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Keep your hands where I can see them: Genesis 48

Jacob and family are safely in Egypt, as we've already established. Except that "safely" does not mean that all is well. In this case, Jacob is sick. He's actually sick and dying, and his last acts are recorded in the closing chapters of Genesis. Today, we'll take a look at Genesis 48 (link).

Joseph is hard at work, managing the economy of the world's current superpower, Egypt. He gets a message, though, that his father is ill. We're not talking the ill that I've had these past few days of sinuses and fevers. We're talking about a deathly ill. Joseph does what we all would want to do in the situation, and goes to Jacob's side. He takes his oldest two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, with him.

Then some events happen that relate to inheritance rights and legalities. I am not an expert on the laws and customs of all the Ancient Near East, but my supposition is that Jacob had removed Joseph from his list of heirs those thirteen years ago when he thought Joseph dead. Moreover, it was the right of the firstborn, Reuben, to get a double-portion of the estate. Essentially, that firstborn counted twice: if you have 3 sons, you divided the estate into 4 portions and the firstborn gets 2 of those portions.

Jacob, though, does not intend that Reuben will stand alone as the biggest heir, especially if Joseph is not due to receive anything. Instead, Jacob adopts Joseph oldest two boys, the ones who were already born when Jacob entered Egypt, as his own. This will allocate to Joseph's offspring an inheritance roughly equal to the firstborn's.

Though something worth noting is the incident in the middle of the chapter. Joseph brings his two sons to Jacob, and Jacob blesses them, but he gives the greater blessing to the younger son. This happens despite Joseph's effort to stand his sons in the right place to get the better blessing given to the older son.

Yet is it any surprise that Jacob, himself the younger son who was blessed above the firstborn, blesses Ephraim over Manasseh? It ought not be surprising to us that Jacob would have a preference to bless the younger.

This bothers Joseph, but his father will not be dissuaded. It is his to bless as he sees fit, and in fact he is blessing based on the foresight that God has granted him.

When we back away and look at this, it's not that different from our lives. We expect that certain decisions and certain positions will entitle us to blessing. I lifetime of this work or that attitude should give us more than someone who came after us.

Except that's not how grace works. Grace works like this: the one who gives grace gets to give as much or as little to whomever He chooses. Even the unworthy can be added to the blessing.

That's what happens to both Ephraim and Manasseh here, neither deserve the blessing they receive. Manasseh is not unblessed, but is just not blessed as richly as Ephraim.. The real focus of Ephraim's greatness will be that there's more of his descendants than Manasseh's.

When we consider how God has worked in the world around us, we see this still at work. Sometimes, the newer surpasses the older, sometimes the older is forgotten and should not be, but in all things it's really about God's grace. He does not owe us another day, yet He gives them to us all the same.

Next time you're concerned that someone else has been blessed more than you, stop and consider the blessing that you do have, stop and consider what God has done. Perhaps you can rejoice just the same.


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