Paternal Blessings and Backhands


“Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope[e] that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.” Genesis 48:22

I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed this verse before. Apologies at the outset — could be a run-on ramble.

At long last, Israel (Jacob) has reached his life’s span and is preparing to move from his century plus pilgrimage onto promised eternal rest. He shares special moments with his Egyptian born grandsons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and then with Joseph. To Joseph he gives an extra parcel of land that might’ve gone to Joseph and his brothers in equal shares, but didn’t. Joseph was his favorite. It was Jacob’s prerogative to show his favoritism. Joseph was the wisest. His wisdom ended up the salvation of his father, his (arguably) idiot brothers, and entire civilizations. I picture this a deal done on the side. I don’t think Joseph’s brothers knew. One could argue they didn’t deserve to know. They had behaved so badly (save Benjamin). I wonder if they felt shame for their behavior. I wonder if some looked at Jacob as “the old geezer.” I think a few of them wanted Jacob out of the way so their lies about Joseph and their hidden dastardly man-stealing could finally stop plaguing their consciences. But however deeply bruised by them, Jacob later blesses all his sons. Some receive a back-handed form of blessing, but they are blessed nonetheless by Jacob. Though offended, though seemingly bereft of Joseph for decades, though worried for their foolish commonsenselessness, he loves them. In degrees, perhaps, but he loves them still. And he blesses them all.

Families are messy things. Having only noticed this verse today, I’ve not ruminated over-much on it, but it does put me in mind of me and my own sons. All pretty good guys. Some more mature, some more academic, some more athletic, all disappointing at times, all pleasing at times, and some closer to me than others with a closeness that shifts and ebbs and flows. I once gave advice to an expectant father: When tending toward anger at your children, keep in mind the longer view and do what you can to preserve friendship capital. Kids can’t pick their parents, and ultimately I did not pick my sons, but here we are. Though they have offended me (and I have most certainly offended them), I love them. I have no basis for rejecting them. In fact I plan to bless them. Maybe not while they place their right hand under my right thigh to solemnize the occasion as in Jacob’s day, but in some fashion or another. And that in spite of their having bruised me. As my friend, Mimi, noted the day I wrote this, love covers a multitude of sins.