Before you read: Israel and Joseph were finally reunited, “falling on each other’s neck” and weeping. Pharaoh met Israel (Jacob) and gave him the land of Goshen, where Israel and his sons settled. Now, seventeen years later, Israel is about to die, so he gathers his sons for a final pronouncement.
Read Genesis 49:1-28
“All these are the twelve tribes of Israel.”
This passage signals a change.
Back at the beginning of Genesis, in the first twelve chapters, all the little stories were about God relating to individuals: one person at a time. Then at chapter twelve, with Abraham, the focus of the story zoomed out and we began to see God working with a family.
Now, at the end of Genesis, the family has become a group of tribes.
God never stops being personal. He always deals with each person uniquely – including you and me – but as the story progresses we see more and more of the scope of his plan. Remember, he promised Abraham a nation and with that nation he plans to bless ‘the whole world’. His plan is global.
He’s been choosy though. He chose Isaac, not Ishmael; and Jacob, not Esau. Somehow, the promise is uniquely tied to one individual line in the family of Abraham (now called the Tribes of Israel).
So, which one now?
Which of the twelve sons of Jacob gets the Abrahamic promise? I’d have guessed Joseph, but I’d be wrong.
Judah gets it.
Listen, “Your father’s sons shall bow down before you.” (v 8) It’s the same thing Isaac said to Jacob (27:29).
Also, the “scepter shall not depart from [you].” Wow. That means there will always be a ruler – a king – in the line of Judah.
We today might think – big deal.
Promises about our great grandchildren might leave us cold, but think about it. God is saying, “I’m bringing something from your life that will outlast you and get better and better. In the Story I’m writing, you are the source of great things.”
Judah was willing to give his life for Benjamin’s, and he is the one God sets apart for special blessing. With it, God washes away Judah’s pain, and the humiliation of his union with Tamar (Day 46), and assures him of His great favor and love. With this blessing God shows Judah and Tamar a whole new perspective on their lives and the lives of their children.
They aren’t the writer’s of their own story, which means all their mistakes can’t ruin it.
They may have written themselves as losers but never mind.
God writes all the losses into wins.