In Genesis 49 Jacob calls his sons and says, “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.” I can feel the suspense in the room as they gather around waiting to hear what he has to say! Jacob begins with Reuben and announces that he will no longer excel because he defiled his father’s bed by sleeping with Bilhah. Simeon and Levi are also described in strong negative terms as thugs who “have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased” (49:6). Judah is described in positive terms as the ruler of the people: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations be his” (49:10). This came to be seen as a messianic statement – the Messiah would be a ruler from the “lion” of Judah (pun intended). Joseph’s section is the longest. It is emphasised that his blessings and strength came from God. (In case he forgets in the midst of Egypt’s gods?). This section concludes: “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him” (49:28). If I have time I will write a post regarding the difficulties over the identity of the twelve tribes of Israel. For now you can look up Genesis 35:23-26; Exodus 1:2-5; Numbers 1:20-43; Joshua 14:3; 1 Chronicles 2:2; and Revelation 7:5-8.
Jacob died and Joseph had him embalmed in accordance with the practice of the Egyptians. Then he and all the family returned to Canaan to bury him in the tomb near Mamre that Abraham had bought as a burial ground for his family. After Jacob died the brothers feared that Joseph would now punish them for their wickedness. He reassured them that everything was fine and they could live at peace. The book concludes with the death of Joseph at age 110 and his being embalmed and placed in a coffin to await burial in Canaan. In contrast to Jacob who was immediately buried in Canaan, Joseph must wait until Exodus 13:19 when Moses took his bones with them. The narrative does not mention what happened to the bones of his brothers so presumably they were buried in Egypt. Did only Joseph live in the hope of returning to Canaan as the promised land? This would be ironic as it is he who is the prince of Egypt.