Pearl was old, wealthy, and smart. Her philosophy of wealth was simple and biblical, enjoy it and employ it. She always said, “There is no use having conveniences if you don’t use them.” As for as employing her wealth, she told me, “There are two people I always pay, the preacher and the doctor.”
When she was dying, she called me to house. When I went to her room, she raised up on her bed and looked straight into my eyes. She said, “Preacher, I’m dying. I want you to know that I’m not trusting in money to get me into heaven. I’m trusting in Christ alone.”
Last words are revealing. This text in Genesis gives us last words that show where the faith of Jacob and Joseph rested. They trusted nothing in this world, but by faith believed a promise that secured blessing death could not end, that gave them the right perspective on this world and the people in it, and that anticipated their participation in the fulfillment of the promise.
I want us to briefly walk through this text and then draw some applications from the text for our encouragement.
In the closing verses of chapter 46 (28-34), Jacob and his family, led by Judah, arrived in the Land of Goshen. In a touching scene, Jacob and Joseph are reunited. The narrator tells us Joseph “fell on his father’s neck and wept on his neck a good while” (29). Then we have the first mention of death (30) from Jacob, a theme in this final section of text.
Plans are hatched for meeting Pharaoh and securing the Land of Goshen as a dwelling for Jacob and his family (31-34). The plan to live in Goshen hinges on the prejudice of the Egyptians (34). 47:1-6 basically repeats 46:31-34, only in terms of how their plans worked out. In fact, their plans had better results than they expected. Joseph’s brothers are put in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock (6). God used the racism of the Egyptians to provide a place where Jacob could become a nation (c.f. 46:3) without being absorbed into Egyptian culture and religion.
In detailing Joseph’s administration of Egypt (47:13-26), the writer provides a contrast of Egypt and Israel. Obviously, God not only sent Joseph to Egypt to save Jacob’s family, but also to save the Egyptians (50:19-20). The best thing that ever happened to Egypt was when Joseph showed up in an Ishmaelite caravan. The detail of Joseph’s administration of Egypt is constructed to show the purpose of God in sending him there in the words of the Egyptians themselves. Without Joseph they would have died (47:15,19,25). God sent him there to save life. However, in that same context Jacob prospered (47:12,27). In common grace, God provided for the Egyptians through Joseph. In covenant blessing, God prospered his people (27). Is this some fault in God, or is it simply the faithfulness of God?
Before we move to the next section of text, Jacob’s meeting of Pharaoh is classic (47:7-11). He “stood” before Pharaoh and blessed him when he walked in (7) and when he walked out (10). This entire last section of Genesis is Jacob’s finest hour. His days had been few and evil, but he, at last, knows who God is and who he is. Therefore, he is in a position to bless. What God gives to Egypt by the presence of His people is blessing that they would not have otherwise had.
This section of is framed by Jacob’s instructions to his sons regarding his burial. In 47:29-31, Jacob, first, binds Joseph by oath to bury him at the family burial site. In 49:29-33, with a detailed description of the family burial cave, Jacob commands all his sons to bury him there. 50:1-14 provides much detail regarding the preparation of Jacob’s body, the mourning period, and the funeral cortege transporting Jacob’s body to Machpelah.
In the middle of this frame resides Jacob blessing for his sons. First, he blessed Joseph (48:1-22). He begins by recounting God’s covenant with him at Luz (48:3-4 c.f. 28:13-15), and narrator ends with the triple use of “blessing” (49:28). This reference to the covenant ties the blessing of his sons to covenantal reality. Jacob adopted Joseph’s two sons, Manesseh and Ephraim (48:1) and blessed them as Ephraim and Manesseh (48:5-6), putting the younger before the older. Jacob disregarded the protest of Joseph and gave prominence to the youngest son, Ephraim (48:17-19).
Second, in 49:1-28, Jacob blesses all his sons. The narrator tell us two things about the blessing. They are prophetic. Jacob gathers his sons to tell them what will happen to them “in days to come” (49:1), literally “in the latter days.” This is the first of three times this phrase occurs in the introduction to poetic discourses in the Pentateuch. It, also, occurs in the oracles of Balaam (Num 24:14-24) and in the last words of Moses (Deut 31:29). On all three occasions the subject matter introduced is God’s future deliverance of his chosen people. At the center of that deliverance stands a king (Gen 49:10; Num 24:7; Deut 33:5). The outstanding thing about the blessing of Genesis 49 is Judah designation as the royal tribe (EBC, Sailhamer, 275). His rule is not only over his father’s sons, but encompasses the nations (49:8,10 c.f. Ps 2:8; Dan 7:13-14; Rev. 5:5,9).
The writer ends chapter 49 by telling the reader Jacob blessed his sons. 3 times “blessed” is used (49:28). He blessed each son with a suitable blessing. When you read the blessings of some of the sons they feel more like the anti-blessing Esau received (27:39-40). The future even causes Jacob to pause and utter a prayer (49:18). The ups and the downs of the future, though giving pause, are in the best interest of the sons to discipline them and make them carriers of future blessing to the nations.
In this closing section, after Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers feared Joseph would seek revenge. Their fear brings us back to the theme of God’s providence in the Joseph narratives (19-21) and to the theme in Genesis of God’s determinant will to bless His people.
This final section of Genesis is built upon promised blessing. It shows the power of promised blessing for living and dying and for future hope.
We live in a world where evil is present, death is present, and sin reigns. We also live in a world where God is sovereign. He is committed to the good of His people. No matter what comes your way, God is at work for good, and this is hope enough to sustain us in life, in death, and in the future.
I want us to make a few applications regarding the power of promised blessing in our lives.
Promised blessing keeps us from being bamboozled by the prosperity of this world (46:28-47:28; 50:1-15).
Jacob’s family went to Egypt and was given a “possession” in the land of Egypt (47:11). While they were in Egypt, the “gained possessions” and “were fruitful and multiplied greatly” (47:27).
The word “possession” (‘ahuzza) is a technical term in the Pentateuch (the OT for that matter) for the Promised Land. It is used 4 times in this text (47:11; 48:4; 49:30; 50:13). Once it is used of the Land of Goshen (47:11). Once it is used of God’s promise of the Land (48:4); the other two references are translated “burying place” (49:30; 50:13). All Jacob’s family possessed in Canaan was a burial site at Machpelah, and Abraham had to buy that from Ephron the Hittite (c.f. 49:29-33; 23:1-20).
Promised Blessing Trumps Possession
This text presents us, on the one hand, with a possession in Goshen and, on the other hand, the promise of the Land of Canaan, with only a burial site to show for it. How easily it would be to become deceived by the prosperity of Egypt, even in a time of famine.
How will the family stay faithful? Reason would dictate put your hope in Egypt. God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the land of Canaan, but it seemed that what God had promised regarding the Land was coming about in Egypt. After all, they just arrived and gained a “possession.” When reason conflicts with the Word, go with the Word! In the grand scheme of things, you being able to work everything out in your mind is not as important as the Word of God. Just submit to it, and trust it.
Pharaoh is the one who possess everything in Egypt and assigns possessions. The possession in Goshen is not the “The Promised Possession,” not even close. The temptation is to take a short cut to the promise and settle for possession in Egypt. Jacob had schemed his whole life to possess what God promised. Some may think, surely, there is some way to obtain the blessed life without unconditional surrender to Lord Christ.
Promised Blessing Determines Valuation
The promise of God, however, must determine the valuation of all things in this world. Jacob’s main concern was the Egyptianization of his family. He would not have gone to Egypt without God’s instructions (46:2-4). He will not permit imperial attractions to allure him, so He stood before Pharaoh and blessed him not once but twice (47:7,10). Jacob understood that the promise is at work in Egypt. Pharaoh and prosperity must bow the knee to promised blessing because of God’s sovereign work in behalf of his people.
Even the bigotry, racism, and prejudice of the Egyptians will work for the good of God’s people. The political and economic strength of Egypt owed its existence to God working good for his people. Otherwise, Egypt would have perished. The kindest, most gracious thing God could do for the Egyptians was send his people there.
Promised Blessing Is Expressed Tangibly
Jacob would be in Egypt but not of Egypt. In his death, he rallied his family around the promised blessing. He is clear, “Don’t bury me here. Bury me there” (47:29; 49:29). Jacob, at the point of death, passed promised blessing to his sons. His burial has to do with the promise of blessing.
Jacob was mourned and transported like a king to his “burying place” (possession) at Machpelah (50:1-14). The funeral cortege was a site to behold (50:7-9). It was a mixture of Egyptians and Israelites, high officials and soldiers. When they crossed the Jordan, they stopped and mourned 7 days. The Canaanites were so impressed that they named the place “Abel-mizraim,” which means mourning of Egyptians.
Jacob is staking a claim in the yet unfulfilled promise if God. Machpelah is so important because it was Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s testimony that they would be present and accounted for when the promise was fulfilled. They would participate in the promise, and death could not alter that one little bit. This is why Jesus used them as examples of resurrection faith. When questioned about the resurrection, Jesus answered, As for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matt 22:31-32). He is not using them as an example of an airy afterlife where souls continue their existence. He is arguing, they will be raised from the dead and experience the fulfillment of the promised blessing of God.
Was Jacob’s family impacted by His expression of faith? Look no further that Joseph’s instructions for his burial (50:22-26). Imagine the Exodus. The people of God came out of Egypt carrying a coffin (‘aron c.f. Deut 10:5). In their memory, they had Jacob blazing a trail out of Egypt, and Joseph’s coffin reminding them day after day not to hope in Egypt. What a sight when they crossed over Jordan carrying not only the ark but a coffin! What powerful reminders that promised blessing is greater by far than the amusements of Egypt!
Our roots get deep in this world. Our hope becomes rooted in our conception of what the blessed life is. Perhaps, we’ve designed a world we want God to uphold. We want good for our children, and that is a good thing to desire. We want a happy home, and that is a good thing to desire. We want to be comfortable, and that is good thing to work for. We want friends who understand us and support us in life, and that is a good thing to desire. Those things as good as they are can easily become idols that we worship and that direct our lives. As long as all the ducks line up, all is good, God is good, and peace abounds. I’m not sure where that leaves crucified people? I’m not sure where that leaves those who lose every earth bound hope?
Does not the possibility exists that God still loves you, even if He leads you through the loss of every dream and every desire? Could the pain and disappointment not be an expression of His love for you? Does He not have dreams and desires and possibilities for you that without your present circumstances you would have been in no position to consider? No matter what happens, God knows the plans He has for you. He has purposed good for you and not evil. We must not be deceived by the prosperity of this world.
Promised blessing is a gift bestowed on those who cannot claim it as a right (48:1-49:28).
This is great news! God freely gives us what we cannot claim. This is the essence of God’s electing grace. God chose Abraham and said, I am going to bless you; I am going to give you offspring; I am going to give you the Land; I am going to make you a blessing and give you a great name; I am going to bless the nations through you. This is grace. This promised blessing was reaffirmed to Isaac and Jacob and now Jacob’s sons. From reading Genesis one thing is certain, not one of them merited blessing.
The preeminent spot, however, became a source of contention and scheming. The preeminent spot ultimately belongs to Christ and is not up for grabs. It was never about them personally. It was not as if God said, “Now Jacob has better qualities than Esau, he is a fit carrier of promise.” Ultimately, everybody in the line failed—Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Israel, and David—but One, the Lion of the tribe of Judah to whom all peoples owe obeisance and obedience.
Joseph tried to manipulate blessing in the arrangement of sons (48:13-14). He protested Jacob’s crossing of his hands (48:18-19). Blessing does not follow social conventions and cultural norms. Jacob could no more control whom he blessed than Joseph could manipulate whom Jacob blessed. Even though Ephraim would be before his brother, Jacob had to give Judah preeminence. The very son who hatched the plot to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites is the one who God appointed to the line of Christ.
We would object. But understand promised blessing is a gift bestowed on those who cannot claim it by right.
That coveted position was not the only blessing. Jacob blessed all his sons. To be sure, Christ would come from the line of Judah, but the whole nation of Israel had the privilege of typifying Christ as God’s son (Ex. 4:22-23).
Is it not enough simply to be blessed? Jacob blessed each of his sons, “blessing each with the blessing suitable to him” (49:28, literally blessed them, every one, according to his blessing he blessed them). If you are like me, when I read Genesis, I find myself rooting for Ishmael, Esau, and Joseph. They seem more deserving. The writer writes the text this way to emphasize that the blessing is by grace, not merit. God, through the prophetic utterance of their father, bestows on each son great kindness.
Since Eden, the devil has convinced mankind that God is holding-out on us. As he told our first parents, “Look at the most prominent tree, did God say not to eat of it?” he tells us, “Look at that family, look at that person, look at that career, look at that achievement, and look at yourself.” If we are tall, we want to be shorter; if short, we want to be taller, and on and on it goes. We long for everything but what we have and want to be someone other than who we are.
Understand this, God has fashioned blessing just for you. It is custom made by infinite wisdom. It will fit no one but you. Waking up to the voice of God speaking blessing over your life is an enriching experience. God places us in the community of faith and uniquely gifts us to the point that without you the body is lacking. Yet, such blessing is bestowed on those who cannot claim it by right!
Promised blessing reconciles us in life (50:15-21)
When Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers acting out of fear reasoned that Joseph would seek revenge. They came to Joseph claiming one of Jacob’s last request was that Joseph forgive his brothers. Joseph wept at these words. Then, they fell before Joseph and offered themselves as servants. You realize that Joseph had cared for them for 17 years to this point in Egypt.
Joseph’s reply to his brothers soars to the highest height of faith. Joseph was not God. He could not control what they did or the consequences of what they did. This he knew, however, that behind every human plan lies the unchanging plan of God. No matter how much envy, jealously, and hatred his brothers had poured on him, they could not thwart God’s good purpose to keep many people alive.
It was the good purpose of God that allowed Joseph to comfort his brothers. The impact of what Joseph’s brothers did was far reaching. There is no tribe of Joseph. He is replaced by his two firstborn sons in the tribal line up. God’s purpose for him was to save multitudes of people. When Joseph looked at that amazing turn of events, so firmly rooted in promised blessing, he was reconciled to the ways of God in his life (50:20).
Perhaps the greatest earthly good God will do through the things you suffer will be in someone else’s life, not your own. This is not a ministry we ask for. We must, however, come to treasure the good God does for others. Your suffering does not get in the way of God’s plans for you. You don’t get to write your story; it’s God’s story; He writes it. Joseph did not live for his brothers apologies. Their sins did not hold him captive, causing him to refuse to move on (adapted a Desiring God post by Marshall Segal, “You Can Forgive Your Parents,” Feb. 7, 2017).
Ultimately, everything serves God’s good purpose. In Genesis the fall, the pervasive spread of sin, the prideful arrogance of mankind, violence, barrenness, foreign rules, deception, selling a brother, the lure of the empire, and even death—all bow the knee to God’s good purpose.