GENESIS 47 and 48
Joseph’s career continued to flourish and during the famine years, he took the opportunity to amass vast wealth on behalf of Pharaoh, essentially making all Egypt into Pharaoh’s slaves. This is somewhat ironic, given that later, his own people would be the ones in slavery! Israel, in Joseph’s time, were therefore the only free men in the land, which must have been a strong source of resentment amongst the locals. Israel grew wealthy and grew numerically as a people, their mere presence starting to become a threat to the Egyptian national interest (more about that in Exodus!).
Seventeen years later, Jacob (aged 147) was dying and called for Joseph to get him to promise that he would bury him back in the Promised Land with his wife and fathers. Chapter 47:30 is very interesting: the phrase “when I rest with my fathers…” clearly indicates that Jacob had an expectation of an immediately afterlife in heaven, since he makes a distinction between that and how he wants his dead body dealt with.
Hebrews 11:21 refers to Jacob worshiping God whilst leaning on top of his staff. The ever-presence of the Lord in our lives is living proof that wherever we are in the world, we are at home really!
If you are a genuine believer in the Lord, and in his Messiah, then death holds no fear for you; you are already in possession of eternal life, and so death is simply a birth canal into the full extent of the wonderful inheritance that God the Saviour has already purchased and reserved for you. We read in Genesis chapters 48 – 50 that Jacob, having walked for 147 years with the Lord, and becoming older and frailer with each passing month, was now completely prepared for this journey, for the glorious moment when he saw his Master face to face, when he re-entered the joyful company of his fathers, and rested forever from his labours – free of pain, tears, sorrow and death.
It is those further back in the journey who are filled with sorrow, those whose work is not yet done, and who must say goodbye for a short while. Joseph, having been separated from his dad for twenty years, was grateful for their recent time together, but wanted more. Bringing his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim with him, he went expecting to receive the sonship blessing from Jacob; but the old prophet was not dead yet and he had a surprise from the Lord: a generation would be skipped, and Manasseh and Ephraim would each inherit a full share of Jacob’s wealth and, later, the land of Israel. More surprises, when short-sighted Jacob reached out first and knowingly gave Ephraim – the younger – the principal blessing of the firstborn, ahead of Manasseh (much to Joseph’s initial displeasure). This event was in marked contrast to the blind and confused Isaac, who unknowingly blessed Jacob instead of Esau (although both patriarchs did accomplish God’s purpose and choosing).
We know that four and half centuries later, the tribe of Levi would have no land inheritance in Israel, since they served God as priests and tabernacle servants; the splitting of the tribe of Joseph into Ephraim and Manasseh was therefore God’s way of still arriving at twelve occupying tribes in the land. Ephraim, as the true firstborn, became the largest and most powerful tribe, the leader of what was to become the Northern Kingdom.