgetfulness of others.  Still, through all this we read in verse 24 “his bow remained firm (in strength, or ‘held in check’).  Joseph had opportunity to strike back, to take revenge, but did not.  The strength we’re talking about is the strength needed sometimes ‘not to act’ rather than to act and shoot our own arrows back.  What an example for us.  What a difficult lesson for us to learn yet one greatly needed today.  And Jacob goes on to tell us why that was with Joseph – because the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob bolstered his own arms.  We may have our bow and arrows ready – in our arms – but are those arms themselves in the hands of Almighty God who will direct them accordingly?  When we go to do spiritual battle – be it personal or involving others – we can be as weak as our own arms or as strong as the Arms that hold ours.  Throughout his life, Joseph realized that God was with him.  He gave God credit for his ability to interpret the dreams he interpreted, when he rejected the seduction of Potiphar’s wife, and earlier when his brothers had tried to kill him saying, “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”  Clearly his strength was coming from God because he trusted in Him.

Jacob was indeed blessed ending up with very large tribes under him representing the double-portion he had been granted.  All this because of his relationship and understanding of Who God was in his life.  David Guzik points out that Jacob lists five great titles for God in his words about Joseph, showing his own growth in his relationship with God later in his life.  You will remember that early in his life, God to Jacob was simply “the God of Abraham” or “the Fear of his father Isaac” (Genesis 31:53).  The titles he uses here are:

  • The Mighty God of Jacob
  • The Shepherd
  • The Stone of Israel
  • The God of your father
  • The Almighty

Much can be written about each one, but suffice it for us to ask the question, “does our understanding and more importantly, our relationship with God take in all of these attributes?”

In summary, Robert Jamieson writes, “The patriarch describes him (Joseph) as attacked by envy, revenge, temptation, ingratitude….”  That describes many of us well, does it not?  Jamieson continues about Joseph, “…Yet still, by the grace of God, he triumphed over all opposition, so that he became the sustainer of Israel….” Jamieson says, Jacob then “proceeds to shower blessings of every kind upon the head of this favorite son. The history of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh shows how fully these blessings were realized.”  Truly Joseph was a blessed man.

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