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Sermon Notes

Please note that these are only notes, not transcripts, and as such are not identical to the recorded sermons. They also contain frequent abbreviations.


    1. Our text brings us to the deathbed of Jacob, a touching scene as another one of God’s faithful witnesses prepares to enter the heavenly city whose builder and maker is God.

      1. Genesis 49, where Jacob blesses all of his sons, and then gathers his feet into the bed, yields up the ghost and is gathered unto his people, is not the focus.

      2. That is included in Heb 11:21, but the main interest of the HS here is Jacob’s blessing of Joseph’s two sons, whom he makes his own before the events of chapter 49.

      3. But, what we want to notice is Jacob’s faith in this final act of his life.

    2. Jacob knows that his death is near, so he makes preparations before he goes.

      1. This dying saint has his eyes fixed on the heavenly reward; he desires to be with his faithful covenant God Jehovah and he trusts that God will receive him into glory.

      2. But he has great concerns for the generations to come. This should be the concern of every believer: not, will I be OK, but am I leaving the truth of God to the next generation?

      3. Jacob has two things on his mind, the future of the church, which consists at this point of his children and grandchildren, and his own burial, wherein he shows his hope of the resurrection of the body and eternal life. Consider …



I. The Occasion 

II. The Actions

III. The Posture



    1. Jacob is dying in Egypt, not in the Promised Land of Canaan

      1. He had been there for 17 years

        1. This was at the end of a very eventful life

          1. Jacob had grown up in the tent of Isaac and Rebekah, willingly sojourning with them as a pilgrim.

          2. His desire had been fixed on the spiritual inheritance of Jehovah God, covenant life with God and forgiveness of sins through the promised Seed.

          3. If we subtract 20 years in Haran with Uncle Laban, 17 years in Egypt with Joseph, we find he lived in Canaan 110 years.

        2. With his heart in Canaan it had not been his desire to go to Egypt.

          1. It had become necessary to leave Canaan b/c of famine, but Jacob only left when he knew that it was God’s will for him.

          2. God assured him in Gen. 46:3, “I am God, the God of your father …”

          3. With that promise, he had made the long trek to Egypt with all his family, but even then, he lived separately from the Egyptians in the land of Goshen.

      2. In the sovereign and wholly unexpected providence of God Jacob now found himself in Egypt.

        1. He was there because of his son, Joseph

          1. Joseph was his favorite son, the firstborn of his favorite wife, Rachel, and he had lavished upon Joseph his love and affection

          2. But this affection had led to trouble in his home: his others sons, Joseph’s brothers, were envious, and out of envy they sold Joseph into slavery and told their father that he had been killed be a wild animal

          3. Jacob had mourned for many days for Joseph, until 22 years later he found to his great surprise and joy that his son was alive and well in Egypt

        2. Joseph’s life in Egypt had been eventful also

          1. Having been sold into slavery he had found himself first in the house of one of Pharaoh’s chief officers, then through the evil report of Potiphar’s wife, he was cast into prison

          2. God warned Pharaoh in a dream of a 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of severe famine. Because Joseph was able to explain the dream, he was promoted to chief ruler in the land of Egypt

          3. When Joseph’s brother came to buy food in Egypt which God had preserved there through Joseph’s good management he recognized them, and through a sequence of events Jacob and Joseph had been reunited

    2. Now, Jacob, after 17 years in Egypt, is old, feeble, almost blind and most likely bedridden, and he knows the end is near

      1. He calls Joseph to his bedside to make of him a last request

        1. He knows, of course, that Joseph in his exalted position has the power to grant his desire

          1. His request shows that his heart is still in Canaan; it never was, even after 17 yrs, in Egypt.

          2. He asks to be buried in Canaan with his fathers, which is a picture of heaven, the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God

          3. By this request concerning his burial, he shows that as in life so in death he wants no fellowship with the wicked, with the idolaters of this world

        2. This request shows, too, Jacob’s hope in the resurrection of the body

          1. It is characteristic of biblical religion that the body is honored even in death.

          2. Traditionally, Christians bury, they do not cremate, bodies, because they have the sure and certain hope that God will raise them up on the last day

          3. Pagans, who have no such hope, generally disregard the body, and even view the body as a prison out of which the soul escapes at death. Jacob wanted his body buried in Canaan in the sepulcher of his fathers.

      2. Our text tells us “when he was a dying.” Jacob lived by faith and now he prepares to die in faith.

        1. Jacob’s steadfastness in the face of death is an encouraging example to us

          1. We naturally shrink from death, but we can be confident, as Jacob was, that God will be with us when we face the last enemy

          2. Faith endures – as the child of God looks at death he is not unmoved by it; physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, death is a struggle, but the child of God testifies to God’s grace even in the face of death

          3. The deathbed of an unbeliever is a terrible sight, but the deathbed of the believer is something beautiful – death is not beautiful but the grace of God sustaining the dying saint is.

        2. As Jacob approaches death, the promises and faithfulness of God are foremost in his thoughts

          1. Two things occupy his mind – the disposal of his earthly remains in Canaan, a picture of heaven; and the future of the church on earth which he leaves behind – the inheritance of his sons, especially the inheritance of Joseph’s sons, these must be seen to.

          2. Jacob’s deathbed confession is not, “All these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36), but “God which …” (Gen. 48:15-16)

          3. That was Jacob’s dying confession? Is it your living confession?


    1. The one act on which our text focuses is Jacob blessing the sons of Joseph

      1. Last week we saw that Isaac blessed Jacob; now Jacob, as custodian of the covenantal blessing of God, entrusts it to his seed.

        1. Joseph’s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, were born in Egypt, and as the sons of the highest-ranking Egyptian official, they are entitled to a rich Egyptian inheritance.

          1. Really, these two sons, by now young men, are Egyptian princes, but their father and grandfather are interested in greater riches

          2. Born outside of the family of Jacob, in Egyptian exile, it might appear that they are not included in the inheritance of Canaan, not part of the promised seed

          3. But Jacob now formally adopts these two sons to be his sons, and makes them two of the fathers of Israel’s tribes.

        2. Joseph and Jacob, and presumably Manasseh and Ephraim, counted it to be the greatest of all blessings to be in the Church, the people of God

          1. It was nothing to have the privileges and pleasures of Egypt: they desired for themselves and for their children membership among the people of God.

          2. Is that your attitude by the grace of God: where I live is unimportant, but I will be and remain a living member of the Church where God’s blessings are bestowed

          3. Does the world with all its trinkets pale into insignificance when you see the riches of belonging to the church: does that motivate your church attendance, your involvement in the church’s life, your support of the church and prayers for the church?

      2. Not only does Joseph receive the inheritance of his father, he who was given up for dead, but through the adoption of his two sons, he receives a double portion, the blessing of the firstborn.

        1. Reuben was the actual firstborn, but Jacob strips him of that privilege

          1. First, Reuben had sinned in defiling his father’s bed in the matter of Bilhah, the mother of Dan and Naphtali, his father’s concubine, I Chron. 5:1

          2. Second, Jacob considered Rachel to be his true and legitimate wife; and Rachel was always the woman he truly loved; he only married Leah because of Laban’s deceit.

          3. Since Joseph was the firstborn son born to Rachel, the right of the firstborn will be transferred from Reuben, Leah’s firstborn, to Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn.

        2. But Joseph himself receives a double portion through the adoption of his two sons

          1. Thus, Jacob, really speaking the prophetic word of Jehovah, declares, “And now thy two sons … shall be mine” (48:5).

          2. They will be adopted, lest there be any dispute concerning their status, as Egyptian born, as my rightful heirs.

          3. They will be the founding fathers of the mighty nation which will according to God’s promise inherit the land of Canaan and eternal life with Jehovah in the coming Christ.

      3. The blessing of Joseph’s two sons is the significant act of Jacob here

        1. Notice the content of the blessing

          1. Jacob invokes God’s efficacious word of good upon Ephraim and Manasseh, making them partakers of the rich, spiritual blessings of the covenant.

          2. They are taken under the protection of Jacob’s God, the God before whom Abraham Isaac and Jacob walked, and therefore they are exhorted to walk before Him.

          3. They receive the same privileges of salvation which Jacob does by having Jacob’s name (“Let my name …” [48:16]).

        2. Salvation is to be found under the name of Jacob, that is, in association with Jacob.

          1. And this because Jacob in turn belongs to Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.

          2. Here the words redeemed and shepherd (“fed” means literally shepherded) are found first in Holy Scripture

          3. In adopting the sons of Joseph, Jacob brings them into the fold of Christ, and they benefit by faith from His redemptive work in the cross

    2. Jacob blesses both of the sons of Joseph, literally, “each of the sons,” and in so doing, he discriminates by giving prominence to Ephraim, the younger son.

      1. Joseph expected his father to bless Manasseh as firstborn and Ephraim as second born.

        1. Therefore, Joseph positions Manasseh at Jacob’s right hand and Ephraim at Jacob’s left hand.

          1. The right hand was a position of prominence, because ordinarily it is the stronger of the two hands (in right-handed people).

          2. Joseph, then, expected greater honors for his firstborn, Manasseh

          3. But God had determined differently and Jacob as God’s official messenger, acting as a kind of prophet, reveals this difference.

        2. For this reason, Jacob crosses his arms, so that his right hand is upon Ephraim’s head and his left hand is upon Manasseh’s head.

          1. He did this wittingly (48:14), on purpose, prudently, understanding what he was doing.

          2. Joseph was displeased by this. Perhaps he thought that his father had made a mistake; after all, he had not initially recognized the boys, so he tried to move his father’s hand (“Not so …” [48:18]).

          3. But Jacob assured Joseph that, although physically his eyes were dim, he knew what he was doing in giving prominence to Ephraim over Manasseh (“And his father refused …” [48:19]).

      2. Jacob prophesied the greatness of Joseph’s two sons, but especially of Ephraim

        1. Both Manasseh and Ephraim would be tribes in Israel but Ephraim would be prominent.

          1. Jacob had twelve sons – Levi would inherit no land, because he had the priesthood; he would only have cities in which to live, and Joseph would receive a double portion, two of the twelve tribal lots.

          2. Since Ephraim’s land bordered Judah, he had a prominent central plot while his brother, Manasseh, was divided (half the tribe on one side of the Jordan; another one the other side of Jordan).

          3. This meant that Manasseh was more vulnerable to attack, and had a less secure position in Israel, esp. the side of the east of Jordan, part of Gilead.

        2. Ephraim’s prominence is seen throughout Israel’s history

          1. Both Joshua, son of Nun, Israel’s great leader in the conquest of Canaan, and Jeroboam, son of Nebat, the first king of the schismatic N. Kingdom, were Ephraimites.

          2. In fact, so prominent was Ephraim that it became synonymous for the 10 tribes of the North. Hosea, in particular, refers to Ephraim a lot.

        3. But, Ephraim’s prominence caused trouble, because prominence was mixed with pride.

          1. Ephraim was vying for power as early as the period of the Judges – Ephraim’s jealousy for glory comes out. Gideon of the tribe of Manasseh defeated the Midianites, but instead of rejoicing at the victory, Ephraim complains that he had not been invited to fight (Judges 8:1).

          2. Later, Ephraim contends in a similar manner with Jephthah, again of Manasseh, Judges 12:1.

          3. This time, Ephraim is severely chastised and a intertribal war breaks out. Remember the Shibboleth incident? That was Ephraim!

          4. In fact, Ephraim was often a source of infighting and rebellion and eventually Ephraim, the N. Kingdom perished in captivity.


    1. It is fitting that at the end of a long and fruitful life we find Jacob worshiping God

      1. The text calls attention to this, and even to his posture, leaning on the top of his staff

        1. For this final act of worship, the patriarch Jacob rallied his remaining strength of his tired and worn out body

          1. This goes some way to explaining the difference between Genesis 47:31 and Heb. 11:21.

          2. The former speaks of Jacob bowing himself on his bed’s head; the latter of him leaning in worship on the top of his staff.

          3. The idea is that Jacob was lying in bed; he sat up and with his staff for support he bowed at the head of the bed in worship before God

        2. This posture indicates the attitude of Jacob’s heart

          1. Jacob, knowing that he is an utterly unworthy sinner in God’s sight, humbles himself in the presence of God.

          2. He is overcome with thanksgiving that his son Joseph, whom he thought he’d never see again, has sworn to bury him in the land of his fathers.

          3. And he is overwhelmed at the faithful covenant mercies of his God, Redeemer and Shepherd.

      2. How beautiful, beloved, that the last word spoken of Jacob in Holy Scripture is that he worshipped.

        1. Of all the acts of Jacob (and there were many) the HS chooses to memorialize this.

          1. Old Jacob, feeble-bodied, bedridden and almost blind, has one desire, to worship God in the land of the living, and then to dwell in the house of God forever, typified by Canaan.

          2. After this incident, he calls all his sons, blesses them, prophesies concerning them and even predicts the Messianic line of Judah.

          3. Then he “gathered up his feet into the bed, yielded up the ghost and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

        2. There is nothing glamorous in Jacob’s last act; but God was pleased to record it.

          1. Leaning on his staff, the symbol of Jacob’s earthy pilgrimage, Jacob gives all glory to God, acknowledging God’s mercies and God’s faithfulness.

          2. And our worship of God might not seem important – we are a handful of believers, and our worship lacks pomp and pageantry.

          3. But when we worship God according to His commandments in true thanksgiving and dependence on Him, God is pleased to fellowship with us and to bless us

    2. Jacob act of worship was by faith.

      1. Jacob died in confident anticipation of the promises of God

        1. Like Abraham and Isaac before him, and as we shall see, like Joseph, he died without receiving what was promised.

          1. In fact, none of Jacob’s sons, Joseph’s brothers, or Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, ever inherited Canaan; it would be 400 years before the Exodus from Egypt

          2. But God had promised and that was enough for godly Jacob.

          3. Jacob did not die, lamenting that he would never see the land of Canaan, but rejoicing that he would be buried there, and that his soul would dwell in the heavenly Canaan.

        2. In Jacob faith was strong at the end; the fact that God had said it was enough

          1. Jacob had left Canaan once with only his staff, his shepherd’s crook, and he had returned through the blessing and promise of God with 11 sons

          2. Jacob knew that he would inherit all things, not because he was worthy, but because he belonged to the Seed of the woman, the rightful heir of all things, Jesus Christ.

          3. And Jacob knew that his seed was not destined to remain forever in the exile of Egypt (48:21)

        3. Even in Egypt, where the promise looks like it can never be fulfilled, Jacob still trusts God.

          1. God has said, “Behold, … “ (48:4) but that promise seemed further away than ever; now, the Israelites were not even sojourning in Canaan, never mind in possession of it.

          2. Things would get a lot worse before God’s promise would be fulfilled: God has warned Abraham way back in Gen. 15 that his seed would be in a foreign land for 400 years under great affliction.

          3. And now Jacob is apportioning out land in a country hundreds of miles away! If I gave you a title deed to property on the moon you might look at it and say, “This is not worth the paper it’s written on!”

        4. But Jacob could bestow two portions of the land upon Joseph thru his two sons because he had it by promise.

          1. God promised – a solemn, unconditional declaration – to give Canaan to Jacob and to his seed for an everlasting possession.

          2. Jacob, Joseph and the brother had no way of acquiring the land, but God had promised He would give it to them; they would wait, pray and trust.

          3. And the Seed of the woman, Jesus Christ, in whom all of these precious promises were tied up, would come – God is faithful, He had promised.

      2. That’s faith, beloved, faith which is stronger and richer than we can imagine, faith given by God Himself, the substance or confidence of things hoped for, the evidence or conviction of things not seen.

        1. May we have faith as strong as Jacob’s!

        2. Look up, beloved, for your redemption draws nigh. Christ is coming, and we will inherit all things.

        3. Believe. Do not draw back. Amen!