A Father’s Farewell
(Genesis 47:29 – 50:26)
Jacob Blessing the Children of Joseph
By Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn
A father’s dying blessing may be a lasting legacy indeed. It surely was for Israel (once Jacob), as he prophesied over his twelve sons. Israel spoke benedictions over both of his Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manassah. Curiously, Israel reversed his hands, placing his right on the younger boy, and his left on the elder.
How this echoes the reversal Israel’s father Isaac was tricked into making on his own deathbed.
Dutch master painter Rembrandt captured the memorable moment on canvas. The artist included Joseph’s Egyptian wife Asenath (mother of Ephraim and Manassah), in his image as well, although this may have been a more private moment.
Words of Life or Death
Perusing the words Israel spoke over his twelve sons, we can see a huge variety of topics and tones. Some of the blessings he spoke may not sound like blessings at all. Yet each of the father’s statements proved to be prophetic, as we will see in subsequent readings.
Israel’s words to Judah even paint a prophetic picture of the Messiah, who will come from Judah’s family line.
A parent’s words can be powerful, be they deathbed blessings or daily babble.
“The tongue can bring death or life;
those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”
Can you recall any significant statements you may have heard (or overheard) from your parents, grandparents or other important authority figures in your own life?
Personally, I will never forget a casual comment I happened to hear from a grandparent. “She’s not very good at sports,” my grandmother said once. About six years old, I was sitting on the stairs reading a book at the time. I believed her. The words stuck. I never tried out for a single sports team throughout my childhood. As an adult, I finally ventured into a horse show and was astonished to bring home the Grand Champion ribbon. (Secretly I wished my grandmother could have been alive to see my multi-colored rosette.)
On the other hand, I was positively branded by a single statement my father uttered when I was a young child. “You certainly have a way with words,” he said. Did he somehow know I would someday become a writer? Perhaps he did not. But God certainly knew.
Certain declarations may stick with us for decades, or even a lifetime. A casual comment, uttered by a parent or another person of influence, may shape an individual’s confidence, career choices or even character. How many musicians, artists, teachers, soldiers and others have pursued their professional passions because they were sparked by a parent’s praise?
Words of affirmation and encouragement can boost an individual’s spirits for a lifetime. Imagine the mighty motivation a parent or leader can inspire by tapping into a child’s key areas of strength:
“You are really good at . . . .”
“Do you know what I love about your character?
You just demonstrated the important quality of . . .”
“I am so proud of you because . . .”
Adults are not immune from the need for exhortation and blessing. As parents, teachers and other leaders, do we speak words of life or words of death into others?
“The lips of the uncompromisingly righteous feed and guide many.”
I must confess here that the study of God’s Word never ceases to convict and convince me. Writing about God’s most convicting truths often feels like preaching to the mirror. How I need the Lord’s restorative grace every day.
My spirit is grieved to ponder unhealthy and destructive words I have spoken, either intentionally or thoughtlessly.
Invariably, we reserve our harshest words for the ones we love the most, probably because we feel the strongest about them. Without question, we know exactly where to aim the barbs at those with whom we are closest.
Thank God for the opportunities to reconnect with those we may have hurt.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up
according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.”
What a blessing it is that the Lord urges us to repent and restart. May God guard our lips, even as He guards our hearts. May He restore relationships that are broken, forge familial bonds that have fallen and build bridges of blessing to the glory of His great Name.
Will you pray with me?
Your Word penetrates our hearts
Teach us to love with our words.
Halt us to hear You
Before we speak.
Remind us to utter
Words of life,
Rather than words of death.
Make us messengers of blessing
To those we love,
Those You love.
Thank You for your grace,
Which is ever-new,
Even as we need it so.
We adore You.