Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Monday, January 16, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 17, Gen 48-50

Today's reading is Gen 48-50.

In Gen 48, Jacob calls the sons together to bless them before he dies. He takes Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own, adopting them as his direct heirs. 

Jacob proceeds to bless all his sons (Gen 49) but the blessings are a mixture of prophecy and cautions that remind them of their weaknesses.

For some of them, the sins of their past have an impact on their future. While their sins have an impact on their immediate future, none of them are disqualified from being members of Jacobs family. Nonetheless, we see that there can be earthly consequences the sins of God's people.
·       Reuben, even though he is the firstborn, is denied the double blessing that is his birthright (Gen 49:3-4) because of his impulsive sin and his disrespect for his father (Gen 35:22).
·       Simeon and Levi are paired (Gen 49:5-7) because of their violence at Shechem in defending Dinah (Gen 34:30). They will not have their own portion of land in Canaan. As we will see in the Book of Joshua, Simeon will be allotted land among the tribe of Judah and Levi will be scattered throughout the land.
·       Judah receives a greater blessing than his older brothers. His will be a royal tribe (Gen 49:8-12). Kings will come out of Judah!
·       Zebulon receives his blessing before his older brother Issachar does (Gen 49:13). He will be a trader and importer in lands along the coastlands.
·       Issachar and his descendants will be strong but will always work for others (Gen 49:14-15).
·       Dan is praised for being a judge but is also described as having behavior like a snake (Gen 49:16-18).
·       Gad's tribe will occupy Gilead, an area that lies at the outer borders of the Promised Land. Out of necessity, they will become warriors and defenders of their land (Gen 49:19).
·       Asher’s tribe will prosper and occupy fertile land (Gen 49:20).
·       Naphtali will flourish on their land (Gen 49:21). The description of being doe-like is a compliment but sits in contrast to some of his brothers who are depicted as warriors.
·       Joseph receives the greatest blessings and praises of all the brothers (Gen 49:22-26), exceeding those of Abraham and Isaac (Gen 49:26).
·       Benjamin’s tribe will be a group of aggressive warriors.

In short, a time of abundance and prosperity is prophesied for all the brothers and their descendants. But, many of them will continue to have their struggles. The areas their tribes will occupy reflect the nature of the blessings Jacob proclaims over them. Here's what those areas will look like in Joshua's time, over 500 years later.

Judah dominates the southern region, Manasseh and Ephraim, the north. Simeon’s portion lies amidst Judah’s. The Levites are scattered about. Gad is subject to attack by invaders. Asher, Naphtali, Zebulon and Issachar will occupy the fertile and prosperous lands of Galilee. Reuben will have enemies along its borders. Benjamin will be a buffer between the North and the South. Ephraim will live in the hilly, forested area while Manasseh will have a large area but be divided. Dan will be allotted a prime piece of land but, instead of commandeering it, will slink away to take land in the North not given to them. 

Even more significant, though, are the harbingers of what is to come. Eventually, after Solomon's time, the kingdom will be divided with Benjamin sitting on the dividing line and Judah forming the Southern Kingdom while the rest of the tribes will comprise the Northern Kingdom. Their geographic boundaries are a foreboding sign of what will spiritually impact this family. This band of brothers who have had such a rocky relationship will splinter, fight and butt heads for many generations. 

Joseph's dreams, the ones that angered the brothers so much they wanted to murder their brother (Gen 37:5-11), have all come true and proven to be their salvation. Apparently, no one mentions this. Just as clearly, there are still tensions in the family. Few of the blessings have been metered out according to tradition which would dictate that the oldest received the greatest blessing. Nonetheless, the brothers remain skeptical about Joseph's motives. Rather than being thankful for their new lives, fear, doubt and perhaps some discontent seem to dominate their affairs in this new, rich country. 

To prove the point, with Jacob dying, the brothers become concerned over how Joseph will treat them after their father is gone (Gen 50:15). Joseph utters words that characterize the entire Book of Genesis “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Gen 50:19-20). This blessing will become a hallmark of the ongoing journey of God’s chosen people.

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