One of the traditions of the Old Testament is the blessing of the father upon his sons. This is true for all the patriarchs of Israel. Abraham passed on the blessing that God had given him; Isaac passed the blessing that Abraham had given him, and Jacob passed on the blessing of his father to his twelve sons. That incident is recorded in Genesis 49. It is an interesting read. Listen to what Jacob had to say to his sons. I am especially interested in what Jacob had to say to his son Joseph. Joseph was his favorite son because he was the firstborn of the gal he had worked seven years for, Rachel.

There is neither time nor space to record all Jacob said regarding Joseph. It is lengthy, taking up verses 22-27. For some of the boys, Jacob had little to say, but for Joseph, that was not true.

Jacob starts his prophetic announcement over Joseph by saying, “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring, and its branches run over the wall.” As I read these verses, the first thought that comes into my mind is “nourishment.” Joseph is fruitful and planted by a spring where he gets his nourishment.

However, Joseph’s life was filled with adversity. “The archers bitterly attacked him and shot at him and harassed him.” [verse 23] Jacob, in the language of symbolism speaks of the challenges Joseph had in his life. He was sold by his brothers to an Ishmaelite caravan. (That in itself is full of symbolism,) While in Egypt, he was betrayed and ended up in prison.

To be nourished in times of adversity indicates a source of where that life is coming from. Most of us do not have branches of fruit running over the wall in times of difficulty.

But Joseph did and Jacob said, “the archers bitterly attacked him and shot at him and harassed him, but his bow remained strong, and his arms were agile.” Again, using words of symbolism, Jacob says to his son, “you did not surrender to difficulty and your strength was maintained.”

To struggle through difficulty and to come out victorious indicates that there is nourishment. Weakness does not lead to success.

Jacob continues in verses 24 and 25, “but his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile from the hands of the mighty one of Jacob, from the God of your fathers who helps you, by the Almighty who blesses you, with blessings from heaven above and by the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breast and of the womb.”

To fully understand what Jacob is saying, I need to take that statement apart. Jacob mentions five titles that describe Joseph’s God.

The first is “the mighty one of Jacob.” [verse 24] Note that he is not saying, the mighty God of Joseph but rather “the mighty God of Jacob,” referring to the mighty God that had changed Jacob from a cunning cheater to a man of God.

Second, he says in verse 24 “from there is the shepherd, the stone of Israel.” In verse 24 Jacob also refers to God as “the rock of Israel.” Joseph’s God was a fortress.

In verse 24, he says, “from the God of your fathers, who helps you.” Joseph is the recipient of the God of his fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and his own father Jacob. He had a heritage.

In verse 25 “and by the Almighty, who blesses you…” The Hebrew term used here is El Shaddai.” This is a very unique term Jacob uses to describe the God that has made Joseph a fruitful bough. The term “almighty” is translated EL SHADDAI in Hebrew. “EL” refers to God and “SHAD” refers to the breast. Jacob here is referring to Joseph’s God as “the God of the breast.” In verse 25 Jacob says of this God, “… blessings of the breast and of the womb.” Joseph is a “fruitful bough” because he knows the God who is “the breast,” from whom he receives nourishment. This is what makes him a “fruitful bough.” Just as a child is nourished at the breast of his mother, so Joseph is nourished by the life-giving strength of God’s breast. Jesus refers to Himself as “the bread of life.” Thus it is from God that we receive our nourishment. Bread and milk from the God of our Fathers.

I ask the question, “how is your spiritual life nourished?” Is it nourished through some religious exercise, the memorizing of some creed, or perhaps through baptism or Eucharist? Not according to the Bible. I am nourished spiritually by the life of God Himself. He nourishes me through the milk of His word and the bread of his very life. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.”

“Joseph is a fruitful bough, whose branches run over the wall.” It reminds me of Psalm one; “he will be like a tree firmly planted by the streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither and whatever he does shall prosper.”

Are you a “fruitful bough?” What is the fruit that is being produced?

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