These chapters mark the end of Jacob’s life and the end of Genesis. We see Jacob blessing each of his 12 sons including Joseph’s children, Ephraim and Manasseh. Each blessing draws from the son’s life and projects their past choices on their future descendants. Judah and Joseph both have the longest and most positive of all the blessings. It’s almost as if the writer of Genesis is wanting the reader to ask… “Will the promised Savior come from Judah or Joseph’s family?”
It’s interesting… this tug of war between Judah and Joseph continues through Israel’s history… When Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons in Chapter 48, he claimed them as his own sons. After the Israelites conquered the Canaanites to reclaim the land, each son or tribe was given an allotment of land (with the exception of Levi. The Levites were given the honor of the priesthood). Both Epraim and Manasseh received land, which ensured that Joseph’s descendants received a double portion of the inheritance. Since Jacob gave the blessing of the firstborn to the younger brother, Ephraim, it is from Ephraim’s family that we see many great leaders of Israel.
Could the promised King come from Joseph’s family? But Israel’s greatest king, David, was from the tribe of Judah. In the end, we know it was from Judah’s family that the promised Savior would come. Read Jacob’s blessing to Judah:
Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Binding his foal to the vine
and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk (Genesis 49:8-12).
In the end, Jacob died and was buried with his fathers in Canaan. Genesis was written by Moses for the people of Israel (who had been in Egypt for over 400 years)… so that they would know their history. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have been grafted into the family of Abraham, so Genesis is your family history too! We have the privilege of having seen the promise of the Savior fulfilled – but the promise to Abraham- of a land and a people – will not be completely fulfilled until the end of the age in the new heaven and new earth…
John, the writer of Revelation, writes:
And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” …And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:5; 9-10).
And the people said… “Amen!”