Genesis 47:13–31: Buried in Canaan
Joseph’s interactions with his family were the unbroken focus of Genesis 42:1–47:12. Only now, once Joseph has been reconciled with his family, does the focus of the narrative shift back to Joseph’s wise administration over the famine crisis that affects Egypt and Canaan (v. 13). When that crisis is resolved over the next few years, the narrative shifts back once again to Joseph’s family (v. 27–31). Joseph’s work in the wider world is important, but even more important is God’s work to raise up salvation through his people. For this reason, the final acts of Jacob’s life have lasting significance at this early moment in Israel’s history. Most importantly, Jacob demonstrates the future orientation of his faith in God’s promises by making Joseph swear to bury Jacob’s body back in the land of Canaan. As the book of Genesis starts coming to a close, this passage reminds us that God preserves the living and raises the dead.
1) What do you make of Joseph’s administration during the famine in Egypt (v. 13–26)? Does the text suggest that Joseph handles the situation wisely and graciously, or does he unethically exploit the poverty and hunger of the people? How does Joseph provide for the needs of the people? How does this story frame our understanding of the vast wealth and resources of the Pharaoh we encounter in Exodus, who lifts himself up against Israel and Israel’s God?
2) Study the various places in Genesis where God either commands or promises for his people to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 8:17; 9:1, 7; 17:20; 28:3, 35:11). Why does God consider this goal so important in his purposes for creation and redemption? Why is it so important to read that Israel is fruitful, and that they do multiply here at the end of Genesis (v. 27)? How do we interpret this fulfillment in light of later fruitfulness and multiplication (e.g., Ex. 1:7)?
3) Why should Jacob care where he is buried when he dies? How does Jacob’s insistence that Joseph bury him in Canaan remind us of Genesis 24, where Abraham made his servant swear not to allow Isaac to marry a woman from the land? How are those two death-bed wishes of the patriarchs related? What does this teach us about Jacob’s faith in God’s faithfulness to keep the promises he made to his people?
4) What promises do we have beyond death? In this life, how do we take seriously those future promises of what God will do after we die? In what ways does Christianity teach us to live in view of the brevity of this life, the certainty of our deaths, and the promise of eternity with Christ? How does Christianity teach us to live well, so that we may die well? What is the modern equivalent of Jacob’s request for Joseph to bury him in Canaan?