Joseph's Story Chapter 9
OF DREAMS AND VISIONS
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
What words do you love hearing your parents say to you? What would you like them to say more than anything else?
In this our last chapter of the story of Joseph - we are going to hear the words that Jacob said to his sons - each one of them hoped that Jacob would say wonderful things to them - they didn't know what those words would be - but they knew their future depended on what he was about to say.
So on the last day of his life, Jacob called all of his sons to his side, he wanted to say his good byes, he wanted to bless them - and in the blessing that he gave them, he set their future for them. And so in a long poem he told his sons what would become of them and their families for years to come.
He started with Reuben. Reuben was Jacob's oldest son, as the oldest son, the custom was that he would get not only the right to lead the rest of his family, he would also get twice as much property as any of his other brothers. Jacob was proud of Reuben, his first son, his oldest son, his son that was strong and powerful. But Jacob as he described his son could think of only one thing - the power of water - maybe you have seen that at Kekabeka falls - would any of you want to go swimming in Kekabeka falls? NO - reason - its so powerful, it would kill you. Jacob thought that Reuben was like Kekabeka falls - and if put Reuben in charge of his family, he feared for the well being of his family. And so, because Reuben was so dangerous in the way he used his strength - Jacob told him he would not be first among his brothers - and that is what happened in the history of Israel - years later, the families of all Jacobs sons would come to the promised land - and Reuben got a piece of land that was not the best land, and from his family there would never rise a king or a prophet or a judge or a great leader in battle. Reuben had demonstrated that he was not a safe leader, and so his blessing showed that he would never lead.
Simeon and Levi were the next brothers, two of a kind, they were violent men who killed in revenge for what other men had done to their sister, who wounded cattle just for the fun of it, making them vulnerable to wolves and lions. Though they should have received twice as much as their brothers, though they should have become the leaders of their family since it had passed by Reuben, what their father Jacob had to say about them was even worse - they would be scattered and dispersed among their brothers. Many years later, Simeon, though on the map it looks like he got a lot of land, in effect hardly got any, since he got very few cities, and over time, Simeon, the weakest of the tribes disappeared and was swallowed up by Judah. Levi you will not find on this map. His family would not get any land, rather his family would become priests who had no land - they would get a few cities among the rest of the tribes - but not specific area to themselves. All because of their uncontrolled anger, they got nothing.
Judah was the next son, son #4, do you remember what he did when it came time to go to Egypt? He gave leadership. He argued on behalf of the family. He tried to lead them in doing what was right. And so Jacob made him the leader of the family for years to come. He would be like a lion, the king of all animals, and he would rule like a lion would rule always.
Did you know that in the man years to come - it would be Judah's children, and his children's children that would be the kings of Israel.
There was a person born close to 2000 years ago - his name was the Lion of the tribe of Judah - who was he? JESUS - he was one of the descendants of Judah - he is king over all. This blessing, this promise of Judah's father came true. Through one of the children of Judah, the blessings of the kingdom of God would come. (Show on map that Jerusalem was in Judah - the place where kings ruled.)
Jacob did not have that much to say about his fourth son Zebulun - except that he would live be the sea, in the north of the promised land, that ships would send their shipments through that his children. If you look up at the map - the children of Zebulun moved (point it out) - not right by the sea - but we do know that things brought in by ships did travel through their territory.
Son number 6 was Issachar - he was strong and sturdy, like a donkey - he could do a lot of hard work - but the truth was, he was also a little bit lazy - and so, though he could do a lot, he preferred to just lay around and take it easy. This was also very true of his descendants, though they were smart and they understood the world they lived in, they preferred to take it easy and tended to do nothing about it. Though we don't have an exact record, we believe that at times, because the children of Isaachar preferred taking it easy to overcoming their enemies, there were times when they became slaves to others.
Dan was son number 7. His mother was not Leah, or Rachael, his mother was Bilhah the slave of Rachael. Sometimes his brothers mistreated him because he was the son of a slave - and so he grew the ability to get back at them. Jacob compared him to a viper, a small snake about 18" - 24" long, colored like the sand on the road, invisible, sometimes stepped on accidentally - but able to strike back and kill. And that is what the children of Dan turned out to be. They lived on the very northern edge of the promised land. At times their enemies would overrun them, but they had the ability, even with their small size, in surprising ways to get back at their enemies. Guess which well known powerful man was of the tribe of Dan? - Samson - when the Philistines came and ran over the nation of Israel - they never thought that one man could do so much destruction - Samson was just like a viper who knows how to bite back.
Gad was son number 8. He too was the son of a slave - this time Leah's slave Zilpah - and he too knew how to fight back. And when his children moved to the promised land, they recieved a large area of land on the east side of the Jordan river - they often were attacked by invaders - but they also knew how to fight back and sometimes they surprised their enemies at what they could do.
We don't know much about son number 9. Asher was also a son of Zilpah - maybe he liked to cook - but Jacob promised that his food would be plentiful and so tasty that kings would love to eat it.
Son number 10 - Naphtali was also a son of Bilhah. We suspect he was a good runner - good runners were often people who were given the job of bringing news around the country. And so Jacob said he would bring good news. What good news do you think his children would have to bring? If you look at the map - you will see that Naphtali was by the sea of Galilee - what good news came there - Jesus did a lot of his teacher there. It was in Naphtali that a lot of the good news of Kingdom of God came.
Do you know who son #11 was? Joseph. Jacob remembered how hard it was for Joseph with his brothers when they threw him in the dry well. He remembered what he had done for the family in the land of Egypt - and so Jacob heaped blessings upon Joseph. Instead of Reuben getting twice as much as his brothers, Joseph would get twice as much. He would have the blessing of the best land, the most fruitful crops and biggest families. Now there is a problem - do you see a tribe of Joseph up there? (NO) Well if Joseph would get twice as much as his brothers - where is he on the map? (Manasseh and Ephraim were sons of Joseph - through them - Joseph got the double portion for each of them would be regarded as one of Jacob's own sons) Manasseh and Ephraim were some of the best land in the promised land. Ephraim was definitely one of the most successful, richest and strongest. So in the end, Joseph got the biggest inheritance, because he recieved two tribes.
Benjamin was son number 12. Jacob saw that he was like a wolf, strong, able to fight ferouciously, able to take down his prey. And though Benjamin never became a big tribe, there was a time much later when it was know for its feroucious fighters, infact, one time, the children of Benjamin fought all of their cousins at once and one two major battles before they were defeated. They not only had men who could use a sword well, they had many left handed soldiers who could with a sling, throw a stone at a hair in the distance and not miss. But like brothers will be, they would end up losing most of their lives in a battle with all their brothers, a sad story in the life of Isarel. (Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin.)
And so, even though Levi never recieved a piece of land, there were 12 tribes in Israel, because Joseph, who got the double portion; had two tribes given to him - to each of his two sons that were born in Egypt - Ephraim and Manasseh.
And after Jacob, their father gave them instructions to bury him in a cave in the promised land beside his wife Leah, Jacob went to bed and died. And Joseph kissed his father and wept over him. Joseph organized one of the biggest funerals in Egypt for him - even the Egyptians mourned and grieved for 70 days for him. And then with Pharaoh's permission - they buried him in the promised land, in the cave next to Leah. (Also Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebeccah)
Genesis 49:1 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: "Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come. "Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel.
3 "Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father's bed, onto my couch and defiled it.
5 "Simeon and Levi are brothers-- their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.
8 "Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons will bow down to you. You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness--who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.
13 "Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon.
14 "Issachar is a rawboned donkey lying down between two saddlebags. When he sees how good is his resting place and how pleasant is his land, he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor.
16 "Dan will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan will be a serpent by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse's heels so that its rider tumbles backward. "I look for your deliverance, O LORD.
19 "Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels.
20 "Asher's food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king.
21 "Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.
22 "Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall. With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father's God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb. Your father's blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers.
27 "Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder."
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him. Then he gave them these instructions: "I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite, along with the field. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites."
33 When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.