To sum up in one word: Blessing.
At this point in Genesis, I hope we’ve gotten just how magnificently important blessing means to these people in this place and time.
Seriously. It’s a really, really, really, really big deal. What blessing (“I want super good things to happen you!”) and it’s opposite, cursing (“I want super bad things to happen to you), means in this culture cannot be overstated. We can’t say enough about it.
But that’s kinda timeless, right?
Spoken words matter. Spoken words are powerful. Power. Full.
Especially spoken words from father to son. And even more so at the end of a father’s life.
Nothing can give me life quite like the encouragement of my dad. And on the flipside, nothing can so cruelly crush me quite like the words of my dad. But these ancient people make it into an art form. Literally. It’s poetry.
And so here we have Jacob/Israel, a guy we’ve been tracking with since chapter 25. (Wow, he’s been a major or minor player for half the book of Genesis.) And now Jacob is dying. So he gathers his sons around him.
And first, he takes Joseph’s two sons and claims them as his own. Yeah, it’s weird to us, but Ephraim and Manasseh get a claim in the blessing of Israel. And then, Jacob singles out each one of his twelve sons for a special word. Some are short. Some are long. Some are really good (Judah gets images of royalty). Some are not so good (Reuben, the firstborn, is called unstable).
As God’s Redemption Story continues through the Old Testament, these twelve sons become the twelve tribes (think clans or families) and later twelve geographic regions (think states). And each of these families and places is attached to one of these blessings/curses.
So how are you using your spoken words today? To give life? Or kill it?
What about you? What do you see?