November 6, 2017

Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe              

 

        Lesson IV.F.1: Jacob's Age and His Last Request. (47:28-31)  

 

Genesis 47:28-31 (KJV)

28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.

29 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:

30 But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying place. And he said, I will do as thou hast said.

31 And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head.

 

 

Introduction

 

Jacob had enjoyed Joseph for seventeen years in Hebron (37:2), and now he would enjoy Joseph and his sons for seventeen years in Egypt (48:28).  It was tragic that the sins of his sons had robbed their father of twenty-two years of Joseph’s life, but even in this sacrifice, God had beautifully worked out His plan and cared lovingly for His people.

 

 

Commentary

28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.

 

Jacob lived seventeen years after he came into Egypt—far beyond his own estimation—ironically, the same number of years he enjoyed Joseph until Joseph was sold into slavery to Egypt by his older brothers (37:2). For seventeen years he had been surrounded by pomp and splendor as the honored father of Egypt’s greatest lord.  For seventeen years everything the world has to offer had been made available to him.  He had seventeen years in which to lose his testimony by succumbing to the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Seventeen years in Egypt!  Seventeen years for the world, in its most alluring form, to set its seductions before him.  But it was Israel who was in Egypt—not just Israel the person, but Israel the people.  It is the first time the perspective nation is called Israel.  What does the world have to offer the Israel of God?  Nothing.

 

Jacob was in Egypt for seventeen years, but not for a moment was Egypt in him.  He was in the world, but not of the world, for he had thoroughly learned separation.  If he must live in Egypt he would keep his heart in Canaan, the land of promise, the place where God had put His name.  Jacob’s earthly affairs were in Egypt; his heart was in Canaan.

 

29 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:

 

At last the time drew near that Israel must die{4].  Israel, a prince with God, that had power over the angel, and prevailed, yet must yield to death.  There is no remedy; he must die.  It is appointed for all men—therefore for him.  Joseph supplied him with bread{1], so that he might not die by starvation (famine), but that did not prevent him from dying by old age or sickness.  He died by degrees; his candle gradually burnt down to the socket, so that he saw the time drawing near.  It is a tremendous advantage to see the approach of death, before we feel it, so that we may act quickly to do what our hands find to do, with all our might.  However, death is not far from any of us, at any time; and Jacob will make his death amount to something—he will make his death a testimony to his faith and a stimulus to the faith and obedience of his descendants.  This would serve as a reminder to his descendants that Egypt was not home, but only a stopover until God brought them back to their true home, Canaan, the land of promise―“By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones”(Hebrews 11:22).

 

Jacob’s desire was that his funeral would be a clear witness that he was not an idol-worshiping Egyptian but a believer in the true and living God.  When you stop to think that your funeral and burial are the last public testimonies you will ever give, it makes you want to plan carefully.  Making your last will and testament is important, but don’t neglect your last witness and testimony.  Let’s follow the example of Jacob and carefully plan our funeral to the glory of God.  Joseph not only promised to fulfill his father’s wishes, but later he also asked his brothers to make the same promise to him that he made to their father (50:24-26).

 

Using terms common to the covenant language, such as grace and deal kindly and truly, he requested that Joseph{1] solemnly vow to bury him in Canaan in accordance with God’s promises recorded in 28:13-15 and in 35:11-12{7].  When Joseph took his vow he followed custom (see 24:2{8]) by placing his hand under Jacob’s thigh. [The fact that Joseph put his hand under Jacob’s thigh{2] indicated that they entered into an oath, which would require faithfulness to the promises (24:2{8]-4).].  It was a high moment of faith for Joseph and as soon as Joseph committed himself, the dying patriarch worshipped.

 

For a father to say to his son, “If now I have found grace in thy sight,” is strange indeed.  This is the way a subordinate speaks to a superior.  The remark completes the Joseph dream motif.  His father was “bowing down to him, regarding him as the ruler of Egypt as well as his beloved Joseph.

 

30 But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying place. And he said, I will do as thou hast said.

 

Jacob’s concern, as he saw the time of his death approaching, was his burial; not the pomp of it, he was not concerned about that, but the place where he was to be buried.  Jacob wants to be buried in Canaan with his family (he had purchased a tomb there―the cave at Machpelah―before coming to Egypt), not in this foreign country, and he gets Joseph to swear a solemn oath in this connection, like the one Abraham had once had his servant swear.  Canaan was the land of promise, the land which he desired for his family, and when the times were right his posterity would become the masters of it.  And he must be buried there because of his attachment by faith to the Abrahamic covenant and his trust in God’s promises that the kingdom would be established in Canaan; and for yet another reason, which is, because it was a type of heaven, that better country, which the writer of Hebrews said plainly that he expected: “For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country” (Hebrews 11:14).

 

Jacob places Joseph under a solemn obligation, for his satisfaction in his dying minutes.  For the old patriarch nothing will be better at making a death-bed easy, than the certain prospect of rest in Canaan after death.  I think there are several factors in addition to those given in the above paragraph which entered into Jacob’s request to be buried back in the land of Canaan:

  • He is now 147 years old, and he becomes alarmed by the prospect of dying in the land of Egypt.
  • The success of Joseph in acquiring all the land for Pharaoh makes him believe that his family might become comfortable in Egypt and never want to return to Canaan.
  • We need to recognize this request as an evidence of the faith of Jacob in the covenant which God had made with his fathers. We need to know this because it will come up several times as we go through the Bible.  The hope of the Old Testament is an earthly hope.  Abraham believed that he would be raised from the dead in that land, so he wanted to be buried there.  Isaac believed the same.  Now Jacob is expressing that same faith.  You see, the hope in the Old Testament is not to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and enter the city of the New Jerusalem, which is the eternal and permanent abode of the church.
  • The hope of the Old Testament is in Christ’s kingdom which will be set up on this earth. When that happens, Israel’s great hope will be fulfilled, and these people will be raised for that kingdom.  The first 1000 years of it will be a time of testing, and after that the eternal kingdom will continue on and on.  This is why Jacob does not want to be buried in Egypt.  If he had no faith or hope in God’s promise to him, what difference would it make where he was buried?

 

For the believer today it makes no difference where we are buried.  At the time of the rapture, wherever we are, we shall be raised, and our bodies will join our spirits; that is, if we have died before the Rapture takes place.  If we are still living, then we shall be changed and caught up to meet the Lord in the air.  So it won’t make any difference if we are buried in Egypt or in Canaan or in Lost Angeles, or in Woodruff (South Carolina) or in Timbuktu.  The living “in Christ” and the dead “in Christ” in all of these places will be caught up.  It won’t make any difference where we are.  We don’t need to go to a launching pad in Florida and take off from there.  No, our hope is a heavenly hope!

 

The hope of the Old Testament is an earthly hope, and the fact that Jacob wants to be buried back in the land is an evidence of his faith in the resurrection.  He hopes to be raised from the dead in the Promised Land.  Jacob is now becoming a man of faith.

 

31 And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head.

 

After Joseph had sworn an oath to bury his father in Canaan, Jacob died (“gave up the ghost” as it is said in other places in Scripture).  Now let it come, and it shall be welcome.  Before he died, we are told in Hebrews 11:21{5] that he worshipped God, giving God thanks for all His blessings; an act of solemn worship. Though feeble, and having to support himself, he expressed his full satisfaction, and his willingness to leave this world; for even those who lived on Joseph’s benevolence, and Jacob who was so dear to him, must die.  But Christ Jesus gives us the true bread in order that we may eat and live forever.  To Him let us come and yield ourselves, and when we draw near to death, he who supported us all through life, will meet us and assure us of an everlasting salvation.

 

His “bowing” on his bed is perhaps an expression of his gratitude and relief, but it is also another fulfillment of Joseph’s dream.  Some believe that if “bed” is the correct reading, it means that while sitting up at the head of the bed (48:2b{6]) he bowed his head in thankfulness for his dutiful son’s pledge.  However, oriental beds are mere mats, having no head, and the translation should be “the top of his staff,” as the apostle renders it (Hebrews 11:21{5]).

 

“And Israel bowed himself,” and thus the ex-supplanter ended his life in an act of worship.  He is the only hero of faith of Hebrews 11 to be commended as a worshipper.  He had come a long way by the grace of God, and would soon go out in a blaze of Glory.

 

 

 

Scripture Reference and Special Notes

 

[1} Since Jacob had rejected Reuben, Joseph was now performing the duties of the firstborn son, including the burial of the father.

[2} In our day of political correctness and fear of acting different this would be a strange thing for someone to do. “Put . . . thy hand under my thigh,” that is, near the organ of procreation, was probably more meaningful to the culture of that time because this post was related to the continuation of Abraham’s line through Isaac.

[3} The expression means “demonstrate to me the utmost covenant loyalty.

[4} This was 12 years after the end of the famine.

[5} “By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.” (Heb 11.21)

[6} “. . . and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.”

[7} “And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.” (Gen 35:11-12)

[8} “And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh” (Gen. 24:2).

 

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