And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt. — Genesis 47:29
Spending time with elderly people, one often finds them looking back over the past and also looking ahead toward Heaven. At various times my aunt, who is now ninety-four years old, has shared some of her recollections. Many of these stories have been reminders of the faithful service to God which has been part of our family heritage for generations. She tells how her parents and siblings would take the streetcar across the Burnside Bridge after spending Sunday at our downtown church. Riding the streetcar made her sick, so before they arrived home, her dad would get off and walk, carrying her. She tells about getting into poison oak year after year when they were spending the summer on the campground. She recounts Saturdays when, after musical rehearsals, she and her friends walked from the Sixth and Burnside church to the campground at 52nd and Duke, with at least one stop to buy ice cream. Woven through the stories is the underlying theme of God’s faithfulness and a wholehearted desire to serve Him. My aunt longs for the day when she will step into eternity. She feels that her life’s mission has been accomplished, and she is anticipating seeing the Lord.
In today’s text, Jacob realized that before long he would depart from this life. “Mission accomplished!” could have been his heart’s last cry. As he neared life’s end, we see a man who had confidence in his relationship with God and was ready to meet Him.
Was Jacob always a man of great spiritual stature? No, in looking at his earlier life, one can see failures and missteps along the way. However, the mercy and grace of God had established him. Jacob had learned from his mistakes, and recognized his dependence upon God. His relationship to God had become essential to his life, and God changed his name to Israel, for as a prince he had prevailed with God. The grace of God sustained him throughout the remainder of his life.
This last Biblical glimpse of Jacob presents us with a challenge: what do we want our final testimony to be? It will be based upon how we are living in the present. Moment by moment we are building for eternity. With God’s help, we can make decisions that will give our lives a godly and righteous ending.
This text covers Jacob’s last years. After he had been in Egypt for seventeen years, Jacob called for Joseph and asked him to promise to bury him in Canaan in the cave of Machpelah. Putting a hand under the thigh was a custom that indicated a vow. It was important to Jacob that his descendants remember they were only in Egypt temporarily and that someday they would return to Canaan.
In Genesis 48:1-22, Jacob bestowed a double blessing upon Joseph by referring to Joseph’s two sons as his own. Jacob pronounced blessings upon each boy, with the greater promises going to the younger son, Ephraim. This was the passing on of the promises God had first given to Abraham, later to Isaac, and then to Jacob. With the covenant came the leadership responsibilities. The later history of the nation of Israel confirmed that the tribe of Ephraim held a leadership role and, in time, the nation made up of the ten northern tribes was called Ephraim. Manasseh also was destined to become great. Today Jewish people still use the blessing from Genesis 48:20, “God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh.”
Genesis 49:1-28 contains Jacob’s blessings and prophecies for his sons. Given in a poetic style, the messages contain metaphors and parallelism. Judah was destined to be the leader politically and militarily, and from his line eventually King David and Jesus Christ were born. Joseph was promised greater blessings than all the others, and his descendants later included Joshua, Deborah, Gideon, and Samuel. Jacob had given his last will and testament.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The early history of the chosen race
7. Jacob’s last days
a. Jacob’s burial request (47:28-31)
b. Jacob’s blessing of Joseph’s sons (48:1-22)
c. Jacob’s blessing of his sons (49:1-28)
(1) The setting (49:1-2)
(2) Reuben (49:3-4)
(3) Simeon and Levi (49:5-7)
(4) Judah (49:8-12)
(5) Zebulun (49:13)
(6) Issachar (49:14-15)
(7) Dan (49:16-18)
(8) Gad (49:19)
(9) Asher (49:20)
(10) Naphtali (49:21)
(11) Joseph (49:22-26)
(12) Benjamin (49:27)
(13) Conclusion (49:28)
Jacob learned many things the hard way, but he did learn. We can have the same purpose to follow God that Jacob developed, and thereby have the same eternal hope.