Genesis 48-50: The end of an era

At last we find ourselves at the end of Genesis. These last three chapters deal with the death’s of Jacob and then Joseph.

Chapter forty-eight

Here Jacob calls Joseph’s sons to him and blesses them. We note yet another blessing that “should” go to the first born is going to the second son. It is mentioned in this chapter that the place where Rachel had been buried was later called Bethlehem, which is where Jesus will eventually come from.

Chapter forty-nine

Jacob calls all his sons to him and gives his final blessings as he departs this world. It is mentioned toward the end of the chapter that each blessing is “suitable” to each son which sounds to me like they were given according to the ambition and personality of the son. It seems reasonable that these were not the pronouncements of a father on what his sons and their tribes will do as much as it is letting them know what their attitudes will get them. Most of the sons are minor or background characters to what has happened, so I won’t get into the blessing of each one, but I’ll hit the sons that have had a part of this story up to now.

Rueben, you might remember him from when Joseph was beaten and about to be killed. He stopped them from doing that but they just sold him into slavery instead. He also slept with his dad’s concubine a while back. Here’s his blessing:

Rueben, you are my firstborn,

my might and the firstfruits of my strength,

preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.

Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence,

because you went up to your father’s bed:

then you defiled it – he went up to my couch!

Simeon and Levi are given their blessings together. I didn’t mention them by name, but these were the brothers that killed everyone in that one town because the prince raped their sister. Simeon is also the one who had been imprisoned by Joseph as collateral for them to bring Benjamin to see him.

Simeon and Levi are brothers;

weapons of violence are their swords

Let my soul come out into their council;

O my glory, be not joined to their company,

For in their anger they killed men,

and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.

Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,

and their wrath, for it is cruel!

I will divide them in Jacob

and scatter them in Israel

Judah you might recall from the story with the daughter-in-law. He was also the one who had the brilliant idea to sell Joseph instead of leaving him in the pit to be eaten by a wild animal. He was the one who pleaded with Joseph before they know who he was for them to not leave Benjamin behind in Egypt. Remember that it is from his line that David and Jesus will come.

Judah is a lion’s cub,

from the prey, my son, you have gone up,

He stooped down; he crouched as a lion

and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,

nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,

until tribute comes to him;

and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

Binding his foal to the vine,

and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,

he has washed his garments in wine

and his vesture in the blood of grapes.

His eyes are darker than wine,

and his teeth whiter than milk.

Joseph has been the hero of this generation and the last several chapters so I won’t go back into his story. Here’s his blessing:

Joseph is a fruitfu bough,

a fruitful bough by a spring;

his branches run over the wall

The archers bitterly attacked him,

shot at him, and harrassed him severely,

yet his bow remained unmoved;

his arms were made agile

by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob

(from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel)

by the God of your father who will help you,

by the Almighty who will bless you

with blessings of heaven above,

blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,

blessings of the breats and the womb.

The blessings of your father

are mighty of beyond the blessings of my parents,

up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.

May they be on the head of Joseph,

and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.

The chapter then ends with Jacob insisting again that he be taken back to be buried with the rest of his family, specifically laying out the location so that there can be no mistaking. Then Jacob dies.

Chapter fifty

This chapter picks up right after the last one with Joseph collapsing on his father’s face in tears. He makes all the arrangements and asks the Pharaoh if he can go to bury his father. It’s really a shame that this Pharaoh gets so little attention by those who discuss the Bible because he is quite gracious and sends Joseph along with “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt” and his brothers. The Egyptians must have been emotional because the reaction of the Canaanites was to say that “this is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians.”

It sounds like it was an impressive state funeral.

Shortly after the funeral, the brothers grow nervous about Joseph trying to get back at them, but he pretty much laughs at them. He insists that it was all God’s purpose to have him end up there in Egypt and save all these people, so he wasn’t mad at them for it at all. He even sounded like he was a little happy about it because they all might have starved to death had it not happened just the way it did, which for Joseph was proof of God’s providence.

The chapter ends with Joseph’s death at 110 years old. He appears to be the first of his brothers to pass on, but he could easily have been eighth with the description that’s given of it. He could even have been the last because he makes “the sons of Israel” promise to have his bones eventually taken to where his father was buried, but these could be literal and his brothers or figurative and be any descendants that were around.

So there are my feelings and impressions on the Chs 48-50 of Genesis. Have you read them? What do you think?

 Chapter links go to the ESV translations at but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

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