Genesis 48 – Jacob’s Last Laugh

Genesis 48 Bible with Justins Dark Chocolate Organic Peanut Butter Cups

Today’s Chocolate: Justin’s Dark Chocolate Organic Peanut Butter Cups

Today’s PassageGenesis 48

Some people think the Bible isn’t a funny book. They’re right. We’re not reading The Big Christian Joke Book here. The Bible is, however, a book with funny parts. Perhaps none of it strikes you as particularly amusing, and I certainly can’t fault you for such a reading of it, but there are certain passages that can be humorous when viewed in a certain light. Take, for example, a scene from today’s chapter.

As the chapter opens, the aging Jacob has gotten sick. With his life nearing its end, he wants to bless Joseph by blessing his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. When Joseph brings the two near to him, he positions the older son, Manasseh, on Jacob’s right, the favored side. But Jacob crosses his arms to put his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left on Manasseh’s. When Joseph goes to correct him, Jacob says, in so many words, “I know what I’m about, son.”

I could explain why I find it funny, but neither jokes nor frogs survive dissection. Picture the scene in your head, and if Jacob’s insistent subversion doesn’t strike you as amusing, then so be it. But it would seem Jacob has noticed the patriarchal tradition of favoring the youngest. It happened with Isaac, it happened with Jacob, it happened with Joseph and Benjamin, and now Jacob has got the pattern down. Ephraim is the youngest, and he gets the favor.

But the blessing Jacob prays for applies equally to both sons. It’s a simple blessing; he asks God to propagate the names of the patriarchs through the multitude of offspring from Joseph’s sons, to the point where the names “Ephraim and Manasseh” are synonymous with good fortune. And who is the God whom Jacob asks for this blessing? “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil” (15-16). He’s the God of the family, and he’s the God of Jacob. That third line is weird, though. God is an angel? A messenger? A redeeming one, specifically from all evil?

I’m not sure what the deal is there. But God has shepherded Jacob all his life, and I want that.


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