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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

January 11, 2017

Genesis 49:13-50:14

  1. Verses 13-27. We continue with our look at how Jacob/Israel blessed his sons on his deathbed. It is difficult to separate what Jacob thinks of his sons, and what may be divinely inspired. The text doesn't say God told him these things. It seems to be a mixture of the Divine and Human. Outside of what we know about the descendants of Jacob, we are hard pressed to see how these prophecies really played out. None of these things occurred in the lives of the hearers. It is possible that the prophecies are to be taken not only physically but spiritually. We looked at the first four sons and saw the consequences of not being able to control your lust or your anger. We also saw the benefit of repenting and admitting your wrongs. Now these prophecies would not really happen in the lives of these sons, but in their descendants. It is helpful to understand that Jacob is sharing how the decisions these brothers have made and will make will in some ways set a course for their children. When we get to Zebulon, Jacob states that he will live by the sea and participate in the maritime industry. We are not given any more information than this. With Issachar, Jacob states that his people will be a strong worker, but will work for others and not himself. There is even a hint to this tribe being enslaved at some point. When I hear these two prophecies it most likely pointed to what would happen in the promise land to these tribes. Jacob tells Dan that he will provide justice, but will turn into a snake. Snakes were not looked upon in a favorable light. It is possible that at some point this tribe came to the help of another tribe, but at another point would be like a snake that topples a rider. We don't know if that rider is friend or foe. And as Jacob is sharing these words he says “I look for your deliverance O Lord.” It would appear that Jacob is troubled by the very words that have come out of his mouth. He calls on the Lord for help with the future of his children. I cannot fault him for doing that. Oftentimes, the only way for things to change course is by divine intervention. Next in line is Gad. Jacob says that they will be attacked, but that they will attack back from the heels. This means that they will be knocked down, but not knocked out. Attacking from the heels is a sign of a person on the ground. Jacob sees their initial fall, but also sees a comeback. Jacob then tells Asher that they will have plenty of food and that they will be known for their delicacies. This is normally a sign of material wealth through commerce. Naphtali is seen as a free deer bearing offspring. This is a sign of many children and freedom from preying nations. From here we move to Joseph who gets the longest blessing. Just about everything you could imagine would happen for Joseph's descendants. His sufferings would become blessings for his children's children. The last sons is Benjamin. This son's descendants are seen as ravenous wolves devouring and preying on the weak. Not a very good picture.

  2. Verse 28. The blessings are all given, and the writer says that all the sons were given blessings that were appropriate for them.

  3. Verses 29-33. Jacob's last words were not the blessing he gave his sons, but his very careful instructions about his burial. There is no deception about Jacob's death, but it is soon and that underscores the importance of his words. Clear orders are given, but not for the first time (47:29-31), concerning his burial in Canaan. He was to be taken up to Canaan to the field of Machpelah and buried in the cave along with his grandfather Abraham, and his father Isaac, and their wives. Leah, too, was buried there, and it would seem that at that time he had carved out a place in the cave for his own burial (cf. 50:5). A very precise description of the cave, the field, and its location was given so that no mistakes would be made. In that day, contracts were most often (if not always) verbal (cf. 23:3-20), and so this “deed” must be passed on from one generation to the next. Knowing that he had fulfilled all of his obligations, Jacob drew up his feet into the bed and shortly, if not immediately, died. And the big question for us is “Have we made our final plans clear to our children or descendants?”

  4. Chapter 50. 1-3. Moses chose, at this point, to draw our attention to the grief of Joseph and the Egyptians. Joseph was probably closer to Jacob than any of his brothers. He wept over his father and kissed him. Then those whose duty it was to care for Jacob's medical needs were commissioned to embalm Jacob. This was a lengthy process of 40 days duration (verse 3): The process of embalming among the ancient Egyptians is thus described by Herodotus, b. ii., c. 86-8, The body was given to the embalmers, who first took out the brains and entrails and washed them in palm wine impregnated with strong astringent drugs; after which they began to anoint the body with the oil of cedar, myrrh, cinnamon, and cassia; and this lasted thirty days. They next put it into a solution for forty days longer, so that they allowed seventy days to complete the embalming; after which they bound it up in swathes of linen besmeared with gum. Being then able to resist putrefaction, it was delivered to the relatives, enclosed in a wooden or paper case somewhat resembling a coffin, and laid in the catacomb or grave belonging to the family, where it was placed in an upright posture against the wall. As a gesture of respect, love, and sympathy, the Egyptians joined Joseph in mourning Jacob's death a total of 70 days before the burial plan was put into action.

  5. Verses 4-6. Embalming was the customary Egyptian preparation of dignitaries for burial. For Jacob's burial this was especially helpful for it was a long way back to Canaan to the cave where Jacob was to be laid to rest. Perhaps it was due to the same logistical problem (without the availability of embalmers) that forced Jacob to bury Rachel along the way rather than to transport her body to the cave of Machpelah (cf. Genesis 35:16-20). Joseph's next task was to secure the permission of Pharaoh to leave Egypt, along with all the adult members of the Israelite nation. Joseph is said to have asked other Egyptian officials to petition Pharaoh to leave the land temporarily. This may be due to some kind of ceremonial defilement that would make Joseph's personal appearance and appeal offensive to Pharaoh. A report of Jacob’s instructions that were sworn as an oath was included in the petition. Joseph reminded Pharaoh that this was Jacob's strong desire and that he was sworn to carry through with it. This was to assure that Pharaoh would not take offense to Jacob's burial in Canaan rather than Egypt. Without reservation, Joseph's request was granted.

  6. Verses 7-9. Joseph was accompanied by a large delegation of high-ranking Egyptian officials, many, if not all of whom, were subordinate to Joseph (cf. 40:40-44). Verse seven seems to indicate that men of various ranks and officers went with Joseph to bury Jacob. In addition, all of Jacob’s adult family went along. Attached to this large procession was a large company of horsemen and charioteers. Providing transportation and security seems to have been their assignment. Upon reaching Canaan, the ceremony was so awesome it made a profound impression on the inhabitants of the land.

  7. Verses 10-14. For an unknown reason, the procession made its way from Egypt to Canaan by means of an unusual route. Rather than traveling to the north and approaching Canaan from the west, they proceeded northeasterly and entered Canaan from the east, from the other side of the Jordan (cf. verse 10). Perhaps it is not coincidental that this route would more closely parallel the entrance of Israel into Canaan after the Exodus. Shortly after crossing the Jordan into Canaan, the procession halted at a place identified as “the threshing floor of Atad” (verse 10). Here a seven day period of mourning was observed which especially attracted the attention of the Canaanites who lived near (verse 11). The seven day mourning period may have been primarily for the Egyptians, allowing them one final opportunity to grieve with Joseph and his family. From here it would seem that Jacob's family proceeded on with the body to the cave of Machpelah where Jacob was buried. This would then have been a more private family matter neither participated in by the Egyptians nor viewed with curiosity by the Canaanites. Moses reminds us that in so doing the charge of Jacob to his sons was exactly carried out. Having completed their mission, this large entourage, the Israelites, would then have returned to the threshing floor of Atad, rejoined their delegation of Egyptians, and returned to Egypt.

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