Genesis 50:1–26: God Meant it for Good
Since the book of Genesis is the first book of the Bible, Christians understand how important the stories of creation, fall, and covenant are for understanding God’s work of redemption in the world. Many times, however, we narrow our focus on Genesis’s foundational nature to the first three chapters exclusively, as well as to the major stories of the flood, the call and covenants with Abraham, and perhaps a few other interesting narratives along the way. We should not overlook, however, the critical role of the conclusion to the book in Genesis 50.
While, on the surface, this last chapter of Genesis seems only to tie up loose ends as it narrates the burial of Jacob and the death of Joseph, this narrative is written to give a suitable conclusion to the book as a whole. Genesis began with the story of God’s creation of the world and the blessing, that he gave, but, very quickly, sin ripped that blessing from the world. The rest of the book of Genesis, then, has been about how God will re-establish that blessing in the world. Although Genesis 50 does not give the final word on how God will restore his blessing to the world, the book of Genesis does end with an important word to give a provisional conclusion to the conflict introduced at the Fall: God is working all things together for our good.
1) How does Genesis 50:1–14 highlight the extensive grief and mourning for Jacob’s death? How many people are drawn into this grief for the death of the patriarch? Beyond the grief of losing a father, or an elder statesman, what other factors might lead to this level of grief and mourning? How should we finally evaluate Jacob, after the life he has lived, and the burial he receives in Canaan? What does Jacob’s legacy teach us for our own lives today?
2) How does Joseph’s question, “Am I in the place of God?” (v. 19), reject the false promise of the serpent to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:5)? How have we seen Joseph entrust himself to God’s wisdom and goodness throughout this story? How should we understand Joseph’s statement that, what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good (v. 20)? If the “good” is tied up in keeping many people alive, how is Joseph once again rejecting the lies of the serpent to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:4)?
3) What does Joseph mean when he tells his brothers twice that God “will surely visit you” (v. 24–25)? What does it mean for God to “visit” his people? What does it mean for God to “visit” his enemies? How do these final words of Joseph look forward to the events that we will read about in the book of Exodus? How important would this promise have been for the Israelites as they waited in exile in Egypt—especially when a future Pharaoh treated them so cruelly (Ex. 1:8–14)?
4) The book of Genesis ends with God’s people in exile, awaiting the visitation of their God. How does this ending foreshadow the end of the Old Testament, especially when we remember that the last book of the Hebrew Old Testament ends with 2 Chronicles (cf. 2 Chron. 36:17–23)? How does this ending foreshadow the end of the New Testament (cf. Rev. 22:20)? How, then, does the end of Genesis inform the way that we should live our lives until Christ returns?