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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Genesis 49:29-50:26

Here my notes from my sermon on Genesis 49:29-50:26


Joseph, through God’s providence, rose to second in command in all of Egypt. He was able to secure Egypt’s future. He was able to increase Pharaoh’s control over the residents of Egypt. More importantly, Joseph was able to secure salvation for his family in the face of a great and severe famine.

Joseph’s family also came together. The brothers who had desired to get rid of their brother now have been reconciled to Joseph, as he has no desire to avenge their crime. His tears over his brothers express from his heart his desire to be one with them again.

Last week we saw, with the family reunited, Jacob pronounced his departing words to his sons.

Not surprisingly, Jacob gave the fullest blessings to Joseph and Judah. And to the sons who caused him the most grief, namely Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, Jacob gave less than desirous words. But these final words had more meaning than just to the sons themselves. Jacob’s words had prophetic significance for the descendants and tribes which would come forth from the sons.

As a preview of where we are going tonight, first we will read the remaining contents of Genesis. Then I will point out important observations from this section. Finally we will consider Genesis as a whole, hitting the highlights, and I will close by pointing out some observations to consider as one moves into the book of Exodus.

Read Genesis 49:29-50:26

Earlier Jacob made his son, Joseph, swear that he would take his body back to Canaan to be buried. And just after he gives his blessings to his sons, he implores them to take him back to Canaan for burial.

Jacob wanted to be gathered to his family. Quite literally, in those days when one was buried in the same tomb, eventually when the flesh completely deteriorated, ones bones would be put with the remaining bones of past family members.

Leah, the forgotten wife of Jacob

In this section of Genesis 49:28-33 what catches my attention is the wife whom Jacob was buried with in the family tomb. Throughout the Genesis narrative Jacob’s love is Rachel. This is the woman whom Jacob worked 14 years to marry. His marriage to Leah was consummated through treachery as Jacob did not realize he had married Leah until after his sexual consummation had already taken place. And although Zilpah and Bilhah were technically not on the same level in Jacob’s eyes as Leah and Rachel, it could be argued that they too were his wives in reality.

Jacob is buried with Leah. The irony here should not escape us. When we recall the struggle Leah and Rachel endured being married to the same man, two things jump out at us. Rachel had Jacob’s love, but she had a great struggle having children. Leah was particularly fertile, as she bore six children to Jacob, but she never had Jacob’s love.

Perhaps in death Leah received some of the honor she should have received in life. Earlier in Genesis, God made the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. He made Eve from Adam’s rib and declared, “therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen 3:24).”

Leah never really experienced the holding fast part of the command. Although Jacob never divorced her, he only held to her loosely. Leah was a victim of the wills of two men. She was abused by her father, Laban, as he orchestrated and commanded Leah to deceive Jacob. Jacob, after becoming the husband of Leah still chose to marry her sister.

God’s design in marriage is for one man and one woman coming together in covenant of marriage for a lifetime. Although Jacob did not love Leah at all and although he did not want her as a wife, Leah was his true wife.

In life, Leah was far from the side of Jacob, but God saw that they were united forever in death in a way they had not been in life. Additionally in a way not known before her death, God chose the line of Judah, her son, as the line through which Jesus Christ was born.

God’s Promises Continue to be Fulfilled

As we have stated many times through this studies that a dominant theme running through the book is promises. Many of these promises find fulfillment in Genesis, others find fulfillment in both the OT and NT. The issue of promises and fulfillment is God’s credibility. God promises many things to this family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What we find throughout Genesis and the rest of Scripture is God’s fulfilling of those promises.

In Genesis 49:33 we are told of the death of Jacob after he blesses his children and instructs them about his wish for burial in Canaan. When he dies, Joseph is there by his side and he begins to weep over his father. This event is another example of God’s faithfulness concerning his words.

When Jacob learned that Joseph was alive and the family began its journey to Egypt, God came to him in visions at night and promised to Jacob that his beloved son Joseph would close his eyes (Gen 46:4). This specifically addresses Jacob’s death and Joseph’s presence there. This fulfillment and the host of other kept promises of God give us confidence and assurity in God’s words and his ability to keep them.

This is why I believe that Jesus will come back again like he promised. This is why I believe in promises like Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).” This is why I believe in the promise found in Lamentations 3:22-23 which says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.”

The Regal Burial of Jacob

From the beginning, God promised to bless Jacob. Throughout the narrative of Jacob, God has been faithful to the patriarch in his life. Now in death, God continues to bless him. Jacob in essence gets a burial reserved only for Kings and Pharaohs.

Not only does Pharaoh permit Joseph to return to Canaan to bury his father, but servants of Pharaoh went with Joseph, and elders of the land of Egypt journeyed to Canaan for the funeral. Pharaoh provided chariots and horsemen for the journey. The picture is one of complete solidarity.

Although Jacob was worried that he would go down to Sheol in disappointment and pain, he was reunited with his long lost son. He even was part of the lives of his grandchildren. He endured through a great famine in the comfort of Egypt’s wealth. And when he died he was gathered to his people in the land of promise with royalty and regalia.

Final Reconciliation & the Sovereignty of God

After the death of their father, the 10 brothers responsible for selling Joseph into slavery begin to fear that Joseph would take revenge out on them now that their father is dead. I suppose the same thought would have crossed my own mind as well if I had been one of the brothers. The human race has proved since the time of Adam and Eve how inept we are at forgiveness and putting things behind us. Joseph has already proved himself to be a very calculating person with his success running Egypt and his series of tests to confirm the honesty of his brothers.

But what we see repeatedly through this narrative is the integrity and godliness of Joseph. We cannot be sure whether Jacob really wrote this letter or whether it was just from the brothers, but I lean towards the latter.

Nevertheless, Joseph continues to demonstrate what forgiveness, reconciliation, and trusting in God truly looks like. Joseph responds first by weeping. Then he reassures them that he has no desire to take vengeance because vengeance belongs to God. He continues to pledge his love and support for his brothers and their entire families. And finally, Joseph continues to look at the good God did through their sin. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they were today (Gen 50:20).”

The book ends with the death of Joseph, but the focus turns back to the promise of Jacob’s sons inheriting the land of Canaan. In other words, the book ends with Joseph urging his people to remember God’s promise of the land precisely because God is faithful.

The Israelites, as they will be known as in the future, will have a land of their own. They will not live in Egypt forever. And naturally, Joseph also requests that his body be buried in Canaan when his family returns to the land of promise.

Questions & Comments

Now that we have spent nearly a year of sermons going verse by verse through the book of Genesis,

1. What have you learned about Genesis?
2. What have you learned about God?
3. How does Genesis speak directly to your life?
4. What questions remain unanswered for you concerning Genesis?
5. How does Genesis detail the beginning of God’s redemption?
6. How is Genesis important for our understanding of sin, marriage, our purpose in life?

Do any of you want to share some comments about anything related to this series?

Looking forward

We look forward by recalling the promises God gave to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and what will become Israel.

Gene 15:13 (NASU) [God] said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.

Their sojourn in Egypt leads to the fulfillment of their enslavement in a land that is not their own.

To Abraham

Gene 22:18 (NASU) "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."

To Isaac

Gene 26:4 (NASU) "I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;

To Jacob

Gene 28:14 (NASU) "Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

These promises will span the entire scope of the entire Old and New Testaments. These promises find fulfillment in Jesus’ life death and resurrection by which men from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people can become a descendant of Abraham and participate in God’s blessing and redemption of the earth.

Genesis/Exodus Typology

a. Joseph’s dreams caused his to go down to Egypt.
b. In Egypt, Jacob’s descendants will have to struggle with a King (Pharaoh).
c. An infant is born from Jacob’s descendants, whom the King tried to kill.
d. This infant (Moses) is used by God to deliver his people.

NT Gospel Fulfillment

a. Joseph (husband of Mary) has a dream which causes him to go to Egypt.
b. Joseph’s immediate struggle is with a King (Herod). But his people are in a more penultimate struggle with slavery to sin.
c. The King (Herod) tries to kill the infant.
d. This infant (Jesus) is used by God to deliver his people.

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