Jacob Blesses Joseph Genesis 49:22-26

Dr. Jerry A. Collins


Joseph is a (1) fruitful bough, (2) a fruitful bough by a spring; (3) Its branches run over a wall. (4) The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him; (5) But his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, (6) afrom the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob b(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), cfrom the God of your father who helps you, and dby the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb. (7) The blessings of your father have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; (8) May they be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers (Genesis 49:22-26).


Verse 22Joseph is a (1) fruitful bough, (2) a fruitful bough by a spring. (3) Its branches run over a wall—The Word bough was chosen over ‘son’ because Joseph is pictured here as a vine extending over a wall—an image of prosperity. The theme of fruitfulness has appeared before in the line of Rachel. God at first withheld fruit from her womb (30:2), but later made her fruitful (v. 22). Then Joseph himself was made fruitful with the birth of Ephraim (41:52). In spite of the obstacles placed in his path (brother’s jealousy, sold into slavery, unjustly accused, unjustly imprisoned, unjustly forgotten, unjustly treated), Joseph was faithful and fruitful in overcoming each one. The picture is made complete with the explanation that he is by a well and extending over a wall. Joseph, then, would be healthy and fruitful.


Verse 23(4) The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him—But Joseph’s prosperity spurs attacks from his enemies. His enemies showed bitterness toward him, shot their arrows at him, and hated him. It is clear that people tried to destroy Joseph’s prosperity. The pressure began in Joseph’s life with his brothers, of course. The oracle of Jacob extends that envy into the future as a prediction. Joseph in his prosperity would be attacked by his enemies. He would be shot at and harassed by them. The attacks would be bitter and painful—strategic and evil. Joseph even said so in Genesis 50:20 as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. 


Verse 24(5) But his bow remained firm, and his arms were agileJoseph was aimed and shot at, as it were, by the bitter and reviling words of his brothers, and still more deeply wounded by their cruel treatment. He was sold into Egypt through envy, and imprisoned by a lie. His virtue was violently assaulted by his mistress, his innocence wronged by his master, yet Joseph’s bow remained firm, and his arms were agile. In spite of his suffering at the hands of his brothers, his trust in God was unswerving. He stayed ready and available to God.

·      (6) aFrom the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob b(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel)The image of the hands of the Lord is frequent in passages of judgment and deliverance. Here it is strengthened by the term Mighty One. The title speaks of how powerful is God. Joseph himself acknowledged that his power came from God. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance (Genesis 45:7). The God who defended Joseph is a Shepherd, one who is able to lead and defend His people. He is also the Stone of Israel, that is, one who is stable and unchanging.


PT—Here begins four descriptions of God the Father. First, is Gods might or strength being tied to his hands. A metaphor for protection or stability. Second, God is the Shepherd. A caregiver and protector. Third, the stone or rock of Israel. Again God is the strength and stability of Israel.

Verse 25cfrom the God of your father who helps you—He is the God of your father, a description that reminds the reader of the ancestral calling and promised blessing.

·      dAnd by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of heaven above—The God of the father would save him, and the Almighty would bless him. Without the help and blessing of God, Joseph could not have made it as far as he had, and his descendants would not make it further.

PT—Then we have two more descriptions of the Lord. Fourth, God… who helps you. The idea here is to surround with support or aid. Fifth, the Almighty literally the Sovereign Lord favors Joseph. These descriptions of God is how He would work on Josephs behalf—with might, strength, stability, protector, caregiving, favor and aid. Of course, the story of Joseph would bear this all out.


Application— We serve a God who cares for us. Each of us individually. He is invested in each one of our lives. Peter puts it this way casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). The fact is God wants to supply his strength, show His favor, be your protector, supply his caregiving, and bring you aid.  


·      Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the wombJacob envisions God imparting both agricultural (blessings from the sky above, blessings from the deep that lies below) and human fertility (blessings of the breasts and womb) to Joseph and his family. The word blessing is used to describe the lavish treatment of Joseph. To bless someone, means to give success to someone, and especially success in fertility. Jacob declared that God would bestow His power on Joseph so that the latter could continue to be successful and fruitful.


Verse 26 (7) The blessings of your father Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills—This blessing of Joseph would exceed anything given to any of the progenitors. The surpassing blessing would include the hills, select places of choice agricultural lands. In short, the blessing on Joseph would be so great that it would exceed anything that anyone could imagine from a very fertile land. 

·      (8) May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers—Just as Joseph had overcome hatred and opposition to become successful in Egypt by the power of God, so too would his tribe continue to have the greatest of blessings. All of the sons of Jacob were blessed to carry the Abrahamic Covenant forward, for they all became founders of tribes that went up to Egypt as the seed of Abraham. Joseph and Judah came to the fore, as indeed they had in the story of Joseph. Joseph received the double portion so that Ephraim and Manasseh would have equal shares with the other sons. Kingship was reserved for Judah.

PT—The various promises made to Abraham were channeled to the tribes, all sharing in some way in accord with their lives and traits. Jacob’s blessing clearly anticipated favor and responsibility to the tribes of Israel. Joseph especially could expect a significant role.


A Review of the History of the Tribe of Joseph

After Jacob’s blessing of the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s tribe becomes known as the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Joseph’s name diminished as the history of the 12 tribes of Israel unfolded.


·      Ephraim could be described as the ‘bully’ tribe, always trying to shove their weight around. Conflict ensued between Ephraim and the Gileadite (Gad) tribes.


A Review of Judges 12

Verse 1Then the men of Ephraim were summoned, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to

Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the sons of Ammon without calling us to go with

you? We will burn your house down on you”—Ephraim’s superiority complex is found in this story of the champion, Jephthah who was a Gileadite of the tribe of Manasseh. His victory over the Ammonites brought this obstinate reaction from the tribe of Ephraim. The Ammonites had overcome the Israelites in Transjordan, and the invaders were poised for an attack west of the Jordan Valley. They afflicted and crushed the sons of Israel that year; for eighteen years they afflicted all the sons of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in Gilead in the land of the Amorites. The sons of Ammon crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah, Benjamin, and the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was greatly distressed (Judges 10:8-9).


A spiritual revival in Israel led to military action and the mobilization of the opposing parties. Then the sons of Ammon were summoned and they camped in Gilead. And the sons of Israel gathered together and camped in Mizpah. The people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, “Who is the man who will begin to fight against the sons of Ammon? He shall become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead” (Judges 10:17-18).


Jephthah, an outcast from his own family in Gilead, was called back from the land of Tob to lead the Israelite forces (Judges 11:1-3). He first attempted to negotiate with the Ammonites on the basis of Israel’s prior claim to the disputed region. In defense of Israel’s claim a lengthy historical review is presented (Judges 11:12-28). While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time? I therefore have not sinned against you, but you are doing me wrong by making war against me; may the Lord, the Judge, judge today between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ammon (Judges 11:27-28).


Naturally the Ammonites rejected Jephthah’s reasoning. Negotiations broke down and armed conflict ensued, so Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord gave them into his hand (v. 32). This battle and victory brought about Ephraim’s bullied reaction.


Verse 2Jephthah said to them, “I and my people were at great strife with the sons of Ammon; when I called you, you did not deliver me from their hand—Jephthah’s answer was anything but diplomatic. He claimed, and rightly so, that Ephraim was a type of ‘big-mouth-but-do-nothing.’ Ephraim had sat back, enjoying the security afforded by the surrounding hill country west of the Jordan, and had neglected her responsibility in Gilead, east of the Jordan. Ephraim had no excuse, and Jephthah had no other choice than to carry out the rescue operation. This interchange between Ephraim and Jephthah led to armed conflict between the tribes.


Verse 4Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought Ephraim; and the men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, O Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and in the midst of Manasseh”—Unfortunately, name calling was the next step in this family feud where damaging one’s honor is as effective as physical blows. These remarks from the Ephraimites led to physical confrontation in which they were the losers. The immediate issue was Jephthah’s unilateral action in Transjordan. However, a much more serious issue is apparent—a developing independence among the tribes east of the Jordan. The conflict between the Ephraimites and the Gileadites is a sad commentary on the lack of Israelite unity in this period.


Verses 5-6The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan opposite Ephraim. And it happened when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” then they would say to him, “Say now, ‘Shibboleth.’” But he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it correctly. Then they seized him and slew him at the fords of the Jordan. Thus there fell at that time 42,000 of Ephraim. —Following the encounter in Gilead, a slight variation in the usage of two similar Hebrew consonants (Shibboleth and Sibboleth) became a matter of life or death for the escaping Ephramites. This incident illustrates that regional differences (east and west of the Jordan river) had developed on either side of the Jordan. Those differences would eventually produce separate and independent movements on either side of the Jordan.


An ApplicationWatch out for a spirit of superiority in your life. Threats and insults are not the methods used by a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. Humility fosters dependence upon God. If you are not careful, pride can undermine your perspective and create outcomes you will regret.


A Review of Isaiah 11

·      The Lord will return, and when He does, He will put an end to tribal strife, especially the prideful strife between the two double portion tribes of Ephraim and Judah.



Verses 11-12—Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand The remnant of His people, who will remain, From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He will lift up a standard for the nations and assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth—A remnant will return to the Land in the future. The standard the Lord lifts up for the nations is the flag of His kingdom. His will be an earthly kingdom. He will gather and assemble under this banner a remnant of Jews from both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms, who will be living all over the earth at that time.


Verses 13-14—Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, and those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, And Judah will not harass Ephraim. They will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west; Together they will plunder the sons of the east; They will possess Edom and Moab, And the sons of Ammon will be subject to them—Internal strife amongst the tribes will cease and together they will defeat all enemies. That strife will specifically cease between the tribe of Ephraim and the tribe of Judah, the tribes who had received the double blessing from Jacob. Instead of fighting amongst themselves, the Israelites will subdue their common enemies and gain the whole Promised Land, the parameters of which land are in Deuteronomy 1:7 and 11:22-25.


Verses 15-16—And the Lord will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt; And He will wave His hand over the River with His scorching wind; And He will strike it into seven streams and make men walk over dry-shod. And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant of His people who will be left, just as there was for Israel in the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt. God’s judgments will allow Jews to return from all over the world. His judgments on Egypt and Babylon will involve the drying up of major barriers, the Red Sea and the Euphrates River. This judgment will allow the Jews to return to the Promised Land from those parts of the world unhindered. They will be able to leave the territory of Assyria, where God had said He would send them captive, as easily as their forefathers left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea in the Exodus. Israel will re-gather in the Promised Land from all over the world trusting in God.


PT—The lesson is that the tribes of Israel will be regathered in Christ’s earthly kingdom in the land of Promise. Prideful conflict between the tribes will vanish as they settle within the territory, this time to stay in peace with each other and the surrounding nations.


Observations from the Tribe of Joseph

·      It is striking to consider that almost every time Joseph speaks, he mentions God in some way. His God-filled perspective allowed him to discern God’s hand in the affairs of his life through the trials and troubles he often experienced. now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life… God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, “God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay”’ (Genesis 45:5, 7-9).

·      Joseph waited on God during his trials without seeking revenge or pursuing advancement. In His timing, God exalted His faithful servant to a place of honor where he could become a blessing to others.

PT—Joseph is an example of the truth that as we therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time (1 Peter 5:6). It was a test for Joseph to wait for God’s timing after having been unjustly sold as a slave, unjustly accused and imprisoned, unjustly forgotten by one whom he had helped.


An Application—Our responsibility is not to be ambitious or self-seeking. God’s job is to hand out promotions. Our job is to be faithful with the calling with which we have been called. To possess our position in life to the glory of God. Joseph faithfully waited in prison before he was lifted to the throne. Elijah faithfully waited at Cherith before he triumphed at Carmel. Moses faithfully labored in Midian before he challenged the power of Egypt. Jesus faithfully carried His cross before He wore the crown.


·      Joseph’s sons seem to have developed a swagger that displayed itself in bullying some of the other tribes. Ephraim particularly pushed their position to get an advantage. They had the protection of the hill country in the east that encouraged their arrogance due to their lack of vulnerability. The Gileadite tribes had no such luxury, surrounded as they were by enemies on their eastern borders. Ephraim sort of sat back and watched things unfold until they could enter into the fray and position themselves as the victors. Jephthah had said when I saw that you would not deliver me, I took my life in my hands and crossed over against the sons of Ammon, and the Lord gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?" (Judges 12:3).


An Application— We have what we have from God not so that we can use it to our advantage to avoid responsibility we have before God. The point is not that we become boastful or proud due to the favor of God. Like Jephthah we receive from God what he supplies and then put it to use to bring Him glory. It is for God and not us that He supplies.


·      God is adequate for you just because of who He is

·      Your reliance upon Gods character will serve you well throughout your fleeting life

·      Don’t serve yourself with what God supplies you. Serve God.