“The archers have sorely grieved him, shot at him and hated him: But his bow abode in strength and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob (from thence is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel).” (Genesis 49:23, 24)
It must have been a fine sight to see the hoary-headed Jacob sitting up in his bed while he bestowed his parting benediction upon his twelve sons. He had been noble in many instances during his life–at the sleeping place of Bethel, the brook of Jabbok and the halting of Peniel. He had been a glorious old man, one before whom we might bow down with reverence and truly say, “There were giants in those days.” But his closing scene was the best. I think if ever he stood out more illustrious than at any other time, if his head were at any one season more than another, encircled with a halo of glory, it was when he came to die.
Like the sun at setting, he seemed then to be the greater in brilliance, tingeing the clouds of his weakness with the glory of grace within. Like good wine which runs clear to the very bottom, unalloyed by dregs, so did Jacob, till His dying hour, continue to sing of love, of mercy and of goodness, past and future. Like the swan, which (as old writers say) sings not all its life until it comes to die, so the old Patriarch remained silent as a songster for many years. But when he stretched himself on his last couch of rest, he stayed himself up in his bed, turned his burning eye from one to another and although with a hoarse and faltering voice, he sang a sonnet upon each of his offspring such as earthly poets, uninspired, cannot attempt to imitate.
Looking upon his son Reuben, a tear was in his eye, for he recollected Reuben’s sin. He passed over Simeon and Levi, giving some slight rebuke. Upon the others he sung a verse of praise as his eyes saw into the future history of the tribes. By-and-by his voice failed him and the good old man, with long drawn breath, with eyes pregnant with celestial fire and heart big with Heaven, lifted his voice to God and said, “I have waited for Your salvation, O God.” He rested a moment on his pillow and then, again, sitting up, recommenced the strain, passing briefly by the names of each. But oh, when he came to Joseph, his youngest son but one–when he looked on him–I picture that old man as the tears ran down his cheeks.
There stood Joseph, with all his mother Rachel in his eyes–that dearly loved wife of his–there he stood, the boy for whom that mother had prayed with all the eagerness of an eastern wife. For a long twenty years she had tarried a barren woman and kept no house but then she was a joyful mother and she called her son “increase.” Oh, how she loved the boy! And for that mother’s sake, though she had been buried for some years and hidden under the cold sod, old Jacob loved him, too. But more than that, he loved him for his troubles. He was parted from him to be sold into Egypt.
His father recollected Joseph’s trials in the round house and the dungeon and remembered his royal dignity as prince of Egypt. And now with a full burst of harmony–as if the music of Heaven had united with his own, as when the widened river meets the sea and the tide coming up does amalgamate with the stream that comes down and swells into a broad expanse–so did the glory of Heaven meet the rapture of his earthly feelings.
Giving vent to his soul, he sung, “Joseph is a fruitful bough even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall. The archers have sorely grieved him, shot at him and hated him: But his bow abode in strength and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob (from thence is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel): Even by the God of your father, who shall help you; and by the Almighty, who shall bless you with blessings of Heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies under, blessings of the breasts and of the womb: The blessings of your father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his Brethren” (Gen. 49:22-26).
What a splendid stanza with which to close! He has only one more blessing to give. But surely this was the richest which he conferred on Joseph.
Joseph is dead, but the Lord has His Josephs now.