Here’s a passage that used to agitate me. To set the stage, Jacob and his twelve sons have long since died, and the current Pharaoh is struggling to control the numerous Hebrews in his kingdom. He forces them into hard labor, but they still prosper. So he tries to enlist the Hebrew midwives to kill all the Hebrew sons as they’re born. The Hebrew midwives don’t comply. But they lie in order to save the newborns, and therein lies the complication.
Here we are at the end of Genesis. It’s also, in a sense, the end of Jacob and the end of Joseph, as we have two deaths in this final chapter. On the other hand, though, it’s not the end of Jacob and Joseph; the end is not the end. But in between these two deaths we have a scene between Joseph and his brothers that I think bears consideration.
Here we have Jacob’s final message to his sons: an individual blessing for each son. According to the NASB’s subject heading, it’s also a prophecy. Jacob himself describes his message as “what will befall you in the days to come,” literally “the end of the days” (1). I sense that there’s a lot going on underneath the surface here, but here’s what I’ve got.
Some people think the Bible isn’t a funny book. They’re right. We’re not reading The Big Christian Joke Book here. The Bible is, however, a book with funny parts. Perhaps none of it strikes you as particularly amusing, and I certainly can’t fault you for such a reading of it, but there are certain passages that can be humorous when viewed in a certain light. Take, for example, a scene from today’s chapter.
If I had to sum up today’s chapter in one word, it would be “economics.” But that’s not the best summary, which is why I will use more than one word. The chapter picks up where the previous one left off, with Jacob and Pharaoh working out a place where Jacob’s family can keep their flocks. Then, as the famine continues, the Egyptians have to give up more and more of their possessions in order to purchase food, eventually having to sell themselves to Pharaoh just to keep eating. Finally, as Jacob nears the end of his life, he makes sure that Joseph will have him buried in the plot that Abraham purchased in Canaan. See? Economics! I’ll admit it’s kind of a stretch on that last one, but like I said: more than one word.
Today’s chapter has a genealogy in the middle of it. After listing the children of each of Jacob’s sons, grouped by mother, it gives the final count of family members as 70. At this time, I don’t think it would be a particularly good use of my time to check the narrator’s math. His point is that these are the people who ended up living in Egypt. After all, this is the chapter that reunites the family and gathers them all in Egypt; this is the home stretch of the story of the patriarchs.
Joseph lets the cat out of the bag in today’s chapter. And it’s this chapter that gave me those impressions of his increased maturity, because he has a lot to say about God.