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Thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh,. . . are mine:--
Jacob’s adoption of Joseph’s two sons
THE AUTHORITY WHICH HE CLAIMED FOR THIS ACT. He refers to a leading point in the covenant history. God the Almighty, who is able to perform His Word, had appeared to him, had promised to make him a great nation, and to give his seed the land of Canaan (Genesis 48:3). God had spoken to him, and this is his authority. On this he bases all the family hopes. The mention of God’s appearance and promise would inspire confidence in Joseph.
II. THE PURPOSE HE HAD IN VIEW.
1. To deliver them from the corrupting influences of the world. Though they had an Egyptian mother, and belonged to that nation by birth and circumstances, yet they were not to be suffered to remain Egyptians. Ordinary men would regard them as having brilliant prospects in the world. But it was a far nobler thing that they should espouse the cause of God, and cast in their lot with His people.
2. To give them a recognized place in the covenant family. This would impart a dignity and meaning to their life, and an impulse and an elevation to all their thoughts Godward.
3. To do special honour to Joseph.
III. THE SAD MEMORIES WHICH AWOKE.
1. They were selected in the room of Jacob’s two sons, who had forfeited the blessing. Instead of Reuben and Simeon. They had grievously sinned, and thus lost their inheritance. The portion of Reuben was given to Ephraim; and of Simeon to Manasseh. The grounds of this are given in 1 Chronicles 5:1; see also Genesis 34:1-31; Genesis 49:5-7; Numbers 26:28-37; 1 Chronicles 7:14-29.
2. They reminded him of one whom he had loved and lost (Genesis 37:7). (T. H.Leale.)
Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons
I. THE OLD MAN’S SICKNESS. The pain and sorrow of dying mitigated by the presence and kind offices of dear friends. The joy of Jacob when it is told him that Joseph is coming. He strengthened himself, and sat up. Good news infuse new life. How strong in death are those who feel that Christ, the Great Deliverer, is near.
II. THE OLD MAN’S MEMORY. In youth hope is strong, in old age, memory. The memory of the aged recalls distant things. The recent are apt to be forgotten. Before the old man’s mind memory rolls out the picture of his journey from Padan. Happy shall we be if, among our memories of the past, we can recall an early attachment of truth, &c., especially to Jesus. The past never dies. Memory carries the present forward into the future.
III. THE OLD MAN’S BLESSING.
1. Valuable. The blessing of a good old man not to be slighted. The blessing of such a man as Jacob most precious. It involved the transmission of covenant mercies. Jacob’s relation to the people of God, federal and representative.
2. Discriminating. He distinguished between the elder and younger son. By supernatural illumination he specially indicated the supremacy of the younger.
3. Prophetic. He not only foretold the pre-eminence of Ephraim, but predicted their admitted greatness by all Israel.
4. Practical. He gave, as the covenant owner of the promised land, great material wealth to these adopted children of Joseph. His blessing had the force of law--a last will and testament. The bequest was allowed.
5. Pious. He referred what he did to the will of God. Acknowledged the good hand’ of the Lord his God, and the angel who redeemed him from all evil. Learn:
(1) The sickness which is unto death will soon be upon us.
(2) The duty of being kind to the sick and afflicted.
(3) To guard the treasures of memory. And take care that there shall be among them the memory of forgiven sin.
(4) To seek to deserve the blessing of the aged.
(5) Above all to seek early the blessing and favour of God. (J. C. Gray.)
Manasseh and Ephraim
We have in this chapter a further illustration of the truth, which runs throughout Scripture, of the first-born being set aside and the younger being chosen. So bent are we upon expecting God to move in our own circle, and according to our ideas of things, that it is hard to dislodge it from the mind. It is well that this law should be reversed, to show us that “ God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways,” and lest we should imagine that grace must always wait upon nature. It is a truth with which we are presented in every phase of our history, that God is constantly reversing our order of things. These crossed hands of blessing meet us everywhere. Like Joseph here, we have some favourite plan or scheme, and we are always expecting God will bless it. He suddenly crosses all our plans and puts before us not only what we had never thought of, but perhaps something we had despised. Or we had prayed for some favourite son on whom we had set very high expectations, when we find God crossing our plans, and blessing another whose talents or abilities we had looked down upon. Like Joseph we are constantly thrusting forward some Manasseh to bless, and God is continually crossing us by taking up some Ephraim and blessing him. Like Joseph, too, we are “displeased” when things do not turn out as we expected them, but in some very opposite way, and we rush to set God right by taking up some other course of our own. Sometimes we never can understand the meaning of these crossings in life. They baffle us, and we begin to think God is neither hearing our prayers nor caring for us. We are constantly saying as Joseph, “Not so, my father; for this is the first-born: put thy right hand on his head.” “Not this course, not this plan, not this way, not this place”--such are some of the thoughts which possess us, and which we are constantly thrusting before God. It needs a lifetime’s discipline sometimes to make men see that “God’s ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts.” The soul has to be constantly emptied from vessel to vessel, to be bruised and broken, before it can learn it. Mark, in the next place, the character of the blessing: “And he blessed Joseph and said, God,” &c. Here we have distinctly the Triune blessing brought before us--the grand source from which all blessings flow. The first clause is that of the Father; the second that of the Holy Spirit; the third that of the Son. God in His threefold Person and office as the Almighty Father, the Supplier of all grace to the soul, and the Redeemer from all evil. From such a source we are warranted in expecting large blessings, even that Ephraim’s seed should become “a multitude of nations,” or, as the word means, “the fulness of nations.” And where and when is this blessing to be fulfilled? It will be fulfilled in Israel’s own land, when the Lord shall return from heaven the second time as “the King of the Jews,” to reign over them. And so God declares, through Jacob: “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.” Mark the words, “this land”; and “for an everlasting possession.” Jerusalem belongs to the Jews. The Turk may hold it temporarily, or any other power, but they are usurpers. Jerusalem belongs to the Jews. God gave it them. It is, and is shall be, theirs “for ever.” (F. Whitfield, M. A.)
Israel beheld Joseph’s sons
Prudence in good men may divert nature from the remembrance of sad events. About Rachel.
2. Weak nature may see in part that which it doth not discern. So Jacob.
3. Reason suggests inquiry to know what sight doth not discern (Genesis 48:8).
4. Sons in strength should help the weakness of aged parents. So Joseph to his father.
5. It concerns fathers to own their children especially in order to a blessing. So Joseph his.
6. Godly parents account their children God’s gift unto them. So Joseph.
7. It is a mercy remarkable to have children for blessing in a strange place.
8. Gracious fathers desire their children’s children to bless them (Genesis 48:9).
9. Old age makes the saints subject to the same infirmities as other men. So to Jacob.
10. Dimness of sight is a usual symptom of old age.
11. Weakness in sight makes mistakes that need direction in the holiest men.
12. Good fathers yield to the desires of bringing children to them that can bless them.
13. Kisses and embracings are not unseemly from holy ancestors to their seed’s seed in order to blessing (Genesis 48:10).
14. It is meet for the holy ancestors to acquaint the sons of God’s dealings, with them.
15. Hopelessness of mercy with good souls makes them remember it more sweetly.
16. God’s mercies sometimes over-reach hope and expectation of His people.
17. Saints delight to show their over-abounding mercies to His praise (Genesis 48:11).
18. Suitable motions to dispose for a ministerial blessing is but meet.
19. Filial obeisance in honour of parents is a just duty in expectation of a blessing (Genesis 48:12).
20. There are right-hand and left-hand blessings, which God giveth by His ministers, greater and less.
21. Good men may aim one to the right, and another to the left.hand blessing, whom God changeth.
22. It is needful to come near So the ministers of blessing if men desire to have it (Genesis 48:13). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
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, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads, &c
Paul wished to select from the history of Jacob an instance of faith, he took the scene described in the text, when Joseph brings his two sons to the deathbed of his father. The text is therefore to be considered as one in which faith was signally exhibited.
I. Jacob seems to make it his object, and to represent it as a privilege, that he should take the lads out of the family of Joseph, though that family was then one of the noblest in Egypt, and transplant them into his own, though it had no outward distinction but what is derived from its connection with the other. Faith gave him this consciousness of superiority; he knew that his posterity were to constitute a peculiar people, from which would at length arise the Redeemer. He felt it far more of an advantage for Ephraim and Manasseh to be counted with the tribes than numbered among the princes of Egypt.
II. Observe the peculiarity of Jacob’s language with regard to his preserver, and his decided preference of the younger brother to the elder, in spite of the remonstrances of Joseph. There was faith, and illustrious faith, in both. By the “Angel who redeemed him from all evil,” he must have meant the Second Person of the Trinity; he shows that he had glimmerings of the finished work of Christ. The preference of the younger son to the elder was typical of the preference of the Gentile Church to the Jewish. Acting on what he felt convinced was the purpose of God, Jacob did violence to his own inclination and that of those whom he most longed to please.
III. Jacob’s worshipping (referred to in Hebrews 11:1-40.) may be taken as proving his faith. What has a dying man to do with worshipping, unless he is a believer in another state? He leans upon the top of his staff as if he would acknowledge the goodness of his heavenly Father, remind himself of the troubles through which he had been brought, and of the Hand which alone had been his guardian and guide. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The last days of Jacob
I. WE SEE HERE THE BEAUTY OF FILIAL PIETY. Jacob was only a shepherd, and Joseph was an exalted and powerful statesman. Had there been a trace of meanness and pride and self-seeking in the son, he might easily have waited till the patriarch was dead before doing him honour. Death often compels a child to respect a neglected parent. But Joseph was a great man, so great that the distinction of station had no influence upon his mind. Like many other great men, his personal attachments were intense, and his loyalty to his family was deep and unchanged. Besides this, his father was the heir of the covenant whose mercies would enrich him more than all Egypt’s lands, and he could not alienate himself from that future commonwealth of Israel to which his faith pointed. This journey of Joseph to his father shows the man, and the man of God. He felt that the less was to be blessed of the greater.
II. WE ARE INTERESTED IS JACOB’S OWN VIEW OF HIS LIFE. When Israel strengthened himself for this last interview, and there came to him a flash of his old prowess and undaunted vigour, his memory was aroused, and the past in its great features lay spread out before him. The dark parts of his life seemed to remind him of Divine mercies, and from the summit he had gained appeared to him only as the shadows of summer clouds on distant hills.
III. THE BLESSING WAS A SOLEMN ACT OF PROPHECY, FAITH, AND WORSHIP.
IV. SEE HERE THE DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY, Oldest son, the most promising child, does not always, perhaps not usually, share the largest part of the joys and honours of life. Parental hopes are often thwarted, and we desire in vain to change the manifest development of character and circumstance. In the history of nations, outside Israel, we witness the same phenomenon, and wonder why the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong; why smaller states eclipse greater ones, and why heroes and leaders spring from such unexpected quarters. All is of God. In the workings of redemption around us every day we meet the same fact. One is taken and another left. Nor can we read the reasons. (E. N. Packard.)
The blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh
I. ITS NATURE AND PROSPERITY.
1. They were blessed in the person of Joseph. He is blessed in his sons (verses 15, 20). The principle is recognized of blessing mankind in the name and for the sake of another.
2. With the covenant blessing. Not with that of the gods of Egypt, though he had cause to be grateful to that nation. He would have his children to know the true fount of blessedness. He invoked the blessing of the God of his fathers (verse 15). The assurance that others have shared the gifts of grace with us is a support to our faith. We of the Church belong to a holy nation, which has a great and venerable past.
3. With the blessing of which he himself had experience. “The God which fed me all my life long until this day” (verse 15). He felt that God had tended and cared for him like a shepherd.
4. With a different blessing for each. He bestows the larger blessing upon the younger (verse 19).
II. ITS OUTWARD FORM. It was conveyed by the imposition of hands (verse 14). The blessing was not merely a wish or a hope, but a reality, This laying on of hands was the outward means or symbol of its conveyance. Outward forms impress, they steady the mind, and assist contemplation. The blessing was as real as the outward act which accompanied it, the reality of nature leading on to the reality of grace.
III. ITS WARRANT.
1. The covenant position in which God had placed him. He stood with his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, in the same covenant relation with God (verses 15, 16).
2. The act was Divinely directed. Old Jacob crossed his hands, and thus in bestowing the blessing reversed the order of nature (verses 14, 17). He refused to be corrected by Joseph, for though his sight was dim, his spiritual eye discerned the will of God. He guided his hands “wittingly,” with full knowledge of the decree of the Most High. God, who distributes His gifts as He will, prefers the younger to the elder. Nature and grace often take cross directions. (T. H. Leale.)
Jacob’s prayer for the sons of Joseph
I. THE GLORIOUS PERSONAGE ADDRESSED. “The Angel,” &c.
1. The title of this glorious personage.
2. His achievements.
II. THE INTERESTING PRAYER PRESENTED.
1. What is sought? “Bless.”
(1) Knowledge and wisdom.
(2) Genuine religion.
(3) That God may make them extensively useful.
2. Who should thus pray?
(1) Lovers of their species.
(4) Sunday-school teachers.
(5) Fellow. Christians. All who love Jesus Christ.
3. The manner of presenting this supplication.
(1) Under a consciousness of the necessity of the Divine blessing.
(2) In strong faith.
(3) In connection with our own efforts. (J. Burns, D. D.)
The last days of Jacob
I. THE HEIRS OF THE BLESSING--A SURPRISE.
1. The adoption of Joseph’s two sons to be reckoned among the patriarchs, equal with Jacob’s own sons, while Joseph personally is left out, was doubt]ass a surprise.
(1) Because Joseph’s personal character would seem to warrant the perpetuity of his own name in tribal pre-eminence.
(2) Because this adoption increased the tribes to thirteen.
(3) We find, however, that this was a conscious, or unconscious, anticipation of the elimination of the tribe of Levi, by its elevation to priestly honour in place of the first-born.
(4) We also find that this adoption was a mark of special honour to Joseph, in having a double inheritance in his sons, and also in having the birthright forfeited by Reuben, on account of his sin (Genesis 48:22; 1 Chronicles 5:1-2).
2. This adoption of Joseph’s two sons was by Divine direction.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE BLESSING IS SUGGESTIVE.
1. The “elevated glow” of the dying patriarch must be regarded as the result of the Divine power that wrought upon him.
2. The spirit and terms of the blessing are very touching and instructive.
(1) Gratitude for the care, protection, and guidance of God is here beautifully expressed.
(2) The reference to “the Angel” that redeemed him is a suggestive allusion to “the quality of Jehovah and His Angel.”
3. The sovereignty of God in the expression of His choice of the younger over the elder must be fully recognized.
III. THE PATRIARCH’S PERSONAL CONDITION WHEN THE BLESSING WAS BESTOWED.
3. Spiritual. Lessons:--
1. The sovereignty of God.
2. Divine sovereignty is not exercised in unreasoning arbitrariness, but in perfect harmony with the laws of justice and love.
3. Learn how gloriously a child of God can die. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
Jacob owning Divine care, and blessing his grandchildren
I. To ILLUSTRATE THE TEXT.
1. Here is Jacob’s recollection and acknowledgment of the Divine goodness and care. He acknowledgeth God, as the God of his pious ancestors, and as his constant preserver and benefactor.
II. TO CONSIDER WHAT INSTRUCTIVE LESSONS AGED CHRISTIANS MAY DRAW FROM HENCE.
1. It is their duty to recollect and acknowledge their long experience of God’s goodness and care.
(1) It will promote and cherish your gratitude to God.
(2) It will tend to prevent your murmuring under the burdens and infirmities of age.
(3) It will promote your continued activity in God’s service.
(4) It will encourage your prayers and your hope.
2. It is the duty of aged and dying Christians to bless and pray for their descendants.
(1) It is a becoming expression of your faith and trust in God and regard for your children.
(2) It will be likely to make a good impression upon their hearts, and so qualify them for the Divine blessing.
(3) It is the way to procure the Divine blessing for them.
1. Let children desire and value the prayer and blessing of their aged, dying parents.
2. Let the children of good men labour to secure the blessing for themselves. (J. Often.)
The last days
There is a splendour peculiar to the meridian sun. There is a majestic and uncontrollable energy, and boldness, with which it spreads light and blessedness on all around. The sun shining in its strength is a grand and exhilarating sight. But there is a still deeper interest attendant on its decline; when the warm and mellow tints of evening soften the dazzling brightness of its ray; and when surrounded, but not obscured by clouds, and rich in a golden radiance, on which the eye lingers with chastened and inexpressible delight, it sinks below the horizon. It is with similar feelings that we regard the faithful servant of God, when he comes towards the close of a long, consistent, and useful life. It is when viewed in this light, that the last hours of the patriarch Jacob become valuable to us. All is resolved into the Divine care. All the vicissitudes of his course, when thus scrutinized, by the accurate discernment of one who from long experience could not be deceived, appear but as evidences to him of the gracious and providential guardianship of his Almighty Friend and Father.
1. He admits without reserve the providential care of God through a long life. “God Almighty that appeared unto me in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, hath fed me all my life long unto this day.” Many there are whose last year’s savour of a very different spirit from this. They have set out in life with false and unwarranted expectations of prosperity. They began without God for their friend, and they lived a life of business or of folly. They never cherished any hope, but the hope of extracting happiness from a world which was never calculated to give it. And what has been the result? Year after year has brought its disappointments.
2. There is another essential point of difference between the experience of this venerable Patriarch and yours. Jacob recognizes fully the gracious, as well as the protecting care of his God. In looking back upon his way, he broadly and joyfully admits the truth of God’s redeeming mercy. This is the great secret of the exalted sublimity of his character, and the serenity of his end. We can recognize then in the creed of Jacob, precisely the same ground of hope as that of which we ourselves now rest. As truly as we see
Christians in the full confidence of the faith of the gospel approaching their dying hour, and saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”; so truly do we see Jacob in the exercise of the very same faith--a faith in a nameless Saviour. Learn that you can leave no better blessing to your children and your friends, than the mantle of your own piety--a measure of your own Christian hope. The last lesson is encouragement. Be encouraged to seek the Lord early, and to trust him through life. Jacob is one of an innumerable host of instances adducible in proof of the faithfulness of God. “He will never fail them that trust in Him.” (E. Craig.)
1. Though Ephraim and Manasseh were each constituted heads of tribes, yet they were blessed in the person of their father Joseph. Here, as elsewhere, God would exemplify the great principle on which He designed to act in blessing mankind in the name and for the sake of another.
2. Jacob, though now among the Egyptians, and kindly treated by them, yet makes no mention of their gods, but holds up to his posterity the living and true God. In proportion as Egypt was kind to the young people, such would be their danger of being seduced; but let them remember the dying words of their venerable ancestor, and know from whence their blessedness cometh.
3. The God whose blessing was bestowed upon them was not only the true God, but the God of their fathers; a God in covenant with the family, who loved them, and was loved and served by them. “God, before whom my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, did walk.” How sweet and endearing the character; and what a recommendation of these holy patterns to the young people! Nor was He merely the God of Abraham and Isaac, but Jacob himself also could speak well of His name; adding, “The God who fed me all my life long unto this day!” Sweet and solemn are the recommendations of aged piety. “Speak reproachfully of Christ,” said the persecutors to Polycarp, when leading him to the stake. “Eighty six years I have served Him” answered the venerable man, during all which time He never did me an injury; how then can I blaspheme Him who is my King, and my Saviour?” Hearken, oh, young people, to this affecting language! It is a principle dictated by common prudence, “Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not”: and how much more forcibly does it apply to the God of your fathers!
4. This God is culled “the Angel who redeemed him from all evil.” Who this was it is not difficult to decide. It was the Angel, no doubt, with whom Jacob wrestled and prevailed, and concerning whom he said, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
5. The blessing of God under all these endearing characters is invoked upon the lads, their forefathers’ names put upon them, and abundant increase promised to them. Surely it is good to be connected with them that fear God; yet those only who are of faith will ultimately be blessed with their faithful predecessors. (A. Fuller.)
A bit of history for old and young
1. Our text tells us that Jacob blessed Joseph, and we perceive that he blessed him through blessing his children; which leads us to the next remark, that no choicer favour could fall upon ourselves than to see our children favoured of the Lord. Joseph is doubly blessed by seeing Ephraim and Manasseh blessed.
2. Those of us who are parents are bound to do our best, that our children may be partakers with us of the Divine inheritance. As Joseph took Ephraim and Manasseh to see their aged grandfather, let us bring our children where blessings may be expected.
3. Furthermore, observe that if we want to bless young people, one of the likeliest means of doing so will be our personal testimony to the goodness of God. Young men and women usually feel great interest in their fathers’ life-story--if it be a worthy one--and what they hear from them of their personal experience of the goodness of God will abide with them. This is one of the best ways in which to bless the lads. The benediction of Jacob was intertwisted with his biography; the blessing which he had himself enjoyed he wished for them, and as he invoked it he helped to secure it by his personal testimony.
4. One thing further: I want you to note, that Jacob, in desiring to bless his grandsons, introduced them to God. He speaks of “ God before whom my fathers did walk: God who blessed me all my life long.” This is the great distinction between man and man: there are two races, he that feareth God, and he that feareth Him not. The religion of this present age, such as it is, has a wrong direction in its course. It seeks after what is called “ the enthusiasm of humanity,” but what we want far more is enthusiasm for God. We shall never go right unless God is first, midst, and last. All this is introduction; so now we must come at once and plunge into the discourse.
Jacob’s testimony, wherewith he blessed the sons of Joseph, has in it four points.
I. First HE SPEAKS OF ANCESTRAL MERCIES; he begins with that” God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk.” As with a pencil he sketches the lives of Abraham and Isaac.
1. They were men who recognized God and worshipped Him, beyond all others of their age. God was to them a real existence; they spake with God, and God spake with them; they were friends of God, and enjoyed familiar acquaintance with Him.
2. They not only recognized God, but they owned Him in daily life. I take the expression, “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk,” to mean that He was their God in common life. They not only knelt before God when they prayed, but they walked before Him in everything. This is the kind of life for you and for me; whether we live in a great house or in a poor cottage, if we walk before God we shall lead a happy and a noble life, whether that life be public or obscure. Oh that our young people would firmly believe this!
3. They walked before God; that is they obeyed His commands. His call they heard, His bidding they followed. To them the will of the Lord was paramount: He was law and life to them, for they loved and feared Him. They were prompt to hear the behests of God, and rose up early to fulfil them. They acted as in the immediate presence of the All-seeing.
4. To the full they trusted Him. In this sense they always saw Him. We sometimes talk about tracing Him. We cannot trace Him, except as we trust Him; and because they trusted, they traced Him.
5. They enjoyed the favour of God, for this also is intended by walking before Him. His face was towards them: they sunned themselves in His smile. God’s love was their true treasure. God was their wealth, their strength, their exceeding joy. I say again, happy sons who have such ancestors! happier still if they follow in their track! So Jacob spoke of Abraham and Isaac, and so can some of us speak of those who went before us. Those of us who can look back upon godly ancestors now in heaven must feel that many ties bind us to follow the same course of life.
6. There is a charm about that which was prized by our fathers. Heirlooms are treasured, and the best heirloom in a family is the knowledge of God. The way of holiness in which your fathers went is a fitting way for you, and it is seemly that you maintain the godly traditions of your house. In the old times they expected sons to follow the secular calling of their fathers; and although that may be regarded as an old-world mistake, yet it is well when sons and daughters receive the same spiritual call as their parents. Grace is not tied to families, but yet the Lord delights to bless to a thousand generations. Very far are we from believing that the new birth is of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man. The will of God reigns here supreme, and absolute; but yet there is a sweet fitness in the passing on of holy loyalty from grandsire to father, and from father to son. A godly ancestry casts responsibility upon young people. These Ephraims and Manassehs perceive that their fathers knew the Lord, and the question arises, Why should they not know Him? Oh my beloved young friends, the God of your fathers will be found of you and be your God. The prayers of your fathers have gone before you; let them be followed by your own. A godly ancestry should invest a man’s case with great hopefulness. May he not argue, “If God blessed my ancestors, why should He not bless me?”
II. Now he comes to deal with PERSONAL MERCIES. The old man’s voice faltered as he said, “The God which fed me all my life long.” The translation would be better if it ran, “The God which shepherded me all my life long.”
1. He spoke of the Lord as his shepherd. Jacob had been a shepherd, and therefore he knew what shepherding included: the figure is full of meaning. There had been a good deal of Jacob about Jacob, and he had tried to shepherd himself. Poor sheep that he was, while under his own guidance he had been caught in many thorns, and had wandered in many wildernesses. Because he would be so much a shepherd to himself, he had been hard put to it. But over all, despite his wilfulness, the shepherding of the covenant God had been exercised towards him, and he acknowledged it. Oh dear saints of God, you to whom years are being multiplied, give praise to your God for having been your shepherd. Bear your witness to the shepherding of God, for this may lead others to become the sheep of His pasture.
2. This shepherding had been perfect. Our version rightly says that the Lord had fed Jacob all his life long. Take that sense of it, and you who have a daily struggle for subsistence will see much beauty in it. Mercies are all the sweeter when seen to come from the hand of God. But besides being fed Jacob had been led, even as sheep are guided by the shepherd who goes before them. His journeys, for that period, had been unusually long, perilous, and frequent. He had fled from home to Padanaram; after long years he had come back again to Canaan, and had met his brother Esau; and after that, in his old age, he had journeyed into Egypt. To go to California or New Zealand in these times is nothing at all compared to those journeys in Jacob’s day. But he says, “God has shepherded me all my life long”; and he means that the great changes of his life had been wisely ordered. Life ends in blighted hope if you have not hope in God. But with God you are as a sheep with a shepherd--cared for, guided, guarded, fed, and led, and your end shall be peace without end.
III. Thirdly, bear with me while I follow Jacob in his word upon REDEEMING MERCIES. “The Angel which redeemed me from all evil.” There was to Joseph a mysterious Personage who was God, and yet the Angel or messenger of God. He puts this Angel in apposition with the Elohim: for this Angel was God. Yet was He his Redeemer. Brothers and sisters, let us also tell of the redeeming mercies of the Lord Jesus towards us. You remember, too, when that pinch came in business, so that you could not see how to provide things honest in the sight of all men; then Jesus revealed His love and bade you think of the lilies and the ravens, which neither spin nor sow, and yet are clothed majestically and fare sumptuously. Many a time has the Lord delivered you because He delighted in you.
IV. Jacob has spoken of ancestral mercies, personal mercies and redeeming mercies, and now he deals with FUTURE MERCIES, as he cries “Bless the lads.” He began with blessing Joseph, and he finishes with blessing his lads. Oh dear friends, if God has blessed you, I know you will want Him to bless others. There is the stream of mercy, deep, broad, and clear; you have drunk of it, and are refreshed, but it is as full as ever. It will flow on, will it not? In closing, I wish to bear a personal testimony by narrating an incident in my own life. I have been preaching in Essex this week, and I took the opportunity to visit the place where my grandfather preached so long, and where I spent my earliest days. Last Wednesday was to me a day in which I walked like a man in a dream. Everybody seemed bound to recall some event or other of my childhood. What a story of Divine love and mercy did it bring before my mind! Among other things, I sat down in a place that must ever be sacred to me. There stood in my grandfather’s manse garden two arbours made of yew trees, cut into sugar-loaf fashion. Though the old manse has given way to a new one, and the old chapel has gone also, yet the yew trees flourish as aforetime. I sat down in the right hand arbour and bethought me of what had happened there many years ago. When I was a young child staying with my grandfather, there came to preach in the village Mr. Knill, who had been a missionary at St. Petersburg, and a mighty preacher of the gospel. He came to preach for the London Missionary Society, and arrived on the Saturday at the manse. He was a great soul-winner, and he soon spied out the boy. He said to me, “Where do you sleep? for I want to call you up in the morning.” I showed him my little room. At six o’clock he called me up, and we went into that arbour. There, in the sweetest way, he told me of the love of Jesus, and of the blessedness of trusting in Him and loving Him in our childhood. With many a story he preached Christ to me, and told me how good God had been to him, and then he prayed that I might know the Lord and serve Him. He knelt down in that arbour and prayed for me with his arms about my neck. He did not seem content unless I kept with him in the interval between the services, and he heard my childish talk with patient love. On Monday morning he did as on the Sabbath, and again on Tuesday. Three times he taught me and prayed with me, and before he had to leave, my grandfather had come back from the place where he had gone to preach, and all the family were gathered to morning prayer. Then, in the presence of them all, Mr. Knill took me on his knee, anal said, “This child will one day preach the gospel, and he will preach it to great multitudes. I am persuaded that he will preach in the chapel of Rowland Hill, where (I think he said) I am now the minister.” He spoke very solemnly, and called upon all present to witness what he said. Then he gave me sixpence as a reward if I would learn the hymn--
“God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.”
I was made to promise that when I preached in Rowland Hill’s chapel that hymn should be sung. Think of that as a promise from a child I Would it ever be other than an idle dream? Years flew by. After I had begun for some little time to preach in London, Dr. Alexander Fletcher had to give the annual sermon to children in Surrey Chapel, but as he was taken ill, I was asked in a hurry to preach to the children. “Yes,” I said, “I will, if the children will sing ‘God moves in a mysterious way.’ I have made a promise long ago that so that should be sung.” And so it was; I preached in Rowland Hill’s chapel, and the hymn was sung. My, emotions on that occasion I cannot describe. Still that was not the chapel which Mr. Knill intended. All unsought by me, the minister at Wotton-under-Edge, which was Mr. Hill’s summer residence, invited me to preach there. I went on the condition that the congregation should sing, “God moves in a mysterious way”--which was also done. After that I went to preach for Mr. Richard Knill himself, who was then at Chester. What a meeting we had! Mark this! he was preaching in the theatre! His preaching in a theatre took away from me all fear about preaching in secular buildings, and set me free for the campaigns in Exeter Hall and the Surrey Music Hall. How much this had to do with other theatre services you know. After more than forty years of the Lord’s loving-kindness, I sat again in that arbour! No doubt it is a mere trifle for outsiders to hear, but to me it was an overwhelming moment. The present minister of Stambourn meeting-house, and the members of his family, including his son and his grandchildren, were in the garden, and I could not help calling them together around that arbour, while I praised the Lord for His goodness. One irresistible impulse was upon me it was to pray God to bless those lads that stood around me. Do you not see how the memory begat the prayer? I wanted them to remember when they grew up my testimony of God’s goodness to me; and for that same reason I tell it to you young people who are around me this morning. God has blessed me all my life long, and redeemed me from all evil, and I pray that He may be your God. You that have godly parents, I would specially address. I beseech you to follow in their footsteps, that you may one day speak of the Lord as they were able to do in their day. Remember that special promise, “I love them that love Me; and those that seek Me early shall find Me.” May the Holy Spirit lead you to seek Him this day; and you shall live to praise His name as Jacob did. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Jacob blessing Joseph’s children
I. First of all, THE REFERENCE TO JACOB’S FOREFATHERS: he says, “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk.” How various must be the thoughts suggested to all our minds by that same expression--“God, before whom my fathers did walk!” How many of us can say that it was the God of Abraham before whom our fathers did walk? How many must be constrained to say that it was the “god of this world . . . before whom their fathers did walk!” It is an awful question which we read in the prophet, “Your fathers, where are they?” How solemnly it recalls the history of our own youth! How solemnly it bids us ask, “Were those we loved in the flesh in Christ, or were they out of Christ? “But I stay not to dwell upon that: it is clear that the feelings which were in the mind of the patriarch were those of joy and gratitude; he knew who was “the God of his fathers”; he knew that their God was his God. In the expression, therefore, “God, before whom my fathers did walk,” he doubtless had reference to the sovereign grace of God, which had called Abraham from the midst of an idolatrous nation, to be “ the father of the faithful”--to be he in whose “seed all the families of the earth should be blessed.” His mind, therefore, was filled with lone to that God who had made Abraham “to differ,” and who had so mercifully kept Abraham, even to the end.
II. But, secondly, let us speak of THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT WHICH IS HERE GIVEN OF JACOB’S EXPERIENCE when he says, “the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil.” He appears here, I think, to refer to God’s providential care of him, as well as to the spiritual mercies vouchsafed to him, when he says, “the God who fed me all my life long.” For he would refer to His support in his early days at home. He would refer also to the manifest way in which God’s presence was vouchsafed to him at the time he was in the family of Laban; and even perhaps now he was referring also to the mysterious manner in which God had been pleased to allow his son--his beloved son Joseph--to be taken from him for a times when he was constrained to exclaim, “All these things are against me.” But now, having been taught of God the reason of the Lord’s dealings; having seen how good was brought out of evil; having perceived that the Lord had sent Joseph before him, so that he might be the instrument in the Lord’s hand of feeding him in the time of want and famine, he says, “the God which fed me all my life long unto this day.” But I apprehend that, grateful as the patriarch must have felt for these temporal mercies, his feelings upon this point were very far less intense than they were for those spiritual mercies which God had so graciously vouchsafed to him; for we see him also saying, “the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.” “The Angel who redeemed.” And who was this Angel whose blessing he was invoking? Had it not been the Angel of the covenant, the very expression made use of by the patriarch must have been the language of blasphemy; but, instead of that, we know that it was the Angel of the covenant, even the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and from that we gather what the nature of those spiritual mercies are to which the patriarch more especially alludes: “The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.”
III. But, thirdly, we must remark upon THE BLESSING WHICH IS INVOKED: the patriarch says, “bless the lads.” He doubtless desired that there should be daily food provided for them; he doubtless desired that God’s care should constantly watch over them; but there was something far greater than this he desired for them. He desired the full blessings of God’s redeeming love, so that he might be able to feel that that Angel which had “redeemed him from all evil” would also redeem those children which were before him, and that they might have all that comfortable experience which he himself enjoyed. And what could be the groundwork of such anticipations existing in the aged patriarch’s breast? Think you, he considered that they would merit these blessings at the hands of God, while he disclaimed all merit himself? There were no feelings of this kind in his breast, for he had been taught of God; but he knew what God he had to deal with; he felt that he had to deal with a covenant-keeping God, and he was assured that all those blessings which he besought were covenant mercies in Christ Jesus. (H. M. Villiers, M. A.)
Jacob blessing Joseph
I. WE ARE TO CONSIDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES AND THE IMPORT OF JACOB’S BLESSING: “And Jacob blessed Joseph.” But more particularly--
1. Contemplate the persons before us: Jacob, Joseph, and his two sons.
2. Mark now the place where these persons met.
3. Remember the time when these persons met. It was the time of Jacob’s death.
4. Observe the import of the solemn action in our text. It is a dying blessing! “God-bless the lads!” God is the author of every blessing. We are, secondly--
II. To CONSIDER THE INSTRUCTION WHICH THE BLESSING CONVEYS.
1. This blessing teaches the nature of true religion. It is “walking before God.”
2. This blessing teaches the benefits of practical godliness.
3. This blessing teaches the advantages of pious parents. “The God of my fathers.” The children of pious parents have the advantage of religious instruction. Again: such children have the advantage of fervent and constant prayer for their eternal welfare. Further: such children have the advantage of religious example. Finally: such children, like Jacob’s sons, may have the advantage of their parents’ dying testimony and last blessing.
4. This blessing teaches the importance of educating the young. (J. Cawood, M. A.)
An old man’s blessing
I. A DISTINCTION OF BLESSING. Jacob was, doubtless, divinely guided to make this distinction. The choice he made was inspired by God; and God’s will was discerned and obeyed. We may learn to avoid pride, envy, and ambition, and to abide by God’s will and the Divine disposal of events and circumstances (comp. 1 Samuel 2:7; Psalms 75:6-7; 1 Corinthians 12:11).
II. A CONTINUITY OF BLESSING (read Genesis 48:15; Genesis 16:1-16, and note the reference to Abraham and Isaac).
III. A FUTURITY OF BLESSING.
IV. A UNITY OF BLESSING. The lots of one and another among God’s people may differ. But all that is good, and hopeful, and blessed, comes from the One source of blessing--the One God, Guide, Deliverer. Conclusion: Let us ask ourselves these questions: Are we trying to learn from our elders God’s truth? Are we seeking to live as those who look for God’s blessing as the best thing? Do we wish to hand down the truth and premises of the Lord to those that come after us (Psalms 78:3-4)? (W. S. Smith, B. D.)
And he blessed Joseph
In blessing his seed, he blesses himself. In exalting his two sons into the rank and right of his brothers, he bestows upon them the double portion of the first-born. In the terms of the blessing, Jacob first signalizes the threefold function which the Lord discharges in effecting the salvation of a sinner. “The God, before whom walked my fathers,” is the Author of salvation, the Judge who dispenses justice and mercy, the Father, before whom the adopted and regenerate child walks. From Him salvation comes, to Him the saved returns, to walk before Him and be perfect. “The God, who fed me from my being unto this day,” is the Creator and Upholder of life, the Quickener and Sanctifier, the potential Agent, who works both to will and to do in the soul. “The Angel that redeemed me from all evil” is the all-sufficient Friend, who wards off evil by Himself, satisfying the demands of justice and resisting the devices of malice. There is a beautiful propriety of feeling in Jacob ascribing to his fathers the walking before God, while he thankfully acknowledges the grace of the Quickener and Justifier to himself. The Angel is explicitly applied to the Supreme Being in this ministerial function. The God is the emphatic description of the true, living God, as contra-distinguished from all false gods. “Bless the lads.” The word “bless” is in the singular number. For Jacob’s threefold periphrasis is intended to describe the one God, who wills, works, and wards. “And let my name be put upon them.” Let them be counted among my immediate sons, and let them be related to Abraham and Isaac, as my other sons are. This is the only thing that is special in the blessing. “Let them grow into a multitude.” The word “grow” in the original refers to the spawning or extraordinary increase of the finny tribe. The after-history of Ephraim and Manasseh will be found to correspond with this special prediction. (Prof. J. G. Murphy.)
The redeeming Angel
I wonder if you know who the “Angel” is? Who do you think is “the Angel that redeemed him from all evil”? Do you know what the word “angel” means? It means a messenger--a good messenger. And the angels in heaven are so called because they carry messages. It is a nice thing to carry messages, if we carry them well. If we carry kind messages, and do it in an accurate way, like Christ, it is being like the angels in heaven--it is being like Jesus Christ. I hope you will be all good messengers. Perhaps you will have a very important message to carry, and you ought to do it well. I have a very important one to carry to-day. Therefore I am an angel, for ministers are angels. But it is not an angel from heaven, it is not a minister, it is not a common man, that is meant here. Jesus Christ is meant--Jesus Christ is the “Angel.” I want to help you now to understand another word. What is it to be “redeemed”? “Which redeemed me from all evil.” Can you think? Does “redeemed” mean “saved me,” “delivered me”? Is it the same as if it said, “The Angel that delivered me from all evil”? Not quite. That would only be half the meaning. If I were to save you from being drowned, and it was no trouble to me to save you, and if I did not expose my own life, I should not “redeem” you; but if I did it at great danger, at great pain, or at great loss to myself, then it might be called “redeeming.” To “redeem” is to save at great cost to one’s self; because the word means “buy”--to buy back. Therefore, if I spend a great deal of money, and become much poorer by it, in order to do you good, then I “redeem” you. That is the meaning of the word “redeemed.” Did you ever think what was the value of your soul--how much? When I see something very valuable, I sometimes say, “How much did it cost?” “How much did that watch cost?” “How much did that diamond cost?” How much did your soul cost? Thousands of thousands of pounds? The earth? The world? All the stars? Everything that was ever made? Much more! It cost Jesus Christ, who made everything--the life of Jesus Christ! And how had He “redeemed” us from sin? A poor heathen, who had become a Christian, wanted to explain how he became a Christian to another heathen who did not know anything about it; and he took a little worm--a poor, little, miserable worm; and he put the worm on a stone; and he put all round the stone where the worm was some straw. He then lighted the straw, and when it was all blazing he ran through the lighted straw, and took up the little worm in his hand when it was wriggling in the fire. The hot fire had scorched and drawn it up. “This,” he said, “is just what I was--a poor, miserable worm, with afire all round me; and I should have died, and gone to hell; but Christ ran in, took me up in His arms, and saved me; and here I am, a saved one.” I will tell you a remarkable thing which happened in a town in the West of England. One Sunday a clergyman was to preach a sermon. The people in the town did not know him--he was a stranger there; but he was known to be a very excellent clergyman, and a very clever man. A great many people went to hear him preach; and when the prayers were over, the clergyman went into the pulpit. The congregation noticed that he seemed to feel something very much; for he was silent some time, and could not begin his sermon. He hid his face in his hands, and the congregation thought he was unwell; but he was not. However, before he gave out his text, he told them something like this: “I want to say something. Fifteen years ago I was in this town, and I was in this church. I was then very young, and I came to hear the sermon. That evening three young men came to this church. They were very wicked young men. You may suppose how wicked, for they came not only to laugh, but they came actually to throw stones at the clergyman. They filled their pockets with stones, and determined they would throw at him. When the sermon began they were sitting together: and when the clergyman had gone on a little way, one said to the other, ‘Now throw! now throw!’ This is what they said, ‘Now throw at the stupid old blockhead I now throw! ‘The second said, ‘No; wait a little; I want to hear the end of what he is saying now, to see what he makes of it.’ They waited. But presently he said, ‘Now you can throw: I heard the end of it; there was nothing in it.’ The third said, ‘No, no; don’t throw: what he says is very good; don’t hurt the good old man.’ Then the two others left the church, saying something very wicked; they swore at him, and went away very angry, because he had spoiled their fun in not letting them throw.” The clergyman went on to say: “The first of those three young men was hanged some years ago for forgery; the second was a poor, miserable man, brought to poverty and rags, miserable in mind, and miserable in body; and the third is now going to preach to you! Listen!” So “the Angel” “redeemed” that poor boy (for he was only a boy when he went to throw stones) “from all evil.” It is not only sin; there are other “evils.” There are a great many troubles in life, are not there? Have not you a great many troubles? I am sure you have some. It is a great mistake to say to children, “Oh! you have no troubles.” I think children have quite as many as grown-up people--perhaps more. But people often say to children, “You have no troubles now; you have them all to come by-and-by.” That is not the case. I believe you have quite as many troubles as we have; but Christ “redeems” you from all trouble. Now there are two ways Christ can do it. Perhaps Christ will say, “Trouble shall not come to that boy or girl.” That is one way; but He could do it another way. He could say, “Yes, trouble shall come; but when it comes, it shall be turned into joy. I will make him so happy in his troubles, that he shall be glad. His sorrow shall be turned into joy.” Which, think you, will be the best: for trouble not to come at all, or, when it comes, to be turned into joy? I will tell you now about God “redeeming” a little girl in another way. Her name was Alvi, but she was always called Allie. She was three years old; and one day little Allie jumped upon her father’s knee, and said, “Pa, when’s spring?” Her papa stroked her little curly head, and patted her on her cheeks, and she looked up and smiled, and said, “I fat as butter.” She said again, “I loves my pa, I does; I loves my pa.” And her papa loved her very much. She said, “When’s spring, pa?” The father said, “Why do you want to know when spring is? Do you want to see the pretty flowers, and hear the birds sing, and play in the sunshine?” She said. “No, pa; me go to church in spring.” “Do you wish to go to church, Allie?” “Very much, pa.” “Why, Allie?” “God there, God there!” “And do you love God, Allie?” “Oh! so much, papa, so much!” “Well, my dear,” papa said to little Allie, “to-morrow is spring; spring will be to-morrow.” And little Allie jumped down from her father’s knee, saying, “To-morrow! to-morrow! Allie is so happy! To-morrow! to-morrow! to-morrow!” And she went about the house singing, “Allie is so happy! To-morrow, to-morrow, to-morrow! Allie so happy!” That night Allie was very tired; she wanted to go to bed an hour before her proper time. During the night she fell into a burning fever, and they sent for a doctor. When he came, he shook his head and said, “Too late! too late! nothing can be done.” They sent for four doctors, and all said, “Too late! too late!” And when the morning came, little Allie was dead; she was gone to heaven. Her mamma stood and looked at her, and thought of what she had said the day before--“To-morrow, to-morrow! Allie so happy to-morrow! “And she wiped away her tears at the thought. So God “redeemed” little Allie. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The dying blessing
A few days previous to his death, Dr. Belfrage, of Falkirk, hearing his infant son’s voice in an adjoining room, desired that he should be brought to him. When the child was lifted into the bed the dying father placed his hands upon his head, and said in the language of Jacob: “The God before whom my fathers did walk, the God who fed me all my life long to this day, the Angel who redeemed me from all evil, bless the lad.” When the boy was removed he added: “Remember and tell John Henry of this; tell him of these prayers, and how earnest I was that he might become early acquainted with his father’s God.” Happy are they who have their parents’ prayers.
Behold, I die
Jacob in the prospect of death
We have here a threefold picture.
I. OF STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS.
1. The strength of faith.
2. The strength of godliness.
3. The strength of peace.
II. OF SUCCESS IN FAILURE.
III. OF LIFE IN DEATH. (T. H. Leale.)
I. A PERIOD OF UNRUFFLED PEACE AND PROSPERITY.
II. A SEASON OF GRATEFUL RETROSPECT.
III. A SUBLIME DEATH-SCENE. (T. S. Dickson, M. A.)
I. AN ABSORBING CRISIS.
1. Its nature.
2. Its cause. Result of sin.
3. Its consequences. Everlasting.
II. AN AWAKENING CONSIDERATION. “Behold.” That word suggests to us suitable preparation. In prospect, then, of that amazing hour we ought--
1. To review our past lives.
2. To realise our dying hour.
3. To think of our future prospects. (C. Clayton, M. A.)
The dying believer
I. LET US CONSIDER THE SPIRIT OF THE WORDS OF THE DYING PATRIARCH IN REFERENCE TO HIMSELF. “I die,” as if he had said, I die in peace; I die without reluctance; I have lived long enough; I am satisfied with life; I am willing to depart. What may have been the considerations which induced this state of feeling?
1. He was satisfied with the amount of enjoyment which the God of his life had granted him.
2. The patriarch was satisfied with that duration of life which had been allotted him.
3. The dying patriarch was satisfied with the prospect of a better life which was opening before him. Having thus considered the words of the text, in reference to the views entertained by the patriarch as to himself, let us regard them.
II. As SUGGESTIVE OF THE REASONS OF HIS REPOSE IN REFERENCE TO HIS SURVIVING RELATIVES.
1. The manifestations of the Divine mercy to himself, encouraged his hopes as to his surviving relatives.
2. He was persuaded that the paternal benediction he was authorized to pronounce, had an aspect peculiarly favourable to his descendants.
3. The patriarch felt assured that the covenant made with Abraham, and Isaac, and himself, secured the presence and blessing of God to his survivors, even to the remotest age. (H. F. Burder, M. A.)
Premonitions of death
The first symptom of approaching death with some, is the strong presentiment that they are about to die. Oganan, the mathematician, while in apparent health, rejected pupils from the feeling that he was on the eve of resting from his labours; and he expired soon after, of an apoplectic stroke. Fletcher, the divine, had a dream which shadowed out his impending dissolution, and believing it to be the merciful warning of Heaven, he sent for a sculptor and ordered his tomb. “Begin your work forthwith,” he said at parting; “there is no time to lose.” And unless the artist had obeyed the admonition, death would have proved the quicker workman of the two. Mozart wrote his Requiem under the conviction that the monument he was raising to his genius, would, by the power of association, prove a universal monument to his remains. When life was fleeting very fast, he called for the score, and musing over it, said, “Did I not tell you truly that it was for myself that I composed this death chant.” Another great artist in a different department, convinced that his hand was about to lose its cunning, chose a subject emblematical of the coming event. His friends inquired the nature of his next design; and Hogarth replied, “The end of all things.” “In that case,” rejoined one, “there will be an end of the painter.” What was uttered in jest was answered in earnest, with a solemn look and heavy sigh: “There will,” he said; “and the sooner my work is done the better.” He commenced next day, laboured upon it with unremitting diligence, and when he had given it the last touch, seized his pallet, broke it in pieces and said: “I have finished.” The print was published in March under the title of “Finis”; and in October, the curious eyes which saw the manners in the face were closed in the dust. Our ancestors, who, prone to look in the air for causes which were to be found upon the earth, attributed these intimations to various supernatural agencies. John Hunter solved the mystery, if so it can be called, in a single sentence. “We sometimes,” he says, “feel within ourselves that we shall not live; for the living powers become weak, and the nerves communicate the intelligence to the brain.” His own case has often been quoted among the marvels of which he offered this rational explanation. He intimated, on leaving home, that if a discussion which awaited him at the hospital took an angry turn, it would prove his death. A colleague gave him the lie; the coarse word verified the prophecy, and he expired almost immediately, in an adjoining room. There was everything to lament in the circumstance, but nothing at which to wonder, except that any person could show such disrespect to the great genius, a single year of whose existence was worth the united lives of his opponents. Hunter, in uttering the prediction, had only to take counsel in his own experience, without the intervention of invisible spirits. He had long laboured under a disease of the heart, and he felt the disorder had reached the point at which any sharp agitation would bring on the crisis. Circumstances, which at another time would excite no attention, are accepted as an omen when health is failing. The order for the Requiem with Mozart, the dream with Fletcher, turned the current of their thoughts to the grave. Foote, prior to his departure for the continent, stood contemplating the picture of a brother author, and exclaimed, his eyes full of tears, “Poor Weston!” In the same dejected tone he added, after a pause, “soon others shall say, Poor Foote! “And to the surprise of his friends, a few days proved the justice of his prognostication. The expectation of the event had a share in producing it, for a slight shock completes the destruction of prostrate energies. The case of Wolsey was singular. The morning before he died, he asked Cavendish the hour, and was answered “past eight.” “Eight of the clock!” replied Wolsey, “that cannot be; eight of the clock, nay, nay, it cannot be eight of the clock, for by eight of the clock shall you lose your master.”
The day he miscalculated, the hour came true; on the following morning, as the clock struck eight, his troubled spirit passed from life. Cavendish and the bystanders, thought he must have had a revelation of the time of his death; and from the way in which the fact had taken possession of his mind, we suspect that he relied on astrological prediction, which had the credit of a revelation in his own esteem. Persons in health have died from the expectation of dying. It was common for those who perished by violence to summon their destroyers to appear, within a stated time, before the tribunal of their God; and we have many perfectly attested instances in which, through fear and remorse, the perpetrators withered under the curse, and died. Pestilence does not kill with the rapidity of terror. The profligate abbess of a convent, the Princess Gonzaga of Cleves, and Guise, the profligate Archbishop of Rheims, took it into their heads, for a jest, to visit one of the nuns by night, and exhort her as a person who was visibly dying. While in the performance of this heartless scheme, they whispered to each other, “She is departing.” She departed in earnest. Her vigour, instead of detecting the trick, sank beneath the alarm; and the profane pair discovered, in the midst of their sport, that they were making merry with a corpse. (T. Walker.)
Jacob’s death bed
This is the nearest approach in the Bible to that which is commonly termed a death-bed scene. There is no sadder phrase than that--“a death bed scene”; for a man, when he comes to die, has something different to do than mere acting; it is not then his business to show other people how a Christian can die, but prepare himself to meet his God. It is sad also because the dying hour is often unsatisfactory, often far from triumph; in the Book of Ecclesiastes we read, “How dieth the wise man, as the fool.” For there is stupor, sadness, powerlessness; and spiritual darkness also frequently clouds the last moments of the pious man. This dying hour must however have made an impression on these young men. In death itself there is nothing naturally instructive; but in this death there was simplicity, they saw the sight of an old man gathered ripe unto his fathers, and they would remember in their gaiety and strength what all life at last must come to. Consider too the effect that must have been produced on Joseph. There had been nothing, that we are aware of, with which he had to reproach himself in his conduct to his father; there was therefore no remorse mixed with his sorrow, he was spared the sharpest pang of all. How different must the feeling of the other brethren have been; they would remember that there lay one dying whom they had wronged, one whom they had deceived. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
The last days of Jacob
The history is a simple one, yet with wondrous perspective. Seventeen years did Israel dwell in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen, and when he was a hundred and forty and seven years old, the time drew nigh that Israel must die. Who can fight the army of the Years? Those silent soldiers never lose a war. They fire no base cannon, they use no vulgar steel, they strike with invisible but irresistible hands. Noisy force loses something by its very noise. The silent years bury the tumultuous throng. We have all to be taken down. The strongest tower amongst us, heaven-reaching in its altitude, must be taken down--a stone at a time, or shaken with one rude shock to the level ground: man must die. Israel had then but one favour to ask. So it comes to us all. We who have spent a life-time in petitioning for assistance have at the last but one request to make. “Take me,” said one of England’s brightest wits in his dying moments, “to the window that I may feel the morning air.” “Light, more light,” said another man greater still, expressing some wondrous necessity best left as a mystery. “Bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt,” said dying Jacob to his son Joseph, “but bury me in the buryingplace of my fathers.” What other heaven had the Old Testament man? The graveyard was a kind of comfort to him. He must be buried in a given place marked off and sacredly guarded. He had not lived up into that universal humanity which says--All places are consecrated, and every point is equally near heaven with every other point, if so be God dig the grave and watch it. By-and-by we shall hear another speech in the tone of Divine revelation; by-and-by we shall get rid of these localities, and limitations, and prisons, for the Lion of the tribe of Judah will open up some wider space of thought, and contemplation, and service. With Joseph’s oath dying Jacob was satisfied. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The close of Jacob’s career stands in most pleasing contrast with all the previous scenes of his eventful history. It reminds one of a serene evening, after a tempestuous day: the sun, which during the day had been hidden from view by clouds, mists, and fogs, sets in majesty and brightness, gilding with his beams the western sky and holding out the cheering prospect of a bright to-morrow. Thus is it with our aged patriarch. The supplanting, the bargain-making, the cunning, the management, the shifting, the shuffling, the unbelieving selfish fears--all those dark clouds of nature and of earth seem to have passed away, and he comes forth, in all the calm elevation of faith, to bestow blessings, and impart dignities, in that holy skilfulness, which communion with God can alone impart. Though nature’s eyes are dim, faith’s vision is sharp. He is not to be deceived as to the relative positions assigned to Ephraim and Manasseh, in the counsels of God. He has not, like his father Isaac, in chapter 27., to “tremble very exceedingly,” in view of an almost fatal mistake. Quite the reverse. His intelligent reply to his less instructed son is, “I know it, my son, I know it.” The power of sense has not, as in Isaac’s case, dimmed his spiritual vision. He has been taught, in the school of experience, the importance of keeping close to the Divine purpose, and nature’s influence cannot move him from thence. In Genesis 48:11, we have a very beautiful example of the mode in which our God ever rises above all our thoughts, and proves Himself better than all our fears. “And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face; and, lo, God hath showed me also thy seed.” To nature’s view, Joseph was dead; whereas in God’s view he was alive, and seated in the highest place of authority, next the throne. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love 1 Corinthians 2:9). Would that our souls could rise higher in their apprehension of God and His ways. (C. H. M.)
Jacob and Israel
It is interesting to notice the way in which the titles “Jacob” and “Israel” are introduced in the close of the Book of Genesis; as, for example, “One told Jacob, and said, Behold thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.” Then, it is immediately added, “And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz.” Now, we know, there is nothing in Scripture without its specific meaning, and hence this interchange of names contains some instruction. In general, it may be remarked, that “Jacob” sets forth the depth to which God has descended; “Israel,” the height to which Jacob was raised. (C. H. M.)
Men die but God remains
When John Owen was dying, he said, “I am leaving the ship of the Church in a storm; but whilst the Great Pilot is in it, the loss of a poor under-rower will be inconsiderable.” And when a young man whose heart was in the foreign mission work, had to die, he said, “God can evangelize the world without me.” So when we may lose earthly friends, comforters, guides, and helpers, we may and ought ever to fall back on our all-sufficient and ever-present God and Heavenly Father. All the lamps in a house or in a town may be extinguished when the sun rises; all the pumps may also be demolished or taken away, whilst there is a reservoir ever full, from which every one may have an abundant supply of the best water. So we need not be dismayed when we lose any or all earthly friends and advantages, so long as we have God left. They who have God for their Father, and Friend, and Portion, have all things in Him. He is the best Teacher, Guide, Protector, and Provider. But sometimes God has to deprive us of our earthly friends and possessions in order to lead us to trust Him as we ought.
The folly of anxiety about death
What if the leaves were to fall a-weeping, and say, “It will be so painful for us to be pulled from our stalks when autumn comes?” Foolish fear! summer goes, and autumn succeeds. The glory of death is upon the leaves; and the gentle breeze that blows takes them softly and silently from the bough, and they float slowly down like fiery sparks upon the moss. It is hard to die when the time is not ripe. When it is, it will be easy, we need not die while we are living. (H. W.Beecher.)
Death, a ferry-boat
Death to God’s people is but a ferry-boat. Every day and every hour the boat pushes off with some of the saints, and returns for more.
Waiting for death
The Christian, at his death, should not be like the child, who is forced by the rod to quit his play, but like one who is wearied of it and willing to go to bed. Neither ought he to be like the mariner, whose vessel is drifted by the violence of the tempest from the shore, tossed to and fro upon the ocean, and at last suffers wreck and destruction; but like one who is ready for the voyage, and, the moment the wind is favourable, cheerfully weighs anchor, and, full of hope and joy, launches forth into the deep. (Gotthold.)
Peace in death
The ship has set sail, and kept on her course many days and nights, with no other incidents than those that are common to all. Suddenly land appears; but what the character the coast may be, the voyagers cannot discern through the tumult. The first effect of a near approach to land is a very great commotion in the waters. It is one of the coral islands of the South Pacific, encircled by a ring of fearful breakers at some little distance from the shore. Forward the ship must go; the waves are higher and angrier than any they have seen in the open sea. Presently through them, partly over them, they are borne at a bound; strained, giddy, and almost senseless, they find themselves within that sentinel ridge of crested waves that guard the shore; and the portion of sea that still lies before them is calm and clear like glass. It seems a lake of paradise, and not an earthly thing at all. It is inexpressibly sweet to lie on its bosom after the long voyage and the barren ridge. All the heavens are mirrored in the waters; and along its edge lies a flowery land. Across the belt of sea the ship glides gently, and gently touches soon that lovely shore. So many a Christian has been thrown into a great tumult when the shore of eternity suddenly appeared before him. A great fear tossed and sickened him for some days; but, when that barrier was passed, he experienced a peace deeper, stiller, sweeter, than any he ever knew before. A little space of life’s voyage remained after the fear of death had sunk into a calm, and before the immortal felt the solace of eternal rest. (W. Arnot.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 48". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26