Did You Ever Wonder Why?
“Most of us wonder about the oddities of life at one time or another. Well, did you ever wonder . . .
In Scripture there are many things that cause the reader to wonder why. In this passage there are a number of whys, some of which are answered while we are left to wonder about others.”
[Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 369]
We may wonder why Jacob elevated Ephraim and Manasseh to the status of sons and why he crossed his arms and put his right hand on Ephraim’s head when he was the younger son of Joseph.
We may wonder at the blessing Jacob speaks over Ephraim, Manasseh, and Joseph.
One thing we can be sure of is the blessing Jacob bestowed on Ephraim is a generational blessing – it had come down the line from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and now Ephraim.
One generational blessing that Judy and I have experienced has been money from an estate
The greater generational blessing we have received is a spiritual heritage that has been passed on from our parents, grandparents, and even generations further back
What kind of generational blessings can we all reflect on this morning (spiritual, financial, occupational, and/or physical, etc.)
Jacob reflected on the blessings God Almighty had promised him when he met Him at Luz (Bethel). In his blessing of Joseph, he reflected on the blessing of a spiritual heritage that his father and grandfather had left him. Finally, he blessed Joseph with a piece of land in Canaan that had been his. What we will learn from this passage of Scripture today is that . . .
BIG IDEA – We can experience the blessings of God from generation to generation.
GOD (Genesis 48:1-22)
Beneficiaries (vv. 1-12)
What we see happening in these twelve verses is that Jacob adopted Ephraim and Manasseh as his sons – they are elevated from grandsons to sons
The exact amount of time that passed from Joseph’s solemn vow to bury Jacob in Canaan (Gen. 47:31) and this current visit is vague
“Some time later. The Hebrew is literally, ‘after these things’ (i.e., after the oath ceremony).” [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 595]
It was certainly a short time and not months or years later
It all unfolded in Jacob’s 17th year in Egypt
Jacob is ill
What prompted Joseph’s visit was news that his father was ill
Perhaps his brothers saw a drastic decline in their father
He was sleeping all the time
He stopped eating and drinking
So they sent an anonymous messenger to Joseph to encourage him to come
Joseph came to Goshen with his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (Joseph lists them in birth order, remember that)
That means he had not moved to Goshen to live with his family, but was still living where Pharaoh lived
He probably brought his two sons with him in anticipation of a patriarchal blessing
Little did he know what was about to happen
Jacob rallied his strength
When Jacob was told that Joseph had come, he rallied his strength and sat up on the bed
“Jacob has deteriorated from ‘dwelling’ in Goshen to ‘dwelling’ in bed.” [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 628]
The fact that Jacob musters up the strength to sit up in bed shows how important this visit is to him
Jacob shared the terms of his adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh
Terms of adoption
Jacob repeated the covenant given to him many years before at Bethel that had initially been given to Abraham
Luz was the ancient name for Bethel
Genesis 28:13-15, There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
The blessing of Jacob was a continuation of the blessing given to Abraham and Isaac
He was experiencing the generational blessing
We can experience the blessings of God from generation to generation, too.
Only Ephraim and Manasseh
Notice that Jacob refers to Joseph’s two sons in reverse birth order – Ephraim and Manasseh (that is significant)
Ephraim and Manasseh will be to Jacob just like Reuben and Simeon were
Any children born to Joseph after Ephraim and Manasseh will be Joseph’s
They will not inherit a portion of the Promised Land like Ephraim and Manasseh will, but will be part of the inheritance they gain as two of the twelve tribes of Israel
Only Ephraim and Manasseh were elevated
“Since Joseph is the recipient of Reuben’s right of inheritance as the firstborn, according to the Chronicler, the sons of Joseph also receive firstborn rights as the adopted sons of Joseph (1 Chr 5:1-2).” [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 875]
1 Chronicles 5:1-2, The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel; so he could not be listed in the genealogical record in accordance with his birthright, and though Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler came from him, the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph)
PRINCIPLE #1 – “God is in control of circumstances, and He works providentially to accomplish His purposes.” [Gangel & Bramer]
God’s purpose was to have twelve tribes of Israel that would inherit the Promised Land
He knew about Reuben’s sin of defiling his father’s marriage bed, which forfeited his status as firstborn
He knew His plans involved having one of Israel’s sons, Levi, become a tribe of priests that would not need an inheritance, but would live in forty-four cities scattered throughout Israel (Num. 18:20; Deut. 18:2; Josh. 13:33; 14:4; 21:1ff) [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Old Testament, Pentateuch, 164]
God was working providentially to accomplish His purposes
He does the same thing in our lives
How has God done that in the past?
Take a moment to reflect on how He has worked providentially in your life in the past
Individually, I have had several instances when I knew that God was working out His plan and purpose in my life (leaving CEF; leaving EGM; becoming a pastor)
As a body of believers we have experienced the providential hand of God using circumstances to work out His plan for us (live streaming before the pandemic started; having the payroll protection plan loan forgiven and using the money we saved to pay off the PA Department of Revenue tax debt; even how God orchestrates certain songs being sung that fit together so well with the message)
We do not always recognize it when we are going through it, but God is in control of the circumstances of our lives
What are you going through right now that has you wondering what God is doing?
Do you truly believe that God is in control of every circumstance, including your current circumstance?
Can you trust His providential work in your life, because of His faithful work in your life previously?
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Trust God to accomplish His purpose in my life, since He is in control of the circumstances.
God was in control of the circumstances of Jacob’s life and through His providential work, Jacob elevated Ephraim and Manasseh to the status of sons so His purposes would be accomplished
Rationale for the adoption of Joseph’s two sons
Jacob revisits the premature death of his favorite wife, Rachel
When Jacob was returning from Paddan-Aram (Northwestern Mesopotamia), Rachel died near Bethlehem
We know that she died giving birth to Benjamin, her second child
Jacob buried her beside the road to Bethlehem
Had she not died prematurely, she would have probably had additional children including more sons
“Since Rachel had no more children, Jacob counted the sons born to Joseph as his own by proxy, immediately multiplying her tribes.” [Mathews, 875]
Joseph’s sons, who were now Jacob’s sons, would also be counted as Rachel’s sons
When Jacob asked Joseph, “Who are these?” it was not because he did not know who they were
He had already used their names when talking about adopting them
The question was to signify the beginning of the official adoption ceremony
“. . . the question to identify the beneficiaries is part of the legal ritual of adoption and/or blessing (cf. 27:18).” [Waltke, 597]
“One thinks of the question at a baptism, ‘What name is given to this child?’ or the question at a wedding, ‘Who gives this woman to this man?’ – neither of which is prompted by the ignorance of the clergyperson.” [Hamilton, 634]
“We have here the second stage of the legal adoptive process, namely, the establishment of the true identity of the candidates for adoption by formal interrogation of the natural father.” [Sarna cited by Hamilton in footnote 24, 634]
He credits God for giving him these two sons
PRINCIPLE #2 – Children are a gift from God.
Whether they are biological, adopted, or spiritual children, all children are a gift from God!
Whether they are expected or unexpected, all children are a gift from God!
Whether they have special needs or are “normal,” all children are a gift from God!
Whether they are in the womb or outside the womb, all children are a gift from God!
Jacob requested that Joseph bring them to him so he could bless them
We learn that Jacob’s eyes were failing because of old age
Joseph brought his sons close to Jacob
Jacob embraced them and kissed them
Jacob never thought he would see Joseph again and now he has not only seen Joseph, but his two sons also
PRINCIPLE #3 – God is the One who numbers our days.
When our first grandchild was just an infant, we had the privilege of going to a family reunion on my father’s side
We were able to take a couple of pictures that featured five generations [show the two pictures]
Our granddaughter was the very first great, great grandchild for my Grandma Johns
I do not know if my grandma ever imagined or thought that she would see a great, great grandchild
I do not know if my parents ever thought they would see any great grandchildren, but now they have seen and held all three
Is there anything you never imagined you would see or experience in your lifetime?
Think about the people who saw the first toaster, automobile, telephone, television, microwave, computer, etc.
They probably never thought they would see or experience those things
Is there anything you are hoping to see before you die?
Maybe it is grandchildren, great grandchildren, or great, great grandchildren (keep praying!)
Maybe it is the salvation of a loved one (keep praying!)
Maybe it is a spiritual revival in our nation (keep praying!)
Perhaps it is the cure for some disease (keep praying!)
God knows our heart and the number of our days, so we can trust Him to accomplish His plan and purpose for us
Joseph removed his sons from Israel’s knees
It is unlikely that Ephraim and Manasseh were sitting on Israel’s lap, one on each knee
They would have been around 18 to 20 years old
If you remember, Israel is weak and frail and had to rally his strength to just sit up in bed
It is more likely that Joseph’s two sons were kneeling in front of Israel’s knees
With the adoption complete, Joseph bows down with his face to ground in respect of his father
Ephraim and Manasseh are now the beneficiaries of being adopted into Jacob’s family, but Jacob still has a blessing for them
Blessed (vv. 13-20)
Joseph orchestrated his approach to his father, Israel (v. 13)
He put Ephraim on his right side toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left side toward Israel’s right hand
He probably did this to help his father who was struggling to see
Joseph understood the culture and traditions of the day
He knew that the right hand was the “the position of strength, honor, power, and glory (cf. Ex. 15:6; Ps. 89:13; Prov. 3:16; Eccl. 10:2; Matt. 25:33; Acts 2:33).” [Waltke, 598]
Exodus 15:6, “Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.”
Psalm 89:13, Your arm is endued with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.
Matthew 25:33, He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
He wanted Manasseh his firstborn son to receive the greater blessing
Israel shook it up (v. 14)
As Ephraim and Manasseh approached Israel, he reached out his right hand and placed it on Ephraim’s head, then he crossed his arms and placed his left hand on Manasseh’s head
“Jacob may be losing his sight, but he is not losing his insight.” [Hamilton, 636]
Israel followed the leading of the Lord in his crisscrossed gesture
It was God who was acting to accomplish His purpose
PRINCIPLE #4 – “God acts according to His own purpose, not necessarily in line with human tradition or custom.” [Gangel & Bramer]
God is all knowing and eternal, which means he knows the beginning from the end
He sees the totality of history and is able to act according to His own purpose
There are times when His actions do not line up with our traditions, customs, or human logic, but His ways are perfect
Isaiah 55:8-11, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Read Psalm 18:30-36
Where are you at?
Is there something you are going through right now that has you questioning God?
Are you looking at it through the eyes of human tradition, custom, or logic?
Do you believe that God’s way is perfect and His word is flawless?
What changes do you need to make?
Do you need to submit to God’s ways instead of your own?
Do you need to think with the mind of Christ instead of with the mind of humanity?
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Submit my issue to God’s perfect way, even if it does not line up with human tradition, custom, or logic.
God’s way is perfect (vv. 17-20)
When Joseph saw what his father had done, he tried to correct him, but Israel refused
Israel explained that he knew what he was doing and it was not an accident because of his poor eyesight
Israel intentionally gave the greater blessing to Ephraim
Isaac had unintentionally blessed Jacob/Israel due to deception, but that was not the case here
God knew exactly what He was doing through this entire situation
Manasseh became a people and became great also, but Ephraim was greater
Ephraim would be greater and his descendants became a group of nations and not just a people
“This blessing began to be fulfilled from the time of the Judges, when the tribe of Ephraim so increased in extent and power, that it took the lead of the northern tribes and became the head of the ten tribes, and its name acquired equal importance with the name Israel . . .” [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary of the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 248]
Let’s look back in verses 15 and 16 at the blessing
The blessing (vv. 15-16)
Israel/Jacob’s testimony covered three generations (vv. 15-16a)
Israel recalled how his grandfather and father walked before God
Next he highlighted how God had shepherded him all his life and delivered him from all harm
Finally, he prayed that this ever present, guiding, and delivering God would bless Ephraim and Manasseh
PRINCIPLE #5 – God walks with, guides, and delivers His people.
Whatever circumstances you are facing right now, God is with you in it, will guide you through it, and will deliver you from all harm
What do you need to experience from Him right now?
Do you need to experience His presence with you?
Do you need Him to guide your thoughts and actions?
Do you need Him to deliver you from something?
Cry out to Him right now!
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Ask the Lord to be with me, to guide me, and/or deliver me.
The result of the blessing
That Ephraim and Manasseh would be called by Israel’s, Abraham’s, and Isaac’s names
That they would increase greatly upon the earth
Ephraim and Manasseh experienced and received the generational blessing from Israel/Jacob
We can experience the blessings of God from generation to generation.
Israel/Jacob had one final blessing for Joseph
Bequeathed (vv. 21-22)
Israel encouraged Joseph that God would be with him and would take him back to the Promised Land
We do not know if Israel believed that Joseph would return to the Promised Land in his lifetime
We do know that when Joseph was about to die, he made the Israelites promise to take his bones back to the Promised Land when they returned, which they did
Israel gave a double portion of land to Joseph as the “firstborn”
It is not recorded what ridge of land Jacob had taken with his sword and bow
Some scholars believe it was the city of Shechem where Simeon and Levi had taken revenge for Dinah their sister by slaughtering all of the male inhabitants of Shechem
Jacob did not approve of their actions, but perhaps occupied the land after everyone was destroyed
Joshua 24:32, And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph’s descendants.
For now, we may just have to wonder
Do you need to trust God to accomplish His purpose in your life, since He is in control of the circumstances?
Perhaps you need to submit your issue to God’s perfect way, even if it does not line up with human tradition, custom, or logic.
Maybe you need to ask the Lord to be with you, to guide you, and/or deliver you.
As a body of believers, we need to trust God to accomplish His purpose in the life of our church.
We may need to submit our issue to God’s perfect way.
We may need to ask the Lord to be with us, guide, and/or deliver us.
“It is sometimes difficult to understand why things happen as they do. Even as believers we find it difficult to understand why God chooses certain purposes and brings them about a certain way. But God is sovereign. He acts in keeping with his character but not always in harmony with human custom and tradition. Both Jacob and Joseph demonstrated they understood that their responsibility was to exercise faith—faith to the very end of life.
[Gangel & Bramer, 376].