The whole family in Egypt
v1 So Israel set off. He took everything that he had. And he went to Beersheba. He made *sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.
v2 God spoke to Israel during the night. He spoke to Israel in *visions. He said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’
So Jacob said, ‘Here I am.’
v3 Then God said, ‘I am God, your father’s God. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt. I will make you into a great nation there. v4 I will go down to Egypt with you. I will also bring you back up here. And Joseph will close your eyes when you die.’
v5 Then Jacob went away from Beersheba. Israel’s sons carried their family in the wagons. They carried their father Jacob, their young children and their wives. *Pharaoh had sent the wagons to Jacob for his journey. v6 The sons also took their animals. And they took all that they owned. They had got all that in the country called Canaan. So Jacob and all his family came into Egypt. v7 Jacob had with him his sons and his grandsons. He had his daughters and his granddaughters. Jacob brought all his family with him into Egypt.
v8 These are the names of Israel’s family who came into Egypt. That is, Jacob and his sons. Reuben was Jacob’s oldest son. Reuben was born first.
v9 Reuben’s sons were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron and Carmi.
v10 Simeon’s sons were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar and Shaul. Shaul was the son of a *Canaanite woman.
v11 Levi’s sons were Gershon, Kohath and Merari.
v12 Judah’s sons were Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez and Zerah. (Er and Onan died in the country called Canaan.) The sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul.
v13 Issachar’s sons were Tola, Phuvah, Job and Shimron.
v14 Zebulun’s sons were Sered, Elon and Jahleel.
v15 (Those were Leah’s sons. She gave birth to them for Jacob. They were born in Paddan-Aram, as well as his daughter Dinah. Those sons and daughters, who were born for Jacob, were 33 in total.)
v16 Gad’s sons were Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi and Areli.
v17 Asher’s sons were Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi and Beriah. They also had a sister Serah. Beriah’s sons were Heber and Malchiel.
v18 (Those were the sons of Zilpah. She gave birth to them for Jacob. Those *descendants were 16 in total. Laban had given Zilpah to his daughter Leah.)
v19 The sons of Jacob’s wife Rachel were Joseph and Benjamin. v20 Joseph had two sons in the country called Egypt. They were Manasseh and Ephraim. Their mother was Asenath, Potiphera’s daughter. Potiphera was the priest in the city called On.
v21 Benjamin’s sons were Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard.
v22 (Those were Rachel’s sons. She gave birth to them for Jacob. The *descendants from Rachel were 14 in total.)
v23 Dan’s son was Hushim.
v24 Naphtali’s sons were Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem.
v25 (Those were the sons of Bilhah. She gave birth to them for Jacob. The *descendants from Bilhah were 7 in total. Laban had given Bilhah to his daughter Rachel.)
v26 66 *descendants went down to Egypt with Jacob. They came from his body. That total did not include his sons’ wives, who also went with him. v27 Joseph had two sons. They were born to him in Egypt. So in total, that makes 70. Those 70 people in Jacob’s family had gone down to Egypt.
v28 Jacob sent Judah ahead to Joseph. So then Joseph could show the way to the region called Goshen. So the family came into that region, Goshen. v29 Then Joseph made his *chariot ready. And he went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel. Joseph came to his father. He hugged his father. And he wept for a long time on his father’s neck.
v30 Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now I am ready to die. Now I have seen your face. And I know that you are still alive.’ v31 Joseph told his brothers and his father’s family that he (Joseph) would go to *Pharaoh. And he would tell *Pharaoh this. He would say that his (Joseph’s) brothers and his father’s family had come from the country called Canaan. They had come to Joseph. v32 Joseph said that he would tell *Pharaoh this. He would say that the men were *shepherds and they worked with animals. Jacob’s family had brought their animals. And they had brought everything that they had. v33 Joseph told his brothers what to say to *Pharaoh. *Pharaoh would call for them. Then he would ask them what work they did. v34 Joseph told them this. ‘Say, “Your servants have looked after animals since they were young until now. Both we and our *ancestors looked after animals.” Then you will be able to live in Goshen. The *Egyptians hate all *shepherds.’
On the way to Egypt, Jacob stopped at Beersheba. Beersheba was a special place for Jacob. There, God had spoken to his father, Isaac (Genesis 26:24). Isaac had gone to Beersheba because God told him not to go to Egypt (Genesis 26:2). But God’s message to Jacob was different.
In a dream, God spoke to Jacob. God told Jacob not to be afraid to go into Egypt. God had a plan for Jacob’s family in Egypt.
The chapter then contains a list of Jacob’s sons and grandsons. The numbers are difficult to calculate. But the final figure is 70 people. This was a very large family. In time, the family would become a great nation. God had promised Abraham that he (Abraham) would have very many *descendants (Genesis 15:5). God made this promise before Abraham had his son. And Jacob was Abraham’s grandson.
Jacob and Joseph were very happy to see each other again. Joseph knew that Jacob would encourage him. Joseph still had his important work to do for *Pharaoh. Until now, Joseph was probably the only person in Egypt who served the real God. The *Egyptians served *idols. But now Joseph had Jacob to support him.
Joseph arranged a place where his brothers could work. They would continue to be *shepherds. So, they would not become rulers. But Joseph continued his important work for *Pharaoh.
Notes on the verses
Verses 1-4 Jacob was planning to leave Canaan and he would go to Egypt. But Canaan was actually the country that God had promised to Jacob and his family. So Jacob needed to be sure that God wanted him to leave it. Jacob was probably very anxious. He very much wanted to see Joseph. But Jacob was old. And it was a long way to travel. However, the family might all starve if they did not go to Egypt. Jacob needed to know what God wanted.
So, Jacob stopped in order to pray at Beersheba. That night, God spoke again to Jacob. God promised to make Jacob’s family into a big nation in Egypt (verse 3). Here God was not talking about Canaan, the country that he had promised to them. In Egypt, the family would not only stay alive. It would also grow. But God did not want the family always to live in Egypt. Centuries later, God would arrange for their *descendants to return to Canaan.
Verses 5-7 Jacob’s family continued their journey. The weaker members of the family used the wagons that *Pharaoh sent. They took everything that they owned.
Verses 8-14 The writer gives a list of Leah’s family first. He gives a list of her sons and grandsons. Leah was Jacob’s first wife.
Verse 15 Leah’s ‘sons’ include also her grandsons. But the 33 people here probably do not include Er and Onan. Those two grandsons had died already in Canaan. They did not go to Egypt. But without Er and Onan, there are still only 32 *descendants. Those 32 include the daughter, called Dinah. So it is possible that the 33 people here include also Jacob, the father.
Verses 16-18 These are the sons and grandsons of Jacob and Zilpah. Zilpah was Leah’s maid. Zilpah became Jacob’s *concubine.
Verses 19-22 These are the sons and grandsons of Jacob and Rachel. Rachel was Jacob’s favourite wife.
The list in this chapter contains Jacob’s whole family. At that time Benjamin was probably too young to have 10 children. The writer mentions Benjamin’s family here to make the list complete.
Verses 22-25 These are the sons and grandsons of Jacob and Bilhah. Bilhah was Rachel’s maid. Bilhah became Jacob’s *concubine.
Verses 26-27 The 66 people in verse 26 were Jacob’s sons, grandsons and daughter. They went to Egypt with Jacob. Joseph and his two sons were already in Egypt. The 70 people in verse 27 include also them as well as Jacob himself. The number 70 in the Bible often has a special meaning. It means that something is complete.
Verse 28 Judah had been the leader of the brothers when they sold Joseph. Here, he was the leader when they brought Joseph and Jacob together again.
Verses 29-30 As soon as possible, Joseph went to see his father. They were very pleased to be together again. Jacob’s words in verse 30 meant that his life felt complete. He had done everything that he needed to do. But in fact, God had more work for Jacob. Jacob would *bless *Pharaoh (Genesis 47:7-10). And Jacob would *bless each of his sons by a special *prophecy (chapter 49).
Verses 31-32 God’s plan was that Jacob’s family should live together as a nation. The *Egyptians did not like *shepherds. So Jacob’s family did not live in different places among the *Egyptians. The family was able to live together in one place.
Verse 34 Egypt had a very strong culture and an ancient religion. So, the *Egyptians had strong opinions about other people. Perhaps the *Egyptians did not like *shepherds because they travelled from place to place.
Joseph was a ruler in Egypt. But he did not want his brothers to work in the government. Instead, he decided that they should continue to be *shepherds. Then, they could live in the region called Goshen. Goshen was near Egypt. But Joseph did not want them to live in the important cities in Egypt. He knew that their decisions had not always been sensible in the past. He was careful in case they made any more mistakes. Joseph was a very capable ruler.
Joseph works well for his master *Pharaoh
v1 So Joseph went in to *Pharaoh. Joseph told *Pharaoh that his father and brothers had come from the country called Canaan. They had brought their animals. And they had brought everything that they had. They were there in the region called Goshen. v2 Joseph chose 5 men from all his brothers and he brought those 5 brothers to *Pharaoh.
v3 *Pharaoh said to Joseph’s brothers, ‘What do you do to live?’
They replied to *Pharaoh, ‘Your servants are *shepherds, as our fathers were.’ v4 Then the brothers said to *Pharaoh, ‘We have come to stay in this country. We, your servants, have no land and we have no food for our animals. In the country called Canaan, the *famine is very great. Please, we ask you to let us, your servants, live in the region called Goshen.’
v5 Then *Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Your father and your brothers have come to you. v6 This country, Egypt, is in front of you. Let your father and your brothers go to live in the best part of the country. Let them live in the region called Goshen. You may know whether there are capable men among them. If so, appoint them to take care of my animals.’
v7 Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in to *Pharaoh, and Jacob *blessed *Pharaoh. v8 Then *Pharaoh said to Jacob, ‘How old are you?’
v9 Jacob replied to *Pharaoh, ‘I have lived for 130 years. My years have been few and they have been evil. I have not had such a good life as my fathers had on their journeys.’ v10 Jacob *blessed *Pharaoh. And he went out from where *Pharaoh was.
v11 Then Joseph let his father and brothers live there in Egypt. He gave some land to them to live on. It was the best land in the region called Rameses, as *Pharaoh had ordered. v12 Joseph gave food to his father, his brothers and his father’s entire family. He gave as much as the families needed.
v13 However, there was no food in all the country. The *famine was very great. People in the countries called Egypt and Canaan were dying because of the *famine. v14 Joseph gathered all the money that was in those countries, Egypt and Canaan. That was the money that people had paid for the corn. Joseph took the money to *Pharaoh’s house. v15 Soon no money remained in those countries, in Egypt and Canaan. All the *Egyptians came to Joseph. And they said, ‘Give food to us. Otherwise we will die in front of you because we have no more money. And that would not be sensible.’
v16 Joseph replied, ‘You have no money. So give your animals to me. I will give food to you, if you give your animals to me. ‘ v17 So the *Egyptians brought their animals to Joseph. Joseph gave food to them, because they gave to him their horses, *flocks, *herds and *donkeys. Joseph gave food to the *Egyptians for that year because they had given their animals to him.
v18 When that year was over, the *Egyptians came to Joseph. They said, ‘My *lord, we cannot pretend that we have money. Our animals already belong to my *lord. We have nothing for my *lord except our bodies and our land. Nothing else remains. v19 Otherwise we shall die in front of you. That means both us and our land. Please buy us and buy our land. Give food to us. Then we, as slaves, will belong to *Pharaoh. And so will our land. Give seed to us. Then we can live and we will not die. Then the land will not be without crops.’
v20 So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for *Pharaoh. All the *Egyptians sold their fields. They were suffering very much because of the *famine. So the land became *Pharaoh’s land. v21 Joseph made all the people slaves, from one end of Egypt to the other end. v22 Joseph bought all the land except the priests’ land. The priests received a particular, definite amount of food regularly from *Pharaoh. They lived on what *Pharaoh gave to them. So the priests did not sell their land.
v23 Then Joseph said to the people, ‘Look! Today I have bought you for *Pharaoh. And I have bought your land for *Pharaoh. Now, as a payment, I am giving seed to you. You shall sow it on the land. v24 You shall harvest your crops. Then you must give a fifth (1/5th) of the harvest to *Pharaoh. Four fifths (4/5ths) will be yours. That will be seed for the field. And it will be food for yourselves, your families and your children.’
v25 The people said, ‘You have saved our lives. Let my *lord be kind to us. We will be *Pharaoh’s slaves.’
v26 So Joseph made a law. It was a law for a long time in that country, Egypt. In that law, *Pharaoh should have one fifth of all crops. Only the priests’ land did not become *Pharaoh’s land.
v27 So Israel’s family lived in the country called Egypt, in the region called Goshen. They owned things there. They were *fruitful and they had very many children.
v28 Jacob lived in that country, Egypt, for 17 years. So Jacob lived for 147 years in total. He lived for all the days in all those years. v29 The time came for Israel to die. Then he called his son Joseph to him. He said to Joseph, ‘Please be kind to me. Please put your hand under my *thigh. Promise me that you will be loyal and true to me. Do not bury me in Egypt. v30 Please let me lie with my father and grandfather. Carry me out of Egypt. Bury me where people buried my father and grandfather.’
Joseph answered, ‘I will do as you have said.’
v31 Jacob said, ‘Make a very serious promise to me that you will do so.’ So Joseph made a very serious promise. Then Israel *bowed down upon the head of his bed.
The right time came for Joseph to introduce his family to *Pharaoh. Joseph chose 5 brothers (on behalf of the whole family) to meet *Pharaoh. Then, Joseph introduced his father, Jacob, to *Pharaoh.
*Pharaoh respected Jacob because Jacob was a very old man. And *Pharaoh also gave honour to Jacob because of Joseph’s importance. *Pharaoh realised that Jacob, like Joseph, was a holy man.
Jacob explained to *Pharaoh that he (Jacob) did not consider himself a great man. Jacob referred to the lives of Abraham and Isaac. Jacob believed that they were really great men. He said that life on earth was like a journey. Perhaps he was desiring his permanent home in heaven (Hebrews 11:16). Then, Jacob *blessed *Pharaoh.
Afterwards, *Pharaoh became much more important as a ruler. This happened because of Joseph’s great skill. He bought the land in Egypt for *Pharaoh. And Joseph also arranged regular taxes that made *Pharaoh much more wealthy.
At the end of the chapter, Jacob was very old. Soon, he would die. So, he called Joseph. Jacob asked Joseph to promise to bury him (Jacob) in Canaan. Jacob wanted his *descendants to realise that Egypt was not their permanent home. Instead, God had promised Canaan to them. Joseph made the promise. In fact, Joseph would ask his own *descendants to make a similar promise about his own body, too.
Notes on the verses
Verse 2 Joseph took only 5 brothers to *Pharaoh. Joseph did not take them all. We do not know how he chose those 5 brothers. In the *Hebrew text, Joseph chose them ‘from the edge’. It means that he chose from all the brothers. Perhaps he took the most impressive ones, so that *Pharaoh would want such people in Egypt. Or perhaps he took the weaker ones, so that *Pharaoh would not take them into the government. God has not told us the reason why Joseph chose those 5 brothers. So we do not need to know why.
Verse 3 The brothers answered as Joseph had told them in Genesis 46:33-34.
Verse 4 We do not know exactly where Goshen was. It was probably on the east side of the Nile.
Verse 6 *Pharaoh was very kind. He did not behave towards Jacob and his family as if they were strangers. *Pharaoh received them with pleasure. He had this attitude because of Joseph. Joseph had *blessed *Pharaoh. So, *Pharaoh wanted to *bless Joseph’s family.
Verse 7 Jacob *blessed *Pharaoh. God was doing as he had promised. He was *blessing other people by means of Jacob and his family. Usually, the more important person *blessed the less important one. However, Jacob was an old man and therefore he was important. The ‘*blessing’ may have been a greeting, ‘Let God be with you.’ Or ‘I hope that you will live for a long time.’ Jacob was grateful for *Pharaoh’s kindness.
Verse 8 In the *Hebrew Bible, *Pharaoh asks, ‘How many are the days of the years of your life?’ That makes Jacob seem very old.
Verses 9-10 Jacob said, ‘I have lived.’ For ‘lived’, he used a certain *Hebrew word that he often used. That word means ‘to live in a temporary home’, ‘to camp’ or ‘to travel’. It does not mean that he always lived in one place. It is the opposite of that.
Jacob said that the years in his life had been ‘few and evil’. He was not quite as old as Abraham or Isaac. But they, too, had many difficulties during their lives. Jacob was trying to emphasise that his life was not perfect. He had made many mistakes. But he was aware of God’s greatness. God lives always. And God never does anything wrong. So, Jacob *blessed *Pharaoh. In other words, Jacob prayed that God would be kind to *Pharaoh.
Verse 11 The ‘region called Rameses’ may be a name that people gave later to the region called Goshen. Or it may have been another name for Goshen already. The name meant ‘Ra has created it’. (Ra was a god that the *Egyptians *worshipped.)
Verse 13 The *famine would continue for 5 more years (Genesis 45:6). This was a very long *famine. But Joseph had stored the excess food from the years before the *famine began.
Verses 14-15 Joseph was very honest. He was also a very good, careful official. At the start of the *famine, people used money to pay for their food. But the people ran out of money to buy food.
Verses 16-19 As the *famine continued, people had no money to pay for their food. But Joseph was very wise. He fed the people so that they did not die. They paid for the corn with their animals (verse 17). The people also paid with their land (verse 20). And they paid with themselves, as they became slaves (verse 21). They did it so that they did not owe anything to Joseph. Joseph also took good care of what belonged to *Pharaoh, his master.
Verses 20-24 After that, all the land belonged to *Pharaoh. So then it was easier to make sure that people used it well. Then, there would not be frequent *famines. It was not bad to be a slave. The master fed his slaves. Some slaves had important jobs. When Joseph was a slave, he had an important job with Potiphar. The people would have four fifths of future harvests. So really, the effect was that the people were paying taxes.
Verse 25 The people were not angry about Joseph’s taxes. They knew that he saved their lives by his careful plans. So, they were grateful to Joseph and to *Pharaoh. People respect governments that look after them carefully.
Verse 26 In the *Hebrew Bible, the writer says that Joseph’s law ‘remains at this day’. ‘This day’ means the day when the writer wrote the account.
Verse 27 God did as he had promised. Jacob’s family became rich and his sons had many children.
Verse 28 Joseph lived with Jacob for 17 years before the brothers sold Joseph. Here, Jacob lived near Joseph for another 17 years. That was the last part of Jacob’s life.
Verses 29-30 ‘Israel’ is Jacob’s name as the head of the family. The family would become a nation called ‘Israel’. Before Jacob’s request, he said, ‘Please be kind to me.’ The *Hebrew writer says, ‘If now you look at me with a kind attitude’. Jacob wanted people to take his body to Canaan when he died. That was the country that God had promised to him. So Jacob trusted that God would take the family back to Canaan. Jacob needed to remind his family that God would do that. Egypt was not their home.
Verse 31 Joseph had to do what Jacob wanted. So Joseph needed to make a very serious promise. Joseph needed to be very careful to do that. We do not know exactly what this verse means. Jacob may have *bowed because he was thanking God. Or he may have been very weak and tired. The *Hebrew text may mean that Jacob leaned on the head of his stick. It may not have been the head of the bed. We know that Jacob was a weak old man. He was grateful to God that he (Jacob) was content before his death.
Jacob’s *blessing for Joseph’s sons
v1 After that, Joseph heard that his father was ill. So Joseph took his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, with him. v2 Jacob heard also that his son Joseph had come to him. Then Israel used all his strength and he sat up in bed.
v3 Then Jacob said this to Joseph. ‘The *Almighty God appeared in front of me at Luz. That is in the country called Canaan. And he *blessed me. v4 God said to me, “Look! I will make you rich and you will have a large family. I will make your family into very many nations. I will give this country to your *descendants. They will have it for always.”
v5 Now your two sons shall be mine. They were born to you in this country, Egypt. That was before I came here. Then I came to you here in Egypt. Ephraim and Manasseh shall be my sons, as Reuben and Simeon are. v6 After these two sons, other children may be born to you. Any other children shall be yours. They will share the country that God has promised to their brothers. v7 When I came from Paddan, Rachel died on the way. She died in the country called Canaan. We were still some miles from Ephrath. That made me very sad. I buried her there on the way to Ephrath. (That is, Bethlehem.)’
v8 Israel saw Joseph’s sons. Then Israel said, ‘Who are these?’
v9 Joseph replied to his father, ‘They are my sons, whom God has given to me here.’
Then Israel said, ‘Please bring them to me so that I can *bless them.’
v10 Because Israel was old, his eyes were weak. He could not see clearly. So Joseph brought his sons near to Israel. Israel kissed them and he hugged them.
v11 Israel said to Joseph, ‘I thought that I would never see your face again. Now God has let me see your children as well.’
v12 Then Joseph took his sons from near Israel’s knees and Joseph *bowed low to the ground. v13 Joseph then took both his sons. Joseph had Ephraim in his right hand, at Israel’s left side. And Joseph had Manasseh in his left hand, at Israel’s right side. Joseph led his sons near to Israel. v14 Then Israel put his hands across each other. He stretched out his right hand and he put it on Ephraim’s head. Ephraim was the younger son. Then Israel put his left hand on Manasseh’s head. Manasseh was the oldest son, the one that was born first.
v15 Israel *blessed Joseph. And Israel said, ‘This God is the God in whose sight my fathers Abraham and Isaac lived. This God has led me all my life, even until today. v16 The *angel of God has *redeemed me from all evil things. Let God *bless these boys. I pray that because of them, people will continue to remember my name. And they will continue to remember the name of my grandfather Abraham and my father Isaac. Let the boys grow. Let them become a great crowd in the middle of the earth.’
v17 Joseph’s father had laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head. Joseph was unhappy when he saw that. He took his father’s hand. And Joseph tried to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. v18 Joseph said to his father, ‘This is not right, my father. This son is the oldest. He was born first. Put your right hand upon his head.’
v19 But Joseph’s father refused. And he said, ‘I know, my son. I know. The oldest son, who was born first, shall also become the father of a nation. He too will be great. But his younger brother will be greater than he is. The younger brother’s *descendants will become very many nations.’ v20 So Israel *blessed them that day. And he said,
‘Israel (the *Israelites) will use your names to *bless people. They will say, “Let God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” ’
So Israel considered Ephraim more important than Manasseh.
v21 Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Look! I am dying, but God will be with you. He will bring you back to your father’s and grandfather’s country. v22 Also, I have given to you a slope of a mountain. I have not given that to your brothers. I took that slope out of the *Amorites’ possession, with my sword and my bow.’
The *blessings that Jacob gave to his family start in this chapter. These *blessings were not just Jacob’s own ideas about his sons and grandsons. In fact, the *blessings were *prophecies about the future. Jacob spoke these things by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
Many of Jacob’s *blessings are difficult for us to understand. Some phrases have several possible meanings. But we need to remember that the *descendants of Jacob’s 12 sons became the 12 *tribes of Israel. So, often the words in the *blessing describe the places where the *tribes would live in Canaan.
The *blessings were also a type of poetry. They use descriptions that may seem strange to us today. And they often repeat the same ideas in different words.
Jacob began with his *blessings for Joseph’s sons. Joseph received the *birthright because of Reuben’s *sin (1 Chronicles 5:1-2). So, Jacob gave a special *blessing to Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob wanted people to include Ephraim and Manasseh when they made lists of his (Jacob’s) sons. So, the *descendants of Ephraim became another *tribe of Israel. So did the *descendants of Manasseh. And the *descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh would receive their own land in Canaan (Joshua chapters 16 and 17).
The writer often uses Jacob’s other name, Israel, in this chapter.
Notes on the verses
Verse 1 Isaac gave his final *blessing to his sons when he expected to die (Genesis 27:2). That *blessing was very important. It included *prophecies about the future.
So, when Jacob was old and ill, Joseph went to receive his father’s *blessing. There would be a special *blessing for Joseph because he had the *birthright (1 Chronicles 5:2). And Joseph probably hoped that God would give a *prophecy to Jacob.
It seems that Joseph also wanted his own sons to receive a *blessing. They had lived a very strange life. Their mother’s father was the priest of a false god (Genesis 41:45). They had always lived in Egypt. They spoke the *Egyptian language. They wore *Egyptian clothes. They probably felt like *Egyptians. So, it was probably a great surprise for them to discover their real family. But Joseph wanted his sons to receive the benefit of God’s promise too. So, Joseph brought them to Jacob.
Verse 3 Luz is another name for Bethel. Jacob was describing the event in Genesis 28:10-15.
Verse 4 God had chosen certain people to be his servants. God had promised many times that he would make those servants ‘be *fruitful’. And he would make them ‘grow in number’. They would have many *descendants. And their *descendants would become a great nation. This was God’s promise to Abraham and Isaac. God repeated this promise to Jacob at Bethel. And now Jacob’s *blessings would include *prophecies with a relationship to this promise. God also promised that Jacob’s *descendants would rule Canaan.
It was as if Jacob was passing out these promises to his sons. Jacob would soon die. But Jacob’s sons would receive the benefit of these promises.
Verse 5 Jacob chose a special way to show that Ephraim and Manasseh belonged to his family. Jacob adopted them. The *descendants of all Jacob’s sons became *tribes. For example, there were a *tribe of Reuben and a *tribe of Simeon. And there were also a *tribe of Ephraim and a *tribe of Manasseh. Everybody knew that they belonged with Jacob’s *descendants. This was because Jacob adopted Ephraim and Manasseh.
Although Manasseh was the oldest son, Jacob mentioned Ephraim first here. Again, God especially *blessed the younger son. God had *blessed Joseph similarly, although his brothers were older than him.
Verse 6 Any other sons of Joseph would be part of the *tribes called Ephraim and Manasseh. And they would share the land of those *tribes.
Verses 8-9 The words that Israel used here may have been special words. People often used such words when they adopted children. But perhaps Israel (Jacob) was making sure whom he would soon *bless. He probably remembered how he had made Isaac *bless him.
Verse 10 Some Bible students say that this was actually a ceremony. When people were adopting children, they kissed those children. And they hugged the children. It was part of that event. In any case, it was natural that a grandfather would do that. He was very eager to love Joseph’s sons.
Verse 11 Israel (Jacob) and Joseph both knew that God had *blessed them.
Verse 12 We are not sure exactly where the grandsons were. They would not have been on Israel’s knees. They were both over 17 years old. Maybe they went near Israel’s knees because he was taking them into his family. It may have been part of that event. Look at Genesis 30:3. There, Rachel offered her maid to Jacob. In the *Hebrew Bible, she did it so that ‘she can have babies upon my knees. And even I can have children by means of her.’ In Egypt, Joseph was a more important man than Israel (Jacob) was. Joseph *bowed low because Israel (Jacob) was old. And Israel (Jacob) was dying. And Israel (Jacob) was his father. Joseph showed honour to Israel (Jacob) for those reasons. And Joseph also showed Israel (Jacob) honour because Israel (Jacob) was a holy man. Soon, like a priest, Israel (Jacob) would *bless his family. And he would give a *prophecy from God.
Verses 13-14 Israel (Jacob) clearly knew which son was which. He did not make a mistake. As he gave his *blessing, he was trusting God to guide him (Hebrews 11:21).
Verses 15-16 When Israel (Jacob) had *blessed Joseph’s sons, he *blessed Joseph. Israel (Jacob) cared more about God’s honour than he cared about his family’s happiness. He emphasised that God was really giving the *blessing.
Verses 17-19 Joseph wanted Manasseh to receive a greater *blessing. So, Joseph thought that his father had made a mistake. But there was no mistake. Israel (Jacob) knew what God wanted him to do.
Verse 20 ‘Israel will use your names to *bless people.’ In this sentence, ‘Israel’ means ‘*Israelites’. But in other places here, it means Jacob.
Verse 21 Israel (Jacob) had not forgotten the country that God had promised to him. He had been away from it for 17 years. But he had not forgotten it. He wanted to remind his family that they should return there.
Verse 22 Joseph had the *birthright. Usually, the oldest son in the family received the *birthright. But Reuben lost this right because of his evil behaviour.
The son with the *birthright received a double share of his father’s possessions. Of course, Joseph was very wealthy. He needed nothing more from his father. So, his father gave him some land in Canaan. It seems that this is the land in Genesis 33:19-20. (See also John 4:5.) This was a special place where Jacob built an *altar. So, this gift would remind Joseph to pray. And it would also remind Joseph that, in the future, his *descendants would return to Canaan.
Chapter 33 says that Jacob bought this land. But this chapter says that he fought for it. We do not know when he fought such a battle. Maybe he had to fight in order to protect his family after his sons attacked Shechem.
Jacob’s *blessing for his family
After Jacob *blessed Joseph’s sons, Jacob *blessed his own sons.
In fact, Jacob did not give a *blessing to all 12 sons. Reuben, Simeon and Levi deserved no *blessing because of their evil deeds.
But God still gave Jacob a *prophecy about each son. All the sons belonged to Jacob’s family. And all the sons received the benefit of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God would make the *descendants of all the sons into a great nation. The *descendants of each son would become a *tribe in that nation. God would give them the country called Canaan.
And God would use them to *bless people from all the nations. Among them, Eve’s special *descendant (Genesis 3:15) would be born. That *descendant would free people from *sin and from the devil’s power. God’s promises to Abraham were also promises to that *descendant (Galatians 3:16). And that *descendant would be the real king of Israel (Genesis 49:10). The Bible tells us that these promises were about Jesus. He was that special *descendant.
This is a very difficult chapter to translate. Some phrases have many possible meanings. We have tried to explain the probable meaning. But different Bible students have other ideas about some verses.
v1 Then Jacob called his sons. And he said, ‘Come together, all you sons. Then I will tell you what will happen in the future time.
v2 Come together and listen, sons of Jacob. Listen to Israel, your father.’
Verses 1-2 This was a *prophecy about the future. Of course, Jacob could not speak about the future by his own knowledge. God showed him what to say. That is how he was able to speak such things.
Jacob often referred to past events as he spoke. But he was using these events as a way to explain what would happen in the future. He also used the names of some sons in a special way. The meanings of their names also helped to explain future events.
These *prophecies would not happen during the lives of Jacob’s sons. Instead, the *prophecies were about the *descendants of Jacob’s sons. These *descendants became the 12 *tribes of Israel. The *descendants of each son became a *tribe. The *prophecies were about the regions that each *tribe would receive in Canaan. And, they were about the work that each *tribe would do. And, sometimes, they were about that *tribe’s troubles.
Verses 3-4 Reuben
v3 ‘Reuben, you were my first son.
And the first son is the first evidence of his father’s strength and greatness.
That son should have the greatest honour.
That son should have the greatest power.
v4 But you are as weak as water.
You will certainly not be the leader
because you entered into your father’s bed.
You caused me shame.
Reuben had sex with my *concubine.’
Verses 3-4 People thought that the first son should become the head of the family after his father’s death. So, Jacob had great hopes for Reuben. But Reuben disappointed Jacob when Reuben had sex with Bilhah (Genesis 35:22). (Bilhah was Jacob’s *concubine.) So, Jacob decided to give the *birthright to Joseph instead of Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:1-2).
Reuben’s *descendants became the *tribe of Reuben. The *tribe of Reuben was never an important *tribe.
Verses 5-7 Simeon and Levi
v5 ‘Simeon and Levi are brothers who act together.
They are very cruel when they use their swords.
v6 Their plans would ruin my character.
If I joined in with them, I would deserve no honour.
They killed men when they were angry.
They hurt a strong animal so that it could not walk.
v7 Their anger was very fierce.
Such anger deserves punishment.
Their anger was very cruel.
Such cruelty deserves punishment.
So, I shall order them not to live together.
I shall make them scatter in Israel.’
Verses 5-7 Jacob was referring to the events in chapter 34. Jacob thought that the behaviour of Simeon and Levi was terrible. Simeon and Levi did not respect God. They had been angry. So, they used the *covenant that the family had made with God. They used it in order to kill their enemies.
Jacob said that they should not live together. This was a *prophecy. Each *tribe of Israel received its own land in Canaan. But the *tribes of Simeon and Levi were different.
The *tribe of Simeon was small. So, it did not receive its own region in Canaan. Instead, the *tribe of Simeon received part of the land that belonged to the *tribe of Judah (Joshua 19:1-9).
The *tribe of Levi became very important. Moses belonged to this *tribe. And God appointed families from this *tribe to become the priests. Because they were priests, they were responsible for all the people in Israel. So, the *tribe of Levi could not receive its own region. Instead, the people from this *tribe received their own towns. These towns were in every region in Canaan (Joshua chapter 21). So, people from the *tribe of Levi were available to help people from all the *tribes to *worship God.
So, the things that Jacob said actually happened. They were *prophecies from God. But these things did not always happen in the way that people might expect.
Verses 8-12 Judah
v8 ‘Judah, your name means “praise”.
And your brothers will praise you.
You will overcome your enemies.
You will be like a man who puts his hand on the neck of his enemy.
Your father’s sons will *bow to give you honour.
v9 You are like a young lion, Judah, my son.
The lion returns home after it has hunted for food.
The lion lies down to rest.
Nobody dares to wake a female lion.
v10 Judah is the ruler.
Judah has the *sceptre.
And Judah’s family will keep the stick that shows royal authority.
They will keep it until its real owner comes.
And all the nations will obey him.
v11 He takes his *donkey to carry the fruit from a *vine.
He puts his young *donkey by the best *vine.
There is so much wine that he could use it to wash his clothes.
There is so much fruit that the juice could wash his coat.
v12 His eyes are darker than *wine.
His teeth are whiter than milk.’
Verses 8-9 The *tribe of Judah became a very large *tribe. And it became very important. Even before there were kings in Israel, men from the *tribe of Judah led Israel’s army into battle. (See Judges 20:18.)
Jacob said in his *prophecy that the *tribe of Judah would overcome its enemies. Lions are very strong animals. And the men from Judah’s *tribe would be strong in battle. Someone cannot put his hand on his enemy’s neck until that person has completely defeated his enemy.
Verse 10 Jacob was saying that the kings of Israel would come from Judah’s *descendants. David and Solomon came from the *tribe of Judah. They were the greatest kings of Israel. And their *descendants ruled as kings for many centuries. But the other *tribes did not remain loyal to David’s family.
In the end, God’s plan is that the ‘real owner’ will be king. This means Jesus, who is the king of kings (Revelation 19:16). As the real king of Israel, Jesus owns the objects that show royal authority. He is the king of Israel, but he is also the king of every nation.
Jesus deserves to rule the nations because he is God. With God the Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus created everything that exists (John 1:1-3).
Jesus also deserves to rule because he is Eve’s special *descendant. God promised that Eve’s special *descendant would free people from the power of *sin and the devil (Genesis 3:15). Jesus achieved this by his death for us.
Jesus also deserves to rule because he is David’s *descendant. And Jesus belongs to the *tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).
And, because Jesus will rule, God will *bless the people from all nations (Revelation 22:2-3). If we confess our *sins, God forgives us because of Jesus. And we shall rule with him, because we belong to his royal family (1 Peter 2:9). This is a wonderful promise to everyone who trusts Jesus. We do not deserve these things. And we cannot earn them by our own efforts. But God said that he would *bless people from every nation by means of Abraham’s special *descendant (Genesis 12:3). And that special *descendant is Jesus (Galatians 3:16).
Verses 11-12 These verses do not seem to describe Judah himself, who was a *shepherd. The verses probably describe the land in Canaan that the *tribe of Judah would receive. So, ‘he’ means someone from the *tribe of Judah.
Jacob described a place where the land was very good. People would plant fruit bushes. And the fruit harvest would be plentiful. A farmer would need a *donkey to carry the fruit from one bush. (See Numbers 13:23.) There would even be enough wine to wash clothes in it! People did not really wash clothes in wine. Usually, wine was much too precious to waste.
Verse 12 describes someone who is strong and healthy. That person is healthy because his food is good. His food is good because the land is good. So, the *tribe of Judah would receive good land.
Verse 13 Zebulun
v13 ‘Zebulun’s home will be by the sea shore.
In that place, there will be a shelter for ships.
The border of Zebulun’s land will be near Sidon.’
Verse 13 Jacob was saying that trade would be important to the *tribe of Zebulun. This tribe’s land included part of the shore of the sea called Galilee. But the land did not include the city called Sidon. And it did not include the shore of the great sea, called the Mediterranean. But perhaps the men from this *tribe traded in these places also.
Verses 14-15 Issachar
v14 ‘I shall describe Issachar as a strong *donkey.
The *donkey lies between the two sacks that it must carry.
v15 The *donkey knows when it has found a good place to rest.
The *donkey can recognise land that is pleasant.
So, it chooses to lift its heavy weights.
It agrees to work like a slave.’
Verses 14-15 Men from the *tribe of Issachar would become farmers. Their land would be very good. And, like the *donkey, they would work very hard.
Verses 16-18 Dan
v16 Dan will become the judge who defends his people among the *tribes of Israel.
v17 Dan will be like a snake by a road.
And a snake will bite the ankles of a horse.
When the horse feels the pain, its rider will fall.
v18 I am waiting for you to save me, *Lord.’
Verse 16 Dan’s name means “judgement”. These words are not a description of a modern judge, who merely makes decisions. Jacob was saying that God would use Dan (or the *tribe of Dan) to fight for his people. Samson did this, and he came from the *tribe of Dan (Judges 13:2).
Verses 17-18 A snake may be small. But it can fight a much larger animal. And the snake will win.
So, God would use the *tribe of Dan to defeat enemies that seemed very powerful. The *tribe of Dan would succeed because God was using it to save his people.
Verse 19 Gad
v19 ‘A group of guards will gather to get Gad’s goods (possessions)!
But Gad will go back to get their goods!’
Verse 19 Jacob repeats the same letters often in his *prophecy about Gad. Our translation also does this (with the letters ‘g’ and 'd'). This is a style of poetry.
Many enemies attacked the *tribe of Gad. These enemies belonged to the nations called Ammon, Moab and Aram. The people from Gad fought them successfully.
Verse 20 Asher
v20 ‘Asher will enjoy rich food.
He will produce food for the king to eat.’
Verse 20 The *tribe of Asher received good land. When Solomon became the King of Israel, the *tribe of Asher provided food for the palace. Each year, they provided the food that the palace used in one month. You can read a list of the food that the *tribe provided in 1 Kings 4:22-28.
Verse 21 Naphtali
v21 ‘I compare Naphtali to a graceful *deer (wild animal) that is free.
That deer gives birth to beautiful young animals.
And so, Naphtali will speak beautiful words.’
Verse 21 This verse seems to refer to the battle that Barak fought. Barak came from the *tribe of Naphtali (Judges 4:6). And the beautiful words may refer to the poem in Judges chapter 5.
Verses 22-26 Joseph
v22 ‘Joseph is like a *vine that produces plentiful fruit.
That vine grows near to the water.
It is in a garden and its branches grow over the wall.
v23 Joseph’s enemies were angry.
They hated him.
They shot their arrows at him.
v24 But Joseph held his bow firmly.
His arms were strong because God supported him.
God is Jacob’s strong helper.
God looks after his people as a *shepherd looks after sheep.
God is Israel’s security.
v25 And, Joseph, your father’s God will help you.
God is your provider and he will *bless you.
So, God will give you *blessings from *heaven above.
And God will give you *blessings from the deepest places below.
He will give *blessings to your children.
And he will give *blessings to the mothers in your *tribe.
v26 Joseph, these *blessings are greater than the *blessings that my father and grandfather gave to their sons.
These *blessings are great, like the greatness of the ancient hills.
And I give all these *blessings to Joseph.
They shall be like a crown for his head.
He is the prince among his brothers.’
Verse 22 This verse is like Psalm 1:2-3. These are descriptions of a *righteous person. Such a person does whatever God wants that person to do. Other people might think that a *righteous person is foolish. But the Bible teaches that only *righteous people are really successful. And *righteous people are successful whether they are rich or poor. Joseph was a *righteous man. And so, Joseph’s life did not just benefit Joseph himself. In fact, God *blessed *Pharaoh because of Joseph. God saved the lives of the *Egyptians during the *famine because of Joseph. And God helped Joseph’s own family, because of Joseph.
Verses 23-24 Joseph had many troubles during his life. But God protected Joseph. And God made Joseph able to overcome his (Joseph’s) problems.
Jacob described Joseph’s problems as if Joseph was a soldier in a battle. Joseph was not actually a soldier. This is just a description.
Verses 25-26 Joseph received a special *blessing because he had the *birthright. Jacob said that God would give many good things to Joseph. God had been very kind to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But the good things that God would give his people had not ended. In fact, the opposite was true. God would do even greater things for Joseph’s *descendants.
The son who had the *birthright used to receive a double share of his father’s possessions. The *descendants of each son of Jacob became a *tribe. But Joseph’s *descendants became two *tribes: Ephraim and Manasseh. And they were both large *tribes.
Verse 27 Benjamin
v27 ‘Benjamin is like a greedy *wolf.
In the morning, the *wolf eats whatever it has hunted.
In the evening, the *wolf tears apart the animals that it has taken.’
Verse 27 People from the *tribe of Benjamin would have a tendency to fight. In Judges chapter 20, this attitude caused a terrible war between the *tribe of Benjamin and the other *tribes. The *tribe of Benjamin refused to hand over criminals for punishment. Instead, the *tribe of Benjamin decided to fight.
The men from the *tribe of Benjamin were brave soldiers. But they still lost the battle. Nearly everyone from the *tribe of Benjamin died. Only 600 men from the *tribe of Benjamin escaped.
Many years afterwards, the first king of Israel, called Saul, came from the *tribe of Benjamin. Saul became a cruel king.
Paul too belonged to the *tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5). Paul had this tendency too, but he used it in a good way. He was brave. And he was not afraid to suffer (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Verses 28-33 Jacob’s final orders
v28 All those are Israel’s 12 *tribes. That is what their father said to them. He said it when he *blessed them. He *blessed each son with the *blessing that was right for that son.
v29 Then Israel gave these orders to his sons. He said, ‘God will soon gather me to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave. It is in the field of Ephron the *Hittite. v30 That cave is in the field at Machpelah. It is east from Mamre, in the country called Canaan. Abraham bought the field from Ephron the *Hittite. So then Abraham had a place to bury people. v31 There people buried Abraham and his wife Sarah. There they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah. I buried Leah there. v32 Abraham bought that field and he bought the cave in it. He bought them from Heth’s family.’
v33 Jacob (Israel) gave those orders to his sons. When he had finished, he pulled his feet up onto the bed. He breathed his last breath and he died.
Verse 28 This is the first time in Genesis when the writer writes about ‘Israel’s 12 *tribes’.
Verse 29 Jacob told his sons that he was dying. He said, ‘God will soon gather me to my people.’ Maybe he used these words to show that there is life after death. We do not know whether he did. Jacob may have meant only that his body would be with his dead relatives (verses 30-32). Jacob insisted that his sons should bury him in Canaan. Canaan was the country that God had promised to them. The sons needed to remember that. Their *descendants would not always remain in Egypt.
Jacob and Joseph die
v1 Then Joseph bent over his father’s face. He wept and he kissed his father. v2 Joseph had some servants that were doctors. He ordered them to *preserve his father. So the doctors *preserved Israel. v3 They worked for 40 days. It takes 40 days to *preserve a body. The *Egyptians wept about Israel for 70 days.
v4 Then the days when the *Egyptians wept were over. Joseph then spoke to *Pharaoh’s family. He said, ‘Please do this kind thing for me and speak to *Pharaoh. v5 Please tell him that my father made me declare a very serious promise. Israel said to me, “I will soon die. Bury me in the grave that I bought for myself. I bought it in the country called Canaan. Bury me there!” Please ask *Pharaoh if I can go to bury my father. Then I will come back.’
v6 *Pharaoh replied, ‘Go up and bury your father. Do it exactly as you promised to him.’
v7 So Joseph went up to bury his father. And all *Pharaoh’s servants went with him. So did the older men in his own family, who had authority in the family. So did all the older men that had authority in the country called Egypt. v8 Joseph’s brothers and Israel’s family went up too, as well as Joseph’s family. They left only their children behind them (in Goshen). Their *flocks and *herds stayed in the region called Goshen. v9 Joseph had with him *chariots and also horsemen. It was a very large group.
v10 Joseph and his group came to a flat, open place where people separated the grains from corn. It was at Atad. That was in the country called Canaan, beyond the Jordan River. Then Joseph and his group cried. They cried for a very long time and they cried with deep emotion. Joseph arranged a special occasion when people could cry about his father. They cried for 7 days. v11 The *Canaanites that were living in the area saw it. They saw how Joseph’s group cried there. That was at Atad. It was in the place where people separate the grains from corn. The *Canaanites said, ‘The *Egyptians are very sad about this.’ So the place was called Abel-Mizraim. It is beyond the Jordan River.
v12 So Israel’s sons did as he had ordered them. v13 His sons carried him to the country called Canaan. They buried him in the cave in the field. The field is at Machpelah, east from Mamre. It is the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the *Hittite. Abraham bought it as a place to bury people. v14 Joseph went back to Egypt after he had buried his father. Joseph’s brothers also went back to Egypt. And many other people had gone up with him to bury his father. They all went back to Egypt.
v15 Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was then dead. They thought that Joseph might hate them. And he might punish the brothers for all the evil things that they had done to him. v16 So they sent a person to take a message to Joseph. The person told this message to him: ‘Before your father died, he ordered us to talk to you. v17 Your father said, “Say this to Joseph. Say that he should forgive his brothers for the evil, wrong things that they did to him. Joseph should forgive them for the bad things that they did.” Now please, we desperately ask you to forgive us for our *sins. We are the servants of your father’s God.’ Joseph wept when that person told that message to him.
v18 Joseph’s brothers themselves came and they *bowed down low in front of him. They said, ‘Look! We are your servants.’
v19 Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I am not God. v20 You certainly meant to do an evil thing to me, but God meant it for a good purpose. So, because of that, many people are alive until today. v21 Do not be afraid. I will take care of you. And I will take care of your little children.’ In that way, Joseph helped them not to be afraid any longer. So they became calm. He comforted them.
v22 So Joseph lived in Egypt. His father’s family lived there too. Joseph lived for 110 years. v23 Joseph saw Ephraim’s grandchildren. Manasseh’s son Machir also had children, whom Joseph took into his own family.
v24 Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am dying. God will come to you. And he will take you up out of this country. He will lead you to the country that he promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ v25 Joseph then made Israel’s sons promise something very seriously to him (Joseph). Joseph ordered them to do this thing. He said that God would come to the family and then they must carry up his bones out of Egypt.
v26 So Joseph died when he was 110 years old. People *preserved him. And they put him in a coffin (big box to bury people in). The coffin was in Egypt.
Jacob had asked his sons to bury his body in Canaan. So, after Jacob’s death, Joseph arranged for the funeral to be in Canaan.
It was not just Jacob’s family who attended the funeral. Many *Egyptians came to the funeral too. This fact shows how many people respected Jacob. It took several days to travel from Egypt to Canaan. And it was a difficult journey.
After the funeral, Joseph’s brothers became afraid of him again. They thought that he might be angry with them. They thought that he might punish them.
Joseph wept when he heard about their fears. He never wanted to be cruel to his brothers. He had forgiven them. He was sad that they did not seem to realise this. So, he explained that God placed him in Egypt in order to do God’s work. Their actions had been evil. But they could not prevent God from doing something good.
Joseph was an old man when he died. Before he died, he gave an instruction to his family. He did not want them to bury his body in Egypt. Instead, he asked them to store his bones. At the right time, God would take their *descendants back to Canaan. (God promised this to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-16.) And Joseph wanted them to take his bones with them. Joseph showed by these instructions that he trusted God (Hebrews 11:22).
And the *descendants of Joseph’s family did what he wanted (Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32).
Notes on the verses
Verse 1 There was special love between Joseph and Jacob. There were several reasons why such love existed between them. Joseph was the son of Rachel, Jacob’s favourite wife. Jacob and Rachel had waited for many years before Joseph was born. Jacob and Joseph were away from each other for many years. They had not thought that they would meet each other again. But particularly, they felt this love because they both served God. So, they both had the same attitudes.
Joseph was a very important person in Egypt. So, when his father was dying, Joseph would be the chief person by his father’s bed. God had promised that Joseph would close Jacob’s eyes when Jacob died (Genesis 46:4).
Verse 2 *Egyptians used to *preserve dead bodies. This was a special ceremony in their religion. So, usually, their priests did this task. But Joseph and Jacob did not belong to the ancient *Egyptian religion. Instead, they served the real God. So, Joseph arranged for doctors (instead of priests) to *preserve Jacob’s body.
Verse 3 ‘40 days’ may mean ‘a long time’ in the *Old Testament. However, it may actually mean 40 days here, because the writer mentions other such times also. People were usually sad for dead kings for 72 days. Jacob’s family considered him very important. The *Egyptians, too, considered him important, because he was Joseph’s father.
Verse 4 Joseph did not go to *Pharaoh himself. Probably, people did not usually go to a king while they were sad. It was probably not right to do that. Jacob wanted his family to bury him in Canaan because of God’s promises. But Joseph did not mention that reason. Perhaps he thought that it might not be polite to the people in Egypt. Joseph talked about the matter gently. He also spoke about a grave that Jacob had made for himself. Joseph did not mention that the graves of Jacob’s relatives were in the same place. Some translations have ‘the grave that I cut (out of the rock)’.
Verse 5 Joseph promised to return to Egypt.
Verse 7 All *Pharaoh’s *Egyptian servants went with Joseph. In that way, they showed great honour towards Joseph and Jacob. Perhaps the *Egyptians also wanted to be sure that Joseph would come back to Egypt.
Jacob’s funeral was a very great occasion.
Verse 9 The *descendants of people that went to the funeral would follow the *Israelites later. They chased the *Israelites when the *Israelites left Egypt for Canaan. But then, at that later time, the *Egyptians and the *Israelites were enemies.
Verse 10 We are not sure where this place was. It was usual to cry and be sad for 7 days. To separate the grains from the corn, people beat the corn. Each farmer chose a special area with flat ground for this task.
Verse 11 People could see that Joseph’s group were very sad. And people could hear it. The group made a noise and they probably tore their clothes. Probably, they threw ashes over their bodies and they shaved their hair. And they cried loudly. The name Abel-Mizraim meant that the *Egyptians were very sad there.
Verse 13 It seems that only Jacob’s family went further to his burial. (A burial is when people bury a dead person in the ground.) The *Egyptians stayed at Abel-Mizraim. Families usually buried their dead relatives in private.
Verse 14 Joseph did as he had promised to *Pharaoh. He returned to Egypt. Actually, many people went back together to Egypt. But Joseph was the most important person.
Verse 15 ‘Saw’ here means knew. The brothers were afraid. They thought that maybe Joseph would not still be friendly to them. Perhaps he was kind in the past only because he loved his father. So, Joseph’s brothers were afraid that he might now punish them. He was very powerful.
Verses 16-17 The writer does not tell us whether Jacob really told the brothers to say those things. The brothers had done bad things to Joseph. But we do not know whether Jacob ever knew that. Jacob would have wanted the family to be friendly, because God had promised great things for their future.
Maybe the brothers had not asked Joseph to forgive them before. If they had, we do not know it. But now, they asked him clearly to forgive them. They even offered to become his slaves.
Their message upset Joseph. He had already forgiven them. But it seems that they still did not realise this fact.
Their attitude was like many people today. God wants to forgive us because he is kind. He sent Jesus to die for us. Because of Jesus, God will forgive us if we humbly confess our evil deeds to him. Then, if we invite God into our lives, we become friends of God. But many people think that they must earn this by their own efforts. They are wrong. God forgives us as a free gift. God makes us his friends because he loves us.
Verses 19-20 Although Joseph had a lot of wealth and power, he had not become proud and unkind. He knew that God is the judge over everyone. He knew that God is always good. And God is powerful. Our evil deeds cannot stop God’s plans to do good things. God had a plan to use Joseph. And God’s plan succeeded. He used Joseph to save people’s lives.
Verse 21 Joseph promised to provide for his brothers’ families. They would be safe then. And they would continue to be safe during his whole life.
Verse 22 Joseph lived until he was very old.
Verse 23 In the *Hebrew of this verse, it is not clear whether the children were Ephraim’s grandchildren or Joseph’s grandchildren. Joseph adopted Manasseh’s grandchildren.
Verse 24 Joseph believed God’s promise that God would give the country called Canaan to the *Israelites. It is unlikely that many of Joseph’s actual brothers were still alive. The verse probably means that he spoke these words to his brothers’ families.
Verse 25 ‘Israel’s sons’ probably means Jacob’s grandsons, grandsons’ sons, and other *descendants. All Joseph’s brothers were older than he was, except Benjamin. Joseph used this promise to remind his family that he trusted God. And Joseph wanted them to trust God too.
Verse 26 Usually, the *Israelites buried bodies soon after death. But Joseph wanted the *Israelites to remember God’s promises. So, he told them not to bury his body. Instead, he told them to put it in a coffin. (A coffin is a big box that someone has made out of wood. People place dead bodies in it.) Whenever the *Israelites saw that coffin, they remembered God’s promise to them. God had promised that they would live in Canaan. It took several centuries before their *descendants arrived in Canaan. But, in the end, God did for them what he had promised. And, at last, they buried Joseph’s bones in the country that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.