“Unit 8: Day 3, Genesis 47–49,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 8: Day 3,” Old Testament Study Guide
Pharaoh allowed Jacob and his family to settle in the highly fertile land of Goshen in Egypt. Throughout the seven years of famine, Joseph wisely administered the affairs of Egypt. Joseph introduced his father, Jacob, to Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Before Jacob died, he blessed Joseph and his two grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh; Jacob then blessed his other 11 sons.
- In your scripture study journal, write what you would like to accomplish in your life in each of the following categories:
Education or training
If you were to choose between your plan for your life and what Heavenly Father might have planned for your life, which would you choose? Why?
In what ways do you think Joseph’s life may have gone differently from what he had planned?
Because Joseph lived worthily, the Lord directed his life in a way that would allow him to do much good and even save the lives of his family. In Genesis 47 we read that Pharaoh invited Joseph’s father, Jacob, and his family to dwell in Egypt in the land of Goshen. When Joseph introduced his father to Pharaoh, Jacob blessed Pharaoh.
Read Genesis 47:8–9, and notice how Jacob answered a question Pharaoh asked him.
When Jacob said that his days had been evil, or unpleasant, he was simply saying that mortality at times had been difficult. The following are some of the difficult experiences he had during his lifetime:
He had problems with his brother Esau.
He had to leave his home and family.
He was deceived in his efforts to marry Rachel.
He had multiple problems with his father-in-law Laban.
His oldest son, Reuben, was immoral with his wife Bilhah.
His daughter, Dinah, was defiled.
He thought for many years that his son Joseph was dead.
He had to provide for his family during a time of severe famine.
Joseph wisely administered the affairs of Egypt during the famine, saving the lives of the people and gathering great wealth for Pharaoh.
Near the end of Jacob’s life, Joseph brought his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to visit him. Read Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 48:7–11 (in the Bible appendix), looking for what Jacob said about Joseph.
Read Genesis 48:8–9, looking for what Jacob wanted to do for Manasseh and Ephraim.
Have you received your patriarchal blessing? The blessings Jacob desired to give Manasseh and Ephraim were similar to patriarchal blessings because they described Manasseh’s and Ephraim’s future possibilities.
Jacob was the patriarch of his family, which means he was the father or head of his family. As a prophet and the presiding priesthood authority, Jacob was authorized to bestow blessings that were similar to what we know today as patriarchal blessings.
Some have asked what the differences are between a father’s blessing given by the patriarch of a family and a patriarchal blessing given by an ordained patriarch in our day. A father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood may give his children a blessing of comfort and counsel at any time. A patriarchal blessing may be given to any worthy member of the Church by a patriarch who has been called and ordained under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. A patriarchal blessing contains a declaration of the recipient’s lineage in the house of Israel as well as guidance to help direct his or her life according to Heavenly Father’s will. Those who wish to receive a patriarchal blessing must be interviewed by their bishop or one of his counselors or by their branch president and receive a recommend.
Read Genesis 48:13–14, looking for what happened when Jacob laid his hands on Joseph’s sons.
Notice that Jacob placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head. In Jacob’s day, a patriarch’s right hand was to be placed on the firstborn son’s head, symbolizing that the birthright blessing belonged to him.
Read Genesis 48:17–20, looking for how Joseph reacted to the placement of Jacob’s hands.
Why did Jacob place his right hand on Ephraim?
How do you think Jacob knew that Ephraim was to receive the birthright blessing?
One lesson we can learn about patriarchal blessings from Jacob blessing his grandsons is that patriarchal blessings are given through the inspiration of God.
Genesis 49 recounts the blessings that Jacob gave to each of his 12 sons. You may want to scan the chapter and mark the names of Jacob’s sons so you can quickly see where to find each son’s blessing.
Read Genesis 49:1–2, looking for what Jacob was planning to tell his sons as he blessed them. Notice that Jacob planned to reveal what would happen to his sons, or their posterity, in the future.
The two most detailed blessings were given to Judah and to Joseph. Read Judah’s blessing in Genesis 49:8–10, looking for the blessings and prophecies that were given to the tribe of Judah. You may want to mark what you find.
You may have noticed a couple of phrases in Judah’s blessing that could be confusing. The following information may be helpful:
The word whelp means cub. The lion is a symbol of power and rulership. The Savior is a descendant of Judah, and one of His names is “the Lion of the tribe of [Judah]” (Revelation 5:5).
The word sceptre has reference to the right or authority to rule, and the reference to “the sceptre” was an indication that kings, such as David and Solomon, would be among Judah’s posterity.
In Hebrew the name Shiloh means “He to whom it belongs” and refers to the Messiah, or Jesus Christ. President Ezra Taft Benson said: “The great blessing to Judah is that it contemplated [anticipated] the coming of Shiloh who would gather his people to him. This prophecy concerning Shiloh has been subject to several rabbinic and Christian interpretations and the object of considerable controversy. The interpretation given this passage by the Mormon Church is one based on revelation to modern prophets, not on scholarly commentary. It was revealed to Joseph Smith that Shiloh is the Messiah [see Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 50:24 (in the Bible appendix)]” (“A Message to Judah from Joseph,” Ensign, Dec. 1976, 71).
Now read Joseph’s blessing in Genesis 49:22–26, and search for blessings and prophecies given to Joseph and his posterity. You may want to mark what you find. (The word bough in verse 22 refers to a large, strong branch.)
The prophecy that Joseph’s “branches [will] run over the wall” refers to the scattering of his posterity throughout the earth, especially across the sea in the Americas (see 1 Nephi 15:12). The Book of Mormon reveals that Lehi’s family was of the lineage of Joseph (see Alma 10:3).
Consider how your faith in priesthood blessings is affected as you realize that hundreds of years before Lehi and his family left Jerusalem to travel to the Americas, the prophet Jacob promised in a blessing that this would happen. How does the fulfillment of this promise influence your faith in the promises included in patriarchal blessings?
One principle we can learn from Jacob blessing his sons is that patriarchal blessings are prophecies concerning our earthly and eternal possibilities.
President Thomas S. Monson spoke of the eternal nature of patriarchal blessings: “A patriarchal blessing is a revelation to the recipient, … to protect, inspire, and motivate activity and righteousness. A patriarchal blessing literally contains chapters from your book of eternal possibilities. I say eternal, for just as life is eternal, so is a patriarchal blessing. What may not come to fulfillment in this life may occur in the next. We do not govern God’s timetable” (“Your Patriarchal Blessing: A Liahona of Light,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 66).
- Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What could you say to someone who was worried that a promise in his or her patriarchal blessing might not be fulfilled?
As you read the following statement by President James E. Faust of the First Presidency, mark some specific elements of patriarchal blessings: “The patriarch’s calling becomes a beautiful, sacred, spiritual, and fulfilling experience. As moved upon by the Holy Spirit, the patriarch declares by inspiration the lineage in the house of Israel of the recipient, together with such blessings, spiritual gifts, promises, advice, admonition, and warnings the patriarch feels inspired to give. The patriarchal blessing is, in essence, a prophetic blessing and utterance” (“Priesthood Blessings,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 63).
What do you think it means to have your lineage in the house of Israel declared?
While serving in the Young Women General Presidency, Julie B. Beck helped answer that question:
“In your [patriarchal] blessing, you are told about your ancestry in the house of Israel. That’s your family line and your family line is sometimes called a tribe. All of the tribes go back to the great patriarch Abraham. Your lineage is important. It means that you are included in the promises given to Abraham that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed [see Genesis 26:4; Abraham 2:9].
“Your lineage is a ‘blood relationship’ [Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (1954–56), 3:248–49]. That makes you literally ‘children of the prophets’ [3 Nephi 20:25] with a noble birthright. That is why we often say that you are ‘youth of the noble birthright’ [“Carry On,” Hymns, no. 255] and belong to a royal, ‘chosen generation’ [1 Peter 2:9]” (“You Have a Noble Birthright,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 106).
- Complete one or more of the following assignments in your scripture study journal:
Write how your patriarchal blessing has helped guide you in your life. (You do not need to write any details contained in your blessing.)
If there are members of your family who have received their patriarchal blessing, ask them to share how it has helped them make correct decisions and how it has been a guide throughout their life. Write what you learned.
If you have not received your patriarchal blessing, you can prepare to receive it by studying about patriarchal blessings in True to the Faith (see True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference , 111–13). Find out why patriarchal blessings are given and who can give them. Then discuss with a parent or Church leader how you can prepare to receive a patriarchal blessing. Write about what you did and learned.
Remember that in order to receive a patriarchal blessing, you will need to have an interview with your bishop or one of his counselors or with your branch president, who can then issue a recommend for a patriarchal blessing and tell you how to proceed.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Genesis 47–49 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: