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is more than just discernment.

Genesis 47:7–12 (ESV)

Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.” And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the presence of Pharaoh. Then Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father's household with food, according to the number of their dependents.

When Jacob walks in to meet Pharaoh, he’s in a very good mood; his eyes have just beheld his long-lost favorite son. Then Jacob blesses Pharaoh – twice. Each is much more than a simple, “Thank you.” There is ample evidence in scripture that Jacob takes blessings very seriously. Also, the Hebrew word used here is the same word used in Genesis 14:19 when Melchizedek blessed Abram and in Genesis 27:23 when Isaac blessed Jacob. Jacob may not know the whole back-story on how Joseph got promoted to his high position, but by now he surely knows that Joseph had been a slave. Jacob recognizes Pharaoh’s wisdom.

In fact, Pharaoh comes across looking pretty good in this whole episode. Back in Chapter 41, he recognized Joseph’s gift and gave him the greatest promotion in the history of man. That empowered Joseph to do what needed to be done. Pharaoh even referred to God directly while promoting Joseph, which is amazing given the Egyptian state religion. Now, his reaction to learning that Jacob and his sons are shepherds is to put them in charge of his own flocks. That’s smart.

Jacob’s blessing looks good; Pharaoh will be blessed indeed. Everything from here on will go amazingly well for him. As long as this Pharaoh is alive, life will be just dandy – for Egypt and for Israel.

And then it won’t.

This whole saga has been a great study in wisdom. Pharaoh didn’t just figure things out; he paid attention and acted. Most importantly, he paid attention to others. He acted on the information that Jacob and his family are shepherds, just as he acted on Joseph’s interpretation of his dream. That’s wisdom.

Joseph’s discernment was awesome because it was supernatural. He didn’t figure anything out; it all came from God. That’s a spectacular blessing, one which we’d all love to receive.

But notice that Joseph’s discernment didn’t always translate into wisdom. Though it turned out for the best in the end, it was unwise for Joseph to tell his brothers about his dreams. He showed great patience and faith at times, but his skills-set was not universal.

That’s an important principle. Each gift or talent stands alone. Unfortunately, we tend to view people with one great talent as somehow all talented and all knowing. That’s why we’re subjected to movie stars pontificating on subjects – such as foreign policy – that are way outside their field.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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