Updated: Jul 2
Text: And Jacob their father said to them, "You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me." (Gen.42: 36).
With the Canonization of the Old Testament into three sections : the Law, (Torah in Hebrew), the Prophets (Naviim in Hebrew), and the Writings (Ketuvim in Hebrew), the book of Lamentations fell within the books commonly referred to as the 'Writings' , in the canon. Its authorship has been ascribed to prophet Jeremiah, usually called the 'weeping prophet', by biblical scholars. So called a weeping prophet for the pain and hurt he bore in his heart seeing his people murdered by foreigners with the remnant ending in captivity. The time of his writing dated back to 586 bc. It was written from an eyewitness account perspective, someone who witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem within that period. In a general sense, lamentation was a common subject on the pages of Old Testament books. Nevertheless, this discourse on Jacob's lamentation will be treated in isolation from the general book of Lamentation as documented in the scriptures.
WHAT IS LAMENTATION?
Lamentation is from the Latin word 'lamenta' : meaning 'weeping' or 'wailing'. Tragedies find expressions in lamentations. It is the passionate expression of grief and sorrow. It is often preceded with bereavement(s).
In a more poetic sense, it is also called 'DIRGE ' : a song of mourning, sung as a memorial to someone who died. This was the tone that David used to drive home his lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan . The dirge was so much dear to David's heart that he instructed the children of Israel be taught . It was also documented in the Book of Jasher (2 Sam.1:17-27).
Bearing this mind, it is appropriate to say Jacob lamented! Yes, he did. Looking at the events that preceded this time in his life, it was obvious that another round of bereavement was in sight, should Benjamin be taken away from him ,while he was yet to recover from the purported death of the son of his old age- Joseph. Here, Jacob lamented and mourned ahead of yet another round of child loss.
THE MAN JACOB:
Over the years, several preachers, biblical scholars, christian authors, and others have had varied opinions about the person of Jacob and his ways. A man considered to be a supplanter, cunning in his ways and dealings. However, the objective of this submission is not to delve into any controversial appellation(s) given Jacob, rather it aims at having a glimpse of who he was, what he suffered and what fate befell him, and how he eventually laughed last.
Even while on the run from his brother, God did not cease talking to him, instructing and directing him. This tells us God is not judgmental as humans. Then God said to Jacob, "Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother." (Gen.35:1). It would take God for a human to want to communicate with a fellow man already stigmatized by the society to have cheated his blood brother . In the same token, God spoke to him audibly not to be afraid going to Egypt to meet his son, Joseph . So He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there." (Gen.46:3). This tells us that even in our lowest moments, God still talks to us. Only if we care to listen! We should not be overwhelmed to a level of not hearing from God. God is still in the business of talking to us.
He commanded his household after God and uphled holiness and piety. And Jacob said to his household , "Put away the foregin gods that are among you, purify yourselves and change your garments." (Gen.35:2). Jacob? Of all people? Is it not ironic that a man so condemned for 'stealing' his brother's birth right, one of the offenses probably considered most sacrilegious on the pages of the scriptures, still gave worshipping God within his household a priority? Regardless of what he was running away from, he held on to the God that covenanted with him earlier. He did not let go of Him. Beloved, come what may, we should not let go of God!
Jacob cared for his household. Having lost his wife earlier, he was saddled with the responsibility of both parents. And he said, "Indeed I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down to that place and buy for us there that we may live and not die." (Gen.42:2).
He was generous too ! He sent gift to the 'lord' of the land - Joseph, without knowing he was actually blessing his 'supposedly' dead son ! He said, "If it must be so, then do this : Take some of the best fruits of the land in your vessels and carry down a present for the man" (Gen. 43:11). Jacob was not totally a bad person after all . Friends, we need to cultivate an attitude of generosity.
THE EVENTS OF HIS LAMENTATIONS:
Several events added up and culminated in Jacob's lamentation.
The death of his wife, Rachael was devastating, moreso considering the circumstances surrounding her death. She died during the birth of Benjamin. He set up a pillar in her memory, called 'pillar' of Rachael's grave. "And so it was as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin" (Gen.35:18). It takes a strong-willed faith to witness the death of one's wife during childbirth ! This singular event was to continue in a vicious cycle that connected to several unpalatable experiences that make up Jacob's lamentation. May we not suffer this type of unfortunate incident. Amen.
If grieving over a wife that passed during childbirth is lamentable, I think a son laying with the father's concubine is more grievous ! This is heartbreaking. It is absurd, irritating and disgusting! It is condemnable in all its meanings. And to imagine this coming on the heels of the wife's death makes it more devastating. This is one of the several calamities that befell Jacob in his years. So painful to Jacob that he did not spare Reuben some curse words before departing to the hereafter. He said,
"Reuben, you are my first born, My might and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of power, unstable as water, you shall not excel, because you went up to your father's bed;Then you defiled it-He went up to my couch." (Gen.49:3-4).
'Supposed' death of Joseph in Genesis 37:31-35 was probably the worst blow life ever meted out to Jacob. With Joseph's brother presenting the relics of 'dead' Joseph's tunic to their father, he was left with his imagination to make sense out of the gory scene. After all , action speaks louder than words. He could not bear the agony of seeing the glory of the son of his old age reduced to rubbles. He let it loose . He went haywire. The best he could make of the entire episode was to conclude Joseph was dead. "It's my son's tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces ." (Gen.37:33-34). Could someone have told Jacob it was a farce? No. It was God's design to preserve his posterity...as events unfolded . may the LORD preserve our prosperity .
THE BRIDGE OF REUNION:
To alleviate the pains and lamentation of Jacob, to let go of Benjamin to Egypt, Reuben negotiated to make his two sons sureties , to a point that he was ready to lay their lives for the course. Reuben probably did not realize the possible death of another two grandchildren might be an added woe to the father's existing lamentation.
Also, it grieved the heart of Jacob to hear that the children were not wise enough disclosing to the 'man'- Joseph that they had another brother. He said, "why did you deal so wrongfully with me as to tell the man whether you had still another brother?" (Gen.43:6). Innocent children, you would say.
Finding himself in a helpless and hopeless state, Jacob took all these calamities in good fate. He was at his wits end. All hopes were lost. He resigned himself to fate. He had no option but to swallow the bitter pills. After all said and done, he yielded to the demands of his boys to take Benjamin on a journey of no return. In a state of utter dismay and confusion, he muttered with a voice of a man totally depressed and despondent , "If I am bereaved, I am bereaved." With the iota of faith left in him, he uttered a word of prayer before making the above statement, "And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin." (Gen.43:14). God seemed to have a way of turning things around for Jacob as events were to later revealed... there was a ray of hope...
In the midst of all the tribulations that Jacob had been through in his life, at the end of it all, he would rejoice soon. He was to receive the most unbelievable and shocking news of his life. Probably the most pleasant news he has ever heard in his lifetime. That the son, Joseph, the 'supposedly' dead son was living...and not only living but also reigning over a nation that dominated the economic power of the day. The seemingly passive - parting prayer he prayed for Benjamin to be released was not only to be answered, but also he (Jacob), was coming face-to-face with his Prime Minister - son, Joseph, who sat at the helm of affairs in a foreign land.
In a strange twist of fate, his sons brought him news of Joseph's exploits in Egypt. They told him, "Joseph is still alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt." (Gen.45:26). His heart jumped out of his chest ! The scriptures recorded it that, "and Jacob's heart stood still, because he did not believe them." What a beautiful and rejoicing imagination running through his mind ! At this point, nothing could stop him from going to see his 'resurrected' son. His lamentation would soon turn to unlimited rejoicing and celebration. It was with pomp and pageantry that Joseph received his father to Egypt. "So Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel." (Gen.46:29). Jacob called for a willful death having seen the glory of his son in Egypt, "now let me die, since I have seen your face, because you are still alive." (Gen.46:30).
For Jacob, it was "all is well that ends well". From the death of his wife, to his son laying with his wife, through the sudden manipulated disappearance of the son of his old age, up till the detention of another son of his, Simeon, in Egypt, life seemed unfair to him. All odds were against him! His was a life lived with pain, anguish, and sorrow. No one could have summed it up better than himself .
It was not an error that he captioned it the way he did, "all these things are against me." By sheer providence, God saw him through. The verse 30:5b of psalm sums the end story of Jacob better, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Without mincing word, Jacob lived a substantial part of his life in agonies and lamentation, yet he ended it with rejoicing. Whatever those things that were against him, they were a mere stepping stone to his happy ending.
Beloved, please, be encouraged with this piece. What challenges are you facing? Does it seem life is hard and unbearable to you ? Has the world condemned you or written you off? Let no one or your present circumstance place a ceiling on your destiny . Take a cue from Jacob's life. Be hopeful and remain steadfast and resolute in the LORD. He's our anchor in times of trials. The odds will favor you! In case you did not know, you have a glory and destiny ahead of you. And you must fulfill it. Be encouraged!
I leave you with this verse of the hymn:
'My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less' (Edward Mote 1834)
"When darkness veils His lovely face,
I'll rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil"
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
Prayer: You shall not be bereaved ! Amen!
Being A Monthly Scripture Nugget
From The Desk Of
Olusegun A Emosu
The Redeemed Christian Church Of God,
1879, S Stone Mountain Lithonia Rd,
Lithonia GA 30058 (404-644-4127)
July 1st, 2023
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