And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence.
I’ve heard so many teachings on this verse and concept that it is difficult to separate out what caught my attention this morning from everything I’ve heard. I’ve heard the teachings that comment on how the greater always blesses the lesser and that Jacob here blesses Pharaoh, who was thought by his people to be a god. I’ve heard teachings on how Jacob’s age (130 years old) played into his blessing of Pharaoh. The list of teachings goes on and on.
That’s not what caught my attention.
What caught my attention is that Jacob could be a blessing to Pharaoh. Bear with me, because this is not the common interpretation of this verse and I’m kinda reaching with this interpretation.
Jacob had already blessed Pharaoh back in verse seven. Jacob is presented; Jacob blesses Pharaoh. Then a conversation starts up. Pharaoh asks Jacob how old he is—why, we do not know—and there was, possibly, a long conversation there. After the conversation is today’s verse. And I think that the blessing in question might have had less to do with a standard “God bless you.” type comment and more to do with the conversation and Jacob himself being a blessing to Pharaoh.
There is a reason I think this — and that reason is not because I think every teaching I’ve heard on this verse is somehow wrong. Does the older bless the younger? Usually. Does the greater bless the lesser? Always. But blessing, as we in Western culture are prone to forget, comes in lots of flavors. There are blessings of peace and joy; blessings of kindness and gentleness (sometimes rendered meekness); blessings of love and gifts of the Spirit; verbal blessings and non-verbal blessings. There are all sorts of blessings. And the teachings on this verse often get hung up on the verbal blessings to the exclusion of non-verbal blessings.
Western (read: American) culture tends to reduce all non-verbal “blessing” to a form of material enrichment when The Bible takes an entirely different view. According to The Bible (and I agree), my wife and daughter are both blessings. Can they be challenging? Yes. Do they always feel like blessings? Nope. But the truth cuts both ways and I am a blessing to my wife and daughter that is not always easy to deal with or pleasant to have around. I think—”suspect” might be an even better word—that Jacob’s visit with Pharaoh was a blessing to the ruler of Egypt. I’ve been given much opportunity in my life to spend time with elder believers and it is almost always a blessing to do so. I have been privileged, over the years, to be mentored by believers who have blessed me in such a rich variety of ways that to detail them would make this a short book rather than a blog. There are elder believers who encourage me in my endeavors; elder believers who remind me that God works all things to the good for those who love Him — and they do so from the other side of God working things to the good; elder believers who learn from me (which blows my mind) and remind me that the blessings flow both ways. I think Jacob’s visit with Pharaoh was such a time. I think Jacob and Pharaoh had a much longer chat than scripture records and that the king of Egypt was left with non-verbal blessings as well as verbal ones.
Remember that this interpretation is a reach and probably on a fragile limb.
Caveat given and point made, I am now left to apply it. That, oddly, is the easy and difficult part. I need to be a blessing to others. And I do not know how to be a blessing to everyone. So, I will start with those closest me—my wife and daughter and family and friends, blessings one and all—and try to be a blessing to them. And, while I do my part and try to find ways to be a blessing to others, I need to pray that God takes my feeble efforts and multiplies their force for good so that I am, by His grace, a blessing.
God from Whom all blessings flow, thank You for giving blessings and for being a blessing in and of Yourself. Thank You that blessings are not limited to the narrow American mindset, but are so various that they might warrant their own taxonomy. Please take my feeble, quite frankly sad efforts to love and bless those You have blessed me with the opportunity to so for and pour through those painfully inadequate efforts Your love and blessing so that they overflow all bounds.