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From Chris's Heart

November 2006
The Passing of Blessings
by Nick Harris

Recently I have been struck by the significance of the ability of believers to give and receive blessings from other people. During biblical times, this was commonplace; the blessings of God were often passed from one person to another.

A careful study of the Bible indicates that these passing of blessings involved a physical connection between two individuals. In fact, in every case, it involved laying one’s hands upon the head of another.

The importation of hands is important because it provides public witness to the transference of divine authority from one person to another.

One fascinating thing that I have found is this: in the Old Testament, these blessings were always passed from a person of greater righteousness to a person of lesser righteousness. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews, for example, understood this transference of blessings as we can see in Hebrews 7:1-7. It states:

"For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the Kings, and blessed him; to whom Abraham gave a tenth part of all... now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of his spoils. And verily they that are the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: that he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better."

So, in the Bible, this passing of God's blessing for one person to another demonstrated the willingness of God to allow the benefits of a divine/human relationship to be passed from one person to another, and in some instances these blessings and benefits were transferred to some very unlikely people.

For example, Jacob blessed the Pharaoh of Egypt, a rank pagan. In Genesis 47:7-10, the text declares, "and Jacob blessed Pharaoh…"

So the passing of blessings from the hands of a godly man was for God himself to bless that person, individually. In other words when a righteous person passed a blessing to another person, God honored it without question.

Nowhere in the significance of laying hands on another and speaking blessings be seen as clearly as it is seen in Genesis when Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh, the two half-Egyptian (Gentile) sons of Joseph.

Just before Jacob died, Joseph brought Ephraim and Manasseh to Jacob, and the two boys knelt before their grandfather. Jacob shocked everyone in the room when he crossed his hands putting his left hand on the head of Manasseh, the eldest son, and his right hand on the head of Ephraim, the younger son. It was the reverse order.

The custom of the day demanded that the one blessed with the right hand would receive the greater blessing, and the greater blessing belonged to the oldest son and not the youngest son.

Joseph tried to correct what he thought to be a mistake, but Jacob assured Joseph that he was perfectly aware of what he was doing. Again, a younger son was receiving the blessing that belonged to an elder son.

The subsequent blessing of Jacob consisted of the five most crucial parts of God's covenant with Israel. First, Jacob asked God to be Lord over Ephraim and Manasseh. Second, Jacob asked God to redeem Ephraim and Manasseh through the messenger of redemption. Third, Jacob gave to Ephraim and Manasseh his own name; that is, he adopted them. Fourth, Jacob gave the name of his forefathers to the boys further indicating their adoption as true sons of Israel. Fifth, Jacob asked God to make Ephraim and Manasseh into a great multitude of people.

Clearly, Jacob's blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh by laying his hands upon their heads was the same as the blessings he had bestowed upon his natural born sons earlier.

In fact, Jacob said to Joseph:

"And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh which were born unto you in the land of Egypt before I came unto you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine."

Jacob's blessing, including the adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh as his own sons, replacing the former Egyptian heritage of these two young men with a new Hebrew heritage.

Therefore, Ephraim and Manasseh were drafted into Jacob's family. They became natural branches, full brothers with the other sons of Israel.

This gave Ephraim and Manasseh the same responsibilities and rewards that the natural-born sons already had. In other words, the Egyptian identity of Ephraim and Manasseh had passed away, and they gained the identity of true Israelites; they became new creations.

And from the moment he Ephraim and Manasseh became true Israelites, they were made partakers of the same covenants as the other sons of Israel, and were subject to the same commandments and responsibilities as Jacob's natural born sons.

As soon as Jacob's hands touched their heads, and the words of blessings left his mouth, Ephraim and Manasseh became equal partakers of the root and the fatness of the natural olive tree that the apostle Paul wrote about in Romans 11:17.

The apostle states:

"If some of the branches be broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them, to partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree."

You and I are just like Ephraim and Manasseh. We have become partakers of the root and fatness of the olive tree. We, too, I have received the Spirit of adoption. We, too, are new creations.

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