Old Testament Types and Shadows
If you have followed along with the Superior Word sermons, then you are fully aware that every single passage of Scripture points to Jesus Christ – His Person and His work. In our journey through Genesis, Ruth, and our continued journey through Exodus, we have seen literally thousands of such types and pictures of Him.
If you haven’t been following along with our sermons, then get on the stick and get to it. Proper theological understanding of the New Testament is pretty much impossible without knowing the Old. This doesn’t mean that the core doctrines of the faith are unattainable without the Old, but it does mean that those core doctrines are likely to be misunderstood without first knowing the context of what has been seen in the Old.
And so it is a shame that so many people run ahead with their theology by either making stuff up out of their own head concerning doctrinal issues, or they have an unbalanced view of those doctrines because they haven’t taken the time to see what God has already shown in type and picture.
This problem results in countless variations of biblical doctrines with proponents of a particular view mis-analyzing verses and coming to faulty conclusions. From their skewed analyses come followers who only further propagate what is clearly wrong.
In reality, then, there is actual harm to what is being relayed in the Bible by evaluating the New Testament verses without considering the pictures from the Old. Solomon tells us this in a unique way with the following words. They are our text verse for this sermon.
Text Verse: “That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9
This isn’t some arbitrary statement meant to confuse the reader of the Bible concerning possible historical patterns. Instead, it is a note from the mind of God to the readers of His word that He repeats things in order for us to see what will happen again. If it is recorded in His word, we can expect the same type of thing to occur again in the process of redemptive history.
As this is so, and as the doctrine of the rapture is accepted by dispensationalists as a valid doctrine, then there must be types and pictures of it in the Old Testament. The question is then, “If it is pictured in the Old Testament, can we determine whether a pre/mid/or post tribulation rapture is defined as well?”
The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Today, we will take a very brief look at four different accounts, all of which point to a pre-tribulation rapture. Two are from Genesis, one is from Exodus, and the final one is from Ruth. We will do this without making unfounded deductions and we will analyze these types in proper context.
It may be that you won’t fully understand what I present. The reason for this is that each of these pictures comes from a greater whole which was laid out in a sequence of sermons. What you might want to do is go back and watch the surrounding sermons if you aren’t clueing in to what is presented.
Question: Why is it that some people who accept that there will be a rapture still adamantly refuse to believe that it will be a pre-tribulation rapture? I believe my friend Richard in New Zealand sums it up rather well –
“I suspect that underlying the anti pre trib rapture movement, there is a deficient understanding of the finished work of the Cross. This idea that we have to go through part of or all of the tribulation seems like a form of protestant purgatory to me. That somehow, by enduring the tribulation horror, adds some kind of merit to the broken body and shed blood of the Savior.” Richard MacGregor, Auckland NZ
He is right. Christ’s work is sufficient, and Christ will not allow His bride to be subjected to this time of wrath to come. She is His precious Jewel, not His punching bag. We will see this today.
Before we get into these things though, it should be noted that the rapture is not some impossible doctrine which should be laughed off by anyone of reason. Rather, it happened twice already in history to individuals. The first was Enoch. His translation is described in Genesis 5:21-24 –
“Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. 22 After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”
His translation is further explained in Hebrews 11 –
“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Hebrews 11:5
The second translation is that of Elijah. His is recorded in 2 Kings –
“Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” 2 Kings 2:11
Elijah is still alive today and his return is expected before the great and terrible Day of the Lord which is coming. What is most probable is that together, Enoch and Elijah – a Gentile and a Hebrew – will come back as the two witnesses of Revelation. This can be sufficiently determined from several passages of Scripture, but it isn’t relative to the doctrine of the rapture.
However, their translation is. If God can take them up, He can do the same for all of the saints of the church, just as His word says. I hope you enjoy this word from God’s word today, and if you enjoy this sermon but have never watched Superior Word sermons before, then you are only cheating yourself. J
Go back to Genesis 1:1 and start watching. If you watch one a day (like taking your vitamins) you will be caught up in about 1/2 a year. So get started. Great stuff is to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Pulled Out of Danger (Genesis 19:9-11)
9 And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. 10 But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11 And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door. Genesis 19:9-11
Lot was in a pickle. He was a fallible man, but he was also a righteous man. This is seen in the words of Peter in the New Testament –
“For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; 6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; 7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— 9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment…” 2 Peter 2:4-9
So we see that despite his failings, he was a righteous man. It is a biblical axiom, however, that righteousness stems not from man, but from God. Therefore, he is used as a picture of those who are in the Lord’s church. They are deemed righteous by God because of the work of Christ. Not because we are inherently righteous. Just look around at those in the church… and go look in the mirror too, and you will see this it true.
Just as Lot was tormented in his righteous soul because of the depravity of the world around him, so should we be tormented at the horrendous depravity around us. The pattern of the past is seen again in today’s cesspool of wickedness. One week’s prophecy update is enough to show anyone with even a modicum of morals that we are ripe for judgment.
For those whose hope is not in this world, we have the same hope of an open door before us as that which John saw so long ago –
“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven.” Revelation 4:1
John saw a door, and Lot was pulled through a door. Let’s look again at the verses about him and see not only what literally happened to him, but what they are picturing for us.
9 And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door.
This verse is tied to Genesis 19:1 where Lot was noted as being at the city gate. He acted like a judge here because he was probably a judge at the gate. It’s very probable, although not stated, that he was appointed a judge after Abraham defeated the kings of the east. This was an awarded position based on his relationship with his uncle. Whether this is the case or not, he sat in the gates and was noted as an authority.
But the crowd is no longer interested in set authority and has determined to cast it off. They have become so depraved that they rejected his offer of his own daughters in place of the men that had come under the shelter of his roof. The people surrounding Lot’s house are not only perverts, but they have become unreasonably violent by the conduct of their wicked lives. It sounds like our world once again today, doesn’t it.
The translators of the Geneva Bible make this comment about living too close to sin, as Lot is –
“Nothing is more dangerous than to live where sin reigns: for it corrupts all.”
This is a lesson Lot learned the hard way, and it is a lesson that we need to pay attention to in our own lives.
10 But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door.
Lot is brought into complete safety, away from the wickedness of the people, and into the presence of the Lord. That the Lord is there isn’t evident yet, but the term used for someone he speaks to later indicates that the Lord is there with him behind the door. Once Lot is pulled in, the door that was open is now shut.
11 And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door.
The type of blindness, or as the Hebrew says it “with blindnesses” (it is plural) – is the word ba’sanveriim. It is found in only two accounts in the Old Testament. The other time is in 2 Kings 6:18 –
“So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, and said, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.” And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.”
The blindness they experience is a peculiar sort that has much less to do with the eyes than it does with the mind. The heads of the people in Sodom, just like those with Elisha in Dothan, were confused, and their thinking was clouded. It’s a state of blindness which is more mental and spiritual than physical.
We know this because Elisha led the army of Syria all the way from Dothan to Samaria and they followed him. The people of Sodom groped for the door, even though it’s still there… right there… but they can’t find it. In other words, the very thing they’re intent upon finding is the thing they can’t see. It is as if they see a door and they find thorn bush, and when they see a thorn bush, they think it’s a door.
Are you seeing how these verses picture the coming rapture? Let’s stand back and look at the whole scene as if it were the time before Christ’s coming for us and compare what we see with how the Bible describes that glorious day when we are called home.
We saw how Peter describes the wickedness of the world which will receive God’s judgment. In those verses, he told about the righteousness of Lot. The similarity between the state of Sodom and the world which our liberal progressive leaders are rushing us towards is completely evident.
The state that Sodom was in is the state of today’s world. Later in that same epistle, Peter speaks about the destruction of the people he described and about the hope of the believer. Remember these concepts are made in comparison to Sodom before and after its destruction –
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:10-13
In the time of wickedness which preceded destruction, Lot was physically snatched back through the door by the angels and rescued by them from the people’s evil intent. This is exactly how Paul describes our coming rescue in 1 Thessalonians 4 –
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
The word Paul uses for “caught up” there is harpagesometha, or in its more recognizable form harpazo. It means to seize or carry off by force, or to snatch away. This is exactly the picture we were given when the angels in the house seized Lot and pulled him behind the door and into the presence of the Lord.
If you remember, after Lot was pulled to safety, the door was shut and no one could open it. All outside were excluded from safety. Now see how Jesus explains this same concept to the church of Philadelphia and the result of being left out of His safe protection, just as Sodom was –
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,|
‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: 8 “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” Revelation 3:7-11
There is an hour of trial coming upon the whole world and the world will be destroyed because of the wickedness of the people. But, we are promised safety from this, just as Lot was. Jesus’ own words promise to keep us out (Greek: ek) “out of” this hour of trial. There is deliverance from it because of our position in Him. Here is how Paul describes it in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 –
“You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5-10
We are not appointed to wrath, but to obtain salvation through Christ. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul explains the timing of this and what will occur after that moment. Listen carefully and see the amazing parallel to what occurred in Sodom.
“Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” 2 Thessalonians 2:5-8
Paul notes that the Restrainer will first be taken out of the way. This is the promise, the guarantee of the Holy Spirit. If we have the Holy Spirit as a guarantee, and He is taken and we are not, then that was not a very good guarantee. Rather, God is faithful to keep us safe from the coming tribulation period.
The next thing to notice is that it says in verse 8 that “…then the lawless one will be revealed.” This is speaking of the antichrist. If the antichrist is only revealed after the One who restrains is taken out of the way, then that means we will not know who the antichrist is.
So why watch a lot of nonsense videos that supposedly pinpoint who he is. They have always failed and they will continue to do so because our focus in the church is to be on Christ, not this person.
Further, if the signing of the peace deal with Israel, which is for seven years, is initiated by the antichrist, and if he is revealed after the rapture, and if the seven year peace deal is the seven years of tribulation mentioned in Revelation, all of which are doctrinally correct statements, then this shows with all certainty that the rapture is not post- or mid-tribulation, but pre-tribulation.
The fact that the antichrist is the one who signs the peace deal is succinctly laid out in Daniel 9 –
“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.” Daniel 9:27
If he “confirms a covenant with many for one week” and only in the middle of the week breaks the treaty, then this is speaking of the entire tribulation period. As we will not know who he is according to 2 Thessalonians 2:8, then this assures us of a pre-tribulation rapture.
And so let’s continue with Lot. He was pulled through the door to safety and only after that were the people given “blindnesses” or sanveriim. Remember how I explained it then. This was a mental or spiritual blindness, not a physical one. This is exactly what Paul says will happen again. Here are the continued words of 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12 –
” And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
The world will be given a “strong delusion” so that they will believe the lie. They will look for the door and they will find a thorn bush. They will see a thorn bush and they will think it is the door… In reality, they will search for God and find the antichrist. They will see the antichrist and think he is God.
Further, both the Genesis type and the prophetic fulfillment from Paul’s hand mention the blindnesses as coming after the pulling to safety, not before. It is another indication of a pre-tribulation rapture. They were pulled through the door, and then blindness came.
And what is the door that Lot was pulled through? It was the same Door that we will be pulled through. Do you remember the verse I cited a few minutes ago? Just prior to the tribulation, in Revelation 4, as the church age is ending, John saw a Door opened in heaven.
As he looked a voice called out to him “come up here” into the presence of the Lord – just as Lot was pulled into the presence of the Lord. What door did he see? In John chapter 10, Jesus Himself explains what the Door in Sodom’s time was, and Who the Door in the future is –
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:9, 10
The Door is Jesus, but behind the door is the Lord as well. In Genesis 19:18, after Lot was pulled to safety behind the door, it says v’yomer Lot alehem al na Adonai – “Then he said to them, no my Lord.” The word adonai means the Lord God. It indicated that not only were the two angels there, but the Lord was there as well. In type and in fulfillment, we will be snatched through the door and into the presence of the Lord – prior to the tribulation period.
II. The Transfer of Authority (Genesis 38:13-26)
13 And it was told Tamar, saying, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14 So she took off her widow’s garments, covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given to him as a wife. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face. 16 Then he turned to her by the way, and said, “Please let me come in to you”; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law.
So she said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?”
17 And he said, “I will send a young goat from the flock.”
So she said, “Will you give me a pledge till you send it?”
18 Then he said, “What pledge shall I give you?”
So she said, “Your signet and cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” Then he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19 So she arose and went away, and laid aside her veil and put on the garments of her widowhood.
20 And Judah sent the young goat by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand, but he did not find her. 21 Then he asked the men of that place, saying, “Where is the harlot who was openly by the roadside?”
And they said, “There was no harlot in this place.”
22 So he returned to Judah and said, “I cannot find her. Also, the men of the place said there was no harlot in this place.”
23 Then Judah said, “Let her take them for herself, lest we be shamed; for I sent this young goat and you have not found her.”
24 And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry.”
So Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!”
25 When she was brought out, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “By the man to whom these belong, I am with child.” And she said, “Please determine whose these are—the signet and cord, and staff.”
26 So Judah acknowledged them and said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And he never knew her again.
The next section for you today which clearly shows the dispensenational model, and which shows us an implicit picture of a pre-tribulational rapture, is found in Genesis 38. It is the story of Judah and Tamar. It is a simple and remarkable story of the coming Christ, but it also shows us much more.
In this story, Judah is a picture of the Jewish people. Tamar is a picture of the Gentile-led church. Judah possessed the cord, staff, and signet, each which symbolizes the Person and authority of Christ. Judah however bargained this right away for the price of a harlot, something clearly seen in the spiritual harlotry of Israel when they sold off Christ at His first coming.
In agreement to the deal that was made, Tamar asked for a pledge until the payment was rendered. The word for pledge here is eravon. It indicates an earnest deposit. When the expected payment from Judah, which was a goat, was received then the earnest was to be returned.
This Hebrew word, eravon, which is used only three times in Old Testament, and all in this chapter, was later adopted by the traders of Greece and Rome. It is also used in the New Testament three times, all by Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Each time he states the eravon is our promised redemption, the sealing of the Holy Spirit.
In the Bible, identical words between Hebrew and Greek are most unusual and yet this word was carried over, certainly so that we wouldn’t miss the significance of what it is showing us. Here are all three examples from the NT for you to see the connection –
“Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22
“Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 5:5
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13, 14
Each time this word is used, it is referring to the Holy Spirit. He is the security, given in hand, for the fulfillment of every promise which relates to our salvation and hope of eternal life. All who hold the pledge, and can so produce it, will be saved from condemnation and will be granted eternal life. This is the surety we have because of our pledge; the Holy Spirit. And this is what Judah’s pledge represents.
The pledge consisted of his signet, cord, and staff representing Judah’s identity, authority, and tribe. In type, they symbolize the Person and authority of Christ. This is what Tamar asked for and what was granted to her. And this is what passed from the Jews to the Gentiles during this dispensation known as the Church Age.
By being the bearer of the Messiah, as Tamar was, and as the church now is, we share in His identity and His authority. The carrying of Christ, pictured by these implements went to Tamar. Tamar means “palm tree.” In the Bible, the palm symbolizes uprightness and righteousness, something applied to the redeemed of the church numerous times in Paul’s letters.
It is also what Lot was called as well. Are you seeing the connection? Christ! Our righteousness! So in this story we see at least a dispensational model, but how does it point to a pre-tribulation rapture? Because of where the word eravon, or pledge, is noted by Paul. Remember his words of Ephesians 1:13, 14
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
As we saw in the previous section concerning Lot, if the guarantee is given and the Holy Spirit is taken out, and yet those who are sealed with the Spirit are not, then that is not a very good guarantee. Further, in picture, Judah received the signet, cord, and staff back all at one time when it was sent to him from Tamar.
There was no contact between them then, and the account says that there was no further contact between them in the future. In other words, the two dispensations do not overlap. The church age ends, and the symbols of Christ’s authority transfer back to the Jews. It is an implicit reference to a pre-tribulation rapture which is built on by other explicit references.
III. The Flock of Jethro (Exodus 3:1)
The next account is of Jethro’s flocks which is recorded in one verse in Exodus 3:1. In order to understand the context and the picture that is being made, we have to go back to an earlier point in Moses’ life and follow the events up to the time he tends to Jethro’s flock.
Moses, whose name means “He who draws out,” is a type of Christ. This is explicitly seen in Acts 7 during Stephen’s speech to the leaders of Israel. Just as the Hebrews challenged Moses’ authority in Exodus 2, the leaders of Israel challenged Jesus’ authority during His ministry among them.
After this occurred, Moses went to Midian and there took a Gentile Bride, Zipporah. Likewise, Jesus departed His people and also has taken a Gentile bride, pictured by Moses’ marriage to Zipporah. He stayed there for a full forty years. EW Bullinger defines the meaning of forty in Scripture. Think of God’s working through the church as I read it –
It “has long been universally recognized as an important number, both on account of the frequency of its occurrence, and the uniformity of its association with a period of probation, trial, and chastisement—(not judgment, like the number 9, which stands in connection with the punishment of enemies, but the chastisement of sons, and of a covenant people). It is the product of 5 and 8, and points to the action of grace (5), leading to and ending in revival and renewal (8). This is certainly the case where forty relates to a period of evident probation. But where it relates to enlarged dominion, or to renewed or extended rule, then it does so in virtue of its factors 4 and 10, and in harmony with their signification.
In other words, the duration of the church age is perfectly summed up in the forty years that Moses spent in Midian. But there was a time for Moses to depart and go back to Egypt which is a picture of the fallen world.
When Moses goes back to Egypt, it will be to face off against a new Pharaoh. This individual is a type of the antichrist. The plagues which will come upon him, and upon Egypt, are only shadows and types of the parallel judgments which will come upon the world during the seven years of tribulation period.
In fact, they are a perfect mirror of what lies ahead, culminating in the swallowing of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, and the casting of the antichrist alive into the Lake of Fire. However, before Moses returns to Egypt, there is the issue of the church, the flock of God, which needs to be dealt with. This is seen in just one verse of Exodus 3, and which we will now analyze.
“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.” Exodus 3:1
Before this verse, there were beautiful patterns of history revealed in the first two chapters of Exodus. There was the time of Israel’s rejection of Christ, just as Moses was rejected by his people. There was the Church Age after that, with the seven churches of that age being seen in the seven daughters of Reuel.
With the Church Age ending, we are seeing the time when God is getting ready to redeem Israel and bring them out of their place of hardship and bondage, leading them into the kingdom age. Matthew Henry partly clued into this pattern when he said the following –
“The years of Moses’s life are remarkably divided into three forties; the first forty he spent as a prince in Pharaoh’s court, the second a shepherd in Midian, the third a king in Jeshurun.” Matthew Henry
Israel has not been forgotten by Him, and their period of trial and testing after exile will come to an end. It is pictured in Moses’ next portion of life in which the call to that life begins to be seen now.
Christ is at this time in redemptive history our Good Shepherd, leading the flocks of the church from the Place of Judgment, pictured by Moses tending to flocks in Midian, which means exactly that – Place of Judgment. Moses is tending to the flocks, but immediately a new name is introduced – Jethro.
He is identified as Moses’ father-in-law and the priest of Midian. However, scholars debate as to whether this is the same man as Reuel or not. The term for “father-in-law” is also used to describe other marital relations, such as son-in-law, brother-in-law, etc.
Some argue that if Reuel was older when Moses married his daughter 40 years earlier, then this may be his son or nephew who has become the priest in his place. Without getting bogged down in that, what the account asks us to do is determine the meaning of his name, not really how he is now related to Moses.
Reuel means “Friend of God” and he was used to picture the corporate body of people from whom the collective church is derived. As the seven churches are the friends of God, they willingly invited Jesus into their home, just as Reuel willingly called Moses into his.
Now we have this new figure – or at least a new name, Jethro. This comes from the word yatar which means “to remain over,” or “to be at rest.” The HAW Theological Wordbook submits, “It refers to one portion of a quantity which has been divided. Generally it is the smaller part and sometimes it is the part of least quality.”
Therefore, Abarim translates the name Jethro as “remnant.” If Reuel was there to picture the time of the church age, then Jethro must be introduced for another reason. If the church age is ending and God is ready to restore Israel to its inherited place in redemptive history after the tribulation period, then this name must be tied to that.
This word yatar, from which Jethro is derived, is used in Ruth 2:18 concerning the food which Ruth had kept back for her mother-in-law Naomi. There it said, “So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied.”
That was a transfer of food from a Gentile to her Jewish mother-in-law. That story, if you know its meaning, showed Naomi as picturing Israel in captivity awaiting their restoration, which came at the end of the story. This word yatar, is also used in this set of verses from Ezekiel 39 –
“When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, 28 then they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. 29 And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord God.” Ezekiel 39:27-29
A study on this word time and again gives hidden clues of the return of Israel to the land and to its exalted place as chief among the nations in the end times. It is fitting then that the name Jethro is introduced after Reuel.
There is the church age, Reuel, and then there is the restoration of the remnant of God’s people, Israel – pictured by Jethro. Seemingly unimportant names actually bear directly on what is about to transpire and what will continue to occur, even thousands of years later. Every detail fits like a God-manufactured glove, perfectly aligning with His redemptive plan. Let’s now analyze Exodus 3:1 –
And he led the flock to the back of the desert,
The words “to the back of the desert” are akhar ha’midbar. Akhar means “behind” or “the following part.” It is also translated as “west” and this is how some versions translate it. The second word, ha’midbar, means “the desert.”
In the Hebrew way of dividing the points of the compass, if the east is before a person, the west then is behind him. The south would then be right and the north would be to the left. The east is a place of exile. When Adam was kicked out of the garden, it was to the east that the cherub was placed to guard against entry.
When the tabernacle was erected, cherubim were woven into the veil which then pointed east, symbolizing restricted entry into the Holy of Holies. When Moses died, he was buried east of Canaan as punishment for his transgression. And when Israel was exiled to Babylon, it was east.
(con’t) and came to Horeb,
Horeb is the same area as Sinai. The names are used to indicate the same place, but the words are selected to be used for different reasons when they are, in fact, used. Horeb means “Arid” or “Desert” which, interestingly, the same in meaning to Zion, the mountain of God, which in one sense means “Parched Place.”
(con’t) the mountain of God.
In Hebrew, it says el har ha’elohim – “to mountain ‘the’ God.” The definite article is before “God” not “mountain.” This is showing us something and it is specific and particular. It is intended to show us that the flock is being taken to a specific location to worship the One true God.
Later, in chapter 4 of Exodus, it will say that Moses returns to Jethro, but the flock isn’t mentioned. This is the first and last time it is referred to. What is that picturing? Before I explain it, I want to give the verse in Hebrew with a short commentary and translation from my Israeli friend, Sergio –
Ve-inhag et ha-tson ahar ha-midbar ve-yavo el har-ha’elohim horba – What’s interesting is that the word midbar means word/mouth – for example dbar elohim (God’s word). So the sentence could be read like this: And [he] drove the herd [of sheep] according to the words and [he] came to mountain of the God, Horeb
The dual meaning of the verse is showing us a picture of something. Abarim publications states the following concerning the roots of the word dabar –
“These two root-verbs are really quite adjacent in Hebrew thought. Note that the word מדבר (midbar) means wilderness (or desert), and the related verb דבר (dabar) means to speak. When Paul augments Isaiah’s spiritual armor, he adds the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God … Words commonly protrude from one’s mouth, and the mouth is typically a wet place, not a dry place. But it should be noted that the Meribah incident occurred at Horeb [the same place we are looking at right now – HOREB] (Exodus 17:6), “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”
This may sound like way too much information, but the Hebrew is exact, and it is important. Let’s look it over. The pictures have shown that Israel is in exile and it is now the Church Age. Suddenly, with almost no information in 40 years of Moses’ life being noted, which is the church age, we come to the end of the 40 years. And now Moses is heading west with his flocks.
If east is exile and from whence comes destruction, and the flocks are being led west, then it is to a place of safety and from whence comes life. Horeb means “Arid” or “Desert,” just as Zion means “Parched Place.” It seems curious that the mountain of “the” God would be defined this way, but what is it that gives life? Water.
The word proceeds from the wet place, the mouth, and the Word of God is where the water of life issues from. Horeb is where the water from the rock came from. Paul in the New Testament says this about that account –
“…all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:3, 4
In the New Jerusalem, the heavenly Mount Zion (remember Zion means “Parched Place”), where does the water proceed from? From the throne of God and the Lamb! As Moses pictures Jesus, the prophetic explanation of this verse would translate it as, “And Christ drove the herd according to the word and came to the mountain of the God, even to Horeb.”
This one verse is clearly showing the transition from the Church Age to the time where Israel will be redeemed from Egypt, and it perfectly matches the words of 1 Thessalonians 4 concerning the end of the church age? Here is the passage –
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
This transition verse is given in type and picture to show the end of the Church Age at the rapture; at the word of the Lord. Without abusing the text, the Hebrew, or the concepts which permeate Scripture concerning Israel and the dispensational model, we can paraphrase the words, “And (Christ) drove the flock (the church) according to the word, and (they) came to the mountain of THE God, even the Parched Place, Zion.” Christ is calling us home to the Heavenly Mount Zion at the word of the Lord. We are going home!
Finally, as these events preceded the judgment on Egypt, all of which picture the seven-year tribulation period on earth described in Revelation, it is an anticipatory look from 3500 years ago into a pre-tribulation rapture. The focus on Israel does not begin until after the flock of Jethro is first secured away. Once again, a pre-tribulation rapture is seen in these ancient types and pictures./
IV. The Day of the Lord
Our final picture of a pre-tribulation rapture today comes from a pattern which runs throughout Scripture. The 66-books of the Bible actually form a perfect circle of three concentric circles. Each inner circle forms spokes, just as you would have on a wheel.
Each spoke is based on a letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet. There are 22 spokes which divide the 66 books of the Bible, and therefore, there are three books on each spoke. These spokes form marvelous patterns between the books on each spoke.
In fact, the number of patterns which runs through them is almost infinite. The 8th spoke, corresponding to the Hebrew letter khet, which has the meaning of “outside,” “divide,” etc. contains the book of Ruth, Amos, and 1 Thessalonians. A pre-tribulation rapture becomes evident in this spoke containing these books.
As I noted earlier, in Ruth there was a transfer of food from a Gentile to her Jewish mother-in-law. Naomi pictured Israel in captivity awaiting their restoration. This came at the end of the story. Before that occurred, the hero of the story, Boaz, married Ruth. In both type and picture, he prefigures Christ.
After the marriage of Boaz to Ruth in verse 13, Ruth is not mentioned again in the story. The focus goes back solely to Naomi, picturing Israel who was in captivity and is now receiving back her proper place. The child who is born to the marriage is Obed. The final clause of verse 17 says, “And they called his name Obed.”
The name the women of the city called out for this wonderful child is Obed. It is tied to the fact that he is Naomi’s son and to the fact that he is, in fact, a son. And so they call him Obed, which means “Servant.” What does his being Naomi’s son have to do with him being a servant?
This is what confounds people, but the answer comes from the account itself. Just three verses earlier, as soon as it was said that Ruth was given conception and bore a son, the women said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative, (meaning a redeemer); and may his name be famous in Israel!”
In the very next verse, it says, “…may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age.” The son is the close relative, the goel, who is Naomi’s redeemer. He is the one who will be the restorer of life and the nourisher of her. He will be a servant to her and so they called him Obed.
All of this transpired after the marriage of Boaz to Ruth. It pictures Christ’s return to Israel as their Redeemer. But how does this show a pre-tribulation rapture? It does it by the position of the book of Ruth in the order of the Bible. As I said earlier, the books of Ruth, Amos, and 2 Thessalonians are all on the 8th spoke of the wheel.
Ruth ends with only four chapters. However, in both Amos 5 and 1 Thessalonians 5, the focus is on the Day of the Lord. The taking of the bride is found in both Ruth 4 and in 1 Thessalonians 4. Only after that is the Day of the Lord introduced in 1 Thessalonians 5. The pattern reveals what God has done and what He will do.
Only after the Gentile woman becomes a bride does the Day of the Lord come. And as this Day of the Lord is only after the revealing of the antichrist, and as the antichrist is revealed only after the taking out of the eravon, the guarantee, the Holy Spirit… then we can be assured of a pre-tribulation rapture.
The patterns are consistent, and they permeate Scripture. We don’t need to be confused by varying interpretations of a few New Testament verses which are twisted to suit the preferences of one choice of doctrine or another. Instead, God has shown us in Old Testament types and pictures where our proper theology stands.
This is true with every major doctrine of the Bible, including that of eschatology. Within the doctrine of eschatology, the rapture is clearly defined by these ancient types as well. Today we’ve looked at just four of them. But there are others waiting for you to see. They are put on display as an assurance of our blessed hope… the return of Christ for His church.
You see, everything points to Jesus – Old Testament and New. All people are either moving toward the Door or they are alienated from it. There is a spiritual blindness which covers the eyes of the people of the world, but when we call out to Jesus, the blindness is replaced with sight; darkness is replaced with light; condemnation is replaced with salvation; and death is replaced with life.
If our eyes are opened to Christ, we become a part of His flock and we are set on a wonderful path, heading west once again to the land of delight that was lost so long ago. There is a time of evil coming upon the whole world and when the call is made for the righteous to come home to glory, there will only be suffering and death for those left behind.
It is Jesus who holds the keys to life and death in His hands. We have a choice to make before that great day of wrath comes and I hope and pray you will make the right one before it arrives. If you have never called on Christ and asked Him to save you from this terrible time which lies ahead, let me tell you how you can do it, even today… even right now.
Closing Verse: For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14
Grace, Mercy, and Faith – The Final Words of Joseph
Introduction: Today we will look over the final verses of Genesis. It is our 130th sermon in this book and I would hope and pray that God is not displeased with the poor attempt that I have made to analyze and share this amazing treasure of the book of foundations with you.
No matter how much study, how much reading, and how much presentation could be done on it, I don’t think we could ever plumb the depths of the mysteries hidden in this single book. And yet, we have 65 more ahead of us and we must move forward.
I know that I will never again look at Genesis the same way again. And in turn, I will never look at the Bible as a whole in the same way again either. The journey of these past few years has only solidified in me the thought that God’s word is to be handled carefully, researched diligently, and read continuously.
We will have no excuse when we stand before God and are evaluated for where we spent our time. If we neglect this precious treasure now, we will only have ourselves to blame. I would ask you to commit to never letting up in your pursuit of the treasures which are stored in the pages of the Bible.
Text Verse: “You are my portion, O Lord; I have said that I would keep Your words. 58 I entreated Your favor with my whole heart; Be merciful to me according to Your word. 59 I thought about my ways, And turned my feet to Your testimonies. 60 I made haste, and did not delay To keep Your commandments.” Psalm 119:57-60
For the redeemed, the Lord is our portion and so we should keep His words, think on our ways in relation to them, and turn our feet to His testimonies. In the verses ahead, we will see the close of the record of the lives of the immediate family of Jacob.
They are verses of reconciliation between once estranged brothers. It pictures the same story which we saw in expanded form in the previous chapters, but it is given to prepare us for pictures of the future which are coming in Exodus as well.
And we will also see the last words of Joseph and the record of his death. God used his life to point us to Jesus and now a new figure from history will arise to do the same. Joseph will enter his time of rest in anticipation of that glorious day when God will raise His people to everlasting life. The promises are true, and they will be fulfilled. Every one of them is contained in His superior word. So let’s go there now and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Please Forgive the Trespass of Your Servants (verses 15-17)
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.”
If we can remember from the previous sermon, the term “Israel” and “Jacob” are never mentioned after the first verse of the chapter in relation to Jacob the man. And now, these are called “Joseph’s brothers,” not “the sons of Israel.”
Further, it notes that “their father was dead” but it doesn’t mention him by name. Little clues like this make a big difference in discerning what is happening. In these verses think of Joseph as Jesus and the brothers as the Jewish people of today.
The wording here in the Hebrew is in the imperfect, or future tense. It could be rendered something like “If Joseph hated us, or pursued us hostilely, then what would become of us?” It is “setting forth a possible but undesirable contingency.” (Pulpit)
In Hebrew, it says, v’hashev yashiv lanu – “if returning he caused to return upon us.” They are worried about the evil they committed, and that at some future point, he might change his mind about the lost years and the lost time from his father and take it out on them. As the Geneva Bible says about this verse, “An evil conscience is never fully at rest.”
Despite the assurances of the past, they still felt the weight of their previous transgressions and they knew how they would respond if they were in the same situation. They couldn’t see that Joseph was more forgiving in himself than they would have been.
16 So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying,
It’s interesting that, according to the scholar Charles Ellicott, “Many Jewish expositors consider that this was untrue, and that Jacob was never made aware of the fact that his brethren had sold Joseph into slavery.” Why do you think they would hold this view?
Considering what Joseph’s life has continuously pictured, it’s quite evident. He has been a perfect type of the coming Christ in all ways. The entire story drips with the wrongdoing of the brothers and their culpability in what happened.
If Jacob learned about it after the reunion, which he certainly did, then it implies that any who would keep on denying it would continue to be guilty of the transgression. In the same way, how many Jews of today are made aware of the story of Jesus and yet deny it. The story of Joseph is an obvious indictment on the disbelieving Jews who have rejected Christ.
There are Jewish websites which are rabid in their condemnation of Jesus, believing Jews, and even Christians in general. The conscience is a very heavy weight and one way to attempt to stifle it is to lash out against the truth we know but won’t acknowledge.
We see this in politics all the time. Something will be proven 100% false, like global warming. But instead of acknowledging guilt in the matter and moving on, those who were the perpetrators of the lie will often simply berate and degrade those who challenge their conscience.
It is a weakness of the mind and a type of overweening pride that causes some to simply refuse to acknowledge their guilt. And so, some scholars say that the brothers are now lying by making up words which Jacob never said. There is no hint that this is correct and it violates the premise that the Bible would acknowledge it as a lie if it were the case.
For example, in Genesis 34:13, when the brothers did in fact lie, the Bible notes it so that the reader is aware of it. Here is that verse – “But the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father, and spoke deceitfully, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.”
What is being said here is simply an unrecorded conversation between Jacob and the sons. They surely acknowledged their guilt to Jacob at some point, probably even back in Canaan. Then before his death, they reminded him of it and may have even asked Jacob to speak on their behalf, as they now are relaying to Joseph.
In this message to Joseph, they use the same word, tsavah, which was used by Jacob twice in Genesis 49 when he commanded his sons, including Joseph, where to bury him. In other words, the charge which will be relayed is as important as his burial request.
17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.”’
This half of the verse are the words of Jacob as relayed by the brothers to Joseph. It is, in essence, a call from beyond the grave petitioning his son to forgive the sin and the evil that the brothers committed against Joseph.
If Jacob was desirous of him forgiving the lost years and the many heartaches associated with what happened, then Joseph should be too. Especially considering that the same lost years and heartaches were felt by him. It is in essence a request to be merciful because he was merciful.
Jacob never made a reference to what they did to Joseph in any of his blessings upon the twelve sons. Unlike Reuben, Simeon, and Levi of whom he brought back to memory their wicked deeds, nothing of what happened to Joseph was stated.
Instead, Jacob saw what happened just as Joseph did. It was a way for God to effect His purposes for the family of Israel. Before he died, he blessed his sons when he could have cursed them. He is asking for the same attitude in his beloved Joseph. His words are sa na pesha akhekha – forgive now the trespass of your brothers.
17 (con’t) Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.”
This half of the verse is from the brothers, repeating Jacob’s request in petition for themselves. Their words are v’attah sa na lepesha – “now forgive we pray you the trespass.” But instead of saying, “your brothers” they say abdi elohe abikha – “the servants of the God of your father.”
Instead of petitioning him as brothers, they do so as servants of the same God as that of Jacob, the hope of Israel. It is a stronger appeal than even the bonds of family. In essence, they together with Joseph serve the one true God.
In this is a deep sense of humility mixed with sincere repentance, and the surety that their words are earnest and truthful concerning their relationship to him and to their God. No other words could be added that would make any greater difference in Joseph. If he were to reject this petition, nothing further would do.
17 (con’t) And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
What they failed to rlize is that Joseph had placed his fate and his life in the hands of the Lord from the earliest days. He accepted his lot at Potiphar’s house; he accepted it in the prison, and he accepted it when elevated to the highest position in Pharaoh’s land.
The naming of his children demonstrated faith in God’s provision as well. Everything in Joseph’s life accepted that God was directing him and that it wasn’t his position to buck against that. What his brothers intended for evil, God intended for good.
And because of this, when he received their words, he broke down and wept. First, that they still didn’t fully comprehend God’s hand in all of what occurred. Secondly, because of their fear concerning this matter and how it would affect them. And also because of their lack of trust in him, even after his many demonstrations of care for them over the past 17 years.
They desired forgiveness from a brother who had long ago forgiven them. They desired his embrace when they had forgotten that many years earlier he had embraced them. And they desired his fellowship when it was only their own insecurity which hindered what they desired.
Preserve our lives, though we have done you wrong
You are our brother, our souls are in your hand
Save your servants who trust in You!
Be merciful to us, O brother, here in this foreign land
For we petition you all day for our lives
Rejoice the souls of Your servants today
For to You, O brother, we lift up our souls
Extend to us your mercies, this to you we pray
For we know you are good, and ready to forgive
Please extend to us this mercy, that we may live
II. The Sovereignty of God (Verses 18- 21)
18 Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
This verse seems to contradict what has happened in the preceding two verses. Verse 16 said, “So they sent messengers to Joseph.” Then verse 17 said, “And Joseph wept when they spoke to him…” And now it says they “also went and fell down before his face.”
This might agree with verse 16, where they sent a messenger and then they later went, but not with verse 17 where it says they spoke to him. How could they go to him and fall down before him if they already spoke to him?
This isn’t a problem. The word “messengers” is inserted by the translators.” Young’s literal translation of the Bible says, “And they gave a charge for Joseph” instead of “So they sent messengers.” In other words, they went to see Joseph and were probably standing right there all the time, maybe standing back from him in fear.
When they saw him weeping at the message they gave him, they drew near to him and fell at his feet. There is nothing contradictory at all. The only problem is the choice of words used in the translation. Reading different versions and studying the different possibilities of what a word means always helps at times like this.
Once a translator inserts a word, like “sent messengers” we tend to trust that this is what happened, but the same word is translated in other ways without ever using the inserted word “messenger.” So with understanding that, we can know that it was Joseph’s emotions, which they saw with their own eyes, that prompted them to fall before him.
Thus for a final time in their lives, they have fulfilled the dream which Joseph dreamed when he was a young boy. In Genesis 37, this is what was recorded –
“Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. 6 So he said to them, ‘Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: 7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.'” Genesis 37:5-7
Before learning his identity, and again now when their father is dead, they have humbled themselves and offered themselves as his servants. And both times, the parallel to Jesus is evident. At first they thought they were bowing to the ruler of the Great House.
At that time, it pictured the Jews bowing in the temple without realizing that Jesus is the Lord. In the future, it will be when they realize his true identity. The two accounts contrast and yet they confirm. They contrast in that in the first case they were bowing to the unknown ruler, in the other, to their known brother.
This pictures Christ in His divine and in His human natures. He is Jehovah of the Temple worship, and He is the human Jesus who is of the stock of Israel. And this is certain because in verse 17, they called themselves “the servants of the God of your father.”
Now they say “Behold, we are your servants.” The picture will be exactly fulfilled in what will transpire in the future after they know who Jesus is. The pictures laid out here are precise and wonderful.
19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?
Every single translation I reviewed, which is many, translates this verse in this same way – in the form of a question. And yet, the word “am” is inserted by the translators. And so it appears as if Joseph is asking if he has the right to judge them.
Taken in connection with his next words, that may seem to be a valid way of looking at it and scholars are almost universally in agreement with this. And yet, one brave scholar stepped forward and states the verse as a statement of fact, rather than a question.
Wordsworth translates it as, “I am in God’s stead” meaning he stands in the place of God for judgment. And of course this is exactly what Joseph is relaying to them and will relay to them in the next verses. This is certainly the correct translation.
Only translating it this way fulfills the picture of Jesus accurately. In other words, Joseph is relaying to them that “I am a minister to you on God’s behalf for good.”
20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day,
Once again, the sovereignty of God is written all over this verse, as it is throughout the entire Bible. The words literally read, “and you were thinking evil against me; Elohim was thinking for good.” The verb for both is the same and it sets in contrast the purposes of man with the purposes of God.
He took then, and He can take now, our evil actions and work through them for an ultimate good. If that thought isn’t one that reassures you, I can’t think of what else ever would.
20 (con’t) to save many people alive.
The term here is lehakhayot am rav – to save alive numerous people. This is exactly what occurred 2000 years ago when the Jewish people first crucified their King and then rejected Him after His resurrection. They intended evil against Him, but God intended that many people would survive because of Him.
It wasn’t just the Egyptians, but all the surrounding countries that were saved by Joseph. He was Lord to all the Gentiles. And so it is true with Jesus. In Him has been found the salvation of many. Paul explains this in detail in Romans, but it can be summed up in this –
“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 2
7 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.'” Romans 11:25-27
This picture in Genesis was given to show us exactly what would transpire in the ages following the first advent of Christ. We are coming to the end of that time now and we are certainly within a short time of His return for the church and the final fulfillment of these beautiful types and pictures written so very long ago.
21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.”
This entire narrative from verse 1 until now, has been an insert of the history of Israel as we saw last week. The bowing of the brothers to Joseph has brought us back to the time after their acknowledgment of Jesus which was recorded in Genesis 45.
We have now returned to the time of the tribulation period which was pictured by Jacob’s move to Egypt and their settling in Goshen. These words now then are a repeat of what he told them in that chapter which said –
“You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near to me, you and your children, your children’s children, your flocks and your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, lest you and your household, and all that you have, come to poverty; for there are still five years of famine.” Genesis 45:10, 11
The repetition in today’s verses is to show us that this is where we are in history as we set to close out the book of Genesis and to enter into Exodus with the great redemption of God’s people.
The symmetry of the Bible is more than astonishing. It shows wisdom far above what could have been planned by even the greatest of human minds. Instead, it shows preplanning and continued care throughout the entire 1600 or so years that it took to write.
21 (con’t) And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
The words here reflect reassurance and care. By his actions and by the words he spoke to the brothers, they knew that the past was forgotten. He speaks softly and with grace, letting them know that they were forgiven. As it says in Hebrew, v’dabber al livam – he spoke to their hearts.
It is a beautiful representation of Christ; pardoning sin, forgiving iniquity, and speaking to the hearts of the people He loves and whom He calls “brothers.” The life of Joseph is one which was chosen to reflect the longsuffering, forgiving, gracious, and yet exalted King who rules with mercy and wisdom – our Lord Jesus.
For I do not desire, brethren
That you should be ignorant of the mystery I now tell
Lest you should be wise in your own opinion
That blindness in part has happened to Israel
Until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in
And so all Israel will be saved, I profess
As it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion
And He will turn away from Jacob their ungodliness
For this is My covenant with them, I do apprise
When I take away their sins before their very eyes
III. The Death of Joseph (verses 22-26, and the completion of the book of Genesis)
22 So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household.
Joseph lived 54 years after the death of Jacob. During the rest of his life, he remained in Egypt. As he was sold to there at the age of 17, it means that he was there 93 years. During all that time, only the trip to bury his father in Canaan is recorded. Other than that, all of his time was outside the Land of Promise.
22 (con’t) And Joseph lived one hundred and ten years.
Joseph was born right around the year 2260 Anno Mundi. He lived 110 years and so his death came at approximately 2370AM. Interestingly, it is noted by Egyptian records that the age of 110 was believed to be the ideal age to die.
And as an added bit of interest Joshua, a descendant of Joseph, and the one who took Joseph’s bones to their final resting place, also died at the age of 110. Both of their lives were used as types and figures of the coming Christ.
In all, Joseph was in his high and exalted position in Egypt for 80 full years, having ascended to the right hand of Pharaoh at the age of 30. During all of that time, even during the famine which ravaged the earth, Egypt grew in both prosperity and wealth. At the same time, the people of God who were in their infancy when they arrived in Egypt, also grew and flourished exceedingly.
23 Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation.
This means that Joseph saw his great-great grandchildren. In all then, there were five generations of Joseph’s family living at the same time. This is much more than some of the other records, such as Moses who was the fourth generation from Levi who entered Egypt. Moses, only four generations later, led Israel out of Egypt.
In other words, the family of Ephraim was extremely fruitful and was so at early ages. This then is an early fulfillment of Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim over Manasseh before his death as is seen in the continuation of verse 23…
23 (con’t) The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were also brought up on Joseph’s knees.
In the line of Manasseh, only his grandchildren are noted during his life. Being “brought up on” his knees might imply adoption as his own. In the Song of Deborah in Judges 5, Machir is listed as equal among the other tribes of Israel who went to war because he was the head of the tribe of Manasseh to the west of the Jordan.
24 And Joseph said to his brethren,
Which of his actual brothers were still alive at this time is unknown. This is probably a general statement to all of his kinsmen from all of the tribes. It is to the collective group of people who are Israel that he is certainly speaking to and to whom he is tying himself to, even in his final breaths.
24 (con’t) “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”
With the sure knowledge of his coming departure, Joseph utters words of faith, v’elhoim pakowd yiphkowd etkhem – “..and God visiting you will surely visit you.” This repetition is given to show the absolute faith he has that the promise sworn to Abraham and which was passed on to both Isaac and Jacob will come about.
This verse then is an anticipatory statement which prepares us for the next book of the Bible, Exodus. After the death of Joseph, not another word will be uttered concerning the years in Egypt until the time of the birth of Moses, a period of about 64 years.
25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”
Just like his father before him, Joseph now requires an oath from the sons of Israel. He believed that the promise would come about and he wanted to lay at rest among his people rather than in the noble state he would have enjoyed in Egypt.
Despite bearing an Egyptian name, having an Egyptian wife of the priestly class, and being the second ruler of the land, he remained always and forever an Israelite. His desires for his people and his land never faded and his devotion to his God never waivered. He is an exact picture of Christ in all ways.
And so once again, he repeats the surety of the matter concerning God’s presence among them as he says pakowd yiphkowd etkhem elhoim – “visiting you, will surely visit you, God.” When he does, he wants his bones carried up from there with them.
They are the last recorded words of Joseph. Of all of the honors and accolades of his long and fruitful life, they are the only words recorded about him in the hall of fame of faith noted in Hebrews 11. There we read this brief summary of his life –
“By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.” Hebrews 11:22
Despite all of the many things he did and the faithful patience he exhibited towards his circumstances and those around him who afflicted him, he is above all noted for his faith in the unseen future. It is, like Jacob, a testimony for us that God desires simple faith in His word. Above all else, this is what most pleases Him.
The request that he made was fulfilled by the Israelites as they marched out of Egypt. In Exodus 13, it specifically says that they carried Joseph’s bones out with them. And eventually another generation of Israelites carried them into the land of promise and buried him as is recorded in Joshua 24 –
“The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.” Joshua 24:32
And so the narrative of the immediate family of Israel ends with the promise of redemption from Egypt which is based on the oath made first to Abraham. This oath had been carried and remembered for approximately 286 years – “We are God’s people and He has a plan for our future.”
This visitation of God is in accord with His promises, but it is also in accord with His nature. God visits man in two main ways in the Bible. The first is through grace and mercy. The second is in judgment due to a violation of His just, righteous, and holy nature.
The greatest demonstration of His visitation in and among the realm of mankind is in the person of Jesus Christ. After 4000 years of failings and backslidings by those He created, He stepped out of His eternal realm and united with the flesh He once breathed the breath of life into.
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, spoke of this coming visitation in Luke chapter 1 –
“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David,
70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began…” Luke 1:68-70
The many pictures and stories found in the Old Testament merely point to a greater fulfillment in the New Testament in the Person of Jesus Christ. Joseph is one of the individuals in human history who has been so greatly honored to picture Him. And he did it in numerous and remarkable ways.
Surely he will be astonished when he is raised to his eternal home and looks back on how God so carefully and meticulously guided the events of his life to show us something even more majestic. But now, he awaits that day as we see in our final verse of the book of Genesis…
*26 So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
So Joseph died. It is now about 1635 years before the coming of Jesus Christ. Instead of his body being taken to Canaan and buried, his remains were kept in Egypt, probably among the Israelites. And so we have an interesting contrast to the saints of the Tribulation period of our future.
Joseph remained in Egypt in body, though his spirit had departed. Jesus will continue to remain with His saints in Spirit until He physically returns. Both however, are signs to the people that God’s promises will be kept.
At the Exodus, God will judge Egypt by plagues and the redeemed will come out carrying Joseph’s bones. During the tribulation, God will judge the world by plagues, and the redeemed will hail the return of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Again, his age is noted at 110 years. But this time the Hebrew says ben meah v’easer shanim “a son of 110 years.” The years of his life are personified. Though years are inanimate objects, they are – as the Bible often does with inanimate things, brought to life.
They are made to represent birth, growth, understanding, speech, and all the other things that humans do. In this verse, the years are used as a summary of the life of Joseph, from his birth all the way until his death.
And upon his death, he becomes the second and last person noted in the Bible as being embalmed. After this, his remains were placed in a coffin. The word for “coffin” is the first use of the word arown in the Bible, a word which when next used will be to describe the Ark of the Covenant.
Joseph’s coffin would probably have been made of the same wood as the Ark, shittim wood. It is an incorruptible wood which was selected and used because of this. The book of Genesis began with the creation, including that of man; he became a living being.
No sooner is that recorded then the spiritual death promised for disobedience was highlighted. Since that time, the premise of the Bible is that man is born to die which in turn implies that man is born spiritually dead. Thus, physical death is inevitable.
The book of Genesis ends with this sad fact unresolved. Joseph has nothing recorded in his life which would otherwise indicate a sinful man, and yet he died. The death was inherited from Jacob, who inherited it from Isaac, who inherited it from Abraham… and this goes all the way back to Adam.
It is a sad commentary on humanity. But there at the beginning, right after the fall, came a promise. One would come to undo the curse and free us from the life of troubles, afflictions, and inevitable death that we all face. Joseph lived under the curse and he died under the curse, but he lived in faith through it.
His promised reward is coming and it can come for you too. The Bible is working slowly and methodically through an amazing plan, devised and implemented by God before the foundation of the world. And it is all centered on His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you would, please give me just another moment to explain to you the very simple message of how you can participate in the His finished work, to be reconciled to God, and to live out eternity in His presence in a world so richly wonderful that we cannot even contemplate it at this time…
Closing Verse: Remember me, O Lord, with the favor You have toward Your people. Oh, visit me with Your salvation, 5 That I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones, That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, That I may glory with Your inheritance. Psalm 106:4, 5 Next Week: Paul Stoll will preach. After that, I’ll be back and we will begin a short series on the book of Ruth. That will be Ruth 1:1-5 (Famine and Heartache) (1st Ruth Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you and He has a good plan and purpose for you. Call on Him and let Him do marvelous things for you and through you.
Words of Grace, Mercy, and Faith
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead
“Perhaps Joseph will hate us, they said
And us he may actually repay
For all the evil which we did to him
We threw him in the pit and then sold him away
So they sent messengers to Joseph, as if praying
“Before your father died he commanded, saying
Thus you shall say to Joseph
I beg you, please forgive
The trespass of your brothers and their sin
Though they did evil to you, mercy to them give
Now, please, forgive the trespass
Of the servants of the God of your father
And Joseph wept when they spoke to him
Their words pained, his heart they did bother
Then his brothers also went
And fell down before his face
And they said, “Behold, we are your servants
We are yours here in this place
Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid
For am I in the place of God?
And so to them no wrath he displayed
But as for you, you meant evil against me
But God meant it for good
In order to bring about as it is this day, you see
To save many people alive, surely you have understood
Now therefore, do not be afraid
I will provide for you and your little ones
And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them
To the other eleven of Israel’s sons
So Joseph dwelt in Egypt
He and his father’s household
And Joseph lived to one hundred and ten
The years of his life as we are told
Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation
The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh
Were also brought up on Joseph’s knees, bringing him elation
And Joseph said to his brethren
“I am dying; but God will surely visit you
And bring you out of this land
It shall come to pass, His promises are true
To the land of which He swore
To Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob
It will be our possession forevermore
Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel
Saying, “God will surely visit you
And you shall carry up my bones from here
This promise and the oath I request of you
So Joseph died being one hundred and ten years old
And they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt
Until the promise would come of which he foretold
And so closes out Joseph’s life story
And also closes out the book of Genesis too
Each page has progressed towards the glory
Of the coming of Christ who will all things renew
Lord God Almighty, thank you for this wondrous book
Thank you for the pictures that look ahead to our Lord Jesus
He is found in every passage if we will but just look
All of these wonders you have given to us
Praise You O God and may you rejoice in our praise
And may we never cease to pursue You all of our days
Hallelujah and Amen…
The Burial of Jacob
Introduction: Death is an inevitable part of life. And the rituals that are conducted which surround death vary from culture to culture, but most of them are grounded in a hope which transcends the grave. In the Chinese provinces of Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Mongolia a ritual known as “sky burial” is practiced.
Being Buddhists, they believe in the trans-migration of the soul and that the body is just an empty vessel which needs to be disposed of. And so they leave it out for the large predatory birds to nibble on until it’s all gone. Some people within Christianity believe that one must bury the body and that cremation is a sin. Some even believe you can’t be saved if you are cremated.
We usually embalm bodies in the US. I volunteered at a morgue in Japan when I was in the service and it was interesting to see the process of embalming and it was mostly done to keep the body from getting gross before a burial could be performed. This was especially so because of the long travel time back to the US.
Today’s sermon will look at the most detailed record of care taken for a body in the entire book of Genesis. What is the importance of all the detail? Out of all of the other deaths recorded, nothing like this has yet been seen. Because of this, we can conclude that God is showing us a picture of something else, something in later redemptive history. And surely enough, this is the case.
Text Verse: “‘Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?'” Ezekiel 18:30, 31
God spoke to the house of Israel and told them that they would be judged according to their ways. He also promised them a new heart and a new spirit if they would simply repent and turn to Him. However, if they didn’t, the House of Israel would surely die. Was He serious? Would this happen? Yes and Yes.
Israel went from life to death. But in Christ, there is the hope of new life and even the resurrection to life from the dead. We’ll see this pictured in today’s sermon in another carefully placed passage which is intended to get us to wake up and pay attention to our surroundings, the world we live in, and our relationship with God.
It is all to be found in His superior word, and so let’s go to that word now and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Worthless Physicians (verses 1-3)
We now arrive at the last chapter of Genesis. This amazing book has been divided into three principle sets of instruction for man –
1) From creation and the fall to the Flood of Noah.
2) From the time after the flood until the call of Abraham.
3) From the call of Abraham until the death of Jacob and Joseph which is the completion of the history of the chosen family.
After his blessings and final words to his sons about his burial, the last verse of the last chapter said, “And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.” With that, we enter into chapter 50.
1 Then Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him, and kissed him.
Back in chapter 46, as Jacob was preparing to leave the land of promise for the last time, God called to Jacob in a vision in the night. Here is what he was told at that time –
“So He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. 4 I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.'” Genesis 46:3, 4
As God promised, Joseph was there at his death to fall on him, weep over him, and to surely close his eyes. But it also notes that he kissed him. In all of the life of Joseph, he is only noted as kissing on two occasions. The first was when he revealed himself to his brothers in chapter 45 –
“Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. 15 Moreover he kissed all his brothers and wept over them, and after that his brothers talked with him.” Genesis 45:14, 15
And now, at the death of his father, he kisses Jacob’s remains. There is a reason for the two kisses which are recorded. As always, when things are noted twice, there is a contrast and yet a confirmation of something. The first was when there was a reunion after a long separation. The second is when there is a departure for a long separation.
The first was at the surety of life; the second is the surety of hope of life even in death. The first was after a journey from the land of promise; the second is prior to a journey to the land of promise. The first resulted in a physical reunion and pictured a spiritual awakening in the brothers. The second resulted in a physical separation and yet in the hope of restored life to the father.
In the first, the brothers were given garments for covering. In the second, Jacob’s soul was made bare without his earthly garment, his body. In these two kisses, there is a contrast and yet there is a confirmation. There is the physical and there is the spiritual. And yet they confirm the whole state of man.
Nothing is random in the Bible and even the kisses of Joseph give us insights into the nature of man in his spiritual and physical makeup. Joseph now weeps over the loss of the physical and takes his farewell of his father as people do. Sending him on his journey until they meet again.
2 And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father.
The people being referred to here as “the physicians” are literally known as “the healers.” In Hebrew ha’rophim, or in the singular rapha. The word is used 67 times in the Old Testament and is translated as “heal,” “physician,” “purify,” etc. One memorable use of the word is in the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53:5 –
“But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
To us, using this word doesn’t really make sense. Why would a healer be used on a dead body? But in considering the state of man, it begins to make sense. Almost nobody would dispute that there is a difference between the physical body and the soul.
There may be disagreement on what the soul is, but there is a physical body and there is something that animates that body. When that which animates departs, the body ceases to function; it dies. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 that a soul without a body is naked. Here is how he describes it –
“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-3
But still why would a “healer” be used on a dead body? The answer is that to the Egyptians, the soul – the ka as they called it – would return to inhabit the body. Once the mummification was done, it would be ready for occupation once again. Otherwise, it would rot away, and thus it would leave the soul naked.
This word, rapha, for healer implies to “mend” or to “sew together” and hence to heal, like a physician would after an operation. This same word corresponds to the Greek work raphto “to sew” which is then tied to the word “needle” or raphis which is found in Jesus’ words in Matthew 19 –
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’
26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'” Matthew 19:23-26
There is the universal desire to live forever. As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 3, eternity itself is written on our hearts –
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
Because of this, the Egyptians embalmed the bodies of their dead, hoping for eternal life when the soul would reunite with the body. Estimates are that as many as 420 million bodies were mummified in this way during the years in which Egypt followed this custom.
But the problem with mummification was that it only treated the physical body, not the spiritual person. The problem with man and the reason man dies is sin. Without healing this condition, the disconnect between God and man remains.
Job 13, although not speaking about embalmers, uses the same word and applies it to his friends during their discourse. It is a sentiment which still beautifully reflects the state of the embalmers who sew the dead body, but do nothing for the soul. He says –
“But you forgers of lies,
You are all worthless physicians.” Job 13:4
All of the work and cost involved in embalming did nothing to bring the person one step closer to true life. Instead of their worthless efforts is the glorious contrast in why Jesus came. That passage from Isaiah which used this word said that by His stripes we are healed. Peter explains what that means in his first letter –
“…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
Although that verse is very often incorrectly used to imply physical healing, Peter explains that it is the healing from sin that is being referred to. And that then ties directly into Jesus’ words to His disciples about the “eye of the needle” or the raphis. With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. The healing is effected in Christ, and by His work we are restored to God.
This is what the embalmers of Egypt, the rophim, were hoping for, but it is that to which they could never attain. So, if embalming didn’t accomplish the purpose for which it was intended, then why do we have these words which follow as verse 2 continues?
2 (con’t) So the physicians embalmed Israel.
This is the only time that the name Israel or Jacob is used of him in the entire chapter. Later both names will be used in relation to the family, but not specifically about him.
There are a couple of reasons that Joseph gave an order for his servants to embalm his father. The first is because it was the standard custom of the land. People generally follow the customs of the land around them in such instances.
The second reason is that the body would have to be taken all the way back to Canaan according to the promise Joseph made. The trip would be rather displeasing as the body degraded in the heat of the middle east and so the embalming was very much necessary.
The process of embalming in Hebrew comes from the word khanat which means to “make spicy.” And this is exactly what occurred. The process was long and involved, but much of it concerned the use of spices. The word is only used five times in the Bible.
Three times it is speaking of Jacob and once it is speaking of Joseph and all four of these are in this chapter. The only other time it is used is in the Song of Solomon 2:13 –
“The fig tree puts forth her green figs,
And the vines with the tender grapes
Give a good smell.
Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away!” Song of Solomon 2:13
In the end, it is a testimony to the lowly state of our bodies that when the soul departs, it immediately begins to break down, smell, and become offensive to every sense of those left behind. It is from this world of corruption, not to this world of corruption, that the Christian looks.
The embalming of Jacob and Joseph were temporary measures in anticipation of their eternal state, not expected solutions to it. And the same is seen later in both testaments of Scripture. In 2 Chronicles we see that bodies were prepared for internment as a temporary measure for king Asa –
“So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign. 14 They buried him in his own tomb, which he had made for himself in the City of David; and they laid him in the bed which was filled with spices and various ingredients prepared in a mixture of ointments. They made a very great burning for him.” 2 Chronicles 16:14
In the New Testament, Israel’s greatest and true King was likewise buried in a mixture of spices according to the custom of the Jews.
“And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.” John 19
What the Jewish people did was not embalming, but preparation for burial. After the body degraded, the bones would be collected and placed in a stone box.
3 Forty days were required for him, for such are the days required for those who are embalmed; and the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days.
Ancient writers such as Herodotus and Diodorus both closely agree with the timeframe that the Bible mentions here. The embalming process took forty full days to complete and in conjunction with this for a royal person, as Jacob would be considered, there was a period of seventy days of mourning.
This would be comparable to what we do in the US when a president or some other highly respected person dies. The flag will be lowered to half staff for a given period as a reminder of the loss to the nation.
Later in Israel’s history, there will be a period of 30 days of mourning for Aaron and Moses. After that, at the death of Saul, a period of seven days of fasting will be noted. From a biblical perspective, there is no set time of mourning for the Christian who loses a loved one. The duration will vary with the personal feelings and emotions of the ones left behind.
Assuredly, it is hard I do tell
To enter heaven’s kingdom, for a man who is rich
And again I say to you it is easier for a camel
To go through the eye of a needle, used to make a stitch
For a rich man to so enter the kingdom of God
Is a most difficult path in the shoes which he is shod
Who then can be saved!
This message to our heart, sorrow it brings
Worry not, My friends, with men this is impossible
But it is possible with God who can do all things
II. To Fulfill a Vow (verses 4-6)
4 Now when the days of his mourning were past,
Only after the days of mourning were accomplished is any further action taken in regards to Jacob. To do what he intends to do in fulfilling the promise any earlier would be considered disrespectful to the people of Egypt, and thus to Pharaoh their ruler.
It would be comparable to one military base raising its flag back to full staff while all the other bases remained at half staff against the directive of congress or the president. In allowing the full time to pass, Joseph is ensuring that every protocol is met without causing anyone to later have a case against him.
4 (con’t) Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the hearing of Pharaoh, saying,
Instead of speaking directly to Pharaoh, it says that he spoke to the “household of Pharaoh” in anticipation of them then going to speak directly to Pharaoh on his behalf. Many suggestions have been offered as to why he would do this.
Some say that it was because he was wearing mourning outfits and that no one in such garments would be allowed into the presence of the king. This was the case later at the time of Esther during the Persian Empire, but there is nothing here to even suggest that.
Further, the time of mourning had ended and so that seems unreasonable. The reason for going through the household is probably threefold. First, he was leaving his duties which would mean they would be unattended to while he was gone.
As a courtesy to them, he is passing it through them so that they know he isn’t trying to lay unnecessary work on anyone else. The second reason is that the priests would be included in Pharaoh’s inner circle.
As they were responsible for the religious beliefs of the people, especially the dead, to exclude them would be tantamount to saying that they were unsuited for the jobs they held. It would be a slap in their face. To avoid such a misunderstanding, he includes the household in the presenting of his desires to Pharaoh.
And thirdly, as we will see in a couple verses, most of these people will travel with him. Thus, by going through them, he is extending a courtesy that they know in advance of his desires and intentions. These seem all the more certain by his next words to them…
5 ‘My father made me swear, saying, “Behold, I am dying; in my grave which I dug for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.”
In this, Joseph states the threefold obligation that he is under. He has sworn to his father; he has made a promise to a dying man who is now dead, so it cannot be amended; and his father explicitly commanded him concerning the details.
Because this is his father’s will, and because it is in a spot that his father dug for himself out of the cave which was bought by Abraham, it would be unreasonable to think Pharaoh would say no. Pharaohs were known throughout their history for being more conscientious about their burial graves than they were about the palaces they lived in.
This would then be found reasonable to those who would have to stay behind and assume his duties while he was gone and also to the priests as well. He has meticulously worked to appease everyone involved in the matter in order for there to be no misunderstandings, jealousies, or complaints against him.
5 (con’t) Now therefore, please let me go up and bury my father, and I will come back.’”
Finally, to reassure those who will have to attend to his duties, he lets them know that he intends to conduct the burial and return. He isn’t planning on a site seeing tour afterwards, but to simply fulfill the request made by his now departed father.
6 And Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear.”
The approval is given. An oath was made and the oath must therefore be performed. This is a principle which is explicitly stated throughout the Bible. When a vow is made, it is to be performed.
When an oath is made, it is to be fulfilled. Pharaoh understood this and was ready to ensure that Joseph would not be found guilty of negligence in this matter.
I will go into Your house with burnt offerings
I will pay you my vows, my heart I will redouble
Those which my lips have uttered through my profferings
And my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble
I will offer You burnt fat of animal sacrifices
With the aroma of rams, ever so sweet
I will offer bulls with goats pleasing as spices
For all of my needs You faithfully did meet
You have tended to me when in my time of need
I will pay my vows to You, and do so with speed
III. The Funeral Procession (verses 7-9)
7 So Joseph went up to bury his father;
Seven times in this chapter, the term “up” is used to indicate travelling from Egypt to Canaan. This is not because Canaan is north of Egypt in the manner we use north today. It is also not because Canaan is at a higher elevation than Egypt.
It is because Canaan is God’s land. No matter what direction one travels to get to Canaan, it is always up. And the same is true with elevation. As one moves toward Canaan and toward Jerusalem, the term “up” is used. It is the Bible’s way of showing the preeminence of the land of Canaan, God’s land, over all other places.
7 (con’t) and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,
The details leave no doubt that not only did Pharaoh approve the request, but that he honored it, allowing and probably directing his servants, house elders, and elders of the land to go too.
These people would be comparable to the chief of staff and administrators at the White House, the Secretary’s of the major departments, and the other Ambassador positions in our administration. In all, it showed the highest honor to Joseph, and the greatest respect for his loss.
8 as well as all the house of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s house.
Everyone in the entourage who came to Egypt, plus any who had grown up in Egypt would have been included in this procession. The number, combined with the previous officials from Pharaoh’s people, would have reached into the thousands.
8 (con’t) Only their little ones, their flocks, and their herds they left in the land of Goshen.
The journey here is in excess of 300 miles and so the children and animals would be left behind in Goshen. This is the last time that the name Goshen will be used in Genesis. After this, it will only be used of this spot two more times in the book of Exodus.
The same place was previously called the “Land of Rameses” in Genesis 47:11. Again as always, God uses specific words and names to show details and pictures of later events in redemptive history. Goshen means “drawing near” or “approaching.”
9 And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen, and it was a very great gathering.
Along with the many mourners went a multitude of charioteers and horsemen to guard the procession. Because of the arrangement of those in procession, it would not be considered a military threat under normal circumstances, but because of the large number, there could have been a misunderstanding by the people in Canaan.
So sending along the chariots and horsemen was both a sign of military honor as well as a wise means of conducting the convoy.
IV. The Burial of Jacob (verses 10-14)
10 Then they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan,
Eventually, the procession arrived at the threshing floor of Atad, which is said to be “beyond the Jordan.” This is only the fourth time the Jordan has been mentioned in the Bible. Its name means “descender” or “to descend.” Atad means a “thornbush.”
The problem with the phrase “beyond the Jordan” is that it doesn’t explain from what reference point. So it could be on either side of the Jordan. However, the terminology suggests that it was on the east side of Jordan, outside of the land of Canaan. The journey would have been longer going this route, but it would probably have been safer and easier.
10 (con’t) and they mourned there with a great and very solemn lamentation. He observed seven days of mourning for his father.
There at the threshing floor, the procession stopped to collectively mourn the honored patriarch one last time. In all, another seven days of mourning were observed before his body was moved to its resting place.
11 And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a deep mourning of the Egyptians.” Therefore its name was called Abel Mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan.
There is in this verse a play on words. The Canaanites looked and saw the great mourning going on and they certainly heard it as well. The middle eastern funeral can be an exceptionally loud affair and with the number of people in attendance, it would sound like the noise heard in a large football game today.
The play on words then is the name given to the location. The word for “mourning” is the word ebel. But the word for “meadow” is abel. Both are spelled the same way, but carry different vowel points. And so as occurs often in the Bible and as we do in our own language with similar words, a pun is being made.
Ebel-mitzraim would mean the “mourning of the Egyptians” while Abel-mitzraim would mean the “meadow of the Egyptians.”
This name however, abel-mitzraim, or the Mourning of the Egyptians, along with goren ha’atad, or the Threshing Floor of Atad, are only used in this story and nowhere else in Scripture.
12 So his sons did for him just as he had commanded them.
This verse is given to show that what Jacob had commanded in the previous chapter was fulfilled exactly even though it is stated before the burial, not afterward. The same word for “command,” which in Hebrew is tsavah, is used both times. Here is what Jacob commanded from our sermon last week –
“Then he charged them and said to them: ‘I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite as a possession for a burial place. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave that is there were purchased from the sons of Heth.'” Genesis 49:29-32
In fulfillment of his command and in acknowledgment of its accomplishment, we are given the next verse…
13 For his sons carried him to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite as property for a burial place.
We can assume that the Egyptians stayed on the other side of the Jordan and only the brothers bore the body of Jacob across to his resting place. Even if bodyguards or anyone else went along, they aren’t mentioned. The honor of the final leg of the journey is reserved in recorded history only for the sons of Israel.
The detail here is a modified repeat from Genesis 23 and then the previous chapter. All of it, as we saw in the previous sermon, points to the work of Christ as he secured from this fallen world a sure hope for believers. If the names are translated into their meaning, this verse would say as follows –
“His sons carried him to the land of the humbled, and buried him in the cave that is in the field of double, in the face of bitterness, which (the) Father of many nations bought with the field from the man of dust, the fallen man, as a property for a burial place.”
It is to this place that the sons carry their father to be buried. It is a resting spot awaiting the day when Messiah will come and raise him to eternal life. It is a sign of hope in the promises of God and the faithfulness He displays to His word.
*14 And after he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers and all who went up with him to bury his father.
With the internment complete by Joseph – as he is the representative for all the brothers, they together returned to the land of Egypt along with the entire entourage who had accompanied him.
Like several other sections of Genesis, when I started typing this, I had no idea why it was here. After typing up the analysis of the words and verses, I still had no idea. And so, throughout the night and the next morning, I thought about it, talked to the Lord about it, and went back over the entire passage again and again.
There is so much detail that it must have some significance, but I couldn’t imagine what. More detail is given to this burial than almost every other burial in Genesis combined. Other than the purchase of the cave in chapter 23, nothing like this comes even close in detail.
And then I realized, unless it is connected with the previous chapter it lacks sense, but when tied to that, it clears up. Jacob had just finished blessing all his sons, a set of blessings which looks forward to the entire scope of Israel’s history. This story about Jacob’s burial then isn’t a chronological picture like most of Joseph’s life has been. Instead, it is an insert of Israel’s history, like Chapter 34 and chapter 38 were.
Jacob here pictures corporate Israel which has died. This occurred in 586BC when they were exiled to Babylon. Although they were brought back after 70 years, they remained under external control until their next dispersion in AD70. The entire time is considered under the time of punishment detailed in Ezekiel 4.
But great detail is given concerning his embalming. He is the only person embalmed in the Bible other than Joseph, and only he is given this detail. This is showing us the care that God has taken for the corporate body of Israel, whom he pictures. Even though the spirit has left them, just like the spirit left Jacob, the body has been maintained in order to restore it to life. This is pictured in the Valley of Dry Bones passage in Ezekiel 37.
The care concerning the details of his burial place also look forward to the restoration and resurrection promised by God. This is why the term “Israel” is never used again in these verses when speaking of either Jacob or the people who descend from him.
They are living in gentile land and are still under the 400 years of servitude that was spoken by God to Abraham back in Genesis 15. Those 400 years picture the entire time of Israel’s exile and affliction seen in Ezekiel 4; they are the “times of the Gentiles” spoken about in both testaments. Joseph and the other sons, listed individually, not as a whole, go to bury Jacob.
Along with them though “go all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt.” The servants and elders of Pharaoh would be the whole heavenly host and the elders of Egypt would be the kings of the nations. Only the little ones and the flocks remain in Goshen, the land of “drawing near.”
In other words, there is a spectacle that all creation should see. The spirit is supposed to return to the embalmed body according to Egyptian thinking, but only Christ can truly make that happen. When He was born the great heavenly host witnessed it. After His resurrection, all the nations heard of it.
And so they come to the threshing floor of Atad, “the thorn,” across the Jordan, which means “descend.” This is the time of Christ’s visitation which is spoken of in Ephesians 4:7-10 –
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
There the Canaanites note “This is a deep mourning of the Egyptians.” It is the gentile world who mourned over Christ and His crown of thorns, pictured by the threshing floor of Atad. Therefore, the place was called Abel Mizraim – the meadow of Egypt, which is beyond the Jordan. It is in gentile land; the land of double distress.
After this, it says his sons carried him to Canaan and buried him in the special cave which looks forward to the resurrection. It doesn’t call them the sons of Israel though, just “his sons.” And then it notes that Joseph and “his brothers” returned to Egypt. The significance of this is seen in Jesus’ words to his disciples –
“Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-26
Those who are His brothers are those who have trusted him individually from Jew and Gentile. It is these who have stayed faithful to Christ even in the gentile lands and even after corporate Israel, pictured by Jacob, has died.
This is why the two kisses of Jacob were noted at the beginning. The first was when there was a reunion after a long separation. The second is when there is a departure for a long separation. The first was at the surety of life; the second is the surety of hope of life even in death.
The first was after a journey from the land of promise; the second is prior to a journey to the land of promise. The first resulted in a physical reunion and pictured a spiritual awakening in the brothers. The second resulted in a physical separation and yet in the hope of restored life to the father, who pictures corporate Israel.
It is looking to the long separation of Israel from God during the time of the Gentiles and yet in the hope of restored life to them in the future. This will continue to be seen in the next section of chapter 50, but it is exactingly written about by Paul in Romans –
“For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” Romans 11:13-15
The story of Jacob’s death and embalming, the mourning over him before his burial, his choice of burial place – all of it is a picture of the history of Israel during their time of rejection of the Lord who called them. And yet we see His meticulous care of them, even then, as He prepares to bring them back to life once again.
The hope of Jacob in his choice of resting place is the same hope that we believers have in Christ today, and the same hope that we have for Israel when they as a nation call on their Messiah. It is all about Jesus and what He is doing at different times in redemptive history. There is a time when all of the faithful will be raised to eternal life – both from Israel and from the gentile peoples. We are given this as an offer and as a choice.
We can accept it by calling out to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, in faith, or we can reject His offer. The choice is up to each of us. If you have never called on Jesus Christ as Lord, please give me just another minute to explain to you how you can have the same sure hope which Jacob possessed…
Closing Verse: I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37:14 Next Week: Genesis 50:15-26 (Grace, Mercy, and Faith – The Final Words of Joseph) (130th and last Genesis Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you and He has a good plan and purpose for you. Call on Him and let Him do marvelous things for you and through you.
The Burial of Jacob
Then Joseph fell on his father’s face
And wept over him, and kissed him there in that place
And Joseph commanded his servants, he did tell
The physicians to embalm his father
So the physicians embalmed Israel
Forty days were required for him
For such are the required days
For those who are embalmed
Lest the body decays
And the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days
This is the time frame according to their ways
Now when the days of his mourning were past
Joseph spoke, he did apprise
To the household of Pharaoh, saying,
If now I have found favor in your eyes
Please speak in Pharaoh’s hearing
The message I am now relaying
Words without any fearing
Are what my father made me swear, saying
Behold, I am dying you understand
In my grave which I dug, this is my plea
For myself in Canaan the land
There… you shall bury me
Now therefore, please up let me go
And bury my father, and I will come back, as you know
And Pharaoh said, “Go up to there
And bury your father, as he made you swear
So Joseph went up to bury his father
And with him went up all of Pharaoh’s servants at hand
The elders of his house
And all the elders of Egypt the land
As well as all the house of Joseph
His brothers, and his father’s house, all went along too
Only their little ones, their flocks, and their herds
They left in the land of Goshen, and were not part of the retinue
And there went up with him as well
Both chariots and horsemen
It was a very great gathering, as you can tell
Then they came to the threshing floor of Atad
Which is beyond the Jordan’s demarcation
And they mourned there
With a great and very solemn lamentation
Seven days of mourning for his father he observed
For this mourning these seven days were reserved
And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites
Saw the mourning at Atad’s threshing floor
They said “This is a deep mourning of the Egyptians
A mourning grievously sore
Therefore its name was called Abel Mizraim
Which is beyond the Jordan, east it would seem
So his sons did for him
Just as he had commanded them
For his sons carried him to the land of Canaan
And buried him in the cave
Of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre
This place became his grave
This Abraham bought with the field, all the space
From Ephron the Hittite as property for a burial place
And after he had buried his father
Joseph returned to Egypt the land
He and his brothers and all who went
Up with him to bury his father, in a procession so grand
The hope of God in Christ is eternal life
From the moment we call on him, this we receive
And from that moment ends our enmity and strife
God forgives our sins and our burdens He does relieve
Some day, Israel will call on Jesus as a nation
And at that time will come life from the dead
There will be in heaven and on earth joyous celebration
When Israel receives Christ as their Head
Until then the gentiles will continue to proclaim
The wondrous gospel message of life in Jesus
It is in this exalted and glorious name
That salvation and eternal life is granted to us
Hallelujah and Amen…
Jacob Breathed His Last
Introduction: When we talk about being “in” something, we mean that we are a part of it in an intimate way. If we are “in” the military, we are a part of the military. We are entitled to all of the benefits and the responsibilities that being in the military entails.
We are accountable to the line of authority in the military, and we are responsible for our conduct which is laid out in specific manuals which detail exactly what we should do, how we should act, even how we should cut our hair.
If one of us were in a rock band, everyone would identify us by that band. Our every action would be associated with the band collectively. And all of the fun things that go along with being in the band would fall on us individually, just as with every member.
This is what it means to be “in” something. It is as if we are fully immersed in it – as if we were to dive into the ocean and be completely covered by it. Today we’ll look at how being “in” something, or someone, from a biblical perspective is more important than any other thing we could ever participate in.
Text Verse: “Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His saints.
16 O Lord, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have loosed my bonds. 17 I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, And will call upon the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:15-17
In our verses today, we will see the final moments of the life of Jacob. They are moments of a man who is living and dying in faith and in anticipation of great things to come in his future, even after his death. In other words, his hopes transcend this earthly existence and are rooted in a great reality, one which is eternal in nature.
The hope of Jacob is the hope of Messiah and the hope of Messiah is realized in the person of Jesus Christ. No other person can give us this hope, and to not be found in Him means a sad eternity awaits. But in Christ, there is hope which has its basis in God’s sure word. And so let’s turn to that precious and superior word again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. The Twelve Tribes of Israel (verse 28)
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel,
At the beginning of chapter 49, these words were recorded –
“And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days:” Genesis 49:1
Since that verse, the blessings have been pronounced. Our first verse of today then shows the completion of the thought from verse 1. And here we see the first use of the term “the twelve tribes of Israel.” In this case, it is what is known as a metonym.
A metonym is a word, name, or expression which is used as a substitute for something else with which it is closely associated. We use the term “Hollywood” when speaking of the film industry. We use the term “Washington” when speaking of the government.
In this case, the term, “the twelve tribes of Israel” is speaking of the tribes which will descend from these twelve sons who were just blessed. This wasn’t a mistake, nor is it something that we should quickly pass over as if it were unimportant.
Instead it is a prophetic announcement that the son’s descendants belong to the sons. They are “in” their fathers before them and those fathers in turn are “in” Jacob. And therefore we can see that the prophecy upon the sons is to be applied to the descendants. The two are inseparably linked.
From a biblical standpoint, we should ask, “Why is this important?” The answer is that the concept of being “in” someone in the Bible indicates being represented by them. In Hebrews 7, we read this about Levi being “in” Abraham who gave a tithe to someone named Melchizedek –
“Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. 5 And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; 6 but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. 8 Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. 9 Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.” Hebrews 7:4-10
Time and again, the Bible uses this concept of being “in” someone to remind us that we are all descendants of Adam by blood and thus we are “in” Adam. This is why there are such meticulous genealogies recorded in both Testaments of the Bible.
It is to show the connection which goes all the way back to Adam who was created by God. When Adam sinned, we therefore sinned “in” Adam. Paul explains this in Romans 5:12 –
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12
This is also one of the reasons why Jesus’ two genealogies are listed, one in Matthew and one in Luke. It is proof that He is truly and fully human and thus qualified to be our representative for human matters. But He is also truly and fully God and therefore He can mediate our human matters with His infinite Father.
Such metonyms as “Adam” which represents all of mankind, and “the twelve tribes” which are represented by the twelve sons of Israel are constant reminders of the importance of Jesus Christ. The reason is that if we are “in” Adam, we are dead; we are spiritually disconnected from God. A transfer has to take place to reconcile this or we will be forever “in Adam.”
The wonder of God’s plan is that if we are found “in” Christ, then the spiritual connection is restored and thus life, eternal life, is also restored. Reading the words “the twelve tribes of Israel” here asks us to think on a completely different level than what the mere words sound like when they come off our lips.
Instead, the Bible is calling our attention to the grandeur of God’s plans for the people of the world in these five simple words – “the twelve tribes of Israel.” A beautiful example of this, right from Hosea will show us how God looks at us as being “in” someone.
At the beginning of Hosea 11, the Lord uses the singular when speaking of the people of Israel being called out of Egypt. Though singular, it is speaking of the whole. Here is how it is recorded –
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.” Hosea 11:1
However, just a few verses later, speaking of Ephraim, the younger son of Joseph and a single individual, look at how God views his descendents –
“I taught Ephraim to walk,
Taking them by their arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.
4 I drew them with gentle cords,
With bands of love,
And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck.
I stooped and fed them.” Hosea 11:3, 4
Such terminology is everywhere in the Bible and it reminds us that we cannot change who we are. We are in our father, who is a son of Adam and thus we are in Adam. There is nothing we can do about it… but God can. And so the admonition for us is, “O fallen son of Adam, come to Christ Jesus. He will make all things new.”
28 (con’t) and this is what their father spoke to them.
It is to these twelve sons that Jacob spoke his blessing, and he did so under the influence of the Spirit of God. The blessings were fulfilled in the descendants and they are also fulfilled in both the witness of the stars as well as in the precious pages of the Bible which testify to the work of God in Christ.
Only God who knows the future could have laid out the prophecies so exactly and specifically, and yet Moses records the words which say, “and this is what their father spoke to them.” God’s gracious hand was upon Jacob, directing him, and speaking through him as the two harmoniously blended into the sounds and words of prophecy.
As we saw during those twelve individual blessings, every line pointed to the work of God in Christ. It is amazing how carefully and meticulously everything has been laid out for this purpose.
28 (con’t) And he blessed them; he blessed each one according to his own blessing.
The twelve sons were blessed at this time, but prior to this, Jacob’s two grandson’s were adopted into the family and thus became independent tribes. Therefore, depending on how the tribes are listed, there often seems confusion in who the twelve tribes are. But there is none. Specific names are used at various times for specific reasons.
These twelve sons were blessed independently of Joseph’s sons because they are those who are witnesses in the constellations which reveal God’s plan. Later in Deuteronomy 33 during Moses’ blessing, Simeon will be omitted and Ephraim and Manasseh will take place of Joseph.
In Numbers 2 when counting the tribes, Simeon will be retained, Levi will be omitted and Ephraim and Manasseh will again replace Joseph. And in Revelation, a different order will be used. Each time there are reasons for these changes, not errors or blunders, but wisdom and harmony as God unfolds His plan of the ages before our eyes.
Wisdom is displayed in the pages of God’s word
Every detail carefully selected to show us about Jesus
It is all about Him and He is our Lord
Surely God has so revealed these wondrous treasures to us
Search the pages! Look carefully through each line
There we see God’s beautiful redemption plan
As if it were a feast, on every precious word we can dine
And see the splendor of how God became a Man
Redemption is found in Him, to Him let us look
Fixing upon Him our eyes, and thoughts, and heart
And searching diligently for Him in this precious book
To the Bible! To its message! To the wisdom it does impart
II. The Cave of Machpelah (verses 29-32)
29 Then he charged them
The word “charged” here in Hebrew is tsavah. It is a command or an order. It’s the same word seen back in Genesis 2:16, 17 which records these ominous words, the first words ever spoken to man by God –
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'”
Mi kol ets ha-gan a-kol tochel, uh-me-ets ha-da-at tov va-ra, lo tochal mimenu ki beyom akholkha mimenu mowt tamut (2:44)
Like the commandment of God to Adam, Jacob is not asking, but is rather instructing. “This is what you are to do.” It is of such importance to him, that they are spoken with the last breaths of his life. They must follow through with his words.
29 (con’t) and said to them: “I am to be gathered to my people;
His words are words of faith. To die is one thing. To say “I am returning to the dust” merely implies that we are a product of the ground under our feet and that we will again be a part of that same ground. But to say, “I am to be gathered to my people” implies that his people have not merely returned to the dust.
Instead, it is a form of anticipation that where his people are, there he will be as well. Whether you believe in evolution or creation, you are still acknowledging that your existence is a part of something more than just the dust. If evolution, then your people, like you are random chance – a god all its own. But if you, like Jacob, believe in creation, then you are in essence returning to your God when you are gathered to your people. This is exactly what Solomon speaks of in the book of Ecclesiastes –
“Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7
Jacob is voicing faith in his Creator by saying that he will be gathered to his people. He is from Isaac, who is from Abraham, who… well, you can go right back to Adam and then to God who breathed the breath of life into him. Jacob is dying in faith.
29 (con’t) bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
For this and the next three verses, Jacob is going to give exceedingly specific detail about the cave where he wishes to be buried. All he really needed to do was to say, “Bury me in the cave with my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and the rest of the family who are there.” That would have been sufficient, wouldn’t it? But instead, he gives names, places, and specific details. Because he does, it is asking us to evaluate his words in the same detail. The Spirit of prophecy is speaking and He asks us to think. And we will. Before we finish this thought, we will understand why he spoke so exactingly.
There are two parts to a man, not three. People speak of the body, soul, and spirit, but man is a soul-body unity. The soul is eternal and the body is temporal. If the soul is reconnected to God before death, then their final destination will be a happy one. If it isn’t, then it will be a sad one.
Jacob’s soul was to be gathered to his fathers, his body was to be buried with them as well. He has firmly noted a distinction between the two and this distinction is confirmed throughout Scripture. Paul’s words to the Corinthians show us this explicitly –
“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-3
Jacob’s soul will now be naked, without a body. But his request to his sons demonstrates that he is certain it will not always be this way. He is a man looking forward to the wonderful promise of God which came just moments after the fall of man. He is looking to the promise made to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to him. He is looking forward to the Messiah.
30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite as a possession for a burial place.
The record of this purchase is found in Genesis 23 and is recorded at the time of the death of Abraham’s beloved wife Sarah. Jacob has already said the cave is in the field of Ephron the Hittite. And yet, Abraham bought that field when he bought the cave.
He then says that it is in the field of Machpelah, and that it is before Mamre, and in Canaan. The term for “before” is al pene or “in the face of.” Literally, it is “in the face of Mamre.” He then notes that the field was bought from Ephron the Hittite as a possession. The detail is exacting and it shouts out for us to look, research, and determine why.
One commentator said that the particular details were given “because they had been some years absent thence; and to express how much his heart was set upon this matter; and thereby to oblige them to the more careful performance of his command.” Poole
Another said all the detail was given because someone may have laid claim to the cave and they would need the details to prove otherwise (Gill), but details don’t prove anything without proof. Neither of these explanations are credible. The words are too exact and are intended for us to contemplate in detail.
31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah.
The importance of every word recorded in the Bible can be seen in this verse. The death of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac are each recorded in varying detail, however, there is no record of the death or burial of Rebekah or Leah until this verse.
This shows us that God selects details for specific reasons. Those things which are unimportant in regards to His plans are simply ignored. People, places, times, and events are only recorded to lead us to understanding the work of Christ. No word is missing and no word which is recorded is superfluous.
32 The field and the cave that is there were purchased from the sons of Heth.”
Unexpectedly, Jacob refers to the purchase as being from “the sons of Heth.” Ephron is a Hittite, or a son of Heth, and so this seems to be unnecessary. But it isn’t, just like everything else he has said, it is there for a reason.
To fully understand the detail surrounding Jacob’s words, you really need to go back and watch the sermon on Genesis 23, there the same detail that Jacob relays concerning his burial spot is given, along with much more.
The entire chapter pointed to the work of Christ. Abraham at that time pictured Christ who made a purchase on behalf of humanity. Jacob relays enough of the details today for us to be reminded of this. It is the hope that all true believers should have and should carry with them. Here then are the names and their meanings –
Ephron means “of the dust.” He is a picture of Adam, who was created from the dust as is recorded right at the beginning, in Chapter 2 of the Bible. Therefore, he represents all of us. He is identified as a Hittite which means “terror” or “fear.”
The verb which “Heth” is derived from is usually used to indicate a depletion of strength or to take away an essential support or support structure. Thus Jacob calling him Ephron the Hittite is showing us a picture of Adam who has lost his essential support. In other words, the fall of man which brought us to a state of terror.
From this fallen man, Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah. The meaning of Machpelah is “double.” It signifies the double delivery from death which Jesus procured for His people. He didn’t come to just purchase the title deed to the world for Jews, but He did it for gentiles as well. His death filled this double role. Ephesians 2 explains this –
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” Ephesians 2:11-18
The next word mentioned is Mamre which means “bitter” or “strong.” The idea of bitterness is one of being a strong taste or experience. Mamre represents the bitter, fallen world which Jesus comes to reclaim.
After this, Canaan is named. This comes from the verb qana which means “humbled,” “subdued,” or “lowly.” The HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says, “It denoted bringing a proud and recalcitrant people or spirit into subjection.” It therefore pictures those who are humbled.
After this, it again mentioned that the cave was brought from Ephron the Hittite, repeating what had already been said. Then after that, the names of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah were all mentioned as being buried there. Each is found to be in this cave, a cave which looks forward to the resurrection.
With the inclusion of Jacob in the tomb, there will be the three great patriarchs and their wives, each of which is an ancestor of Jesus. That is six people, male and female, who then represent all humans, six being the biblical number of man.
And then, as a final follow up, he mentions one more time that the field and cave were purchased. They have a new owner. The old owners were “the sons of Heth.” This name Heth is where the term Hittite comes from.
It means “terror” and is a picture of all the people of the world who are in Adam and who live in fear of death because they cannot meet God’s standard of the law. When it was given at Mount Sinai, the people trembled in terror and asked not to hear God speak to them directly again.
Since the law was given, men have lived in terror because there is no way we can live up to its standards. Paul explains this in Galatians 3. It condemns all to death. It is from these sons of Heth, or “sons of terror” that the purchase was made. Hebrews 2 explains the terror of death which permeates mankind –
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:14, 15
This cave then is symbolic of the earth, the repository for the dead. This is seen time and time again in the Bible. Jacob knows his body is going to that repository now to be buried with his people. And so he begins by asking to be buried in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite.
Instead of saying the cave bought by Abraham, he first says it this way. It is a picture of the world as it is now. Next, he calls it “the cave that is in the field of Machpelah” which shows that it is a double cave. It contains Jew and Gentile, male and female, all who are redeemed by the Lord.
This cave is before, or literally, “in the face of” Mamre, meaning bitterness. It is the state of the world. There is bitterness in death and there is bitterness on the way there as well. But it is in the land of Canaan. It is in the land of those who are humbled and brought into subjection before the Lord.
Because of this, he again notes that the field was bought by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite, from the man filled with terror, who is from the dust, in the land of the humbled, the cave was bought. There in that cave six were buried, and there the field and the cave were bought from the sons of Heth – the sons of terror.
So taking all of this terminology and combining it into what I believe Jacob is saying under the influence of the Spirit, this is what we come up with:
“I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of the man of dust, the fallen man who is filled with terror, in the cave that is in the field of double – Jew and Gentile, which is in the face of bitterness in the land of the humbled, which (the) Father of many nations bought with the field of the fallen man of the dust, the one filled with terror, as a possession for a burial place. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave that is there were purchased from the sons of terror.” Charlie Garrett’s interpretation of Genesis 49:29-32
Everything that has been said here is a recalling of what was given in Genesis 23. It is Jacob’s hope in the future while being planted in the ground in the present. Through the Spirit, he tells his sons and thus us that he is a seed waiting to sprout forth from this spot to eternal life someday, all because of the work of Messiah.
This is the hope of the redeemed, that though our body will someday be laid in the dust, we are promised and assured of a new one, an everlasting one that will never perish. This is what Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 5.
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed
We have a building from God, a house not made with hands
This one will last eternally, one forever to be enjoyed
A body which through the endless ages withstands
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring
To be clothed with our heavenly habitation
If indeed, for to this we have been aspiring
To be clothed through a glorious transformation
Then we shall not be found naked nor bare
For us glorious garments Christ does now prepare
III. The Death of Jacob, Who is Israel (verse 33)
33 And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons,
Again it notes that Jacob had commanded his sons. What was spoken was expected to be with all of their participation. He had already secured a guarantee on oath that Joseph would ensure his burial there in Canaan, but now we see that all of the sons are expected to be a part of it.
The meticulous wording concerning his burial is especially important to note because Jacob didn’t say all these things when he previously charged Joseph. In chapter 47, when that charge was given, the only words used were these –
“Now if I have found favor in your sight, please put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but let me lie with my fathers; you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.” Genesis 47:29, 30
Instead, he waited until all the covenant sons were present to say what he said. Such seemingly unimportant things are actually of the highest importance as we look into the mind of God as the Spirit has revealed it in His word.
The purchase of the cave and field were in anticipation of the resurrection which would be realized in Messiah. All of the sons of Israel were to participate in ushering Him into the world as the sons of the covenant, as the people of Israel. This is why Jacob waited to speak these words in front of all the sons.
Their hope was to be that great hope which will be seen throughout all of the rest of the prophetic writings, right up until the time that John the Baptist cries out the words, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
It is Israel who would carry the blessing and also the bear the burden of the law which only He could fulfill. Jacob’s words were a command which looked forward to the wondrous day when the world of terrified, fallen man would be bought back by the Lord whom he had so intimately fellowshipped with.
And now, at the end of a long life filled with blessings and trials, joys and sorrows, he was ready to receive his final reward…
33 (con’t) he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last,
Jacob was born in the year 2169AM to Isaac and Rebekah. He was the younger of twins, and his life was used in the most astonishing way to show us pictures of all of redemptive history. The seven dispensations of time were seen in his movements in and out and throughout the land of Canaan.
The two exiles of the people who would come from him were pictured in events from his life. And the majestic work of Jesus Christ was seen again and again in his actions and movements. God directed his each and every step for us to behold the marvelous work of Christ.
Jacob lived 147 full years and finally expired in the year 2316AM. The most recorded and detailed life in the book of Genesis finally came to an end in a most peaceful way. It says that “he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last.”
Having blessed his sons from a sitting position, certainly being sustained by the anointing of the Spirit upon him, he now felt content to lie back down and enter into the splendor of eternity.
*33 (fin) and was gathered to his people.
Just a few short minutes earlier, he knew that his time was ending. Now it is realized. The soul left the body, thus demonstrating once again that man is more than just a physical being. His request to be buried in Canaan implies that the body is separate from the soul and that the souls of his ancestors were in a separate place than where their bodies lay.
For him to be gathered to his people now, and for his body to be buried more than 70 days later, shows two distinct occurrences; one spiritual, and one physical. There is Jacob the man who walked in this fallen world and who was destined to die.
And there is Israel who fellowships with His God and who continues on through his people after him. It is to and through this group of people that the Messiah eventually came. The hope of fallen man was realized in the Person of Jesus Christ, Jacob’s greatest descendant.
And that hope still rings true today. If you are found in Adam when you die, you will never receive the glorious promises of heaven and eternal life. But if you are found in Christ, they are yours by a covenant settled in His own blood. If you would, please give me another moment to tell you how you too can have the assurance of eternal life and be reconciled to God through Jesus…
Closing Verse: “Remember these, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
I have formed you, you are My servant;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me!” Isaiah 44:21
Next Week: Genesis 50:1-14 (The Burial of Jacob) (129th Genesis Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you and He has a good plan and purpose for you. Call on Him and let Him do marvelous things for you and through you.
The Death of Jacob
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel
And this is what their father to them addressed
And he blessed them as the Bible does tell
Each one according to his own blessing he blessed
Then he charged them and to them said
“I am to be gathered to my people, but it’s alright
Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the days ahead
That is in the field of Ephron the Hittite
In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah
Which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan
Which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron
The Hittite for a burial place as a possession
There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife
There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife too
And there I buried Leah when her days were through
The field and the cave that is there
Were purchased from the sons of Heth
As each of you is now aware
And when Jacob had finished, his sons commanding
He drew up into the bed his feet
And breathed his last as his life was ending
And was gathered to his people in sleep so sweet
Jacob’s death though sad is not the end of his story
He continues on through those who are his seed
And he will someday be raised to eternal glory
Because of his faith in Christ, his greatest deed
And we like Jacob can take hold of the same promise
Eternal life for us can also be our own guarantee
By simple faith in the work of our Lord Jesus
In that one act we can hold on to such a wondrous surety
Thank You O God, for You have done marvelous things for us
Thank You O God, for our sure hope because of Jesus
Hallelujah and Amen…