All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
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Jacob’s Blessings
Based on Genesis 48–49

After Joseph’s tearful reunion with his brothers, he’s eager to have his family near him. When Jacob meets Pharaoh he blesses him, then settles in the beautiful land of Goshen.

Surrounded by family, Jacob lives in Egypt for 17 years, but realizing his death is eminent, he makes Joseph swear to bury him with his fathers in Canaan. Then, with his right hand on Joseph’s youngest son’s head, and his left on his eldest’s, Jacob formally adopts his grandchildren as his own, essentially making Joseph his firstborn by giving him a double portion of inheritance through his sons.

This deliberate choosing of the younger child displeases Joseph, but his father insists, following God’s choosing of Abel over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, and Jacob over Esau.

When Jacob summons his sons for their last blessing, he prophetically reveals their future as the twelve tribes of Israel—a future affected by their past.

Reuben, his firstborn, is the excellency of dignity and power. But by disgracing his father in sleeping with his concubine (Genesis 35:22), Ruben forfeits his firstborn status.

Simeon and Levi are listed together because of their cruelty against man and beast. Their cruel killing of the Shechemites (Genesis 34) will cause them to be divided and scattered in Israel, and they will receive no permanent regional inheritance.

The blessing on Judah grants him supremacy, power, and leadership. The Messiah will come through his descendants because of his three-time role as redeemer: first, when his brothers wanted to kill Joseph; second, when Jacob wouldn’t allow Benjamin to be taken to Egypt; and finally, when Benjamin was imprisoned after Joseph’s silver cup was found in his grain sack.

Judah will receive the leadership role because “The scepter shall not depart from Judah… until Shiloh comes.” Genesis 49:10. Difficulties arise with the word Shiloh. While most believe it refers to the Messiah, explanations for its meaning seem unconvincing. However, the solution may come from the context of Genesis 38 and the story of Judah and his three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah.

Er marries Tamar, but dies, and his brother Onan takes her in a levirate marriage (remarrying within the family for the purpose of continuing the family line). However, he refuses to fulfill his redeemer role to keep the family alive, and also dies.

Judah then sends Tamar back to her father’s home until his youngest son Shelah is old enough to marry her. But when that time comes, Judah doesn’t fulfill his obligation to give her Shelah. Finally, Tamar resolves the situation by disguising herself and having an encounter with Judah.

It is important to note that in Judah’s time, the Hebrew language was made up entirely of consonants; vowels were only added around A.D. 600. This explains why the same names are spelled with different vowels in certain Bible passages. Since the consonants in Shiloh and Shelah are the same, the possibility exists that both words refer to Shelah, Judah’s youngest son. If this is so, Shelah—a redeemer figure linked with the genealogy of the Messiah—solves the problem with the word Shiloh in Genesis 49:10.

Joseph receives the longest blessing of all. He will be prosperous and his descendants will be numerous. His material blessings will be fulfilled through his two sons, who become tribes. However, no spiritual blessings are mentioned for them because they will not prosper spiritually.

At age 147 the faithful patriarch is finally laid to rest in Canaan.

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