|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #53, 54 and 55|
1 November, 1992
By Douglas C. Nesbit
In this series of Bible studies we are following the course of events which are recounted for us in the Book of Genesis. We have seen how Almighty God has been bringing forward His Great Plan for the benefit of His Creation and the offer of Salvation to all whom He is disposed to call. That plan involved, first, the preservation and preparation of a Patriarchal line of genetic descent which God selected, and which, secondly, having chosen, He would eventually develop into a great people, a nation and company of nations to serve Him in the latter days.
Within that nation there was to be established the organization of a Godly Government together with the cultivation and teaching of God's perfect Law system, designed for the protection of humanity from needless harm.
Mankind, blessed by knowledge of that God-given Law would eventually be enabled to avoid the disasters which plague a careless existence amidst the all-pervading laws of nature. Third, central to that Godly design is the theme of a substitute Sin-Bearer and King, Jesus Christ, Who would manifest the love and the power of God in performing the part of a "second Adam", to establish legal claim to a fallen humanity, to redeem the nation from its failure and to save all contrite individuals from the punishment of death and permit the development of a family of kinsfolk to Himself.
As we have seen, that chosen Patriarchal family is the line which derives from Adam and descends down through Noah and on to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Now, by the intervention and providence of Almighty God, Joseph, Jacob's favourite son, sold as a slave into Egypt, has risen to become chief officer under Pharaoh in the whole kingdom.
Our readings have brought us to chapter 47 of the Book of Genesis, and we are at the point at which Jacob and his whole clan have been welcomed into Egypt through Joseph's intercession, and established in the most favoured area of Egypt, called the Land of Goshen.
As the years of bounty in Egypt have sustained Israel through the times of famine and beyond, Joseph's family, enjoying his powerful protection, has prospered magnificently. Now the normal course of life is writing the final chapter in Jacob's story. His aging frame is nearing the conclusion of its useful life, and, wisely, Jacob now seeks to make God-guided provision for his own funeral and to give his statement to the family regarding its prophetic continuance through the generations ahead.
Perhaps we might note the Biblical statement found in Genesis 47:28-31:
28. And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.
29. And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:
30. But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he said, I will do as thou hast said.
31. And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head.
I find it interesting that God has so planned the life of Jacob and that of Joseph that, for the first seventeen years of Joseph's life, he prospered under Jacob's fatherly care, and now, for the last seventeen years of Jacob's life, the aging Patriarch has prospered under the magnificent care of his favourite and greatly beloved son, Joseph! God keeps the books straight even though we may not see it at the time, and God has repaid Jacob's loving care with that of Joseph, to the great blessing of the whole family. Indeed we might add, from the non-Biblical account found in the Book of Jasher, that Joseph, year-by-year, had provided clothing and food for each member of his family, and they were prospering in the best land to be found in all of Egypt. Moreover, it states "Jacob always ate at Joseph's table, Jacob and his sons did not leave Joseph's table day or night...", so they certainly did not lack for anything while under his care.
We see that Jacob, in answer to Pharaoh's question, seventeen years before, had stated that the lives of his forefathers extended to much greater lengths than even the 130 years of his own life at that time. Now, seventeen years later, his venerable age is 147 years, and such an age would excite wonder and exclamation if it were proven to be that of someone living today. How was it possible, we might ask, that someone would live so long, and in relatively good health at that? No doubt there are a number of related factors, but one prominent factor is the choice of certain foods and the avoidance of others for, as we are sometimes told, "we are what we eat".
In a desert context, such as that of the Exodus wilderness, of course, it may be very difficult to find any food at all. However, even there, God provided manna so that those who were under His care would not have to scavenge forbidden morsels. When we come to study that section of Scripture in a later broadcast, we will examine the details of this matter. However, in case anyone wants to skip ahead to learn something of the matter immediately, I should indicate that one important reference which distinguishes Biblically clean from unclean foods may be found in the eleventh chapter of Leviticus. We will leave the discussion of the erroneous supposition that the New Teatament cancels those laws for that later study.
While the laws which concerned the choice of certain foods would be codified later, under the administration of Moses, there obviously had been knowledge of these laws from even much earlier generations, for we read of Noah that he was instructed to take into the ark two, a male and a female, of each unclean beast in Genesis 6:20, and seven of each clean beast in Genesis 7:2. The differentiation of "clean" and "unclean" meant that the law was then understood. No doubt the Egyptians, who experienced a variety of diseases among them (Deuteronomy 28:60), were ignorant of those food laws or chose not to obey them, if they had retained knowledge of them. Even the Pharaohs suffered many such diseases, as revealed by present-day scientific analysis of their mummified remains.
Possibly Jacob was desirous of insuring that he would be buried back in Canaan because God had promised him that He would bring him back to that land in Genesis 46:4. Certainly he knew that his descendants would be so returned, and he evidently did not wish to be buried permanently in Egypt, apart from his family. Later, Joseph was likewise to instruct the Israelites concerning his own remains.
As we read verse 29, you might have wondered what Jacob's request, involving the placing of Joseph's hand under Jacob's thigh, indicated. The New Bible Dictionary, under the heading "thigh", states that the Hebrew word is found in similar usage to the word translated `loins' in respect of the parts of the body usually clothed...and especially of the position where a sword is worn (Psalm 45:3); also of the locality of the genital organs, and so by figure of speech to one's offspring." Having particularly in view the verse we are here studying, it says: "The custom of making an oath by placing the hand under another's thigh...signifies the association of the peculiar power of these parts, perhaps with the idea of invoking the support of the person's descendants to enforce the oath."
The New Bible Commentary, in reference to the mention of Jacob's having "bowed himself upon the bed's head", as it is translated in the AV, says "The Greek in Hebrews xi. 21 follows a different vowel-pointing of the Hebrew phrase and so renders it `staff'. This rendering is to be preferred, because it is much more likely to have been the case." The Companion Bible, however, points out that Hebrews 11:21 refers to the later blessing of Joseph's sons, and so the above reference involving Jacob's funeral arrangements may or may not be to the bed or staff. It thus leaves the matter open to choice.
On our next programme, we shall be studying one of the most significant occurrences of prophetic blessing which the Biblical record can reveal. Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh will receive magnificent prophetic blessings which we, of the British-Israel-World Federation believe relate to the later development of the British, the American, and the related nations of kindred peoples of the world, but that will have to be left for next week.
For the present, let us meditate on the fact that Jacob and Joseph were prophets, and as such, the words of these Godly personages which the Bible records as prophecies must be received with the full weight which applies to all of such prophets down through the ages. We will do well to mark this fact, for the statements which are thus made under the guidance of God's Holy Spirit are made for our instruction and guidance. We do well to accept them at face value. The evidence of their validity is provided by the subsequent unfolding of history, and that fact, in turn, marks the God Who originated these statements as the God of history, and thus the designer of all of time and space. It should hearten us all to recognize that fact, for it means that we can count on this same God as our God of promised Salvation and Redemption. May you find blessing in contemplating this truth.
8 November, 1992
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
We have been following the Genesis account of the lives of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and we had arrived at the point in this scriptural account at which Joseph, as the highest officer under Pharaoh in the land of Egypt, is providing sustenance for his entire clan, the family of Jacob-Israel, in the land of Goshen.
Seventeen years have passed since Joseph first invited his father and his brothers to come into Egypt to escape those famine years. Jacob is 147 years old, and the years of the aging father are about to draw to their conclusion. We shall pick up the Biblical account at the 48th Chapter of Genesis, starting at verse 1, and as we proceed, I shall insert a few comments regarding some points which we might find interesting or helpful.
1. And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
2. And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.
Joseph, you will remember, had married Asenath, daughter of Potipherah, Priest of On, and to Joseph and Asenath two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, were born before the years of famine came, as we saw in Chapter 41:50. If to the preceding years of plenty we add several years during which Joseph's brothers had been attempting to alleviate the food shortage of the Clan of Israel by purchasing grain supplies in Egypt and the seventeen years which had passed since the clan came into Egypt, we can see that these two sons must, at this point, be about 18 or 20 years of age, and this fact is recognized in several commentaries.
Manasseh and Ephraim would, in all probability have received the best schooling which both the Egyptians and their wise parents could offer. The non-Biblical Book of Jasher, indeed, also mentions that they "remained constantly in the house of Jacob, together with the children of the sons of Jacob their brethren, to learn the ways of the Lord and his law". From this we may be assured that their formative years would have prepared them to take their place as leaders in Israel, and probably they would be the best equipped young men of their time, in that regard.
As an artist, I have a particular interest in the portrayal of Biblical events, so I have had occasion, from an artist's point of view, to contemplate the probable appearance of Joseph and the members of his immediate family. If we attempted to visualise them, we should probably assume that as they matured they would be dressed in the finest Egyptian clothing. Their hair might well have been trimmed after the Egyptian manner, and their appearance, aside from the likelihood of a most handsome form inherited from their parents, would probably not have been such as to distance them from the surrounding Egyptian courtiers in Pharaoh's presence, among whom they would have moved with ease.
Manasseh might be a year or two older than Ephraim, but they would both be youths of fine stature, and accustomed to courtly behaviour. No doubt they would be the centre of some attention by others of their generation, and I might assume that high-born sons and daughters of Egyptian courtiers would gravitate easily towards them.
Inevitably, as with all families which contain an aging parent, the sad day came when the state of Jacob's illness raised sufficient concern that a messenger was dispatched to Joseph's home to inform him of the development. The Book of Jasher indicates that it was Jacob himself who had dispatched the messenger to call Joseph to his bedside. As Joseph and his two sons approached, Jacob was notified, and he prepared for his son's and grandsons' arrival in the most natural way.
Can we not see him as he, perhaps trembling, and doubtless dim of sight as we learn a few verses on, makes a special effort to sit up upon his bed. One commentary uses the phrase "collected his strength". It says "Jacob, enfeebled with age, gathered up his strength for a work which he was about to perform as Israel, the bearer of the grace of the promise". This was a reference to the promise which The Almighty God had given to him at Bethel, and which is mentioned in the following verses.
At this point, more than one commentary draws attention to the significant change of name in verse 2, from "Jacob" to "Israel". Jacob is his name in weakness. Israel is the name by which he is known in the strength of The Almighty God of Bethel. This parallels the same usage in Genesis 45:27-28, at which point Jacob had learned of Joseph's survival and power, and was then termed "Israel" as his spirit revived.
3. And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me,
4. And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession.
Here, several further insights may be included. Israel reviews the great promise which he received at Bethel, on the occasion of the vision commonly known by the reference to "Jacob's Ladder". The promise was of fruitfulness in multiplication of his offspring, and of the land of Canaan in after time as an everlasting possession.
5. And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.
This last is a most important verse. We must take care that we understand the full import of what is here taking place. Reuben and Simeon were the first-born and second-born of all Jacob's sons. Because each had displayed some flaw of character; Reuben through having an affair with Bilhah, and Simeon by intemperate use of his sword, Jacob is here transferring their positions to Joseph's sons, and there is yet more significance in the manner of Jacob's words, for he is making the younger son, Ephraim, to come before the older son, Manasseh, in the order in which he names them. As the New Bible Commentary puts it, "this was a declaration of intent to adopt the two grandsons, thus elevating them both to the status of tribal heads and thereby giving to Joseph according to his dreams...the position of firstborn with a double representation among the tribes of Israel.
The commentaries point out that this is not the only occasion upon which a younger son is placed before the older. Mentioned as examples are Jacob's replacement of Esau, and Joseph himself replacing the brothers who held chronological seniority. Perhaps Bible students will recall other Scriptural examples such as Aaron and Moses, and also David, chosen as future King instead of his older brothers. We continue at verse 6:
6. And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance.
7. And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem.
These words limit the number of Joseph's tribal headships to two. Others of Joseph's children would not form tribes of their own, but be included under the headship of Ephraim and Manasseh.
Of that reference to Rachel, the Commentary tells us, "The allusion to Rachel and her burial was prompted by the honouring of her son Joseph. Her sepulchre would be apart from Jacob's in ancestral Machpelah...but her name would be honourably remembered in Joseph's double inheritance." Jacob is reminded, it seems, that Rachel died by his side, "without living to see her first-born exalted to the position of a saviour to the whole house of Israel", as another commentary puts it.
We are drawing near the end of today's programme, but there are perhaps a few more general meditations which we might leave with you relating to what we have seen in the passage which we have just been studying. When Almighty God created the universe, and designed the course of history, He did it with total knowledge of the infinite details which would ensue as that history unfolded. Every small detail was known to Him, and we can be sure of this for a very logical reason.
The course of events would hinge totally upon the survival of sons and daughters, and the intimate choices and lives of each and every one of them among all the races of mankind. Take away any one, or introduce one that disturbed that flow of events, and the whole plan might, indeed we are safe in suggesting the course of events would, be irrevocably disrupted and thrown permanently off course. The Almighty had from the very beginning an objective in mind to which the whole concourse of events would move. In order to achieve it, He arranged matters such that free-will coincided with His plan.
God knew that Joseph would be sold into Egypt by angry and jealous brothers. God knew that Joseph would spend years in a dark prison, wondering why God allowed him to be so mis-treated. at the same time, God chose, and was preparing Asenath, a very special wife for him, in the family of an Egyptian priest, although neither was aware of the existence of the other until God's time came for them to be introduced under the oversight of Pharaoh. God arranged the emergence of Joseph at just the right time to save Egypt from famine, and to enjoy marriage and the production of his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim in that union. God arranged their up-bringing in Pharaoh's court. He brought Jacob's clan down to Goshen. He arranged the time of Jacob's death, and the preparations which Jacob made prior to it.
We do not see the completed tapestry of time at this moment, but there is a magnificent pattern emerging, which is termed "The Kingdom of God", upon the earth. We are invited to pray and to prepare for that Kingdom. The wise shall indeed understand, and move accordingly.
We shall continue our examination of the blessing of Joseph's sons on our next programme.
15 November, 1992
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
We have been following the Genesis account of God's Great Plan, and the parts which the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are playing within it. We had arrived, in Genesis 48, at the point at which Jacob-Israel is nearing the hour of his death. He has called to his bedside, in the land called Goshen, his favourite son Joseph, who, by God's intervention and grace, has become the highest official in the land of Egypt.
Joseph's two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, now youths of about 18 or 20 years of age, have arrived with their father at Jacob's home, and now Jacob-Israel, in his last hours, has just announced a most remarkable blessing which is to be placed upon these two sons of Joseph. In verse 5, we read: "And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine."
Upon these youths, then, Jacob is to confer the rite of adoption which will make each of them an adopted son to Israel himself, and thus the equal of their uncles, Joseph's brothers. Thus each will hold the privilege of becoming the patriarch of a Tribe in Israel. By this act, Jacob also conferred upon Joseph a double portion, the right of the firstborn son in the family.
Not only is this so, but Jacob has confirmed that arrangement in the announcement that they will displace Reuben and Simeon, who were chronologically the eldest of his own sons, as the inheritors of the birthright.
One outstanding aspect of this transfer, however, is the further fact that Jacob has mentioned Ephraim, Joseph's younger son, first, thus setting him even before Joseph's older son, Ephraim's brother Manasseh.
Jacob is, in God's strength and by divine guidance, making clear at this time the dispositions by which the blessings of The Almighty God of Bethel shall be apportioned and the lines of inheritance designated. Let us pick up today's reading beginning at Genesis 48:8.
8. And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said, Who are these?
9. And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them.
10. Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them.
11. And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed.
The commentaries remind us that, as with his father Isaac, Jacob's vision is now impaired. Moreover, Jacob may not have seen these youths for some years. They might have grown quite a bit taller in that time, and now, with Jacob's dimmed vision, be un-recognized by Jacob. We continue at verse 12:
12. And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.
13. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near unto him.
We ought to interject here that Jacob has embraced these sons of Joseph, and kissed them. Thus they were close to him. The commentaries suggest that the meaning of the words "brought them out from between his knees" refers to the knees of Jacob, and the suggestion is that, in thus embracing them, Jacob has also followed a legal rite formalizing adoption as his own sons by proximity to the source of his own children, thus in symbolism bringing them forth of his own body. Joseph now draws the two sons away, and, in a formal approach, we see Joseph bowing himself with his face to the earth, and then leading the two boys forward in the appropriate positions to receive the expected symbolic blessing by the laying-on of Jacob's hands, Manasseh towards Jacob's right hand, and Ephraim towards Jacob's left hand.
I understand that, in the society of the times, the right hand was generally considered clean while the left was the hand customarily chosen for any unclean requirements. Thus to be blessed by the right hand was symbolically considered the more honourable position of the two.
Now a most unexpected event occurs, and one of quite vast symbolic import. God is inspiring the next moves which this aged Patriarch, Jacob is making, but Joseph is quite unprepared for what follows, as we shall see.
14. And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.
15. And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day,
16. The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.
According to the commentaries, that "angel" is the figure by which God manifests His presence, and thus we may take it that this reference is to the Pre-Incarnate Christ. The New Bible Commentary says "Jacob knew the covenant as a living reality...in which the Lord approached him in the sacramental visibility of the angel, assuming the role of nearest kinsman (as the word `redeemed' implies) to deliver Jacob from every threat to his life and liberty."
I shall have more to say about that act of Jacob in crossing his arms to impart the blessing in a moment, but first, we might note that the blessing here granted embodies the transfer of those immensely significant blessings which God gave to Jacob as he slept with his head resting on that stone called Jacob's Pillow, and, in after ages, The Stone of Israel, and by tradition, Lia Fail, Stone of Destiny, Stone of Scone, and finally, the Coronation Stone, now seen in Westminster Abbey, in London, England.
17. And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head.
18. And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.
Joseph is understandably disturbed at this development. Perhaps he thought that age had impaired Jacob's clarity of understanding. However, God's Holy Spirit was totally in control of the situation. We now read of one of the most significant statements of prophecy in the whole concourse of Bible history.
19. And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
20. And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.
That statement bears intensive examination, for in it we will find a prophecy which must be translated into history at some subsequent period of time, if God be not a liar. It distinguishes the subsequent histories of the descendants of these two sons of Joseph, not only from the histories of the descendants of the other tribes in Israel, but from one another. These prophecies are distinctly related to Ephraim and to Manasseh. They are not transferrable. Manasseh is not to be confused with Ephraim, for their futures, though related and parallel, are different.
It is sometimes protested that this prophecy received fulfilment at the time of the Davidic Kingdom, but that cannot be accepted. Ephraim's descendants by themselves are to develop into a "Company" or "Commonwealth of Nations." This does not envision the recruiting of other tribes of Israel to form that company of nations as they did not and do not descend from Ephraim's loins, so neither the Davidic Kingdom, nor the later House of Israel can properly fulfil the prophecy, even though the Northern Tribes were later headed up by, and sometimes referenced under the name of, "Ephraim." Even the descendants of Manasseh's loins are to form a distinct entity, a "Great People", on their own part.
We, of the British-Israel-World Federation, believe that we find the outworking of this tremendous prophecy in the modern world. It can only be the British Commonwealth of Nations that fills the conditions. An objection that the United States is now more powerful than Britain should be considered here. The United States of America is greater in total present day population, but we must remember that, since the days of the British Empire, many of the other tribal descendants besides those of Manasseh have immigrated to the North American Continent during the last century, so that such a population is to be expected. If the Manasseh component of the United States were to be isolated, and counted, we might yet find the British and related Commonwealth to out-number that portion of the United States which descends from Manasseh. Besides, regardless of the present situation, the prophecy was fulfilled in the days of the British Empire! It should further be noted that there are States of the U.S.A. which also bear the title "Commonwealth".
21. And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.
22. Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.
Here we see, once more, that Joseph, producing two of the tribes of Israel, holds the birthright double portion. But before we close, let me return to the manner of Jacob's blessing. Jacob crossed his arms, and that cross is the means by which God's mighty promises and blessings are conferred upon, and transferred to, Joseph's sons.
If one makes an heraldric mark to symbolically register that event it will appear in form as an "X" like a multiplication sign. It is like the first letter of the early Hebrew alphabet. If one superimposes upon that mark the symbol of the Blood-Red Cross of Christ Who confirmed "the promise which was made unto the fathers" (Acts 13:32-33), the form of which is the primitive "Tau Cross", the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a symbol is formed which presents a design resembling an arithmetic plus sign combined with a multiplication sign.
This "Aleph and Tau" combination equates to the "Alpha and Omega" of the Greek alphabet. We find the result in a well-known national symbol, present in the world today. It may be even more surprising to note that this national symbol is even called the "Union Jack", or "Union of Jacob"! Thus we receive additional confirmation that our identification of Britain and the British Commonwealth with Israel of old time is correct. We shall continue our studies on our next programme.
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