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From Eternity Past

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    Jacob Foretells the Future of His Sons

    The Spirit of Inspiration rested upon him, and before him in prophetic vision the future of his descendants was unfolded. One after another the names of his sons were mentioned, the character of each was described, and the future history of the tribe was briefly foretold.EP 160.2

    Reuben, thou art my firstborn,
    My might, and the beginning of my strength,
    The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.
    EP 160.3

    But Reuben's grievous sin at Edar had made him unworthy of the birthright blessing. Jacob continued,EP 160.4

    Unstable as water,
    Thou shalt not excel.
    EP 160.5

    The priesthood was apportioned to Levi, the kingdom and the Messianic promise to Judah, and the double portion of the inheritance to Joseph. The tribe of Reuben never rose to any eminence in Israel; it was not so numerous as Judah, Joseph, or Dan, and was among the first that were carried into captivity.EP 160.6

    Next were Simeon and Levi. They had been united in cruelty toward the Shechemites and had been the most guilty in the selling of Joseph.EP 160.7

    I will divide them in Jacob,
    And scatter them in Israel.
    EP 160.8

    Moses, in his last blessing to Israel before entering Canaan, made no reference to Simeon. In the settlement of Canaan, this tribe had only a small portion of Judah's lot, and such families as afterward became powerful formed different colonies and settled in territory outside the borders of the Holy Land. Levi also received no inheritance except forty-eight cities. However, their fidelity when the other tribes apostatized secured their appointment to the sacred service of the sanctuary; thus the curse was changed into a blessing.EP 160.9

    The crowning blessings of the birthright were transferred to Judah:EP 161.1

    Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise;
    Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies;
    Thy father's children shall bow down before thee... .
    The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
    Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
    Until Shiloh come;
    And unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.
    EP 161.2

    The lion, king of the forest, is a fitting symbol of this tribe, from which came David, and the Son of David, Shiloh, the true “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” to whom all powers shall finally bow and all nations render homage.EP 161.3

    For most of his children, Jacob foretold a prosperous future. At last the name of Joseph was reached, and the father's heart overflowed as he invoked blessings upon “the head of him that was separate from his brethren”:EP 161.4

    Joseph is a fruitful bough,
    Even a fruitful bough by a well;
    Whose branches run over the wall.
    The archers have sorely grieved him,
    And 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; ...
    The blessings of thy 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.
    EP 161.5

    Jacob was a man of deep affection; his love for his sons was strong and tender. He had forgiven them all, and he loved them to the last. His paternal tenderness would have found expression only in words of encouragement and hope; but the power of God rested upon him. Under the influence of Inspiration he was constrained to declare the truth, however painful.EP 162.1

    Jacob's last years brought an evening of tranquillity and repose after a troubled and weary day. Clouds had gathered dark above his path, yet his sun set clear, and the radiance of heaven illumined his parting hours. Says the Scripture, “At evening time it shall be light.” Zechariah 14:7. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.” Psalm 37:37.EP 162.2

    Inspiration faithfully records the faults of good men who were distinguished by the favor of God. This has given the infidel occasion to scoff at the Bible. But it is one of the strongest evidences of the truth of Scripture that facts are not glossed over nor the sins of its chief characters suppressed. Had the Bible been written by uninspired persons, it would no doubt have presented the character of its honored men in a more flattering light.EP 162.3

    Seeing where others struggled through discouragements like our own, where they fell under temptation as we have done and yet took heart again and conquered through the grace of God, we are encouraged in our striving after righteousness. As they, though sometimes beaten back, recovered their ground and were blessed of God, so we too may be overcomers in the strength of Jesus. On the other hand, the record of their lives may serve as a warning to us. God sees sin in His most favored ones, and He deals with it in them even more strictly than in those who have less light and responsibility.EP 162.4

    After the burial of Jacob, fear again filled the hearts of Joseph's brothers. Conscious guilt made them distrustful and suspicious that Joseph would now visit upon them the long-deferred punishment for their crime. They dared not appear before him but sent a message: “Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father.”EP 162.5

    This message affected Joseph to tears, and, encouraged by this, his brothers came and fell down before him with the words, “Behold, we be thy servants.” Joseph was pained that they could regard him as cherishing a spirit of revenge. “Fear not,” he said; “for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me: but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones.”EP 163.1

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