Jacob passes on a great legacy to Joseph’s sons. He blesses them not only with a physical inheritance, a promise for the future land, but also with a spiritual legacy. His prayer evokes not only his ancestors who walked in God’s ways, but how God has been with him, Jacob, during his life.
Jacob celebrates that Abraham and Isaac “walked before” God (48:15; cf. God’s command to Abram in 17:1), and God had been Jacob’s shepherd all his life (48:15; cf. 49:24). Like sheep oblivious to some ways that their shepherd protected them, Jacob had not always been aware of God’s watchful care; for example, he had long thought Joseph dead yet God had been working in Joseph and would ultimately preserve the entire family through him. Such an illustration was natural for a shepherd such as Jacob (cf. 46:34).
God was not only a shepherd but was identified with the “angel” who redeemed Jacob from evil (48:16). Sometimes God’s angel seems to be identified with him, whether by acting on his behalf or by being a manifestation of God in angelic form (16:11, 13; 22:11-12, 15-18; 31:11-13; cf. 32:24, 30). The angel of God had been with Jacob, protecting him from Laban (31:5, 7, 11), and also protecting him from Esau (32:24-30). He recalls the protection of God who shepherded him, the angel who redeemed him, as an expression of trust in the God on whom he calls to bless also his continued line in Joseph.
We also have a heritage from previous generations of those who served God. Like us, they were imperfect, but we should be conscious of carrying on God’s important work in our own generation. Someday, we too will pass on, if the Lord tarries; may it be said of us that we “served God’s purpose” in our own generation (Acts 13:36). And may we have a vision to pass the torch on to the next generation, since God’s work is not meant to stop with us (cf. e.g., Exod 10:2; 12:26-27; Deut 6:7; 11:19; 32:46; Ps 71:18; 78:4, 6; 102:18; contrast a possible failure of Hezekiah in 2 Kgs 20:19).