Text: Genesis 47:1-31, Genesis 48:1-22, Genesis 49:1-28
Don’t bother buying me presents. All I need is a big ol’ box of compliments. To say words are my love language would be like saying ice cream is good—a massive understatement. I guess we writer types are like that.
Writer or not, we all know the power of words. We’ve all been buoyed by a blessing spoken at just the right time, and devastated by a curse better left unsaid.
Jacob’s story illustrates the power of words at both extremes. Here, in Genesis 47-49, we find Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) at the end of his life. As often seems to be the case, age has worn the barbs off of Jacob’s tongue, and he hands out blessings left and right.
He blessed Pharaoh (Genesis 47:7).
He blessed Joseph (Genesis 48:15).
He blessed his grandsons while bouncing them on his knee (Genesis 48:12-20).
But having studied Jacob’s story, we know he didn’t always use his words for good. His life was a roadmap of twists and turns, all pivoting on the power of words.
He talked his brother, Esau, into selling his birthright for a pot of stew (Genesis 25:27-34). Then he lied to his father and stole his brother’s blessing with a dirty trick and a furry shirt (Genesis 27:1-41). When Jacob finally had to face his estranged brother again, he expected curses but got undeserved blessings instead (Genesis 32:1-33:11).
The tables were turned when his father-in-law Laban used his own words to trick Jacob into marrying both his daughters in exchange for fourteen years of hard labor (Genesis 29:13-30). Jacob’s wives knew the power of words, too, as they were embroiled in a heated fight for most of Genesis 30.
This pattern continued throughout Jacob’s life. His words split and created families, stole and restored fortunes, blessed and cursed sons. Jacob is a poster child for this truth:
“Life and death are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
It’s easy to read the story of this deceiver and point the finger at his smooth talking, trickery, and outright lies—but that would be the pot calling the kettle black. I have Jacob tendencies too. I’m often careless with my words, forgetful that death and life are in the power of my tongue. Still, I find great hope for the transformation of my words in the inspired Word of God.
Let’s circle back to Jacob’s deathbed. As he held his grandsons on his lap and whispered blessings, we see it wasn’t Jacob’s words that held his life together (or tore it apart).
“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all of my life to this day,
the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm—
may He bless these boys.”
God spoke the universe into existence. He spoke forgiveness of sins from the cross. Right now, at the right hand of the Father, He speaks words of intercession for you and me (Hebrews 7:25). The same God who blessed the deceiver, brought home the outlaw, and shepherded the wayward Jacob, speaks life-giving words to us through His Word. And the more I study His Word, the more I see Him transforming my own.
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
Erin Davis is a popular author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.