Israel’s (Jacob’s) life seems to be fraught with “oopses,” switches, and mix-ups. From birth, Esau started to come out first, was identified as the first born, only for Jacob to make his grand entrance before his brother. Esau was in a desperate spot and Jacob took advantage of his brother, swindling him out of the birthright. He pulled a fast one on his father and stole his brother’s blessing. After working for 7 years to marry his love, Rachel, his father-in-law switched the sisters and made Jacob marry Leah first, then work another 7 years to marry Rachel. Then, as a father, his sons duped him into thinking that his son had been killed by a wild animal, when in reality they sold Joseph into slavery.
You would think after everything that had happened to this point, Jacob would want to get things right, but in keeping with that theme, Genesis 48 has yet another “oops.” Jacob tells Joseph that he is going to give him a double portion of the inheritance and asks that he bring Ephraim and Manasseh (Joseph’s sons) before him. Joseph brings the boys in and sets them in order to receive the appropriate blessing based on their birth.
Jacob puts his left hand on Manasseh and his right hand on Ephraim. Traditionally, the right hand would go on the firstborn, but verse 14 says that Jacob got it “wrong” on purpose. However, he also indicated that they would be so blessed in the future that it would become a common blessing: “God bless you like he blessed Ephraim and Manasseh.”
He then goes through the 12 sons and describes each one of them, and giving indication of what will become of each of them. You’ll notice that the list of 12 brothers doesn’t match the list of 12 parcels of land distributed in the Promised Land. That’s because, as mentioned earlier Ephraim and Manasseh each received one of the portions of the blessing. So who got “left out” of that 12 way division? Levi. Rather than receiving a designated portion of the land, they received of the offerings of God’s people.
After having given his final instructions, Israel dies. Joseph had gained such influence in Egypt that the whole country mourned with him at the passing of his father. Pharaoh gave him leave and resources to go and bury his father in the tomb that Abraham had purchased.
As you can imagine, Joseph’s brothers were fearful that once Jacob was gone, Joseph would have his revenge, so they come to Joseph and basically say, “Hey, dad said before he died that you’re supposed to forgive us.” What they didn’t understand is that Joseph had long since forgiven them and loved them. It is right here at the end of the book that Joseph makes his famous statement: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good…” He goes on to say that he will take care of them and their families…and he does. He lives long enough to see his great grand-children. Then at his death, he is given a proper Egyptian embalming and placed in a coffin. We know that later he was buried in Shechem once they reached the Promised Land.
In the end, even with all the switches, mixups, and “oopses,” God’s perfect plan is accomplished. When you find things in your life today that seem to be out of order, upside down, or just plain strange, don’t worry, God is in control!
Bonus Bit #1: Did you notice where Joseph’s mother, Rachel was buried? Genesis 48:7 says she was buried near Ephrath (Bethlehem). Where was Jesus born? Bethlehem-Ephratha. It’s important to keep the whole story in context even though we are working through a different section each day!