Genesis 48: Lessons on God’s Promises to You from Israel’s Blessings to Joseph.

Introduction: Genesis Chapters 48 through 50 mark the conclusion of Israel’s life. In chapter 48, he blessed Joseph’s two sons. In the next chapter, he blessed all 12 of his sons. Because blessings can only come from God, each blessing that Israel gave was a testament to his faith. “Jacob” is often dismissed for the life he spent living by his flesh. But his faith in blessing his children and grandchildren is celebrated for all times in the book of Hebrews. From Israel’s blessings to Joseph’s two sons, God reveals seven lessons regarding His many promises to you.

First, Israel recounted to Joseph how God offered His Covenant to him at a place called Luz, a place which means “separation”. From this, God reveals that He offered His Covenant to you while you were still separated from Him by sin. He also wants you to encourage others still separated by sin with His Covenant. Second, Israel adopted Joseph’s first two sons and elevated them in stature to Israel’s other sons with a special inheritance. From this, God reveals that He offers to adopt you as one of His children as well. Through faith in Christ, He also offers you a special inheritance in Him. Third, Israel recounted his sorrow at the loss of his wife Rachel. From this, God reveals that He offers to comfort you and give you peace in Christ when you experience loss or sorrow. Fourth, Israel blessed Joseph’s two sons out of their correct birth order. From this, God reveals that His blessings are not tied to your social status or works. Fifth, Israel identified God as both his shepherd and the God who walked with both Abraham and Isaac. From this, Jesus reveals that He also desires to walk in fellowship with you when you submit to Him as your Good Shepherd. Sixth, Israel prophetically promised that the younger son Ephraim would be greater than the older son Manasseh. God later proved this prophesy to be true by making Ephraim the dominant power in northern Israel. From this, God promises that you can also trust in His promises. Finally, Israel promised that God would not forget him and leave him in Egypt. From this, God reveals that He will never leave you nor forsake you.

1. God Offered to Extend His Covenant to You While You Were a Sinner. Gen. 48:1-4.

  • Israel’s deathbed encouragement to Joseph with God’s promises. As Israel’s final days approached, Joseph came to him with his two sons. There, Israel encouraged Joseph with God’s promises to the patriarchs: “1 Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, ‘Behold, your father is sick.’ So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him. When it was told to Jacob, ‘Behold, your son Joseph has come to you,’ Israel collected his strength and sat up in the bed. Then Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession.’” (Gen. 48:1-4). Israel previously renamed the place where God met him as Bethel: “He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz.” (Gen. 28:19). Here, he referred to the place where he met God by the old name of “Luz.” (Gen. 48:3). While the name Luz means “separation”, the name Bethel means “house of God”. Jacob was previously separated from God because of his sins until God brought Jacob back into His house. Israel used the old name to emphasize that God called him while he was still a sinner. Yet, to reflect what He can also do for you, God later referred to Himself as “the God of Bethel.” (Gen. 31:13).

  • Like Israel, Jesus also loved and called you while you were still a sinner. Just like Israel, Jesus also loved you and called you while you were still a sinner: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Ro. 5:6, 8). Like Israel, you are called upon to accept and confirm God’s calling in your life: “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;” (2 Pet. 1:10). “knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;” (1 Thess. 1:4). Have you fully responded to His calling in your life? Or, are you clinging to your old life?

  • Out of mercy and grace, God extended His Covenant to the patriarchs. On seven occasions, God promised to extend Abraham’s blessing to include countless future descendants: (1) Gen. 12:3(b); (2) 13:16; (3) 15:5; (4) 16:10; (5) 17:4-5; (6) 18:18; (7) 22:18. At Beersheba, God affirmed this same covenant with Isaac (Gen. 26:23-25). In a quote above that Israel attributed to God, Isaac promised that Israel’s descendants would become a great nation. “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples.” (Gen. 28:3). At Bethel, God confirmed His Covenant with Israel. “13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. 14 Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’” (Gen. 28:13-15). Like Abraham and Isaac, Israel had done nothing to earn this Covenant. They all received God’s Covenant through His mercy and grace.

  • Through Christ, the Abrahamic Covenant is available to you as well. Through faith in Christ, you too can share in the Covenant offered to the patriarchs: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:29). “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the Earth shall be blessed.’” (Acts 3:25). “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’” (Gal. 3:8). “For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,” (Ro. 4:16). Like Abraham, you did nothing to deserve His blessings. Have you given thanks for your undeserved right to share in this blessing?

  • Like Israel, encourage others with the promises of God’s Covenant. God repeated His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel to both confirm His Covenant and to boost their faith. Here, Israel sought to boost the faith of Joseph and his sons by repeating God’s Covenant promises: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). You can also encourage others to become heirs to God’s Covenant by leading them to Jesus. Are you fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission? (Matt. 28:16-20).

2. God Offers You a Special Inheritance as One of His Adopted Children. Gen. 48:5-6.

  • Israel’s adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh. Guided by the Spirit, Israel adopted Joseph’s two sons and gave them a status equal to his other sons: “Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. But your offspring that have been born after them shall be yours; they shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance.” (Gen. 48:5-6). Israel spoke prophetically of a time when the Levites would become God’s priests and lose their right to a land inheritance. “The Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the Lord’s offerings by fire and His portion. They shall have no inheritance among their countrymen; the Lord is their inheritance, as He promised them.” (Dt. 18:1-2; 10:9; 12:12; Nu. 18:20). To keep the number of tribes with a land inheritance at 12, Joseph’s sons would receive a double inheritance. Reuben’s defilement of Bilhah caused the firstborn land rights to be transferred to Joseph (1 Chr. 5:1). One son would receive Joseph’s inheritance. The other son would receive Levi’s inheritance.

  • God’s grace in giving Joseph’s descendants a double blessing. Manasseh and Ephraim’s double inheritance was an act of grace. The Jews were not allowed to marry persons who were not Jewish (Dt. 7:3). Also, to be considered Jewish, the mother had to be Jewish. Yet, their mother was the daughter of an Egyptian priest: “Now to Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him.” (Gen. 46:20). Thus, the tribes were both half-breeds who were not technically Jewish at all. These tribes also worshiped the golden calf. God therefore gave them a double allotment out of grace, not because they deserved it.

  • Like Joseph’s sons, you can become an adopted son of God. Through faith in Christ, you can also become one of God’s “adopted” children. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Ro. 8:14-17). “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 Jo. 3:2). “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,” (Jo. 1:12). “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:26). Have you praised Jesus for your adoption?

  • Like Joseph’s sons, you are also eligible to receive a special inheritance in Christ. In addition to becoming an adopted son of God, your faith in Christ also makes a special inheritance in Him available to you: “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Col. 3:24). “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). Do your greatest hopes lie in the inheritance you have on Earth or in heaven?

3. God Also Offers You Peace and Comfort in Times of Sorrow and Pain. Gen. 48:7.

  • Israel’s sorrow at the loss of his wife Rachel. Israel’s death bed encouragement to Joseph also included sorrow as they remembered the death of Joseph’s mother Rachel: “Now as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).’” (Gen. 48:7). Rachel died in Bethlehem while giving birth to Benjamin (Gen. 35:16-19). After Laban confronted Jacob about his stolen idol, Jacob pronounced a death sentence upon the thief not knowing that Rachel took the idol (Gen. 31:32-35). Like Lot’s wife, Rachel failed to leave the idols of her old life behind when God called her (Lk. 17:32-33; Matt. 10:39; Mk. 8:35; Jo. 12:25). Rachel violated God’s Second Commandment against worshiping idols (Ex. 20:4-6, 23; 34:17; Dt. 5:8; Lev. 19:4; 26:1). She also violated the Eighth Commandment against theft (Ex. 20:15; Dt. 5:19; Eph. 4:28). She further violated the Tenth Commandment by coveting idols (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). Because she would not let go of her idols, she was also cursed under the law (Dt. 27:15). Her premature death was the fulfillment of her curse (Gen. 35:18-19). Under the Law, you would receive the same fate as Rachel. Jesus, however, paid the price for your idolatry, theft, coveting, and lies. How are you thanking Him for the terrible price He paid for you? (Ro. 12:1-2).

  • Like Israel, Jesus also comes to comfort you in your sorrows and loss. When you experience a loss like Israel, Jesus also promises you peace. His peace is also better than the world’s peace because it cannot be taken away: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (Jo. 14:27). “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, . . .” (Eph. 2:13-15). “[W]e have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Ro. 5:1). “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7). “I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4). “Indeed, the LORD will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and sound of a melody.” (Is. 51:3). When you experience sorrow, do you turn to Him for peace?

4. God’s Promises to You Are Not Based Upon Your Social Status or Works. Gen. 48:8-14.

  • Israel’s blessing of the firstborn inheritance on Joseph’s second son Ephraim. In addition to giving Joseph’s sons an inheritance equal to their uncles, Israel switched the birth order of Joseph’s sons to give the second son Ephraim the greater inheritance: “When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, ‘Who are these?’ Joseph said to his father, ‘They are my sons, whom God has given me here.’ So he said, ‘Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.’ 10 Now the eyes of Israel were so dim from age that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. 11 Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.’ 12 Then Joseph took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground. 13 Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn.” (Gen. 48:8-14). The use of the right hand symbolizes power. For example, Jacob honored his last son by calling him Benjamin. His name means “son of the right hand.” God’s right hand also symbolized His strength (Ex. 15:6). Jesus demonstrated His power by revealing that He sits at the right hand of the Father (Mk. 14:62). Joseph’s son Manasseh was older than his son Ephraim (Gen. 41:51-52). Under the laws of that time, Manasseh would have received a double inheritance. Israel upended these expectations with Joseph’s sons. This is also one of the few things that Israel is celebrated for in the New Testament: “By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.” (Heb. 11:21).

Israel came to Joseph to bless his family1

  • Jesus did not select you based upon your works or social status amongst people. Throughout the book of Genesis, God repeatedly upended social customs by blessing the younger son. He blessed Isaac, even though Ishmael was the older son. He also blessed Jacob / Israel, even though Esau was the older son. Here, He again switched the birth order. Jesus also warned that He does not pick people based upon their status amongst others: “But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” (Matt. 19:30). This is both a message of hope and a warning. If you are poor and part of a lowly social status, take comfort that God will exalt you if you stay humble. Yet, if you are privileged, do not let your wealth or social status cause you to become prideful.

5. God Also Offers to Walk in Fellowship With You as Your Shepherd. Gen. 48:15-16.

  • Israel’s prayer that he would be named with Abraham and Isaac. As part of his blessing for the two sons of Joseph, Israel prayed that his name would live on in them and that they would grow into a multitude of peoples: “15 He blessed Joseph, and said, ‘The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, 16 the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and may my name live on in them, and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” (Gen. 48:15-16). God later rewarded Israel for his faith. Approximately 400 years later, God identified Himself to the Jews as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: “God, furthermore, said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.’” (Ex. 3:15; 4:5; Acts 3:13).

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669 (Jacob Blessing the Children of Joseph) (1656)2

  • Jesus promises to be your Good Shepherd. Israel thanked the angel who redeemed him from evil, a reference to the pre-incarnate Jesus who appeared to him (Gen. 31:11-13). Israel also thanked God as his shepherd (Gen. 48:15). This blessing is the only place in the book of Genesis where God is referred to as a shepherd. But it is not the last. “A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Ps. 23:1). Jesus later revealed that He is the Good Shepherd who watches over you. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (Jo. 10:11). “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” (1 Pet. 2:25). Are you letting the Good Shepherd guide your actions?

  • Abraham and Isaac walked in fellowship with God throughout the Promised Land. Israel stated that “Abraham and Isaac walked with God. (Gen. 48:15). After receiving God’s blessing, Abraham walked with Yahweh throughout the Promised Land and built an altar to symbolize his fellowship with Yahweh: “17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you. 18 Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.” (Gen. 13:17-18). The name Hebron translates as “communion.” He was in communion with God because he did the Father’s will and used the spiritual inheritance that God made available to him. God later gave Abraham two directives when He affirmed His Covenant with Him. He was to “[w]alk before Me, and be blameless.” (Gen. 17:1(b)). Both Enoch and Noah also “walked with God.” (Gen. 5:22, 24; 6:9). Before his fall, Adam also walked with God. This suggested not just piety, but also fellowship. Sin broke this fellowship between God and Adam’s descendants. Yet, through Christ’s blood, you too can “walk” with Him in fellowship (Dt. 5:33; 8:6). When you sin, you don’t lose your salvation. But you can fall out of fellowship.

  • Walk in fellowship with God using His Spiritual gifts for His Kingdom. Like Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, you are also called to walk in fellowship with God. This includes using His Spiritual gifts for His Kingdom. There are seven ways to walk in fellowship with God. First, this requires that you walk by faith in Christ and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7; Col. 2:6; Gal. 5:16). Second, this requires that you trust the Lord with all your heart as opposed to leaning upon your own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6). Third, this requires that you walk in obedience as God commands you (Dt. 5:33; Zech. 3:7; Job 22:21). Fourth, this requires that you read the Word and pray regularly so that the Holy Spirit may be a lamp to your feet and guide your path (Ps. 119:105; Jo. 14:26). Fifth, this requires that you walk with purity as a “living sacrifice” and a “new creation” for Him (Ro. 12:1-2; Ps. 119:133; Jam. 4:8; Ro. 13:13; 2 Cor. 5:17). Sixth, this requires that you perform the “good works” of love, unity, kindness, justice, mercy, and encouragement that God has prepared in advance for you (Eph. 2:10; 1 Jo. 4:8; Micah 6:8; Amos 3:3). Finally, when your walk fails you, repent of your sins so that He may cleanse you of your sins (1 Jo. 1:9). If you are not walking in fellowship with Him, pray for the Spirit to guide you.

  • Jesus also wants you to desire His fellowship. Like Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, you too are called to seek fellowship with Jesus: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). Christ also offered to believers that they could enjoy spiritual intimacy with Him, symbolized by dining together with Him: ‘“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”’ (Rev. 3:20). Christ offered this so that you could find both fellowship and peace through Him (Jo. 16:33). Without His fellowship, your peace will be only temporary and easily broken (Eph. 2:13-15; Ro. 5:1). When you are in fellowship with Him, He offers the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Phil 4:7). Sadly, many believers have been led to believe that being saved is the end all be all of being a Christian. Yet, it is only the first step in a person’s walk with Christ. If you want fellowship with Him, you must accept His knock on the door of your heart. Are you opening your heart to Christ to allow Him to keep you in full fellowship and to give you peace?

6. God’s Promises Can Be Trusted Because They Always Come True. Gen. 48:17-20.

  • Israel’s prophetic promise that Ephraim would be greater than Manasseh. Despite Joseph’s displeasure, Israel prophetically announced that the younger son Ephraim would be greater than the older son: “17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to his father, ‘Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.’ 19 But his father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.’ 20 He blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!’’ Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.” (Gen. 48:17-20). Israel’s promises later proved to be true. Ephraim later became the dominant tribe of northern Israel. Indeed, Isaiah at times referred to all of northern Israel as Ephraim (Is. 7:8; 7:11). Both Ephraim and Manasseh received a special inheritance through God’s mercy and grace alone. But sin also affected the ability of each tribe to fully realize God’s inheritance.

  • Ephraim inheritance based upon God’s mercy and grace. Ephraim’s tribe did nothing to earn its special blessing. Ephraim’s tribe sinned while it was in the wilderness. As a result, the fighting men in their tribe shrank from 40,500 fighting men (Nu. 1:33) to 32,500 (Nu. 26:37), a decrease of 19.75%. Yet, out of mercy and grace, God later fulfilled Israel’s prophetic word and gave the first and most important land blessing to the younger tribe of Ephraim: “5 Now this was the territory of the sons of Ephraim according to their families: the border of their inheritance eastward was Ataroth-addar, as far as upper Beth-horon. 6 Then the border went westward at Michmethath on the north, and the border turned about eastward to Taanath-shiloh and continued beyond it to the east of Janoah. 7 It went down from Janoah to Ataroth and to Naarah, then reached Jericho and came out at the Jordan. 8 From Tappuah the border continued westward to the brook of Kanah, and it ended at the sea.” (Josh. 16:5-8(a)). Joshua, a hero of the faith and the successor to Moses, was a member of the Ephraim tribe (Nu. 13:8, 14:6-9). Like Ephraim, God has also blessed you in many ways through mercy and grace. Have you given thanks for the many undeserved blessings that you have received?

  • Don’t let God’s blessings cause you to become prideful. You cannot lose your eternal salvation based upon your works. But sin can keep you from fully realizing all of the blessings that God meant for you. After Solomon’s death when the Kingdom of Israel separated into two, Ephraim was the dominant power in the north. But the tribe of Ephraim was later condemned for its pride (Judges 8:1; 12:1). It was then also condemned for apostasy (Hosea 4:17; 5:3). Its pride led to its decline and eventual destruction. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18). Pride is one of the few things that God “hates.” (Prov. 8:13). Have you become prideful or boastful based upon the blessings that God has given you?

  • Manasseh’s squandered future inheritance. Manasseh was the most obedient of all the tribes in the wilderness, and it grew the most. By the beginning of their journey, the Manasseh tribe had fighting men totaling 32,200 (Nu. 1:35). By the end of their 38-year-journey, their fighting men totaled 52,700 (Nu. 26:34). This was an increase of 20,500 or 63.66%. But they squandered their inheritance in the Promised Land. Before entering the Promised Land, God blessed the Jews with the wealth from four wars. First, He defeated the Egyptians and allowed the Jews to loot their wealth (Ex. 3:22; 12:35-6). Second, He helped them defeat the Midianites (Nu. 31:7-11). From Midian alone, the Jews captured 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, and 61,000 donkeys (Nu. 31:36-37). Third, He defeated the Amorite King Sihon (Nu. 21:23-31; Dt. 2:24-37). Fourth, He defeated the Amorite King Og (Nu. 21:32-35). With the one exception of Moab in the south, the Jews controlled all of modern day Jordan. God gave the Jews these things to prepare them for the Promised Land. But the tribes of Rueben and Gad assumed that God gave them this wealth for their own benefit. Like the servant who was given a talent and hid it, these tribes decided to bury their talents in a foreign land instead of watching them grow in God’s Promised Land (Matt. 25:14-30; Lk. 19:12-28). After receiving God’s many blessings, the tribes of Reuben and Gad noticed that they had “an exceedingly large number of livestock.” (Nu. 32:1). They also noticed that the conquered land that they were staying in “was indeed a suitable place for livestock.” (Nu. 32:1, 4). After realizing the comfort of God’s blessings, these tribes pleaded with Moses: “do not take us across the Jordan.” (Nu. 32:5). These lands would have been part of the Promised Land. But Abraham brought Lot to Israel when God had not called him to do so. To avoid a conflict, Abraham later gave these lands to Lot’s descendants (Gen. 13:6-8). Moses later agreed to let these tribes live outside Israel. God cannot force people into His Promised Land if they don’t want to be there. But the two tribes then enticed others to also give up on God’s land. Half of the Manasseh tribe joined them in living outside of Israel (Nu. 32: 33, 40-42). This is proof that a bad company can corrupt a good individual (1 Cor. 15:33). Moses agreed to their request provided that they first fight to win the Promised Land. Yet, because these tribes chose not to live in the Promised Land, they never had a land to return to after the Jews went into exile. They became lost tribes.

  • The inheritance was given to the half of Manasseh which stayed in the Promised Land. Even though Manasseh split into two, God was faithful to bless the half tribe which stayed in the Promised Land. The Manasseh tribe shared a border on the north side of the Ephraim tribe in central Israel (Ezek. 48:5). But their inheritance was mixed within the lands given to three other tribes, Issachar, Asher, and Napheth (Josh. 17:7-11). Seven of their cities were in other territories: (1) Beth-shean; (2) Ibleam; (3) Dor; (4) En-dor; (6) Taanach; and (7) Megiddo (Josh. 17:11). These seven cities symbolized the fact that they had a shared inheritance with the other tribes. Like believers, they needed to work with others to survive. But the tribe of Manasseh inside the Promised Land also squandered its inheritance. They failed to drive out the Canaanites dwelling amongst them. They instead used the Canaanites as laborers: “12 But the sons of Manasseh could not take possession of these cities, because the Canaanites persisted in living in that land. 13 It came about when the sons of Israel became strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.” (Josh. 17:12-13). Using the Canaanites as slave labor was also against God’s plan. He warned the Jews not to make peace with the people of Canaan because of the threat that they would pose to the Jews if left behind (Nu. 33:52-56; Dt. 7:1-2; 20:16-18). Because the Jews failed to drive out the Canaanites, they later grew to become a threat to the tribe of Manasseh.

  • God is also faithful to keep His promises to you. Like Joseph, you also can trust in God’s promises. He is faithful even when you are not. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Do you trust in all of His promises?

7. God Promises Never to Leave You Nor Forsake You. Gen. 48:21-22.

  • Israel’s promise that Joseph would be returned to the Promised Land. After blessing Joseph’s sons, Israel prophetically promised that Joseph’s bones would be returned to the Promised Land. He then reaffirmed that Joseph’s tribe would receive a special double inheritance: “21 Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. 22 I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.’” (Gen. 48:21-22). God was later faithful to keep these promises. After 400 years of captivity, the Jews carried Joseph’s bones through the wilderness and then buried them in Shechem in the Promised Land (Josh. 24:32). He was buried in Shechem because Jacob bought land there (Gen. 33:19). Likewise, after the Jews defeated the Canaanites in the Promised Land, God confirmed that Joseph’s sons would receive a separate inheritance, similar to Israel’s other sons: “The sons of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, received their inheritance.” (Josh. 16:4). When added together, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh also had a land inheritance that was second only to Judah.

  • God also will never leave you nor forsake you. Like Joseph, you never need to worry about God leaving you behind or forsaking you if you believe in Christ: “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Dt. 31:8; Heb. 13:5). No matter where you are or how desperate things may seem, He is there for you when you diligently seek Him out. “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Dt. 4:29; Jer. 29:13). If you are in need, are you searching God out with all your heart and soul through prayer and the Word?

  • God’s completed work in Israel. Israel’s faith in blessing Joseph’s sons and his own children shows how much God had transformed him. One commentator notes: “This completed a wonderful work regarding Jacobs' recognition of God’s presence in his life. I am with you (Genesis 28:15): God gives the young believer every possible assurance of His presence and grace. I will be with you (Genesis 31:3) God expects the growing believer to trust He will be with us, even when we only have the promise of His presence. God has been with me (Genesis 31:5): God gives a glorious testimony to the mature believer, able to say how God has been with us, even when we haven’t felt His presence in the way we wished.” (David Guzik on Gen. 48).3 God is the Potter and you are the clay (Is. 64:8). Maybe you have lived a life according to your flesh like Jacob. If so, will you let Jesus remold you into the person of faith that you were called to be?