Wednesday 25th January 2023

GENESIS 49 and 50

In Ch. 49, Jacob called all his sons to his deathbed and prophesied a blessing over them one by one.  The ‘blessings’ are mixed, showing God’s justice for a mis-spent life in some cases.  For example:

Reuben had effectively forfeited his right of the firstborn, many years previously, by sleeping with Bilhah, one of his father’s wives.  Simeon and Levi had murdered the citizens of Shechem, in retaliation for their sister’s rape – and the judgement upon them was to cause them to be ‘scattered’ in Israel; this came to fruition later, when Levi received no land inheritance and Simeon’s population was subsumed within the land area belonging to Judah.  Judah is rehabilitated – whether due to his willingness to take Benjamin’s place as a hostage in Egypt, or simply due to God’s grace – and of course he later became the biological forefather of Jesus (in Mary’s lineage).  Some of the brothers had prophecies that described the geographical position of their tribes within the Promised Land.  Joseph receives the greatest blessing: “…from the skies above, the springs below and the mountains and hills”.  Finally, Benjamin’s ancestors are described as war-like and aggressive – which became the characteristic of that tribe in the Promised Land.

After all these prophetic blessings, Jacob gave instructions to his sons that he was to be buried alongside his parents and grandparents and with his first wife, Leah – in the cave at Mamre that Abraham had purchased from the Hittites.  Then he breathed his last and began that final great journey.  See Isaiah 35.  Pharoah insisted on the burial being on a grand scale – a state funeral with grand processions and a period of mourning.  After the burial, Joseph’s brothers became anxious that Joseph would take revenge on them for their mistreatment of him all those years ago.  The now-mature Joseph reassured them that he had forgiven them and that he recognised the sovereignty of God in using their actions to save many lives.  (He had already said this to them in 45:5-8).  He promised to look after all of them.

Egyptians regarded 110 years as the ideal lifespan – and so would have regarded Joseph as a supremely blessed man.  His own family was becoming increasingly populous and indeed so were his brothers’ families; Israel was halfway towards becoming that ‘nation and family of nations’ that God had promised Jacob that he would become.  Joseph himself made Israel swear that they would carry his bones out of Egypt one day and bury them with his fathers.  It was Moses (Exodus 13:19 and Joshua 24:32) who centuries later fulfilled that oath during the Exodus.  Then Joseph died and they embalmed him.  This provides a fitting end to the mighty Book of Genesis, which charts the creation, the fall, and the beginning of the redemption of mankind.  Joseph’s ultimate ancestor began life in a paradise in Eden, whilst this descendant ended it in a coffin in Egypt!   

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