So, I found a whole heap of old photos on my computer tonight, and decided to upload them to Facebook.
Two things: Apparently I’m not ashamed of anything, am I, if I’m willing to put up some old photos.
Secondly: It got me reminiscing back to school days.
I had some good times back then. Perhaps the one thing that keeps me on Facebook is the ability to be in at least some form of contact with these people. For the first, almost ten years after I left high school, I hardly made contact with anyone, and when you think about it, these are people who were part of your life for ten years or more. I know we don’t all have the fondest memories when we think back to school – and I certainly don’t have all fond memories, but I do have enough that I tend to get a little wistful when I dwell on those memories.
And it’s really easy to dwell on the things of the past, sometimes it’s the good, other times it’s not so good. Still, one thing I’ve learned in my oh-so-many years of life, is that it’s good to remember the past, it’s great to honour the past. I don’t regret anything that I’ve done in the past, because each step has brought me here, and I’m happy where I am and proud to be who I am today. Still, the past should stay back there, it can’t change, we can’t do anything about it, it’s only the future that we can shape.
Probably something that we all knew, but that’s me for tonight.
The penultimate chapter.
Jacob, like his father and grandfather, has had his time in the spotlight, and now it’s time to say goodbye. He brings all his sons to him and gives them each a blessing – well, when I say blessing, as I read through them I wonder what some of his boys must have been thinking. He seems to come across extremely hard on some of them!
Then he dies, and is laid to rest. Once again, the term is used “gathered to my(his) people”, the same terminology that was used when Isaac died. He wants to go back to Mamre – this is one thing I find interesting, that his beloved, Rachel died and was buried near Bethlehem, and he states here that he buried Leah in Mamre, with Abraham and Sarah, as well as Isaac and Rebekah. Jacob wants to be buried there as well, not with Rachel. Even though Rachel was his beloved, Leah ended up getting the special place of being buried in the ancestral tomb, and then Jacob chose to be laid to rest next to her.
Anyway, the blessings:
Reuben: Firstborn, first sign of Jacob’s strengh, excelling in power – but then Jacob says he will no longer excel because he defiled his father’s bed, this, I’m assuming, goes back to chapter 35 where Reuben slept with Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant and the mother of Dan and Naphtali. I know technically the two weren’t related, but… Ew. Still, it’s got to feel harsh, to have his father acknowledge his strength, honour and power, only to then take it away.
Simeon and Levi: The two brothers who took out an entire town, Shechem. Jacob refuses to enter their assembly, and says they should be dispersed in Israel. I’m not sure about Simeon, but this does kind of ring true for Levi, in recognition of the priestly tribe.
Judah: I’m thinking that this oral tradition may have come through from Judah, he gets a whole heap of good things. More to the point, though, there’s some allusion here that could be attributable to Jesus’ arrival on Earth.
“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” ~ Genesis 49:10
Until he comes to whom it belongs – it, presumably, being the ruler’s staff and the scepter.
Zebulun: He gets a quiet one, really, he gets a nice life by the seashore, and a port for ships to haven in. Funnily enough, Zebulun’s landlocked when you look at a map of the dispersion of the tribes in the nation of Israel.
Issachar: I’m sure that donkey was a good thing to be called back then, my footnotes tell me that other sources have him as a wild colt near a spring, which sounds a lot nicer, really. Once again, though, the outcome isn’t that great. He has pleasant land and a good resting place, and will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labour.
Dan: Also comes out strong, as providing justice for his people.
Gad: Will be attacked, and will attack back.
Asher: Rich in food, presumably he was a bit more of a farmer than a shepherd, and was going to get the most luscious land in Israel.
Naphtali: How poetic is this?
“Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.” ~ Genesis 49:21
I can just imagine Naphtali rolling his eyes, shrinking back and going, “DAD!” Out of embarassment, after all his brothers were vipers and colts and oxen, and now he’s a doe – a deer – a female deer!
Joseph: Is really the focal point. A fruitful vine, blessed, strong, flourished – but the point is that Jacob clearly states that it is because of God, because of the Almighty, that Joseph will attain all of this. He will be blessed more than any of his brothers, but it’s because of God.
Benjamin: Finally, Benjamin, the other son of Jacob’s beloved. A ravenous wolf who devours his prey in the morning and divides plunder in the evening. Benjamin’s almost set up as the real warrior’s tribe.
It finishes off by saying that each of them received the blessing that was appropriate. This, to me, almost gives us one small picture of who each of the sons were. There’s brief stories about Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah – and of course the long story of Joseph, but the other sons, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher and Naphtali are pretty much not heard of throughout Jacob’s life. If the blessings were appropriate, then maybe we can suggest that Zebulun was a fisherman – or a surfer; Issachar had talent in working the land – perhaps he was very strong, but easily put to work – and so on.
I think, though, that that’s something really worth remembering; that they each received the blessing that was appropriate. Sometimes we want to be blessed, but do we consider whether the blessing we want is necessarily appropriate for us? God will bless us, our father won’t hold back his blessing, but he will bless us as is appropriate, and that might not necessarily be the same as the blessing we’re actually wanting.