“GOD WILL BE WITH YOU”
Genesis 47–50“ I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers” (Gen. 48:21).Genesis ends with Jacob’s family settled in Egypt. Yet the passing of the patriarchs marks the beginning, not the end, of what God will do for and through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is the same with us. The passing of one generation is not the end. As we trust in God, we can say to our children, “God will be with you.” We can rely on God to work out His purpose in their lives.
The family arrived and was settled on prime Egyptian land (47:1–31). Jacob counted Joseph’s 2 sons as his own (48:1–22), and blessed all 13 before he died (49:1–33). Joseph buried his father, reaffirmed his forgiveness of his brothers, and obtained a promise that when God brought their offspring back to Canaan, Joseph’s bones would be returned to his homeland (50:1–26).
Understanding the Text
“Egypt and Canaan” Gen. 47:1–31. Canaan depended on rainfall for the moisture needed to raise crops. Egypt, however, depended on the Nile River, which overflowed annually and enriched the farmlands lying along its banks. Times of famine are reported in ancient Egyptian records, yet the Nile generally made Egypt famine-proof. Egyptian reliefs and records depict peoples from Syria-Palestine asking permission to stay in Egypt in famine, and coming to Egypt to buy food. “The land became Pharaoh’s” Gen. 47:20. Ancient inscriptions confirm that Egypt was considered to belong to Pharaoh, and that 20 percent of the crop was to be his. Records also show that temple lands did not belong to Pharaoh, which meant that Egypt’s rulers were often troubled by too-independent religious hierarchies. No independent Egyptian records tell the story of Joseph or explain how Pharaoh’s ownership was established. “Your two sons . . . will be reckoned as mine” Gen. 48:1–22. It is sometimes confusing. The “12 tribes of Israel” are frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. Yet if we compare lists, there are actually 13 tribal groups! Levi is not included in some lists, because this tribe provided priests and worship leaders. On other lists, such as the one in Revelation 7:5–8, Levi is included and Dan is left out. What happened is that Jacob “adopted” the two sons of Joseph. These two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, became heads of tribal groups, and the name “Joseph” was dropped. It’s helpful for us to remember this if someone else is given credit for what we have done while our name remains unmentioned. Genesis reminds us that it isn’t recognition that is important. It’s contribution. Joseph’s name may not appear in Scripture’s lists of Israelite tribes. But we know—and God knows—that he made a greater contribution than any of the other brothers! Jacob’s blessing Gen. 49:1–28. The concept of blessing is a powerful one in the Old Testament. In giving a blessing, a superior, such as a father, verbally conferred a gift or endowment to another person. This was not magic, for the Old Testament makes it clear that all blessing is from God (14:19; Num. 22; Deut. 10:8). Only a person who was in a close personal relationship with God could act as a channel through which God blessed others. In Genesis 49, Jacob, enabled by God, looks ahead and in his blessing makes oft-obscure predictions about the future of each family group, based in part on the character of each of his sons (v. 28). What is more important to us, however, is a phrase found in the blessing given Joseph. That phrase is, “Because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you . . . your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains” (vv. 25–26). The deep faith in God that Joseph displayed blessed his sons, and remained a vital influence even on distant generations. If we want to be a blessing to our children’s children, there is no surer way than for us to live as close to God as Joseph did. When we are faithful and obedient, our “blessings are greater.” “The scepter will not depart from Judah” Gen. 49:10. Jesus came from the tribe of Judah. This blessing, which predicts a ruler to emerge from Judah’s line, is one of the earliest and clearest of the Old Testament’s messianic prophecies. “A full forty days” Gen. 50:1–14. The text again provides an accurate picture of cultural backgrounds. Israelite burial took place as soon after death as possible, with no attempt made to preserve the body. In Egypt, however, a lengthy process of removing viscera and treating the body with preservatives was followed. Jacob was embalmed after the Egyptian pattern because he had asked his sons to bury him in Canaan, too long a journey to take with a corrupting corpse. Why would Jacob want to be buried in Canaan? Jacob’s request was an affirmation of faith. God had promised that his descendants would inherit Canaan. In choosing to be buried with his father and grandfather in Canaan, Jacob affirmed his conviction that his descendants would return and God’s promises would be fulfilled. “God will surely come to your aid” Gen. 50:22–26. When death finally visited Joseph, he too took the opportunity to affirm his faith in God’s covenant. He had the family promise that, when God did bring the Hebrews out of Egypt and give them the Promised Land, his body would be carried home. The deaths of Joseph and Jacob remind us that the funerals of believers, while darkened by grief, are also bright with hope. Neither Joseph nor Jacob viewed death as the end. Each looked beyond his own time on earth and found comfort in what God would do in the future. This is also the case with us. Because of Jesus we understand even better than they. Death’s sting still hurts. But we know that the death of the body is our induction into a full experience of eternal life.
What If? (Gen. 50:1–21)
I remember how strange I felt that afternoon. I slipped into our living room, edged past my dad, and headed for my room. Usually it wasn’t like that. Usually I hurried home, ran to Dad, and asked if we were going fishing that afternoon. Not that day. That day I’d gone to school clutching a coin Dad gave me to buy new shoelaces. I went into Eli Bassett’s store. But I never made it past the candy counter. At school I tried to eat the candy, but it didn’t taste right, and I threw it away. That afternoon I told my dad I had lost the money. Somehow knowing that I had done wrong distorted my relationship with my dad. I didn’t feel comfortable with him that afternoon. Not at all. So I really can understand Joseph’s brothers. They remembered the wrong they had done, and it made them uncomfortable. What if Joseph held a grudge? What if Joseph intended to pay them back? What if? Joseph must have understood too. The text says that “he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” Joseph even made his commitment to them unmistakably clear: “I will provide for you and your children.” What was it that freed Joseph to forgive so freely? Perspective. Joseph realized his brothers had intended to harm him. But he also understood that God had used his siblings to achieve a good and important end. In looking beyond the act to consider God, Joseph was able to see his brothers’ sins in a fresh perspective. Sensing the good hand of God even in the evil others did freed Joseph from anger and from any desire to take revenge. It’s strange, isn’t it? The brothers suffered more from their earlier sins than the man they had sinned against! Just as a child I suffered more from misusing the money Dad gave me to buy shoelaces than he did. I suffered more because my act made me feel guilty, and awareness of guilt created what seemed to me an uncrossable gulf in my relationship with my dad. When someone we know sins against us, we need to adopt Joseph’s view of things. We need to realize that God can and will use even our hurts for good. We need to understand that sin hurts the sinner, perhaps even more than it hurts the person sinned against. We can react with anger when we are hurt. We can strike out or use silence as a weapon to express our pain. Or we can take Joseph’s course and “speak comfortably” to the person who sins against us. This doesn’t mean that we ignore the sin. After all, Joseph said, “You intended to harm me.” But Joseph went on to “speak comfortably” to his brothers, to reassure them of forgiveness and express again his commitment to them. When we take Joseph’s course, making plain our willingness to forgive and our continuing commitment to care for the one who has hurt us, then the pain of sinner and sinned against can be healed. And we will have walked in a path marked out not only by Joseph, but by Jesus as well.
If you sense your alienation from someone who has hurt or sinned against you, why not try Joseph’s approach?