This is the last episode in the life of Joseph, the beloved son of Jacob, who had been sold into slavery and yet had risen to the greatest position of power in the known world of that day. His last days didn’t include all the glory and honor that his public life did, instead it brings us to the home of his father in Egypt. Many years before this, he had been rudely taken from his father’s home in Canaan land and sold to the Ishmaelites as a slave.
At the end of chapter 47 of Genesis, Jacob is 147 years old and realizes he is about to die and he made Joseph promise to bury him back in the land of Canaan.
Genesis 48:1-6: "And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. 2: And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed. 3: And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, 4: And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. 5: And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. 6: And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance."
By claiming Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh as his own, Jacob would elevate them to a position equal with his older sons, insuring that Joseph’s descendants would receive a double inheritance.
Apparently Jacob intended to transfer the rights of the firstborn son from Reuben to Joseph at this time. Reuben was the firstborn son of Jacob’s first wife, Leah. Joseph was the firstborn son of his second wife, his beloved Rachel. Reuben had sinned with Jacob’s concubine, Bilhah, and this may have occasioned the transferal of the birthright.
Genesis 48:8-14: "And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said, Who are these? 9: And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them. 10: Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them. 11: And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed. 12: And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. 13: And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near unto him. 14: And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn."
His eyesight failing, Jacob asked whose sons these were, and Joseph identified them as his. Jacob then intentionally placed his right hand on the head of the younger one to confer the blessing of the firstborn on him.
Again God passed over the older son (Manasseh) in favor of the younger (Ephraim), just as he had done in choosing Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, and Joseph over Reuben.
Genesis 48:15-20: "And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, 16: The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. 17: And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head. 18: And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. 19: And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. 20: And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh."
In later years, after the reign of Solomon, the kingdom was divided and the tribe of Ephraim became the dominant tribe in the northern kingdom and its name was equated with Israel.
Joseph protested the conferring of the blessing on the younger above the older but it was God’s will and Jacob refused to change it.
Genesis 48:21-22: "And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers. 22: Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow."
This ended his private conversation with Joseph, and Jacob called for all his sons to gather.
Genesis 49:1-2: "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. 2: Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father."
He gathered all his twelve sons to pronounce a parting blessing on their heads before he died. His words would contain both blessings and prophecy. He was nearly blind at this time but his spiritual vision was 20/20.
The prophecy of the path his sons and their tribal descendants would travel down through the centuries has proved accurate and is still continuing today.
He began with Reuben, the first-born, in verse 3, and continued with his ten oldest sons down through verse 21. After he had laid his hands on the heads of the ten boys, he came to Joseph, the eleventh, and pronounced the richest blessing on his favorite son.
Genesis 49: 22-26. "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him. But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel.) " Then he went on "The blessings of thy father hath prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren" (Genesis 49:22-26).
His poetic description of Joseph in this passage is amazing because of its prophetic accuracy. First, it’s primary truth is in relation to Joseph as he was in the land of Egypt, the one who had provided bread and to spare for all who would come to him. But Jacob’s words, "From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel" also pointed ahead nearly two thousand years to the coming of the Messiah. He is Jesus Christ, the antitype of Joseph, “a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall.”
To get the full significance of this we need to remember that Joseph was of the seed of Israel and an inheritor of the blessing of Abraham and of the land of earthly promise called Canaan and that promise was confined to Abraham’s seed only. But as the seed of Abraham, Joseph was the "fruitful bough" that over-stepped the boundaries of that land and had gone "over the wall" and away from the land of earthly promise. He went down to Egypt where he was a stranger, yet he had filled that land with blessing so abundant that there was sufficient bread for Israelite and Gentile alike.
In Ephesians 2:7, we read these words concerning our Lord Himself: "That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
Verses 11-17 (selected portions) "Wherefore remember that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel . . . . having no hope and without God in the world; but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ; for He is our peace, who hath made both one" -that is, both Jew and Gentile- "and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us: Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, . . . so making peace; . . . and came and preached peace to you which were afar off" -that is the Gentiles” and to them that were nigh" -that is Israel.
Here we have the answer to Jacob's prophetic statement regarding Joseph, a "fruitful bough" by a well, whose branches "run over the wall."
Jesus Christ, in His exaltation among the Gentiles, like Joseph in Egypt, is Lord and provider, not only for His own people, Israel, but for the Gentiles themselves. That is the wonderful and gracious truth of the Gospel.
Romans 10:12-13. “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13: For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Jacob’s prophetic words pointed directly to Christ when he said, in Genesis 49:26b, "The blessings of thy father shall be on the head of Joseph, and upon the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren." This is the man of Calvary Who was hated and grieved but Who was made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob to become the sin bearer for all His people. He would come out of the fight victorious and rise from the dead as the Conqueror over death. He offers a blessing to every man, woman or child who bows the knee and calls Him Lord. He is the One who was separate from His brethren, yet who was crowned with glory and honor by His Father, and Who now sits on the throne of God on high, and "He is Lord of all."
The rest of Genesis 49 records Jacob’s instructions for his burial in the land of Canaan and in the last verse it records the death of this man. He was Jacob the supplanter, the altar builder, the man who wrestled with God, the father of the Nation of Israel, and a man who worshipped God to his dying day. Hebrews 11:21: "By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff."
Genesis 50 records the funeral and burial of Jacob in the land of Canaan. He was accorded great honor by both the Egyptians and the children of Israel.
Genesis 50:15-23. "And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him. 16: And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, 17: So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. 18: And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. 19: And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20: But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive."
This was something that Jesus Christ endured when He was on earth. Evil men crucified Him but God used that act to make salvation available to all mankind.
21: "Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them. 22: And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years. 23: And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation: the children also of Machir the son Manasseh were brought up upon Joseph's knees."
Joseph reached the age of 110 years before he died, caring for and protecting his brothers and seeing his sons and grandchildren being brought up.
Genesis 50:24-26: "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. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt."
Carrying on where his father left off, Joseph prophesied to his brothers that God would bring their descendants out of Egypt and take them to the land that was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as their possession forever.
Then he called their attention to his wishes. He made them promise that their descendants would carry his bones with them to the Promised Land. Joseph knew that, even in death, he didn’t belong to Egypt.
Let’s consider again the last two verses of chapter 50 and review some of this history.
“And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.”
Joseph would have been about 57 years old when his father, Jacob, died, and he would have lived 53 years after that.
On his death bed he took an oath from his brethren regarding his bones, that they would carry his bones out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. Joseph remembered that, even in death, he wasn’t of the land of Egypt and didn’t belong there.
Our Lord shares this same thought about the believer, that we don’t belong to this world.
Shortly before He went to the cross, our Lord lifted up His eyes toward heaven and spoke to His Father concerning His disciples saying: "They are not of the world even as I am not of the world."
When Joseph’s brethren had multiplied in great numbers in Egypt, God delivered them out of the hand of a Pharaoh who “knew not Joseph.” They crossed the Red Sea on dry ground and wandered in the wilderness for forty years, but they never forgot Joseph. No matter where they went, whether they traveled by night or day, they remembered Joseph because wherever they went, they carried Joseph's bones. When they reached the promised land they found a resting place for them.
They carried his bones across the Jordan in flood stage and onto resurrection ground in the land of promise, and they buried Joseph's bones there to await the day when God would fulfill His promises to the one who was separate from his brethren.
The believer in Christ has been trusted with the continuous remembrance of our Lord Jesus.
We don’t carry His bones around like the Israelites did Joseph’s. Our Lord is a risen, living Lord and He left something tangible to remember Him by called "the Lord's Supper." He said "This do in remembrance of Me."
Joseph’s last request was so important that he made his brethren swear under oath they would keep it. His coffin was an emblem that would remind them of his undying love for them and their love for him wherever they went, and they never forget.
Our Lord hasn’t asked us to swear under oath that we would keep His remembrance feast, His request calls for our willing response. God's people have been asked to gather together to break the bread and drink the cup and partake in this memorial feast in remembrance of the One who, in His undying love, gave His life for sinners like me.
When we see His face, and I think it will be soon, there will no longer be any need for the remembrance feast, but until then it’s our highest privilege.
The Biblical book of beginnings of man, Genesis, starts with “In the beginning” and closes with “in a coffin in Egypt.” How well this portrays man in our natural state in our relationship to God. “In the beginning” man was in harmony with God and in a sinless state. Then, our free will allowed man to sin in the Garden of Eden and we became estranged from a holy God, in effect, spiritually dead. Egypt is a biblical type of the world and “in a coffin in Egypt” pictures the state of man without redemption back to God.
God has always required a blood sacrifice for sin and the final and only complete sacrifice for the sin of mankind could only come with the shedding of the sinless blood of a man. The only Man that could do that was God’s only Son, Christ Jesus. He willingly went to the cross and shed His blood for the sins of all mankind and God accepted that payment.
All the sinner has to do to avail themselves of this eternal forgiveness is found in Romans 10:9-10. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10: For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
God requires nothing more, God will accept nothing more, and God will accept nothing less than this: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” and Heaven will be your home for all eternity.