Day 18 (Jan. 18): Jacob gives blessings to descendants, Jacob foretells future of sons, Jacob dies, Joseph reassures brothers, Joseph dies

New Living Translation, Biblegateway.com

Genesis 47:28

Jacob’s Death draws near / 1859 or 1693 BC

28 Jacob lived for seventeen years after his arrival in Egypt, so he lived 147 years in all.

29 As the time of his death drew near, Jacob[a] called for his son Joseph and said to him, “Please do me this favor. Put your hand under my thigh and swear that you will treat me with unfailing love by honoring this last request: Do not bury me in Egypt. 30 When I die, please take my body out of Egypt and bury me with my ancestors.”

So Joseph promised, “I will do as you ask.”

31 “Swear that you will do it,” Jacob insisted. So Joseph gave his oath, and Jacob bowed humbly at the head of his bed.[b]

Jacob Blesses Manasseh and Ephraim

48 One day not long after this, word came to Joseph, “Your father is failing rapidly.” So Joseph went to visit his father, and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

When Joseph arrived, Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to see you.” So Jacob[c] gathered his strength and sat up in his bed.

Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty[d] appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me. He said to me, ‘I will make you fruitful, and I will multiply your descendants. I will make you a multitude of nations. And I will give this land of Canaan to your descendants[e] after you as an everlasting possession.’

“Now I am claiming as my own sons these two boys of yours, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born here in the land of Egypt before I arrived. They will be my sons, just as Reuben and Simeon are. But any children born to you in the future will be your own, and they will inherit land within the territories of their brothers Ephraim and Manasseh.

“Long ago, as I was returning from Paddan-aram, Rachel died in the land of Canaan. We were still on the way, some distance from Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). So with great sorrow I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath.”

Then Jacob looked over at the two boys. “Are these your sons?” he asked.

“Yes,” Joseph told him, “these are the sons God has given me here in Egypt.”

And Jacob said, “Bring them closer to me, so I can bless them.”

10 Jacob was half blind because of his age and could hardly see. So Joseph brought the boys close to him, and Jacob kissed and embraced them. 11 Then Jacob said to Joseph, “I never thought I would see your face again, but now God has let me see your children, too!”

12 Joseph moved the boys, who were at their grandfather’s knees, and he bowed with his face to the ground. 13 Then he positioned the boys in front of Jacob. With his right hand he directed Ephraim toward Jacob’s left hand, and with his left hand he put Manasseh at Jacob’s right hand. 14 But Jacob crossed his arms as he reached out to lay his hands on the boys’ heads. He put his right hand on the head of Ephraim, though he was the younger boy, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, though he was the firstborn. 15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,

“May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham
and my father, Isaac, walked—
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life, to this very day,
16 the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm—
may he bless these boys.
May they preserve my name
and the names of Abraham and Isaac.
And may their descendants multiply greatly
throughout the earth.”

17 But Joseph was upset when he saw that his father placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head. So Joseph lifted it to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 “No, my father,” he said. “This one is the firstborn. Put your right hand on his head.”

19 But his father refused. “I know, my son; I know,” he replied. “Manasseh will also become a great people, but his younger brother will become even greater. And his descendants will become a multitude of nations.”

20 So Jacob blessed the boys that day with this blessing: “The people of Israel will use your names when they give a blessing. They will say, ‘May God make you as prosperous as Ephraim and Manasseh.’” In this way, Jacob put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.

21 Then Jacob said to Joseph, “Look, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will take you back to Canaan, the land of your ancestors. 22 And beyond what I have given your brothers, I am giving you an extra portion of the land[f] that I took from the Amorites with my sword and bow.”

Jacob’s Last Words to His Sons

49 Then Jacob called together all his sons and said, “Gather around me, and I will tell you what will happen to each of you in the days to come.

“Come and listen, you sons of Jacob;
listen to Israel, your father.

“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my strength,
the child of my vigorous youth.
You are first in rank and first in power.
But you are as unruly as a flood,
and you will be first no longer.
For you went to bed with my wife;
you defiled my marriage couch.

“Simeon and Levi are two of a kind;
their weapons are instruments of violence.
May I never join in their meetings;
may I never be a party to their plans.
For in their anger they murdered men,
and they crippled oxen just for sport.
A curse on their anger, for it is fierce;
a curse on their wrath, for it is cruel.
I will scatter them among the descendants of Jacob;
I will disperse them throughout Israel.

“Judah, your brothers will praise you.
You will grasp your enemies by the neck.
All your relatives will bow before you.
Judah, my son, is a young lion
that has finished eating its prey.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down;
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants,[g]
until the coming of the one to whom it belongs,[h]
the one whom all nations will honor.
11 He ties his foal to a grapevine,
the colt of his donkey to a choice vine.
He washes his clothes in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth are whiter than milk.

13 “Zebulun will settle by the seashore
and will be a harbor for ships;
his borders will extend to Sidon.

14 “Issachar is a sturdy donkey,
resting between two saddlepacks.[i]
15 When he sees how good the countryside is
and how pleasant the land,
he will bend his shoulder to the load
and submit himself to hard labor.

16 “Dan will govern his people,
like any other tribe in Israel.
17 Dan will be a snake beside the road,
a poisonous viper along the path
that bites the horse’s hooves
so its rider is thrown off.
18 I trust in you for salvation, O Lord!

19 “Gad will be attacked by marauding bands,
but he will attack them when they retreat.

20 “Asher will dine on rich foods
and produce food fit for kings.

21 “Naphtali is a doe set free
that bears beautiful fawns.

22 “Joseph is the foal of a wild donkey,
the foal of a wild donkey at a spring—
one of the wild donkeys on the ridge.[j]
23 Archers attacked him savagely;
they shot at him and harassed him.
24 But his bow remained taut,
and his arms were strengthened
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob,
by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.
25 May the God of your father help you;
may the Almighty bless you
with the blessings of the heavens above,
and blessings of the watery depths below,
and blessings of the breasts and womb.
26 May the blessings of your father
surpass the blessings of the ancient mountains,[k]
reaching to the heights of the eternal hills.
May these blessings rest on the head of Joseph,
who is a prince among his brothers.

27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,
devouring his enemies in the morning
and dividing his plunder in the evening.”

28 These are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said as he told his sons good-bye. He blessed each one with an appropriate message.

Jacob’s Death and Burial

29 Then Jacob instructed them, “Soon I will die and join my ancestors. Bury me with my father and grandfather in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite. 30 This is the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a permanent burial site. 31 There Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried. There Isaac and his wife, Rebekah, are buried. And there I buried Leah. 32 It is the plot of land and the cave that my grandfather Abraham bought from the Hittites.”

33 When Jacob had finished this charge to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and joined his ancestors in death.

50 Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him. Then Joseph told the physicians who served him to embalm his father’s body; so Jacob[l] was embalmed. The embalming process took the usual forty days. And the Egyptians mourned his death for seventy days.

When the period of mourning was over, Joseph approached Pharaoh’s advisers and said, “Please do me this favor and speak to Pharaoh on my behalf. Tell him that my father made me swear an oath. He said to me, ‘Listen, I am about to die. Take my body back to the land of Canaan, and bury me in the tomb I prepared for myself.’ So please allow me to go and bury my father. After his burial, I will return without delay.”

Pharaoh agreed to Joseph’s request. “Go and bury your father, as he made you promise,” he said. So Joseph went up to bury his father. He was accompanied by all of Pharaoh’s officials, all the senior members of Pharaoh’s household, and all the senior officers of Egypt. Joseph also took his entire household and his brothers and their households. But they left their little children and flocks and herds in the land of Goshen. A great number of chariots and charioteers accompanied Joseph.

10 When they arrived at the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan River, they held a very great and solemn memorial service, with a seven-day period of mourning for Joseph’s father. 11 The local residents, the Canaanites, watched them mourning at the threshing floor of Atad. Then they renamed that place (which is near the Jordan) Abel-mizraim,[m] for they said, “This is a place of deep mourning for these Egyptians.”

12 So Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them. 13 They carried his body to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre. This is the cave that Abraham had bought as a permanent burial site from Ephron the Hittite.

Joseph Reassures His Brothers

14 After burying Jacob, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had accompanied him to his father’s burial. 15 But now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful. “Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to him,” they said.

16 So they sent this message to Joseph: “Before your father died, he instructed us 17 to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. 18 Then his brothers came and threw themselves down before Joseph. “Look, we are your slaves!” they said.

19 But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21 No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.

The Death of Joseph

22 So Joseph and his brothers and their families continued to live in Egypt. Joseph lived to the age of 110. 23 He lived to see three generations of descendants of his son Ephraim, and he lived to see the birth of the children of Manasseh’s son Makir, whom he claimed as his own.[n]

24 “Soon I will die,” Joseph told his brothers, “but God will surely come to help you and lead you out of this land of Egypt. He will bring you back to the land he solemnly promised to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath, and he said, “When God comes to help you and lead you back, you must take my bones with you.” 26 So Joseph died at the age of 110. The Egyptians embalmed him, and his body was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

∆ ∆ ∆

Questions & Observations

Q. (47:28): There is about a 140-year discrepancy when this story took place?  Can you explain anything about how scientists have a hard time pinning down the dates?

A. I am honestly surprised that they can even make the two estimates that they have.  I feel that the dates they suggest are a bit too specific for my taste, mostly because you are talking about a period that was more than 3,500 years ago.

Here’s how it breaks down: we have some dating and archeological evidence for the united kingdom of Israel (which was ruled by Saul, David, and Solomon- recorded in 1 and 2 Samuel) that exists somewhere around 1000 BC.  The OT tells us that each of these men ruled for 40 years each, so there is a 120 year period (roughly) of united leadership before the nation fractures and falls apart after Solomon’s death (recorded in 1 and 2 Kings and Chronicles).  So basically, from there, scientists (this would include archeologists, but also linguists and other fields of study) have to work their way back to the previous events as presented in the OT (there are some scholars who doubt the authenticity of most of the writings that predate David’s kingdom, so that option is “on the table” too, though I think these scholars are TOO skeptical).

Working our way back, the OT (mostly Joshua) tells us that Joshua and the armies conquered Canaan after 10 years or so, and that the Israelites were in the desert 40 years, and in Egypt around 400 years.  So now we are back 450 years from around 1000 BC (so somewhere around 1450 or 1500 BC — you see we’ve already got a “rough” date for anything further back).  From there, you can work your way back using different versions of the ages of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, but you’re really only going to be able to estimate the dates from there.  The two numbers that you see probably represent a more “conservative” and more “liberal” dating of the event in question.  It’s at least partially guess work: that’s the best we can do.

Q. (47:29): I think we saw this practice somewhere else for making an oath.  What is the significance of a hand under the thigh?

A. Um….Hum.  See, here’s the thing, when the Bible speaks of the hand “under the thigh”, that’s not really an accurate translation — it means grasping something, uh, near the thigh on a man.  (We saw this once before with Abraham’s servant who went find Isaac a wife)  Basically, by grasping the object in question, the person swearing the oath is basically swearing on the family line.  (Isn’t Bible knowledge fun!)

Q.  (48:3) Can we talk about blessings?  We have read where God blesses people, Jacob got the blessing from Abraham before he died.  Abraham blessed Joseph and his sons in 49:15-16, which is a beautiful tribute from Abraham to God for all He has done for him.  This may sound like a silly question, but what is the nature of a blessing?  Do all blessings come from God?  Are they a hope, or something definite?  Today, we say we have many blessings.  The noun form is easy to understand, it just means all of the goodness around.  But, when someone says, “May God bless you,” do we have the right to say that?  I don’t feel that anyone can speak on God’s behalf.  Or, is it a request to God?

A. In the ancient world, it was understood that rulers and patriarchs had a power that extended beyond their physical power: the ability to bless and curse.  It was thought that the gods (or God in this case) was especially receptive to a dying patriarch’s wishes for his children or others that he wished to pass his “blessing” on to.  So in our case, the blessing is something of a request to God (not a promise God makes if you will), but we could most clearly think of it as something of a magical pronouncement that had the power to accomplish what the speaker requested, whether for good (blessing) or evil (curse).  This is why it is such an important part of the story of say Isaac and Jacob and Esau, or Jacob and Joseph in this case.

O. (48:19): Like Jacob himself was chosen by God instead of his older brother for his father Abraham’s blessing, Jacob says that Joseph’s younger son, Ephraim, will be blessed more than his older brother, Manasseh.  As we have seen before, birth order does not seem to be important to God.

Q. (49:7): We talked about blessings.  Let’s talk about curses.  Is Jacob speaking for God here?  Does cursing end the men’s bad behavior or say it will cause their ruin?

A. The curses here are the result of Simeon and Levi’s violent actions in avenging their sister (which was allowable, but didn’t exactly help Jacob’s reputation), as well as some other violence that we are not privy to.  While Jacob’s curse did not cause the ruin of Simeon and Levi’s descendants, they did come true.  In the book of Joshua, the land is divided up by casting lots, and the blessings or curses that are mentioned here seem to have their “pay off” in that story.  Simeon’s descendants are chosen by lot (basically seen as God’s will) to receive land within Judah’s allotment — reducing the prominence of his tribe despite being one of the oldest sons.  Levi’s descendants had a central role in the religious life of Israel: they became the priesthood.  But because of this central religious role, the tribe of Levi received no land to themselves, and were dispersed among the other 11 tribes.  Thus, we see how the curse comes to fruition: both Simeon and Levi’s descendants see themselves dispersed among the other tribes and lose their political power.

Q. (49:10) This is getting exciting.  Here we see that “the one it to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor” is Jesus Christ?  So, Judah’s descendants will rule the Israelites until their No. 1 descendant arrives, Jesus?  Am I reading this right or totally off base?

A. Well, you’ve read it correctly, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.  What Jacob is saying here is that the line of kings will come from Judah’s line — this is, kingship will be the most important contribution of this line.  There’s at least one little hiccup: Saul, the first king of Israel, is not of Judah’s line, for reasons that will become clear sometime down the road (it’s not worth going into now).  But after him, David and his descendants will mostly rule (I’m not sure of the exact pedigree), but as you get further and further from David and Solomon, the line becomes corrupt, and before the destruction of Jerusalem (way way way down the line), God declares in Jeremiah 22 that a descendent of David (via Solomon) will no longer sit on the throne, so the family was cut off.  This was the last king that Israel would have (around 580 BC) before Jesus came to rule.  So, there was a period of almost 600 where Israel had NO king before Jesus (who was a king in a different sense anyway), but up until that point, the line of David was (almost) always in the picture, even if they became corrupt.

Q.  (49:1-28): Oh, where to start on this one?  Can you tell us what we need to take from Jacob’s blessings to his sons?

A. As I’ve been mentioning, some of this information will come into play during the land distribution in Joshua, and I think it will be mostly clear then.  Two things come into play here: Reuben (as firstborn) should be entitled to the “best” blessing, but he screwed up (no pun intended) and got passed over.  We’ve already discussed Simeon and Levi.  The big “winners” in this are Judah (which we discussed), Joseph (it doesn’t say it here, but Joseph’s two sons that Jacob blesses get the inheritance meant for Joseph — one of them gets Levi’s place so the math still comes out to 12), and Benjamin (who gets a good blessing despite being the youngest).  I don’t think there is much else to discuss here for the other sons, but if we come across something later that references that section, I will mention it.

O. (49:29-32): Jacob must have been saddened that he was not able to bury Rachel in the cave with his father, grandfather and Leah since she died alongside the road.

O. (49:33): I picture Jacob here so relaxed.  He has seen his son Jacob that he thought was dead, he has seen Jacob’s sons, the ones that will carry on the blessing, he has given his blessing, and he has nothing left.  This reminds me when my grandma passed.  I was fortunate to be with her when she left.  She was 96, a devout Christian and had a fairly healthy life.  She was lying there, taking long, slow breaths with the help of an oxygen mask.  We were the only two in the room … that I could see.  She kept trying to take off her oxygen, but I kept putting it back on and she would take another deep breath like she had just come up from being under water. She had her eyes shut, but she still knew what she was doing.  She wanted the mask off!  It was late.  I had flown overseas to see her.  I finally nodded off and she had pulled the mask aside again.  I stirred and tried to put it back on her, but she had gone.  She looked so peaceful.  My neighbor said that when his dad died, the ones around could see him going through judgment.  His dad was talking to someone.  He said, “Wait, they’ve got some questions for me.”  Then, he said, “OK, I can cross now.”  Then he said when his mom went through judgment, it was terrifying.  That’s not a great note to end on, so does anyone else have a story they would like to share of witnessing someone going to heaven?

Q. (50:16-17): This is a lie?  I don’t remember anyone ever telling Jacob the truth about his brothers selling Joseph into slavery.  Is the important part here Joseph’s recognition that it was God’s work?

A. Yep, the fellas are lying to try and protect themselves, but it doesn’t matter.  Joseph has forgiven them and seen the way that God worked everything out.

Q.  Do we know anything outside of what the Bible says about Joseph’s death?  He was the second to youngest, yet his older brothers outlived him?

A. The story doesn’t indicate how many brothers were still alive, but it appears that at least some of them outlived him.  We have no record of any sort about Joseph or his brothers in Egypt as far as I know outside of the Old Testament.

O. (50:24) I have spoken of this before, but I think it’s worth highlighting again.  It almost feels like God did not have the outward relationship with Joseph as he did with Isaac and Abraham.  Here he says, “God will surely come to help you …” which sounds like there is a hint of a doubt.  It seems that he is passing this message down from what his father had been told by God.  We never hear God talking directly to Joseph, only in his ability to interpret dreams.  But, obviously, Joseph was filled with the Spirit.  To me this just goes to show that the relationship God has with one person can appear different than any other relationship.  We should not compare how others revere Him, just be happy they know God and you know God in your own special way.  We all have different gifts!

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