Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Genesis 47:28-31 Jacob's Burial Instructions

"Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven.   When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, 'If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness.  Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.'

'I will do as you say,' he said.

'Swear to me,' he said.  Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff."
(Genesis 47:28-31 NIV)
Shortly before Jacob's death, he called for Joseph to appear before him so that he could give him instructions regarding his burial.  He makes Joseph promise that he will be buried with his ancestors in Canaan.  This is so important to him that he also makes Joseph swear an oath that he will indeed comply with his wishes.

Jacob knows that his family is not supposed to remain in Egypt forever.  The land which God had given him was in the land of Canaan.  He knows that God had told Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved for 400 years and then delivered so that they could return to the land which God had given them.  (Genesis 15:13-16)

In those verses, of course, no specific nation is named which will enslave the Israelites.  However, the verses do state that in the fourth generation (from Abraham), the Israelites will come back to Canaan (v.16).  So, since the Israelites are now in Egypt, and there have already been the generations of Isaac, Jacob and now Joseph, the timeline does not really allow much time for other nations besides the Egyptians to have the opportunity to enslave the Israelites, for in the generation following Joseph, the Israelites would be coming back to Canaan.  [I suppose there could be some type of war with another nation which could result in their enslavement, but that seems less likely.]  With the benefit of hindsight, we know that it was indeed Egypt which enslaved the Israelites for four hundred years.

Jacob wants to make very certain that the Israelites do not become too comfortable with life in Egypt and forget all about the land which God had given them.  I am sure that he also had the desire to be buried with his ancestors, but his insistence upon being buried in Canaan helps to assure that the following generations of his family will be aware of their connection with Canaan.  [Later, when Jacob's son Joseph is near death, he also gives instructions for his bones to be buried in Canaan. (Genesis 50:24-25 NIV)]

Joseph assures his father that his instructions will be carried out.  Then Jacob, leaning upon his staff, worships God.  I wonder if this is the same staff that Jacob used from the beginning of his travels?  (Genesis 32:10)  I suppose the important thing is that spiritually, Jacob is actually leaning upon the God who has been with him all his life, the One who first appeared to him at Bethel when he fled from his brother Esau.  As He promised, God has been with him wherever he has gone.  No doubt this is at least some of the reason why Jacob stops to worship God at this point.

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