January 16 (Year One)
After this, Jacob called all of his sons to him.
The Children of Jacob
|1 Reuben||7 Gad||5 Dan||11 Joseph|
|2 Simeon||8 Asher||6 Naphtali||12 Benjamin|
The Children of Joseph
Jacob: Gather near to me, so I can let you know what to expect in the days to come.
Gather around and pay attention, you sons of Jacob.
Listen carefully, my sons, to Israel, your father.
Reuben, you are my firstborn son,
my power and the vigor of my youth,
first in rank and first in power.
But you are out of control, like floodwaters; you have forfeited your place
because you have lain with your father’s wife
and defiled his bed—you climbed onto my couch!
Simeon and Levi are indeed brothers, kindred spirits
who use their swords for cruelty and violence.
May I never enter their confidence;
from the two of them I must part company to retain my honor.
Because in their anger, they’ve killed men,
and they’ve hamstrung oxen on a whim.
Their anger be cursed, for they have fierce tempers.
Their wrath be cursed, for they can be cruel.
I will scatter their children among Jacob’s descendants
and spread them throughout the land of Israel.
But Judah, your brothers will praise you.
Your hand will firmly grasp the neck of your enemy,
and your brothers will bow down before you in respect.
Judah is a lion cub;
my son, who rises from the prey,
Who crouches down and stretches out like a lion,
and like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah;
the ruler’s staff will rest securely between his feet.
Until the One comes to whom true royalty belongs,
all people will honor and obey him.
He ties his foal to the vine
and his donkey’s colt to the choicest vine.
He washes his clothing in wine
and dips his robe in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth are whiter than milk.
Israel’s blessing speaks not only what is but what will be. His words establish Judah as the father to the royal line from which King David and his dynasty will one day come. They anticipate God’s eternal covenant with David that brings peace and prosperity to the entire world. It is little wonder that early Christians referred to the risen Jesus as “the lion of the tribe of Judah,” for they found in Him the fulfillment of Israel’s blessing.
Jacob: Zebulun will settle near the shores of the sea,
and he will be a safe harbor for ships.
His border will extend to Sidon.
Issachar is a strong donkey,
lying down between its saddlebags.
He saw a good place to rest
and a land that seemed pleasant,
So he bent down to shoulder another load
and embraced a life of hard labor.
Dan will judge his people,
as one of the tribes of Israel.
Yet Dan will also be a snake by the road,
a viper along the path
That strikes at the horse’s heels as it goes by
so that its rider falls backward.
I wait patiently for Your salvation, Eternal One!
Gad will be raided by thieves,
but he will raid them in return.
Asher’s food will be rich and delicious,
and he will produce royal delicacies.
Naphtali is a beautiful doe, wild and free,
that bears lovely fawns.
Joseph is a fruitful plant that grows beside a spring,
its fruitful branches reaching over the wall.
The archers fiercely attacked him,
shot at him, and pressed hard against him.
But his bow remained taut and strong,
his arms firm and agile.
They were made so by the strong hands of God—
by the Mighty One of Jacob, by the Shepherd of the Rock of Israel,
By the God of your father, who will come to your aid,
by the All-Powerful One who will bless you
With the blessings from heaven above,
blessings of the deep that lie beneath,
and blessings of the breasts and womb.
May the blessings of your father be more potent
than the blessings of the ancient mountains.
May they extend to the heights of the everlasting hills,
and may these blessings now rest on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.
Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,
devouring prey by morning
and dividing spoil in the evening.
Now all these are the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. This is how their father described them when he blessed them—blessing each one with a blessing that suited each son.
When Israel’s inheritance of the land is divided, Levi is not included; but Joseph’s two sons become the leaders of two tribes descended from Joseph. Manasseh and Ephraim take Joseph’s and Levi’s places, filling out the twelve tribes.
Jacob (charging his sons): I am about to join my ancestors in death. Please do as I ask, and bury me with my ancestors in the cave at Machpelah, near Mamre in the land of Canaan. It is located at the edge of a field owned by Ephron the Hittite. Abraham acquired the field from Ephron as a burial site for his family. This is where Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried, also Isaac and his wife Rebekah. I buried Leah there myself. The field and cave were purchased from the Hittites long ago.
After Jacob finished with these instructions to his sons, he pulled his feet up onto the bed, breathed his last breath, and joined his ancestors in death.
As his father passed on, Joseph threw himself onto his father’s face, crying and kissing him. Then Joseph told the physicians in his service to embalm his father and prepare him for the journey. So the physicians embalmed Israel. It took 40 days to embalm him because that’s how long it takes to embalm a body properly. And the Egyptians paid their respects by mourning and weeping for him for 70 days.
When the time of mourning had passed, Joseph addressed Pharaoh’s household.
Joseph: If I have found favor with you, please speak to Pharaoh on my behalf. My father made me swear an oath. He said, “I am about to die. I want you to bury me in the tomb I made for myself in the land of Canaan.” So I ask that you allow me to go out of Egypt to bury my father. When I have honored his request, I will return to Egypt.
Pharaoh: Go up to Canaan, and bury your father as he made you swear to do.
So Joseph went up to Canaan to bury his father. And all of Pharaoh’s servants went with him in a long procession that included the elders of Pharaoh’s household and the land of Egypt. Joseph’s own household, his brothers, and his father’s household joined in the solemn march. Only their children, flocks, and herds were left in the land of Goshen. Both chariots and charioteers accompanied him as well. It was a grand procession. When they came to the threshing floor of Atad near Canaan but still beyond the Jordan River, the great company of mourners paused to observe seven days of mourning for Joseph’s father. The weeping and lamentation grew so loud that the people who lived there, the Canaanites, could not help but notice the profound grief expressed on the threshing floor of Atad.
Canaanites: The Egyptians must have experienced a terrible loss to mourn so deeply.
This is why this place of mourning that lies beyond the Jordan was renamed Abel-mizraim.
So Jacob’s sons carried out his last instructions as he had directed. They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah near Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite so he could have a place to bury his family. After he had buried his father, Joseph gathered his brothers and the vast company of mourners who had journeyed with him to bury his father, and they all returned to Egypt.
When Joseph’s brothers began to realize the implications of their father’s death, Joseph’s brothers began to worry.
Joseph’s Brothers: What if Joseph still bears a grudge in some way against us and decides to pay us back in full for all of the wrong we did to him?
So they sent a message to Joseph.
Joseph’s Brothers’ Message: Your father gave us this instruction before he died. He told us to say to you, “Please, I beg you. Forgive the crime of your brothers and the sins they committed against you. They were wrong to treat you so badly.” So please do what your father asked and forgive the crime that we, the servants of the God of your father, committed against you.
Joseph cried when they spoke these words to him. And his brothers approached and fell at his feet.
Joseph’s Brothers: Look! We are your slaves.
Joseph: Don’t be afraid. Am I to judge instead of God? It is not my place. Even though you intended to harm me, God intended it only for good, and through me, He preserved the lives of countless people, as He is still doing today. So don’t worry. I will provide for you myself—for you and your children.
This same sentiment is expressed in Paul’s letter to the Romans (8:28). God can take even the meanest intention and make it work for good for His devoted followers.
So Joseph reassured them and continued to speak kindly to them.
Now Joseph remained in Egypt for the rest of his life—he and all of his father’s household. He lived to be 110 years old, long enough to see Ephraim’s children down to the third generation. Joseph adopted the children of Machir (Manasseh’s son) and brought them up as his own. One day, Joseph told his brothers,
Joseph (to his brothers): I am about to die, but God will someday come to you, lead you out of this land, and bring you back to the land He swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
At that, Joseph made the rest of Israel’s sons swear to him an oath.
Joseph: When God comes to you, you must take my bones along with you out of this place and back to our homeland.
Then Joseph died. He was 110 years old, and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.
The story of Joseph ends with the children of Israel living in Egypt. They live there in peace and security through many generations knowing that their future is not in Egypt; their future is in another land, a land of promise, a land most of them have never seen.