Grace for Faith and Patience – Unpacking the meaning of Jacob's blessings to Joseph (Genesis 49:22-26)

The final blessing–prophecies in Genesis 49 of Ya’akov (Jacob) to his 12 sons — especially to Yosef (Joseph) who was betrayed by his oldest brothers then reunited with the same brothers who are changed men — is a model for how the church is a source of a “healing connection” between Heaven and Earth. Let’s take a look at Jacob’s strange blessing to Joseph (Genesis 49:22-24) :
וימררהו ורבו
“They embittered him, and fought with him
and they despised him [and who did these things?]
בעלי חצים
the archers
ותשב באיתן קשתו
But his bow was strongly established
ויפזו זרעי ידיו
and his arms quivered
מידי אביר יעקב
from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
משם רעה אבן ישראל
from there, he shepherded the rock of Israel.”
Now, this is Biblical poetry – and truthfully, it’s pretty hard to make heads or tails of it.
What was Joseph's blessing from Jacob really about?
וימררהו – they embittered him
ורבו – And they attacked him, struggled with him
וישטמהו – and they DESPISED him
בעלי חצים – the archers, those who shot with arrows.
Look at the word “Despised” (וישטמהו)…the Hebrew root of that word is “satam” – sin, tet, mem. It is translated it as “and they despised him”... But of course, in Hebrew, there are several words for hatred, the most common one being “sinah.” But satam is a word for hatred that appears rarely. This word is even more intense than plain hatred. It’s a seething sort of hatred, a deep-seated grudge.
Parallels to Jacob's experience with Esau – the hatred against a brother
The first time the Hebrew word satam appears is with Esau. It happens right after Jacob steals Esau’s blessings. “And Esau despised (satam)Jacob regarding the blessing that his father blessed him.” (Genesis 27:41a) So, satam is the word that describes how Esau felt towards Jacob. it’s the word that Jacob would be personally familiar with to describe a sort of seething hatred and jealousy between brothers. And the verse doesn’t stop there, look at what happens next: “And Esav said in his heart Let the days of mourning for my father be at hand; then will I kill my brother” (Genesis 27:41b)
The word satam is more than just hatred between brothers, it’s a hatred that makes one brother want to kill the other.  Satammakes one other appearance in the Book of Genesis, and guess where it appears? Right in the chapter that immediately follows Jacob’s blessings to his sons. (Genesis 50:15) Jacob dies and the brothers are afraid that with their father out of the picture, Joseph may finally take revenge on them for what they did to him all those years ago:
ויראו אחי-יוסף, כי-מת אביהם,
And when Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead
ויאמרו, לו ישטמנו יוסף;
They said: 'Maybe Joseph will despise (satam) us
והשב ישיב, לנו, את כל-הרעה, אשר גמלנו אתו.
And he will fully reciprocate all the evil which we did to him.
Now isn’t that interesting? It’s not just that this word appears with Esau and then again with Joseph and his brothers, but the two times we see the word satam, it’s in two very similar situations. We have:
•                    A father’s death…
•                    A deep-seated hatred…
•                    And one brother who now wants to take revenge on the other…
In each of these stories, as long as there’s a father in the picture, the hatred has to be held back. Esau holds in his hatred, waiting for the day that Isaac is gone. And here, after Jacob’s death, the brothers fear that Joseph will now get back at them for what they did to him. The brothers fear that Joseph going to pay them back with the same hatred, the same evil, that they showed him all those years ago when they threw him into the pit. That evil, that hatred is called satam.
Interpreting the meaning of Jacob's blessing to Joseph
What is the connection between the brothers and arrows? Well, interestingly enough, if we read on in the blessing, we meet another archer of a very different kind:
ותשב באיתן קשתו – but he sat with his bow firm
ויפזו זרעי ידיו מידי אביר יעקב – and his arms quivered from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob.
So, here’s another archer, except this one is holding a bow firmly outstretched… and he’s not releasing it. He has the power in his hands to cause harm but he’s holding back. The only thing stopping him is his own strength, tempered by the grace of God and his own discipline. Does that sound like anyone you know? Is there anyone in the Joseph story who has the power to cause harm but chooses not to use it? There sure was. Joseph was second in command of all of Egypt, the most powerful nation in the region. Food has run out and Joseph oversees concentrating and distributing all of the resources. By this point in the story, all of the power lies with Joseph. He has a bow aimed at his brothers. Joseph could have killed his brothers or withheld food from them or taken them all as slaves – but what does he do instead? He forgives his brothers, and he takes care of them. 
Think about the imagery here: bows are made to be released, not held. As much strength as it takes to shoot an arrow, it takes far more strength to hold it in place.
Think about what it took for Joseph to not take revenge. He’s holding many years’ worth of pent-up anger at his brothers who never apologized to him. From afar, he looks firm, secure, strong – but up close, you can see him trembling. He’s using every muscle in his body to stop himself from acting on his anger. Here is Joseph, with all the power in the world to unleash revenge on his brothers – and his external power is outmatched only by his internal strength not to act on it. From where did Joseph have this superhuman strength?  It was only possible by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob. The strength to hold the bow and not give in, that came from God. God’s powerful hands held Joseph’s quivering arms steady and helped him hold back from acting on his anger toward his brothers.
The archers here are a contrast with Joseph. The brothers let their arrows fly. They took their power and abused it. They unleashed it upon their younger brother when he was the weaker one. But Joseph, he acted differently. He took stock of his power and chose not to lash out or seek revenge. He held firmly to his outstretched bow. And never shot a single arrow.
The grace for serving as a servant-leader in your community thru the Holy Spirit’s Guidance.
Jacob is letting Joseph know that he sees his struggle. “I know what you’ve been through, Joseph. Years later, your scars haven’t disappeared. Any person in your position would want to take revenge, but you’ve triumphed over it. Your God-given strength, your will and discipline have allowed you to overcome hatred and pain to make peace with your brothers. This is your greatness. This is what makes you a true leader.”
Where did Joseph get this capacity to lead? It all started with Joseph having the will to hold his bow and not give in, to forgive the unforgivable. That’s what Jacob recognized. That’s when Joseph truly became a shepherd of Israel. The Holy Spirit’s influence upon or lives, and our obedience to the grace of the Holy Spirit can help turn our trials into testimonies of His grace. Just think about the courage of Joseph…the strength of character, integrity of heart and the love for the Lord NOT to release the arrow!
The Patriarch Joseph is an example of the GRACE and the CHARACTER about which the Apostle Paul was talking about in Romans Chapter-12…all the way from the beginning of that chapter…Romans 12:1-2 (A Living Sacrifice)“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
To the end…Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Reference: “the-meaning-of-jacobs-blessing” by Immanuel Shalev @ Aleph-Beta


Post a comment:
enter code:
reload image