Genesis 49:17-19 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:58 mins 20 secs

Future Trends for Joseph; Genesis 49: 22-26


In this section we are dealing with future trends for the tribe of Joseph. Genesis 49:22-26 covers the prophecy from Jacob on the tribe of Joseph. Remember that Joseph is actually given a double portion blessing, so there is no tribe of Joseph per se. That blessing goes to his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim. At the end of this section there is a reminder of what Joseph went through in the hostility from his brothers. This is not primarily a prophecy here as much as we have three verses that focus on Joseph's past and the way God has blessed him, the way God has prospered him in the past so that there is confidence that this will continue into the future.


Joseph is the firstborn son to Jacob and Rachel. Rachel had been barren and it wasn't for many years that God responded to Rachel's prayers. Joseph was the next to last to be born. Rachel is the third of the three wives of the patriarchs who is barren. You'd think that God had a plan, that there was a purpose here that their barrenness wasn't the result of divine discipline but that God was demonstrating that the physical birth of the nation was supernatural. God was demonstrating in a physical way that he is the one who brings life where there is death. He is the one who is able to bring spiritual life where there is spiritual death. So the point of their barrenness was to show that God had a specific plan for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that He had a future destiny for them.


Rachel tried to resolve the problem through the same kind of human viewpoint technique that Sarah had tried with Hagar and that did not have the same disastrous consequences as with Hagar. But Rachel had reached a point of desperation, and how often that happens in people's lives where they get tired of waiting on the Lord, they get impatient, and then they start trying every technique they can to try to resolve the problem. Sometimes God just wants us to be in a particular set of horrendous circumstances for a long period of time, and we don't know why. Job did not know why. We come at life so often with the horrible assumption, just like Job's three friends, that of we are going to go through suffering that God must make that clear to us right off the bat what that purpose might be. We often say, well why in the world would God want this to happen to me? Why would I go through these kinds of things? But God is going to hit us right at those soft spots where we don't expect it and we haven't worked it through in our own souls yet, because that is where the test is. He knows just where that weak button is that some situation, some test, some crisis, is going to happen in our life, and we are going to ask why God let that happen to us. And then we are going to say, why did I say that? That is why, because we get into these traps but we think that we have it made spiritually and we really haven't.


God opened Rachel's womb and He intended to do that. It's just that He intended to do it on His time schedule and not on Rachel's time schedule. Genesis 30:22 NASB "Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. [23] So she conceived and bore a son and said, 'God has taken away my reproach.' [24] She named him Joseph, saying, 'May the LORD give [add] me another son.'" The Hebrew verb means to increase, do again, or to continue. So she gives him a name so that when they would say that name it would be a reminder of what God had done. The thread that is being weaved through this is the importance of memory.


We live in a culture today where history is meaningless. Once we quit learning the lessons of history then we are doomed to repeat those same lessons. The history of people, the history of our own personal life is important. What God has done in your life is important to think about. To take time out just to reflect on what God has done in your life, the way He has answered prayer, where you can go back and have a benchmark on what God has done here or here or here and think about those things. So that when we go through those down times and we wonder if God is really listening to our prayers we can think back on different times when we had evidence that God answered our prayers and was directly more involved in our life, as it were, than today. God has always emphasized the importance of history and that is what Jacob is doing as he opens up this particular prophecy. 


There is a reminder from Jacob of how God had already blessed Joseph.  Genesis 49:22 NASB "Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a spring; {Its} branches run over a wall." It is important to remember God's past dealing with you as an individual, and with groups. When the Jews were crossing the Jordan into the land, what was the first thing God had them do? He had them take twelve stones and pile them up for a purpose. So that when they came there with their children, their grandchildren or the great grandchildren, and they ask what the pile of rocks is, then that will be an occasion for the father or grandfather to tell the story once again to the next generation of how God brought the Jews into the land, how their presence in the land was the result of years of faithfulness on the part of God. History is important because history is the outworking of the plan of God.


This is something of a play on words here. In the first phrase it says "Joseph is a fruitful bough," and the Hebrew verb there is para which means to be fruitful, and this is the basis for Joseph naming his son Ephraim. The core syllable in Ephraim comes from para, and in Genesis 41:52 we read: "He named the second Ephraim, "For," {he said,} 'God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.'" So when Jacob reminds Joseph of his blessing he says Joseph is a fruitful bough, and it is a play on words, a pun, to bring to his mind that his fruitfulness is coming out through his sons, through Manasseh and Ephraim. They will be the ones receiving the double blessing of Joseph. A fruitful bough has the idea of a very strong plant, a thriving plant, and it is a fruitful plant by a well. When we think of a well we think of a hole in the ground with a wall around it and a bucker dropping down in the well. That is not the idea here in the Hebrew. The Hebrew has the idea more of a spring, an active spring where there is water bubbling out of the ground and flowing down the side of the mountain. The idea here is of the water bubbling up out of the ground and keeping the plant well watered, it grows very quickly, it is very active and it produces a lot of fruit. And that is the way Joseph was. He grew spiritually very quickly as a young man and God blessed him in many ways, despite the adversity.


Many people believe that Joseph was a type of Christ. In typology we have to be very careful, it is something that has gone from one extreme to the other. A type is a shadow image, it is when God is using a person or an event in the Old Testament to picture or portray something about the person or work of Jesus Christ in the future. When we come to Christ there are elements in Joseph's life that do portray something about Jesus, even though the New Testament doesn't identify Joseph as a type.  


Seven ways in which Joseph pictures the Lord Jesus Christ

1)  Joseph was the delight of his father in the same way that Jesus was the beloved Son of His Father (Matthew 3:17).

2)  He was rejected by his brothers (Genesis 37:4). Jesus in the same way is rejected by His brothers (John 1:11)

3)  Joseph was sold into Egypt (Genesis 37:28); Jesus went down to Egypt (Matthew 2:14, 15)

4)  Joseph withstood temptation to sin. We are not really told of any sin in Joseph's life (Genesis 39:7-12). Jesus also resisted Satan's temptation (Matthew 4:1-11).

5)  Joseph was raised from death of prison and exalted to the side of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:14-43). Jesus was also raised from the actual dead and exalted to His Father's right hand where He is currently seated awaiting the giving of the kingdom (Acts 2:32-33).

6)  Joseph mercifully forgave his brothers for causing him to suffer (Genesis 50:15-21). Jesus prayed that the Father would forgive those responsible for His suffering (Luke 23:34).

7)  Joseph took a Gentile bride (Genesis 41:45). Jesus is calling out Gentiles to be part of His bride (Colossians 1:24-27).


Joseph also passed numerous tests of personal hostility and adversity. Hostility and adversity are just as much a part of God's plan for the believer as good things, as blessing, as health, as prosperity. This is because God is teaching us things in those dark times that we may not understand what we are learning or how we are learning them. It may not become clear to us until much later on. It is sometimes in our darkest moments when life seems at its most hopeless and we are most helpless that principles in the Word of God become more real to us and we begin to understand the dynamics of different aspects of the Christian life as we never did before as we are just gripping on to the grace of God just to make it through the next hour.

Genesis 49:23 NASB "The archers bitterly attacked him, And shot {at him} and harassed him." Archers here is a metaphor for those who are at enmity with Joseph, those who are antagonistic to him. Here we have a picture of adversity. Adversity is the outside pressure of the details of life. We live in the devil's world, we live in a cosmic system that is ruled by fallen men, and even though we have been blessed to have lived in a nation where there has been the greatest degree of freedom that perhaps any citizens have ever known, that freedom is gone. Joseph was attacked by those he loved—his own family, his brothers. The picture here of archers is enemies who have picked him out specifically as a target and are shooting arrows at him to destroy him. They had bitterly grieved him, talking about the fact that it hurt him deeply. When people reject us, of course it hurts. But that doesn't mean that we are justified in responding and reacting in an illegitimate manner, with hatred and vindictiveness and bitterness. Joseph's brothers hated him so much they would not even talk to him. But, in contrast … 

Genesis 49:24 NASB "But his bow remained firm, And his arms were agile, From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel)." Despite the fact that he had enemies from his own family, later when he was a slave he was falsely accused of rape, in prison he gave a solution to the butcher and he was forgotten by the one he had helped. Aside from these he had to go through various other aggravations, being in prison, and yet he trusted in God, he did not lose his faith and his hope in God.

Commentary on Genesis by one of the greatest Hebrew scholars of the early 19th century, a distant relative of President George Bush, and his name was George Bush:

"The prophecy here points to Joseph in person, from whose history, its fulfilment appears evident. He was aimed and shot at, as it were, by the bitter and reviling words of his brethren, and still more deeply wounded by their cruel treatment. He was sold into Egypt through envy and imprisoned by a lie. His virtue was violently assaulted by his mistress, his innocence wronged by his master, and his patience severely tried by the ingratitude of a fellow prisoner. Yet his bow abode in strength, the text says, the divine favor forsook him not."

The idea in that verse, that his bow remained in strength, is that that which he had, his life, remained focused on God who was the source of his strength and the source of his stability. The only thing that gives us stability and strength in time of adversity is the character of God. How many times do we read through the Psalms, and as the psalmist is going through whatever attack it is, whatever the adversity is, he starts going through the character of God. And we can think it through with him. We can think about the fact that God is sovereign. That means that he is in control of every detail in history, nothing happens in our life outside of His control. He is righteous. That means that His plan for my life is righteous and just. He is love. That means that even though I don't understand it I know that a loving hand is at the helm controlling the circumstances of our life. He is eternal life, which means that in terms of his eternity He has seen it all, he is aware of it all, and there are no surprises. When we come to His omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence we know that is His omniscience there are no surprises, He knew exactly what crisis we would face today. In His omnipotence He has more power than any person, any event, any political party, any circumstance in all of history. In His omnipresence he is everywhere present, He knows everything that is going on in human history. In His veracity He is absolute truth and when He tells me in His Word that he will never leave me nor forsake me, and he is never going to change, He is always faithful.

This is what Jacob did in the prophecy and what Joseph did in his life. His bow remained in strength, and the arms were made strong by his hands. Notice the dual use of the word "hands" here. His hands were made string by the hand of the Mighty God of Jacob. God doesn't have literal hands but when we read in Scripture "the hands of God" it is always a picture of His omnipotence, His power, of His unlimited strength. Six times in the Scripture we have this phrase related to "the God of Jacob."

In Psalm 132:2 NASB "How he swore to the LORD [Yahweh]And vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob." Notice that every time there is this phrase, other than Genesis 49 where we have the Mighty One of Israel, the Mighty One of Jacob. Remember that Israel was Jacob's second name that God gave him. In the rest of the Old Testament in the other five uses of this it always is appositional to the name Yahweh. Yahweh is the Mighty One of Jacob. The name Yahweh ties God to that Abrahamic promise that is the core of Jacob's strength.

Isaiah 49:26 NASB "I will feed your oppressors with their own flesh, And they will become drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine; And all flesh will know that I, the LORD [Yahweh], am your Savior And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob." When we read this and the name Yahweh, the concept of Mighty One of Jacob, it ought to remind us of those two key events in Jacob's life. One occurred as he was leaving the land to go north to Padan-aram when he was escaping the wrath of Esau and seeking refuge with his cousins up north, and God appeared to him at Bethel to reiterate the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant and says he will bring him back to the land and will fulfil to Jacob all the promises that he had made to Abraham and Isaac—Genesis 28:13-22. Then in Genesis 32:24 he returns to a place called Peniel where again God reiterated to him the promise that He would fulfil the Abrahamic covenant to him.    

Then in v. 24: "From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel." He is the shepherd, and the imagery of shepherd is first used in the Bible of God in Genesis 48:15 NASB "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." We get the same thing in the New Testament, that a pastor's job is to shepherd, his job is to lead. The pastor leads the sheep to where they can be fed, but the pastor also protects the flock from false doctrine, from those who would come in and bring heresy and mislead the flock.

This reminds us of what David says in Psalm 23:1 NASB "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want." That is true for every believer, that the Lord is our shepherd. He is the one who leads us, the one who guides us, the one who provides for us, and the result is, when the Lord is our shepherd, we have no wants. When God is your God, there are no needs. You may think you have needs, but when God is your God there are no needs. He has given you, according to 2 Peter 1:2, 3, and blessed us with everything related to life and godliness. Psalm 23:3 NASB "He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters." The picture of the nourishment: the green pastures, the still waters, that is what restores the soul. It is the Word of God that restores the soul. The reason it is messed up and fragmented is because of carnality, and the only solution to carnality is the Word of God.

Psalm 23:4 NASB "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." The most extreme form adversity that we can think of where our very life is threatened, "You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. [5] You prepare a table before me [the Word of God] in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. [6] Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever." That relates to the concept of God as the shepherd.

Then He is the stone of Israel. We have the imagery again and again and again in the Psalms that God is our Rock, our fortress. That is why we have the whole imagery of the soul fortress, that when  we take in the Word of God and apply the Word of God it builds and inner fortress of strength in our soul so that is becomes edified and built up, so that as we dwell within the foundation, within the walls developed on the basis of that doctrine we can handle any and every adversity in life. 

Genesis 49:25 NASB "From the God of your father who helps you, And by the Almighty who blesses you {With} blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb." Then we have "God of they father." This reflects the Abrahamic promise of God's faithfulness to Jacob. We go back to Genesis 28:13 NASB "…"I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants." The Hebrew word for "Almighty" in v. 25 is the word Shaddai, the name for God that is used two or three times in Genesis, but most frequently in Job where it is used 31 times. It indicates God as the Almighty God. The Septuagint translates it pantokrator [pantokratwr], all-powerful, and again it emphasizes His omnipotence. The blessing that we have comes from this God who is all-powerful, all-knowing and is everywhere present. He goes on to say, "Blessings of the breasts and of the womb," and the imagery there is of a mother nourishing her children. The idea is that God is the one who can continuously nourish us and provide for us.

Genesis 49:26 NASB "The blessings of your father Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; May they be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers." Jacob is talking about how God blessed him. He is talking about the transfer of the Abrahamic blessing on to the next generation to Joseph and then on to his descendants.

So in this prophecy related to Joseph he talks all the way through about how God has blessed him. Over and over again we have this emphasis on blessing and it all ties back to the Abrahamic covenant and the Abrahamic blessing, and that this is going to continue through Joseph.