Before his death Jacob speaks a blessing or prophecy over the heads of each of his sons. Judah’s blessing, in particular, points back to the redemptive thread begun in Genesis 3;15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
This redemptive thread continues when God speaks to Abraham:
“In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
“I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. . . . (Genesis 17:6) “And I will bless her [Sarah] and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her” (Genesis 17:16).
This thread continues through Jacob, “Also God said to him, “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body” (Genesis 35:11).
And is passed on to Judah,
“Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s children shall bow down before you. . . . The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Genesis 49:8-10, NKJV).
This thread appears repeatedly throughout His story and terminates in the Book of the Revelation with dozens of glimpses of Shiloh, “the One to whom it belongs.” The story culminates in the exaltation of the One from Judah’s line who indeed defeats the serpent, “But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals” (Revelation 5:5). Through Shiloh comes redemption and to Shiloh belongs the heavenly scroll.
Judah’s blessing directs the reader to follow the thread of Judah’s descendants throughout the remainder of the Bible. Someone is coming! He will be King. He will bring peace between God and sinners. He is Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and who sits on heaven’s throne.
What God promises, He sets in motion and finally fulfills. He is good. He does good.
"Then he gave them these instructions: "I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite. Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land He promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Genesis 49:29; 50:24)
Jacob and Joseph's lives were wrapped up in the promise of God to Abraham regarding a nation and a land. Jacob's body was embalmed and returned to Canaan for burial where his father had been buried. Though promised the entire land of Canaan the children of Israel only possessed a burial plot. But, for God, a promise given is a possession received.
Joseph made the people promise that his embalmed body would one day find its resting place too, in the family burial plot in Canaan. Both men died in faith. They believed the promises of God spoken to Abraham regarding their 400 year sojourn in Egypt. Joseph actually refers to return to Canaan, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place" (50:25).
The writer of Hebrews describes their faith:
"By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones" (Hebrews 11:21-22).
The possession of the burial plot was God's down payment for Abraham's descendants on the land which they would one day possess. All they had were the promises of God and a burial plot. Having a promise is enough.
While unpleasant to consider, we too, are preparing for a time when we will die. We will either die, the way the world does--with a vague hope, or we will die in faith as did Jacob and Joseph--looking for our homeland.
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
- What does Jacob communicate about God to Joseph before he dies?
- What does this teach you about leaving a legacy?
- Why was Jacob so hard on Simeon and Levi? Which incident does Jacob refer to?
- Consider the names that Jacob uses to describe his relationship with God: Mighty One of Jacob, the Shepherd, and the Rock of Israel. What has Jacob come to understand about God?
- How do Joseph's brothers respond to their father's death?
- How does Joseph view the events of his life?What is Joseph's last request? What does this tell you about him?
Think about the years behind you. Which name used by Jacob best describes your relationship with God? Take a few minutes and praise the Father for all the ways He has led you.