V’yechi

V’yechi

He lived

“Blessing Israel”

Genesis 47:28-50:26
1 Kings 2:1-12


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s parashah, V’yechi, brings us to the end of the Book of Genesis. For twelve weeks, this first book of the Torah has instructed readers about the Creation of the universe and Planet Earth, to an emphasis upon the one family which was chosen to be God’s representatives to humanity at large. From Adam to Noah to Abraham and finally Jacob, the Almighty has progressively demonstrated how He works through specific individuals in order to accomplish His will and purposes. Now as Genesis comes to a close, the Patriarch Jacob, inheritor of the covenants and blessings bestowed upon Abraham and Isaac, is now in a position to extend those same blessings to his progeny who will give rise to the future nation of Israel.

Many critical lessons should be understood from this week’s Torah portion. After all, we witness how Jacob is in a unique position to not only bless his sons, but also prophetically declare much of the future intention of his offspring. Great lessons for followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob can be imparted by the graphic example of extending one’s blessings upon children. Consider how the author of Hebrews indicates that by following the example established by his father Isaac, Jacob exhibited the great faith that he had in the God who was not only faithful to his fathers—but now to him as his life was ending:

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:20-21).

In many respects, the concept of faithfully blessing one’s children and offspring, in order to pass on the blessings you have received from God, is reinforced and categorically established by the actions described in V’yechi. Thankfully, faithful men and women of God who have inherited these blessings throughout Biblical history—have been responsible for passing them on to people like us today, who clearly reap the benefits of the original blessings imparted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We should have great confidence in the Lord that we will see them continue to be passed on to future generations!

The Double Blessing

As you begin to study and reflect upon some of the details of this Torah portion, you should be able to pick up on some of the subtle statements which indicate how Jacob, just like his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac, was gifted with prophetic insight about the future of his children and their offspring. Jacob was 130 years old when he arrived in Egypt, and he lived there for seventeen years until his death (Genesis 47:28). During his time spent in Egypt, Jacob was surely able to reflect upon his life experiences, including his reunion with the presumed-deceased Joseph, and how events had led him to his final days outside of the land promised to him and his descendants. No doubt as he considered all of life’s trials and tribulations, he thought about his twelve sons and how they had behaved and acted over the years. He probably remembered some of the dreams that Joseph had shared with he and Rachel years earlier in Canaan, and now how he had witnessed their fulfillment. As he approached death, Jacob desired to finalize his estate.

Jacob was very preoccupied about his final resting place. As his body began to fail, he was compelled to commit Joseph to a pledge to return his remains to the Land of Canaan:

“When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, ‘Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.’ And he said, ‘I will do as you have said.’ And he said, ‘Swear to me.’ So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed” (Genesis 47:29-31).

Jacob had a very special relationship with the God of his fathers. The various encounters he had with Him over the years, and now the opportunity to be circumspect, forced him to conclude that it was imperative that he have his body laid to rest in the tomb of his fathers. After all, he might have reasoned, he knew of how his father Isaac had placed his grandfather Abraham in the tomb Abraham himself had purchased in Machpelah,[1] and then he in turn had placed Isaac in that same tomb.[2] Because Jacob had also been promised Canaan as an inheritance, it would only be natural for him to be laid to rest in the same tomb. Since Joseph ostensibly had the power to fulfill his request, Jacob secured a vow from Joseph.

Once this request was insured, Jacob was probably content to finish off the days of his life. We soon discover that as the number of Jacob’s days were coming to a close, he now went into action to repeat many of the actions that he had witnessed his father Isaac perform decades earlier. Jacob understood the important principles of the birthright blessings. After all, some of the most memorable events of his life centered around the challenges of the one who would receive the birthright inheritance and the blessing of Isaac. Of course, we remember that in the case of Jacob and Esau, in spite of the fact that Esau was the elder son, Jacob received both the birthright blessings and the leadership blessings for his generation.[3] Now as death approached, Jacob had the opportunity to pass blessings and important words onto his sons, and as we also see, his grandsons—with each of the words containing an important prophetic theme.

The issuing of the double portion blessing is first extended. As we should keep in mind, Jacob has had a very full life that included multiple wives and multiple concubines. It was the son of Rachel, the beloved Joseph, whom Jacob designated as the heir of these distinct birthright blessings. As we read in this account, Joseph had two sons, and we witness that Jacob actually adopted them as his own. By in essence making them his own, he passed the double portion blessing onto Joseph’s two grandsons Manasseh and Ephraim:

“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.” And 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. 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).’ When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, ‘Who are these?’ And 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.’ 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. And Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.’ Then Joseph took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground. And 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. 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 first-born. And 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, 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’” (Genesis 48:1-16).

In this classic passage, the birthright blessings of Jacob are extended to the two sons of Joseph. But in a somewhat confusing manner, due to the inspiration of the moment, the younger son Ephraim actually received the greater blessing that is typically extended to the elder son of each generation. Somehow during this intriguing moment of blessing, Jacob was prompted to cross his arms and place his right hand upon the head of Ephraim. As Jacob placed his name, and the names of Abraham and Isaac upon these two young boys, he declared some truly awesome privileges. He stated that the two of them will grow into a multitude in the midst of the Earth (Genesis 48:16). But then we see that Joseph was somewhat confused, wondering if his elderly father had made a mistake about to whom he was extending his blessings:

“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. And Joseph said to his father, ‘Not so, my father, for this one is the first-born. Place your right hand on his head.’ But his father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people and he also shall be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.’ And he blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you Israel shall pronounce blessing, saying, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!”’ Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh” (Genesis 48:17-20).

The Patriarch Jacob, although aged, was not confused with what he was doing at all. He categorically declares, “I know, my son, I know,” so as not to be misunderstood. Jacob was able to see into the future, to not only see what was going to befall his two grandson’ descendants, but also bless them according to the preeminence that they would each inherit. This was a very powerful event in the life of the emerging nation of Israel, as it would have a resonating effect once the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land and established themselves as a kingdom. The ramifications of this blessing and Jacob’s other declarations undeniably continue until this very day. They are all a part of God’s great plan of redemption for the world, but most especially how we believe today that the restoration of all Israel has begun to take place via the presence of the Messianic movement.

Blessing Our Own

What can we learn from these rich and “loaded” verses as Genesis comes to a close in our Torah examination? What principles and insight must we embrace that will be beneficial as we bless our children with great love and affection, but most especially model them a dynamic walk of faith in the Messiah Yeshua?

It is important for us to truly understand the power of blessing. All parents are responsible for the next generation and the continuation of the faith that has been passed down to them. If you are a parent, you truly need to grasp a hold of the benefits of blessing your children—no different than how you might regularly tell your spouse “I love you” on a daily basis.

We have seen the Holy One bless Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and then in turn the Patriarchs bless their children. Of course, as we have read the blessings throughout the Book of Genesis, we are quick to note that all of the Patriarchs were Divinely guided in the proclamation of their blessings over their various offspring. Whether it is Abraham blessing Isaac or Ishmael, or Isaac blessing Jacob or Esau, or Jacob blessing his sons and grandsons—the one constant thing that you will note is that each of these parents were uniquely tuned in to what God’s will was for the respective children. Each one listened and heard the still quiet voice of the Lord, as He communicated the blessings and the future determined for their children. They in turn, at the proper times, were then able to pass on the blessings to the succeeding generation. You might imagine what the sons of Jacob/Israel thought when they heard that he was “summoning” them to come and hear what would befall them in future:

“Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, ‘Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what shall befall you in the days to come[4]’” (Genesis 49:1).

The expectation to hear a 147 year-old father declare his final words over you had to have been one of the most significant highlights and events of their lives. The Patriarch Jacob, as we know, gave each of them powerful and formative words that would declare forth much of the destiny and future accomplishments of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:1-28). Perhaps we should take this pattern to heart, and in a similar way desire to pass our blessings down upon our own children. Each parent, who has made the effort to truly train up godly sons and daughters (Proverbs 22:6), should be able to have a special moment near the end of his or her life, delivering some final words of admonishment.

But one of the challenges we each have is that we do not know the day or hour of our departure from this world. Even though there is a certain degree of wisdom to store up your insights and wisdom for the end of your days—to perhaps give your children a peek at what you see them doing in the future—in the interim it is also extremely beneficial to bless your children (or for that matter, any loved one or close friend) on a regular basis. In the event that you are not able to have some special, final moments with a son or daughter, be sure to impart enough to them in your regular interactions! This is why the Jewish people have taken to heart the admonition given to Joseph and the people of Israel, about blessing their children like Ephraim and Manasseh:

“And he blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you Israel shall pronounce blessing, saying, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!”’ Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh” (Genesis 48:20).

The traditional Jewish prayer, usually recited on Erev Shabbat, is to declare that the material blessings of the double portion which was given to Ephraim and Manasseh, is to now be manifested in the current generation. It is customary for fathers to say this prayer over their sons, followed by them declaring a similar blessing over their daughters that they might inherit the blessings of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah.[5] In Conservative Judaism both parents, father and mother together, will often jointly declare these blessings.[6] By declaring these blessings over their sons and daughters, faithful Jewish people pass on a godly and most encouraging tradition that finds its root not only in our Torah portion—but very early in the Bible itself. The benefits to the children being regularly blessed every week are surely unimaginable!

If there is anything you might want to consider this week as you reflect upon V’yechi, you might want to really think about blessing your children. Let your sons and daughters know how much you care for them, and how much potential you see in them being exercised. Blessing children for good works accomplished has a far greater return than condemning them for opportunities missed, or reminding them of their past failures and shortcomings. Receiving statements of blessing from parents is something that most children truly cherish and never forget! On the other hand, the accounts of those who do not receive statements of blessing are often filled with feelings of regret and remorse, for not hearing comforting and loving messages of appreciation from parents.

While you are developing a habit of blessing your children, you might be considering the important words that you will want to impart as you continue to age and approach death. Leaving children with a legacy and a hope for their future is quite a blessing in itself. It is also quite possible that as your relationship with the Lord becomes closer, He just might impart to you—through His still small voice—a vision of what your children will be doing in the future. Then you, like Jacob, might have the opportunity to place a blessing for a hope and a future upon your descendants.

As the Lord has blessed us through the life of Jacob and the legacy his sons, may we continue to bless Him through our perseverance in the things of the faith that we have received. And by faith, may we like Jacob, pour out His blessings upon our children so that all of our families will be blessed!

Of course, if you have no children of your own, or even if you do have children—make regularly blessing all people you know a regular habit. Encouraging extended family members, close friends, and various acquaintances with the love of the Messiah Yeshua is surely something that each of us needs to do. We do not know if the last time we might see a particular person might really be the last time, so we need to make every effort possible that we have left them with a positive impression from the Father’s heart! The love that parents have toward their sons and daughters is to surely be extended to all who need a special touch from Him.


NOTES

[1] Genesis 25:9.

[2] Genesis 35:29.

[3] Genesis 27:1-41.

[4] Heb. b’acharit ha’yamim; followed by the CJB rendering “in the acharit-hayamim.”

[5] J.H. Hertz, ed., The Authorised Daily Prayer Book, revised (New York: Bloch Publishing Company, 1960), pp 402-403; Nosson Scherman and Meir Zlotowitz, eds., The Complete ArtScroll Siddur: Nusach Sefard (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1985),pp 384-385.

[6] Jules Harlow, ed., Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals (New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2007), 311.

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