The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob… (Gen 49:23-24)
The setting was the gathering of Jacob’s sons as he gave them his final blessings. The verses above were directed at Joseph. Most scholars believe “the archers who bitterly attacked” Joseph was a reference to his brothers (who hated him and sold him into slavery), and to Potiphar’s wife (who falsely accused him and had him thrown into prison).
But it’s Joseph’s response to his attackers that I want to focus on today. The wording used, “his bow remained unmoved” is somewhat vague – perhaps intentionally. For, it can correctly be interpreted to mean that Joseph remained strong and undefeated in the face of the attacks. He rose above the level of his adversaries and continued to follow God’s plan for his life. Surely that fits with what we know about Joseph.
Others suggest that an unmoving bow meant just that – the bow didn’t bend because Joseph refused to use it to fight back. In other words, in the face of unfair treatment, Joseph turned the other cheek. Again, this fits with what we know of Joseph’s responses to his brothers, to Potiphar’s wife, to imprisonment, etc. – he refused to strike back.
Perhaps the writer wanted to leave us with both meanings. Regardless, we see that Joseph’s strength to respond as he did came from the hands of Almighty God. The imagery here is beautiful. If you’ve ever tried to steady a bow that was too big/tight for you – you know that IF you’re even able to pull back the string, to hold it there also takes strength. And before long, your arms get tired and begin to shake. In this verse, it’s as if Joseph is holding the bow, but God has wrapped Himself around Joseph, and is actually the one providing all the strength.
Are you facing bitter attacks today? Let God steady your hand, and give you the grace and strength necessary to use restraint. –Dave
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