In The Beginning: The Conclusion
by Jackie Alston
"I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him."
The title of today's lesson is "In the Beginning: The Conclusion." It is the sixth and final part of our story of Genesis. It is important to remember that the Book of Genesis is the foundation upon which the other sixty-five books of the Bible rest.
In our last lesson, Joseph had risen from prison to prominence because of his interpretation and subsequent advice concerning Pharoah's dreams. In gratitude, the Pharoah had shown Joseph great favor by naming him Governor of Egypt. He granted Joseph Egyptian citizenship, gave him a new Egyptian name, and gave him a wife, Asenath, who bore him two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
During the second year of the seven year famine predicted by Joseph, his older brothers appeared at his doorstep to buy grain. Although these brothers had sold him into slavery at seventeen years old, Joseph held no hatred or bitterness toward them. So after a series of tests, which the brothers passed, Part V ended with Joseph having a passionate, tearful reunion with his eleven brothers. But Joseph felt the reunion could not be complete until his father was also there to share in his blessings.
In today's lesson the Scripture says, "Joseph said unto his brethren, and ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and all that ye have seen; and ye shall haste and bring down my father hither." So with the command from Joseph and the blessing of Pharoah, the brothers headed back to Canaan with silver, wagons, donkeys, clothing, grain, bread, and all the provisions necessary to bring old man Jacob and all his household back to Egypt.
When the brothers reached Canaan and told Jacob that Joseph was alive and was the Governor over all the land of Egypt, the Scripture says, "Jacob's heart fainted: for he believed them not." It must have been very difficult for Jacob to believe that kind of news . Afterall, he had been grieving the death of his favorite son for twenty-two years. Besides, the same sons who were now telling him that Joseph was alive were the same ones who had brought him Joseph's bloody coat. So Jacob thought it was just a cruel trick. But the brothers kept repeating what Joseph had told them to say and when Jacob saw all the loaded wagons, he finally believed and decided to go and see Joseph before he died.
So old man Jacob gathered his family and possessions and headed to Egypt. After two days journey he came to Beersheba and offered sacrifices to God, just as his father Isaac had done many years earlier. But then Jacob remembered God had commanded his father not to go to Egypt in the time of a famine. Although he had Joseph's and Pharoah's invitation and approval, Jacob was afraid of being outside the will of God. But God spoke to him in a vision and assured him that everything would be alright. He promised to make Jacob a great nation in Egypt.
So Jacob and his family finally reached the land of Goshen, and the Scripture says, "And Joseph went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while." I can't even begin to imagine the joy in Jacob's heart at seeing Joseph's face again, the Bible says it was such a joy that Jacob expressed his readiness to die now that he knew his favorite son was alive.
After the reunion between Joseph and Jacob, Joseph took five of his brothers to meet Pharoah, and Pharoah gave the family permission to dwell in the rich pasturelands of Goshen. Then Joseph presented Jacob to Pharoah and Jacob blessed Pharoah. And from other Scriptures we learn that the lesser is always blessed by the greater, which means that Jacob, the 130 year old Jewish patriarch was greater than the King of Egypt.
During the remaining years of the famine, Joseph was exemplified as a perfect type of Christ. Because of his excellent business skills and his divine favor from God, he not only provided an abundant life for his father and his household, but he became the savior of all the people.
Then the Bible tells us about the final days of old man Jacob. Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years until he was 147 years old. When his health began to fail, he called Joseph in and made him promise to take his body back to Canaan and bury him with his fathers. It wasn't much longer after giving his promise that Joseph and his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, stood at Jacob's death bed.
In a final act of love, Jacob adopted Joseph's sons as full sons of his own, which meant he was bypassing his first two sons Reuben and Simeon, and making sure Joseph would get a double portion of the birthright. As I mentioned in earlier lessons, the birthright was meant to go to the oldest son. Joseph was Jacob's eleventh son, but he was the older son of Jacob's beloved Rachel and since Rachel was the only wife Jacob ever intended to have, he felt Joseph was entitled to the birthright.
Next, Jacob asked that Manasseh and Ephraim be brought forth that he may bless them. Since Manasseh was the older son, Joseph brought him to Jacob's right hand to receive the bigger blessing and put Ephraim at Jacob's left hand. But old man Jacob did an amazing, prophetic and symbolic thing. He deliberately crossed his arms, so that they each got what the other deserved. He put his right hand on Ephraims's head and his left hand on Manasseh's. Joseph tried to correct his father, but prophetically, Jacob knew that Ephraim's descendants would be much greater than Manasseh's. And of course, that prophesy came true. Symbolically, when Jacob crossed his arms, it was a foreshadow of the cross of Calvary, where God crossed his arms and gave Jesus what we deserved and we got what was His. Jesus received death on the cross and we received the right to become sons of God. Glory be to God!!!
In the final hours of old man Jacob's life, the Scripture says, "And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days." Then Jacob proceeded to prophesy to each of his twelve sons. Some were blessed and some were not so blessed. I won't go into all the details on each son, I'll just briefly mention the ones you may remember from earlier parts of the story.
Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, was supposed to hold the place of power and dignity, but he would lose it because he raped his father's concubine. Simeon and Levi would be scattered tribes because they slaughtered the men of Shechem. Judah would be praised for his victories over his enemies, with the ultimate victory coming from the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, which is Jesus, the Messiah. Joseph would be delivered from his enemies by the Almighty and God would also bestow unlimited blessings upon him. And Benjamin would be a victorious tribe of fierce fighters, among them, King Saul and the Apostle Paul.
Old man Jacob knew he didn't have much time left, so in his final words, he commanded his sons to bury him with his fathers in the land of Canaan. Then the Scripture says, "He gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people. And Joseph fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him, and kissed him."
Oh, how Joseph must have grieved his beloved father! And during his grief, he had the sad task of making funeral arrangements. He called in the physicians to begin the Egyptian process of embalming, which continued for forty days. Then there was another thirty days of mourning in which all of Egypt mourned the death of Jacob.
After the seventy days of mourning, Joseph received permission from Pharoah to take his father's body back to Canaan. And the Scripture says, "And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharoah, the elders of his house and all the elders of the land of Egypt, and all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father's house." It was one of the grandest funeral processions ever seen. Old man Jacob had come a long way by the grace of God and now he was going out in a blaze of glory.
When the procession reached the east side of the Jordan River, there were seven more days of such great mourning that the Canaanites named the place Mourning of Egypt. Then, as instructed, Jacob's body was laid to rest in the cave of Machpelah, and his sons returned to Egypt.
Many times, even in today's times, when the head of a family dies, some of the children just fall apart in different ways. And that is what happened with Joseph's brothers. They started believing that Joseph would seek revenge on them now that their father was dead. The brothers had never really made a full confession to Joseph so they were still full of guilt. So they sent a message to Joseph claiming that Jacob had commanded them to tell Joseph to forgive them. And when Joseph received that message, he was heartbroken. I could imagine Joseph thinking, "For the last seventeen years I've shown them nothing but love, I went to Pharoah on their behalf, and I provided all their needs. How could they even think that I've held a grudge for forty years?" And the Scripture says, "Joseph wept."
And while he wept, his brothers came and fell down before him and made an honest confession, they were ready to suffer whatever the consequences. But Joseph told them to not fear because he was not in the place of God. Joseph knew that vengeance was the Lord's. Besides, what the brothers meant for evil, God had meant for good. So Joseph encouraged his brothers and they all continued to live in Egypt as one big happy family, the Israelites, God's chosen people. But then it came time that Joseph should die.
When Joseph knew he was about to die, he called his relatives in, and the Scripture says, "And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you: and bring you out of this land: unto the land which He sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." Then Joseph made his brothers swear that when God gave them the land of Canaan that they would carry his bones from Egypt back to Canaan.
I'm glad that the Bible didn't tell us about the last moments in Joseph's life like it did Jacob's. The last verse of the Book of Genesis says, "So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him and he was put in a coffin in Egypt." So, sadly, Genesis, which began with God's perfect creation in the Garden of Eden ends with Joseph's coffin in the land of Egypt.
In closing, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph all believed that God was faithful to His promises. Although the Israelites would endure over 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God would raise up deliverers in the persons of Moses and Joshua. And through them, the children of Israel and the bones of Joseph would be brought out of Egypt into that Promised Land that flowed with milk and honey. To say anything more would be getting into a whole other story, so may God bless you and keep you in the blessed name of Jesus.
Providence Family Ministries